Hello and welcome to Friday.
Flashback— Nearly five months ago, Florida Republicans were split over a bill that would write same-sex marriage into federal law, and protect interracial marriages. Six GOP members from the state voted for the bill when it came up in July — just a few months before they were all on the 2022 ballot.
Cut in half— Fast forward to Thursday and the number dropped to three: Kat Cammack, Carlos Gimenez and Michael Waltz voted along with the majority of the House (including all Florida Democrats) on Thursday to send the measure to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it into law.
The list— The three Republicans who flipped were Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Brian Mast and María Elvira Salazar. When she voted for the bill the first time, Salazar was one of the only Republicans in the state who had a potentially tough reelection battle. (She won by more than 14 points over Annette Taddeo.)
Salazar’s response — In a statement, Salazar defended her post-election turnabout by contending the legislation lacked adequate protections for religious institutions: “I am disappointed to see the final House version of the Respect for Marriage Act did not include full protections for churches and Americans with sincerely held religious beliefs. I voted for the first version of the bill because I believe in human dignity and respect for all individuals. However, we cannot pass laws that advance one interest and bypass long-held legal protections for others.”
Zinged— Democrats zeroed in on Salazar’s flip. Tommy Garcia with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said that “María Elvira Salazar’s vote change shows Floridians that she is willing to say and do anything to get elected. Salazar’s shameless vote against the Respect for Marriage Act sends a clear message that she doesn’t believe people’s right to marry whomever they love should be protected.”
Other explanations— Diaz-Balart and Mast likewise contended that the legislation — which was amended in the Senate to include additional language related to religious protections that wasn’t in the previous version they did vote for — also didn’t go far enough. Mast during debate blasted the House for refusing to consider further amendments because of worries that sending it back to the Senate would doom its passage since the current term of Congress it coming to an end. “What the hell are we doing?” Mast asked on the floor.
— WHERE’S RON? — Nothing official for Gov. DeSantis.
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SHARP DIVIDE OVER GRINER RELEASE— Florida’s Republicans and Democratic members of Congress split sharply over the news that President Joe Biden reached a deal that resulted in Russia releasing WNBA player Brittney Griner in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death.”
Some of the strongest criticism came from Rep. Michael Waltz, a former Green Beret and Republican from northeast Florida. On Twitter, Waltz called the release “absolutely shameful” and questioned why the U.S. could not secure the release of Paul Whelan, a U.S. Marine veteran accused of spying by Russia. “Celebrities over veterans?” he also tweeted. On Fox, Waltz said that while he was “happy” for the Griner family, he said the move would encourage “bad guys” to “keep taking” Americans hostage.
Sen. Marco Rubio in a statement that it is a “relief when a U.S. citizen comes home” but he criticized the Biden administration for leaving behind other Americans. “What’s more, Putin and others have seen how detaining high-profile Americans on relatively minor charges can both distract American officials and cause them to release truly bad individuals who belong behind bars.”
Florida Democrats, however, praised Biden for arranging the return of Griner. “Thank you @POTUS for saving a great American champion Brittney Griner from this unlawful Russian prosecution!” tweeted Rep. Darren Soto. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said on Twitter: “Relieved Brittney Griner is coming home. Thank you, @POTUS, for bringing her back. I am confident we will not relent until all Americans wrongly convicted abroad are freed.”
NO VACANCY — “Maxwell Frost, future Gen Z congressman, denied D.C. apartment over bad credit,” by Washington Post’s Azi Paybarah: “Rep.-elect Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), the first member of the Gen Z generation elected to Congress, said Thursday that a company in Washington rejected his application to rent an apartment because of his bad credit score. Frost declined to identify the building, the size of debt or credit score, but said the building where his application was rejected was in the Navy Yard neighborhood, which is just over a mile from the U.S. Capitol.”
— “3 South Florida Republicans flip to vote ‘no’ on protection for same-sex and interracial marriages,” by South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Anthony Man
— “Vern Buchanan calls possibility he will resign ‘laughable and ridiculous,’” by Florida Politics’ Jacob Ogles
— “Byron Donalds says House Oversight committed to ramping up investigations,” by The Floridian’s Jackson Bakich
GONE— Florida Republican who sponsored ‘Don’t Say Gay’ resigns after federal indictment, by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon: Republican state Rep. Joe Harding resigned from office one day after a federal grand jury indictment against him was unsealed alleging he defrauded a federal pandemic-related small business loan program.“ Today, I am resigning from my position for the same two reasons: I love people, and I love Florida,” Harding said in a statement. “I believe in Floridians and want what is best for them, and I believe their leaders need not be encumbered by distractions that are mine alone.” His resignation is effective immediately.
LIFE IN A HURRICANE PRONE STATE — “New-look Florida Legislature tackles old problem – homeowners insurance,” by USA Today Network-Florida’s John Kennedy: “Lawmakers have taken the approach that they will give the industry what it wants in a desperate bid to stop them from leaving a high-risk state. The insurance industry got lawmakers to do a lot of what it wanted in May. And the same theme is expected to dominate next week’s session. While little is known about why Florida insurers become troubled — some analysts say poor investments and bad management are to blame.”
— “Mobile home owners struggle to find insurance in Florida’s ‘dysfunctional’ market,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Trevor Fraser
PRE-SESSION READING— “Agency details the top concerns in Florida’s troubled insurance market,” by News Service of Florida’s Jim Saunders: “With Florida lawmakers poised to start a special legislative session, a financial-ratings agency issued a report Thursday that warned about the possibility of additional insolvencies of property insurers and said long-term changes are needed in the state’s troubled insurance market. The AM Best report pointed to issues such as the market’s heavy reliance on Florida-based insurers, which it said have ‘weaker balance sheets than the larger national carriers and are overly dependent on reinsurance for balance sheet protection/short-term capital.’”
— “Despite Hurricane Ian, Florida’s October revenues beat expectations by $140M,” by Florida Politics’ Gray Rohrer
FIRST GLANCE— Trump cash haul spiked after 2024 launch – but not as high as in the past, by POLITICO’s Jessica Piper: The main fundraising committee powering former President Donald Trump’s campaign raised more than $4.1 million online in the two weeks after he launched his 2024 bid — a sum that, while significant, lags well behind the eye-popping fundraising numbers he has posted in the past. The former president’s digital fundraising efforts are detailed in the latest campaign finance filing from WinRed, the widely used GOP online donation processor. Trump, whose online fundraising prowess has set him apart from other GOP politicians, raised more than $850,000 for his joint fundraising committee on WinRed on the day of his campaign launch and more than $750,000 the following day, a POLITICO analysis found.
AS THE PAGES TURN— Trump’s push for a special master in Mar-a-Lago docs case comes to an end, by POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein: Former President Donald Trump’s quest for outside supervision of the Justice Department’s investigation into sensitive White House records seized at his Mar-a-Lago estate came to an end Thursday, after he failed to challenge an appeals court ruling rejecting such oversight. Trump had a week to contest the issue before the full bench of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals or at the Supreme Court, but he did not. The appeals court formalized its ruling Thursday afternoon ending the so-called ‘special master’ process a lower judge established in September.
— “Justice Department asks judge to hold Trump team in contempt over Mar-a-Lago case,” by Washington Post’s Spencer S. Hsu, Josh Dawsey, Jacqueline Alemany, Devlin Barrett and Rosalind S. Heldermen
REAPPRAISAL — “‘Trump obsession is very bad’: Senate Republicans confront their problems after poor election showing,” by CNN’s Manu Raju, Clare Foran and Ted Barrett: “And some top Republicans said the party’s refusal to reject Trump as their standard bearer — combined with the 2020 election denialism that is central to his platform — ultimately did them in and will cost them again in future cycles. ‘It’s just one more data point in an overwhelming body of data that the Trump obsession is very bad for Republicans, but normal Republicans are doing extremely well,’ said retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, whose open seat was picked up by a Democrat.”
— “Trump Organization conviction unlikely to impact West Palm Beach golf club lease,” by Palm Beach Post’s Alexandra Clough
— “Trump hosts event featuring QAnon, ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theorist at Mar-a-Lago,” by ABC News’ Olivia Rubin, Will Steakin, and Katherine Faulders
AHEAD — “DeSantis leads Trump in head-to-head 2024 GOP primary race: poll,” by New York Post’s Victor Nava: “Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has a clear lead over former President Donald Trump in the event of a two-man race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, according to a new survey. The Yahoo News/YouGov poll released Thursday found that 47% of registered Republican or Republican-leaning independent voters say they would vote for DeSantis, 44, if their state primary or caucus were held today. Just 42% of the same cohort said they would support the 76-year-old Trump. The poll shows a 14-percentage point swing toward DeSantis since mid-October, when 45% of registered Republicans or GOP-leaning independents supported Trump, while 36% said they would back DeSantis.”
AND BACK HOME— “Florida GOP likes DeSantis far more than Trump in new poll,” by NBC News’ Marc Caputo: “Florida Ron DeSantis is the most popular political figure among Republican voters who favor him far more than his fellow Sunshine State Republican — and possible 2024 rival — former President Donald Trump, according to a new poll obtained by NBC News. The survey, conducted by the GOP firm Ragnar Research Partners, shows that 86 percent of Republican voters have a favorable impression of the governor in the wake of his historic 20-percentage point thrashing of Democrat Charlie Crist in his re-election, while only 10 percent have an unfavorable view.”
KEEP IT IN THE FAMILY— “Jack and Chris Latvala: a money trail and continued influence in Pinellas politics,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Tracey McManus: “In the five years since he resigned from the Florida Senate amid a sexual misconduct investigation, Jack Latvala has continued to influence Pinellas County politics by quietly unloading millions of dollars from his political committee to support local and state candidates and other Republican committees. The spending has drained most of the $4 million that remained in his Florida Leadership Committee when he left office in January 2018, a war chest once earmarked to help fund his bid for governor. Much of that money found its way to the family businesses as Chris Latvala continued his political journey from state representative to county commissioner.”
PAGING ERIC EIKENBERG— “Everglades Foundation seeks criminal contempt finding against its former top scientist after settlement deal implodes,” by Florida Bulldog’s Dan Christensen: “The Everglades Foundation is once again going after its former top scientist and has asked a Miami-Dade judge to hold him in criminal contempt of court – a finding that could hit Thomas Van Lent in the wallet and put him behind bars for up to a year. The fight between the foundation and Van Lent began quietly in early April when the foundation sued its longtime director of science and policy, alleging that in the weeks before he quit at the end of February, he mounted a ‘secret campaign of theft and destruction of sensitive Foundation materials in preparation for his departure,’ according to the complaint.”
BETWEEN THE LIONS — “Tensions simmer as conservative moms, Florida educators differ on school books,” by News Service of Florida’s Ryan Dailey: “With a Jan. 1 deadline looming, a state Department of Education workgroup is crafting a training that all school library workers must use in selecting books and other materials. But tension has simmered because some members of the panel don’t believe its recommendations go far enough. The group, which includes parents and school media specialists, was formed to carry out part of a new law (HB 1467) passed during the 2022 legislative session.”
— “‘Privileged’ Cuban migrants are not refugees nor exiles, book to be presented at FIU claims,” by El Nuevo Herald’s Nora Gámez Torres
— “School Board member defends against criticism over welcoming Proud Boys’ support,” by South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Scott Travis
— “Rogue iguana causes widespread power outage in Lake Worth Beach,” by South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Shira Moolten
— “Group looks to launch incorporation effort for Perdido Key area,” by Pensacola News-Journal’s Jim Little
— “‘All I do is work’: Miami airport service workers protest low wages, demand sick leave,” by Miami Herald’s Anna Jean Kaiser
‘TEETERING ON THE EDGE’ — “‘Not enough money to save them all.’ Volusia grapples with double whammy,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Skyler Swisher: “Kate Rose stays awake at night thinking about her family’s oceanfront home perched perilously on the edge of the eroded shoreline. The next storm could send it crashing into the ocean, just like some of her neighbors’ homes in Wilbur-by-the-Sea. The small community suffered some of the worst damage from back-to-back hurricanes that tore through Volusia County this year. The next storm could send it crashing into the ocean, just like some of her neighbors’ homes in Wilbur-by-the-Sea.”
— “OnlyFans model accused of murdering boyfriend in Miami to stay jailed until trial,” by Miami Herald’s David Ovalle: “The OnlyFans model accused of murdering her boyfriend in Miami won’t be getting out of jail to await trial. A Miami-Dade judge on Thursday ruled that Courtney Clenney must remain behind bars as she awaits trial for the killing of Christian Obumseli on April 3 inside their luxury Edgewater apartment. Clenney, 27, is charged with second-degree murder with a deadly weapon in a case that has attracted worldwide media attention. The judge notified attorneys hours before Thursday morning’s hearing.”
BIRTHDAYS: State Rep. Webster Barnaby … Rick Hirsch, former Miami Herald managing editor
(Saturday) Former state Rep. Daisy Morales … Jeff Greene, real estate investor and Democratic candidate for governor in 2018
(Sunday) Leon County Commissioner Nick Maddox