Hello and welcome to Thursday.
Rising — Over the last two years, Republicans who control the Florida Legislature have acquiesced to the demands of Ron DeSantis and given him more and more power as the governor’s national profile has grown and his popularity among the GOP ascended.
Step by step— It started with their decision to cede authority to the governor on how to spend billions in federal aid during the height of the pandemic. There were other steps along the way but it would eventually give way to handing DeSantis complete control of congressional redistricting.
Now and then— There were occasional moments of resistance — much of it behind the scenes (resisting DeSantis’ push for a special session last summer, for example) — especially in the Senate. That resistance was repaid in part with hundreds of millions of dollars in budget vetoes, many of them projects pushed by Senate President Wilton Simpson.
Checkmate— Well, even that slight pushing back may soon be over. The governor, whose endorsement is golden now among Republican voters, is helping put in place Republican state senators whose loyalty is to him and not current Senate leadership. The biggest push came Wednesday when he backed two new candidates for the chamber who did not have the support of incoming Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and her leadership team.
Sorry, not sorry— As POLITICO’s Matt Dixon and Andrew Atterbury point out, in one Tampa race the Senate had already spent $40,000 helping out a former Republican state representative seeking to oust Democrat Sen. Janet Cruz. But DeSantis on Wednesday threw his support to Jay Collins, a former Green Beret who had been running for Congress.
New normal— This type of involvement by a sitting Republican governor is without precedent. Former GOP governors — i.e. Jeb Bush — got serious pushback when he immersed himself in the internal politics of the Senate.
Summing it all up— Veteran Florida Republican political consultant Anthony Pedicini put it this way to Playbook: “Gov. DeSantis has now put his stamp on Florida politics for decades to come with these moves this week.” The point is that these new members to the state Senate could easily serve for years and years — well beyond DeSantis’ time in office. But in the near future it means DeSantis will likely have an even more compliant Legislature if he wins reelection.
— WHERE’S RON? — Gov. DeSantis will be in Miami for a press conference where, along with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials, he is expected to announce details of this year’s python challenge.
PROGRAMMING NOTE — Florida Playbook will not publish next Monday for Juneteenth, but we will return on Tuesday. Please continue to follow POLITICO Florida.
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PLAYING CHESS — Ron DeSantis attempts to take over the GOP-led Florida Senate, by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon and Andrew Atterbury: Ron DeSantis is governor of the state of Florida, but also is increasingly trying to be the de facto head of the state’s Republican-led Senate. DeSantis is using his political sway to recruit Republican Senate candidates to run who don’t have the backing of GOP Senate leadership. The goal is to build a coalition of GOP senators with more political loyalty to him than their own Senate Republican leadership, which has had an uneasy relationship with DeSantis over the past several months.
— “Republican Jay Collins moves to Florida Senate race with DeSantis endorsement,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Romy Ellenbogen
— “Rodrigues leaving Senate as DeSantis strengthens foothold,” by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon
QUIP — “DeSantis on Elon Musk 2024 support: ‘I welcome support from African Americans,’” by Tampa Bay Times’ Kirby Wilson: “At a news conference in Madeira Beach on Wednesday, DeSantis brushed off a question about the news of Musk’s potential support with a joke. ‘I’m focused on 2022, but I welcome support from African Americans,’ DeSantis said. (Musk, who is white, is from South Africa.)”
NEXT UP: SCHOOL BOARDS— DeSantis has promised that he wanted Republicans to get more involved in local school board elections where battles over masks and books and instruction have been raging over the past year. Well, on Wednesday his campaign launched the “DeSantis Education Agenda: Putting Students First, Protecting Parents’ Rights.” As part of the effort, the campaign has put up a website that includes a survey on topics such as masks in schools and critical race theory.
Keeping track— Dave Abrams, a senior adviser for the campaign, said in a statement that “parents across Florida should ask school board candidates and their current school board members how they scored on the DeSantis Education Agenda.” Abrams added that “this agenda serves as a model for the nation as Florida’s school board candidates run and win on the DeSantis Education Agenda.”
ONE MORE VOTE — “Florida congressional hopeful touts support from DeSantis — Sr.,” by Tampa Bay Times’ William March: “Congressional candidate Kevin Hayslett is boasting on his website that he has the support of Ron DeSantis. No, not that one, but Ronald Daniel DeSantis, the father of Gov. Ron DeSantis. Hayslett says that doesn’t mean anything about whether the governor is taking sides in the hard-fought Republican primary for the western Pinellas congressional seat. The question is significant because former President Donald Trump has endorsed a different candidate in the race, Anna Paulina Luna.”
GOING AFTER GAETZ — “Marine combat veteran announces self-funded primary challenge to Matt Gaetz,” by Fox News Kyle Morris and Brandon Gillespie: “A businessman and Marine combat veteran with extensive aviation experience has announced a self-funded primary challenge to Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz to represent the Sunshine State’s 1st Congressional District. Speaking to Fox News Digital in an interview on Tuesday, Mark Lombardo, who flew CH-46 helicopters in Vietnam and is a former FedEx executive and pilot, described his vision for the district and his mission to defeat Gaetz, who he said has made some ‘terrible choices,’ and to ‘serve the good, hardworking people of Northwest Florida.’ ‘Matt Gaetz is completely ineffective as a congressman,’ Lombardo said, pointing to Gaetz’s record.”
CAMPAIGN ROUNDUP— Equality Florida, the largest group in the state that advocates on behalf of the LGBTQ community, announced it was endorsing state Sen. Lauren Book for reelection. Book, who is the Senate minority leader, is being challenged in the primary by former Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief. Joe Saunders, senior political director for Equality Florida, called Book a “strong champion for the rights of LGBTQ Floridians.”
… Incoming Florida House Speaker Paul Renner endorsed Rep. Michelle Salzman (R-Pensacola) for reelection a day after former Rep. Mike Hill filed to challenge Salzman in the Republican primary. Salzman defeated Hill in 2020 when he was the incumbent. Renner called Salzman a “strong conservative” and “the fresh voice we need.”
… State Sen. Aaron Bean on Wednesday picked up endorsements in his bid for Florida’s 5th Congressional District, including former Rep. Ander Crenshaw, former Lt. Gov Jennifer Carroll, two former Jacksonville mayors and the mayors of four Northeast Florida cities.
— “112 million reasons why Donald Trump should be nervous about Ron DeSantis,” by CNN’s Chris Cillizza
— “Al Lawson, Neal Dunn face new tests in race for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District,” by Florida Politics’ Renzo Downey
‘WE CHOSE NOT TO PARTICIPATE’ — Florida is the only state to skip pre-ordering Covid-19 vaccines for kids, by POLITICO’s Arek Sarkissian: Florida is the only state in the nation that has not placed an order with the federal government for doses of the Covid-19 vaccine for young children, saying the distribution process is “convoluted.” The Florida Department of Health, through a statement, said Wednesday that it did not place an order with the federal government for vaccine doses for kids five and under in part because it doesn’t advise all children get vaccinated. The deadline for placing a pre-order was Tuesday and 49 other states met the cutoff date.
‘COMMUNICATE OUR DEMANDS’— “Court document in Proud Boys case laid out plan to occupy Capitol buildings on Jan. 6,” by NBC News’ Ryan J. Reilly: “A document, titled ‘1776 Returns,’ which federal prosecutors said was used by the leader of the Proud Boys, lays out a plan to occupy Capitol buildings on Jan. 6, 2021, using covert operators to let ‘patriots’ inside government offices in an apparent effort to force a new election. Enrique Tarrio, the former leader of the Proud Boys, and four other members were indicted on seditious conspiracy charges this month. Tarrio has twice been ordered detained until trial. The nine-page document, filed in federal court Wednesday, lays out a plan to fill buildings ‘with patriots and communicate our demands.’ It’s stated goals include maintaining control ‘over a select few, but crucial buildings in the DC area for a set period of time’ and getting as ‘many people as possible inside these buildings.’”
MORE FROM FLORIDA— “3 from St. Cloud accused of rioting with Oath Keepers at U.S. Capitol,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Cristóbal Reyes: “Three St. Cloud residents were arrested Wednesday for allegedly participating in the attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as federal prosecutors continue filing charges against others who were there that day. Traci Isaacs, 52, was charged with destruction of records, disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and remaining in a restricted building with intent to disrupt an official proceeding, while her 67-year-old husband Luis Hallon, who she married weeks after the riot, faces the latter two charges. Leslie Gray, a 56-year-old who accompanied the couple to the Capitol, faces charges of civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, interfering with law enforcement and remaining in a restricted building.”
COUNTER MOVE — “Biden signs measure to protect L.G.B.T.Q. rights, citing ‘hateful attacks,’” by The New York Times’ Michael D. Shear: “President Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday aimed at protecting L.G.B.T.Q. people from a cascade of legislation in conservative states that increasingly targets the rights of gays, lesbians, transgender youth and others. The order is designed to counter efforts by Republican politicians like Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who has pushed through a measure — called by some the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law — banning teachers from providing instruction regarding gender identity or sexual orientation.”
‘IT MUST BE A YEAR-ROUND PRIORITY’ — “Parkland activists join renewed push for gun safety laws,” by South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Brooke Baitinger: “The push for laws that would prevent mass shootings and gun violence gained renewed energy in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting, along with the news that gun violence is now the number one killer of American children. Max Schachter, whose 14-year-old son Alex was murdered in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, testified before Congress on Wednesday morning. He urged senators to support two proposals he helped develop through his work to make schools safer and prevent the next school shooting: The Luke and Alex School Safety Act and the EAGLES Act.”
— “Rep. Murphy: Jan 6 panel’s work ‘an effort to guard our democracy’” by Spectrum News’ Justin Tasolides and Corina Cappabianca
— “GOP Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar of Florida appears to violate same federal conflicts of interest law that she slammed her Democratic predecessor for violating,” by Insider’s Dave Levinthal
POWER PLAY— Nonprofit urges Florida to reject Florida Power & Light Co.’s winter storm plan, by POLITICO’s Bruce Ritchie: Earthjustice on Wednesday asked the Public Service Commission to reject Florida Power & Light Co.’s proposal to dramatically change how it plans for future electricity needs — a move that critics say could cost customers billions of dollars. The nonprofit law firm, which represents utility watchdog groups, also is asking the commission to clarify its role in determining that the 10-year site plans submitted by electric utilities are “suitable.”
AUSTIN > TALLAHASSEE — “Top IT official: Low pay, ‘remote’ location turns talent away from state jobs,” by Florida Politics’ Christine Jordan Sexton: “Florida’s top IT officer says getting talented senior level IT staff to work for the state of Florida is an uphill battle, and he named low wages as well as living in Tallahassee, the state capital that is hundreds of miles away from the state’s major metro areas, among the top reasons. State Chief Information Officer Jamie Grant told members of the FX Executive Steering Committee Wednesday that recruiting high-level IT staff, such as a chief information security officer, would be easier if the jobs were placed in a bigger labor market that was not as ‘remote.’”
— “Florida announces director of newly reactivated state guard,” by The Associated Press
— “DeSantis signals he will support USF science center next year, officials say,” by Tampa Bay Times Divya Kumar
ON PAUSE— “Disney delays moving 2,000 jobs to Orlando amid ‘don’t say gay’ clash with DeSantis,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Katie Rice: “Amid the feud with Gov. Ron DeSantis over the so-called “don’t say gay” law, the Walt Disney Co. has delayed for more than three years plans to move about 2,000 high-paying jobs to Orlando from California. Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler said Wednesday the expected opening date for the Lake Nona campus was pushed to 2026 to “give people more time” and accommodate the construction timeline for the new offices. A Disney representative previously told the Orlando Sentinel the offices were expected to be operating in Orlando by December 2022.”
PLEADS NO CONTEST — “‘I know I hurt you real bad’: Man who tried to extort state Sen. Lauren Book takes plea deal,” by WPLG’s Glenna Milberg and Chris Gothner: “A 20-year-old Broward County man accused of targeting Florida Sen. Lauren Book and threatening to leak partially nude photos to Fox News to end her political career pleaded no contest in court Wednesday. Jeremy Kamperveen, of Plantation, was accused of extorting and cyberstalking the Florida Senate Democratic leader, threatening to release intimate personal photos and videos that had been hacked from her cell phone. Book reported receiving alarming anonymous text messages on Nov. 12. Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Kamperveen on Nov. 17 at a Starbucks in Sunrise where he thought he was going to meet Book to receive $4,000.”
MAGIC 8-BALL SAYS— “State Attorney Dave Aronberg is a TV news pundit. Is he serving Palm Beach County or himself?” by Palm Beach Post’s Jane Musgrave: “If you want to see Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, turn on your TV. At least once, and sometimes two or three times a week, the 50-year-old three-term prosecutor and career politician is on nationally televised news shows, talking about all manner of headline-grabbing cases. From his office or home in downtown West Palm Beach and sometimes in network studios, Aronberg regularly shares his opinions with news celebrities, such as Joe Scarborough on MSNBC, Wolf Blitzer on CNN and Marni Hughes on NewsNation.”
— “Another Florida homeowners insurance company goes under,” by News Service of Florida’s Jim Saunders
— “Federal jury says lawyer extorted client, didn’t conspire with ex-Lake City state attorney,” by Florida Times-Union’s Steve Patterson
— “Florida building collapse probe to begin structural testing,” by The Associated Press’ Curt Anderson
— “Former mayor committed ‘ethical violations’ but won’t face criminal charges, prosecutors say,” by South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Lisa J. Huriash
— “Jacksonville City Council says no to removing Confederate monuments, but it’s not final vote,” by Florida Times-Union’s David Bauerlein
— “Surfside won’t raise a Pride flag this year. Mayor concerned Satanists may ask next,” by Miami Herald’s Martin Vassolo
— “Florida taking ownership of Garcon Point Bridge; cash toll is $2.75 effective Thursday,” by Pensacola News Journal’s Alex Miller
— “Former Keys commissioner arrested, accused of using campaign funds to pay for Netflix,” by Miami Herald’s David Ovalle: “Former Florida Keys county commissioner Eddie Martinez surrendered on Wednesday to face allegations he failed to report campaign expenditures — and used campaign money to pay for personal expenses with businesses such as CVS, U-Haul and Netflix. Martinez was booked into a Miami-Dade jail on Wednesday afternoon, records show, on a dozen misdemeanor counts. He’ll eventually face trial in Monroe County.”
BIRTHDAYS: Omar Khan, senior managing director for state and local government affairs at WSP