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Sunburn – The Morning Read Of What’s Hot In Florida Politics – 8.20.21

Ron DeSantis’ once-high popularity is slipping a bit. Will it come back? Image via AP.

By Peter Schorsch    

Good Friday morning.

In case you missed our scoop, Sen. Ben Albritton has won the race to be President of the Florida Senate for the 2024-26 term.

Ben Albritton is taking the Senate presidency in 2024.

After an intense, behind-the-scenes battle with Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., the Wauchula Republican secured the votes necessary to take over the gavel after Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, who is set to preside over the chamber for the 2023 and 2024 Legislative Sessions.

The two men buried the hatchet in statements to Florida politics, with Albritton saying he and Diaz “share a vision for the future of Florida, and we’ll work together in the years ahead to advance policies that are in the best interest of the state of Florida.”

Albritton becoming Senate President assumes Republicans will maintain control of the Senate after the 2024 election, which is likely.

While Senate Democrats, led by Plantation Sen. Lauren Book, will have two opportunities to trim the GOP advantage before Albritton takes the gavel, they will be doing so on new district maps approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature.


On a new “State of Emergency,” Jared Moskowitz and I welcome Chief Financial Officer — and State Fire Marshal — Jimmy Patronis to talk about the collapse of Champlain Towers South, a 12-story beachfront condominium in the Miami suburb of Surfside.

Patronis recounts the middle-of-the-night phone call that informed him of the tragedy; as Fire Marshal, he immediately bolted to the scene, describing his first impression as looking like a “giant anthill crawling with first responders.”

Surfside was the third-largest building disaster in U.S. history (behind Oklahoma City and the twin towers), the largest that was not an attack. Jimmy and Jared discussed firsthand descriptions of the devastation and heartbreak in searching for survivors and comforting the victims.

Jared notes that FEMA “broke every rule” to get federal help to the scene. And as someone who represented the area in the Florida House, he took the Surfside disaster “in a personal way.”

As for politics, Jared and I talk about the latest polling in the Governor’s race and how it is only a “snapshot in time.” COVID-19 will probably not be a winning issue in 2022, Jared predicts. We also looked at the challenges of mixing COVID-19 and politics; how the national media helped Gov. Ron DeSantis politicize the pandemic response and Regeneron controversy.

For that and much more, check out the new episode live here.


DeSantis’ odds of winning reelection are shrinking, according to betting aggregator US-Bookies.

That’s not to say the Governor is in dire straits — he still has a 75% chance to win a second term. But that’s an eight-point fall from where he stood a couple of months ago.

“The odds still point to DeSantis being a heavy favorite, but they took a noticeable hit during a time in which the state of Florida has seen quite a few challenges, and many have been openly critical of the Governor,” a US-Bookies spokesperson said.

Bookies say U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is the second-most likely to win the election next year, with a 20% chance. Though slim, his current 4/1 odds represent a doubling in bettors’ confidence. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, meanwhile, has seen her stock rise from 10/1 in June to 8/1 today.

U.S. Bookies also poured water on DeSantis’ 2024 hopes, noting he now holds a 9% chance of heading to the White House in three years. That puts him behind President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Donald Trump.

Still, he could end up with a consolation prize.

“Though DeSantis’ chances at winning the next presidential election aren’t strong at the moment, it does seem like he’ll be the most likely pick as Trump’s running mate,” says a US-Bookies spokesperson. “With 14/1 odds, a Trump-DeSantis is currently the most likely Republican ticket we’ll see in 2021.”


The public corruption investigation that has gripped Tallahassee for the last three years has expanded, according to law enforcement sources close to the investigation.

Now, it’s wrapped its tendrils around state courts in North Central and Northwest Florida.

It isn’t clear which judges have caught investigators’ eyes, but there is certainly some overlap with the investigation that snared Scott Maddox.

While judicial misconduct is typically investigated by Florida’s Judicial Qualifications Committee, the fact that federal investigators are now looking into cases in Tallahassee means the fallout from the ongoing public corruption investigation is far from over.

A hint on who may be in the crosshairs: one of the Leon County judges who was supposed to oversee Maddox’s disbarment was pulled from the case with no real explanation.

Some threads also connect back to the investigation that resulted in Jeff Siegmeister’s indictment earlier this year. The former State Attorney represented Florida’s 3rd Judicial Circuit, and sources say the feds are also digging into judges from that Circuit.

A refresher: Siegmeister was arrested for allegedly accepting payments to close criminal cases as serious as attempted murder.

Siegmeister’s circuit included Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor counties. Other counties of interest in the probe: Alachua, Bay, Lake and Walton.

In many counties, investigators are poring over judges’ personal financial and business interests, as well as those of their family members, and cross-checking them with rulings that don’t pass the smell test — and there are quite a few.

It’s unclear what they’ve already found, whether they’ve honed in on a particular court, or just how many judges could be in hot water. What is clear, however, is that a lot of them are feeling the heat.


@Weijia: Big vaccine news today: 1.02M doses were reported administered today, including 562K newly vaccinated per WH official. This is the first 1M day reported in close to 7 weeks and a 31% week-over-week increase in the daily average of people completing their vaccine series.

@MarcoRubio: I wrote this 13 months ago & both monoclonal antibody treatments & vaccines became reality in the time frame I predicted Both are widely available now Neither is a substitute for the other Get Vaccinated AND if you get really sick, get the antibody treatment EARLY


@Aronberg: If only Florida leaders fought as hard to keep guns out of schools as masks, our schools would be a safer place.

@HurleyWink: I live in a small beach town in FL, which is as retirement-aged as it sounds. Usually, the obits in our community newspaper are like, “104, served in Normandy landing.” Lately, though, they’ve been more like, “41, parent of three.” I hate this pandemic so much. Get vaccinated.

@JayobTV: Florida. News. Is. National. News. But you should still get it from local FL papers and TV stations.

@SteveLemongello: Remind me again when I cover a DeSantis news conference live that people watching online can hear every little conversation reporters are having up there



@JoshCeb: Using other journalists as sources can be pretty annoying because some call you when the story is published and start critiquing your sentences as if they were your editor

@DavoneMorales: No word works harder in modern journalism than the word “amid”

@SShawFL: There are several Twitter conflicts that I want to jump into … but it’s hard to be mad while on the ? and listening to #yachtrockradio on @SIRIUSXM.

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