Hello and welcome to Tuesday.
Free fallin’ — Leaders at the University of Florida — the state’s “flagship” university that has been touting its recent rise in national rankings — tried last night to quell the backlash over the school’s decision to block three professors from providing expert testimony to the long line of groups challenging the state’s contentious new voting law.
Don’t do me like that — The conflict spilled out in the open after UF’s decision was revealed in a court filing where the groups challenging the law want to know more about why the university contends it would pose a conflict and be “adverse to UF’s interest” to have the professors testify. Worth noting: The professors were allowed to participate in past lawsuits, including a challenge to the 2019 state law that placed restrictions on voting rights for felons.
Jammin’ me — In a statement to the “campus community” sent out on Monday evening, UF President Kent Fuchs and Provost Joe Glover asserted that they remain committed to academic freedom and free speech rights. They also maintained that “if the professors wish to testify pro bono on their own time without using university resources, they are free to do so.” This caveat was not included in the initial notices that barred the professors from participating.
The Waiting — Lastly, Fuchs and Glover said they were “immediately appointing a task force to review the university’s conflict of interest policy and examine it for consistency and fidelity.” This statement came out a few hours after lawyers for the three UF professors sent a letter to top university officials asking for clarity about what they called the “university’s unlawful attempt to prevent them from providing truthful testimony on a matter of extraordinary public importance.”
Breakdown — This is just the latest brushfire at UF that, as POLITICO’s Matt Dixon and Andrew Atterbury report, is raising questions about whether the university is becoming a political tool for Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republicans. This follows — as cataloged by stories by reporters with the USA Today Network-Florida — UF’s fast-tracking of DeSantis’ pick for surgeon general, Joseph Ladapo. The decision to bar the UF professors from participating in the voting rights trial is being probed by an accreditation panel.
Into the Great Wide Open — The DeSantis administration said it did not tell UF — directly or indirectly — how to enforce its conflict of interest policies. But the governor does appoint six of UF’s trustees. Those six appointments have collectively given him or the Republican Party of Florida he controls nearly $900,000 in political contributions. The chair of the board — Mori Hosseini — is a major contributor and records showed he played a role in helping Ladapo get a job at UF that is providing him a salary on top of his pay as surgeon general.
— WHERE’S RON? — Nothing official announced for Gov. DeSantis.
Have a tip, story, suggestion, birthday, anniversary, new job, or any other nugget for Playbook? Get in touch: [email protected]
‘I WON’T BACK DOWN’ — “Florida’s flagship university faces political firestorm,” by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon and Andrew Atterbury: Gov. Ron DeSantis and the University of Florida are facing major backlash after several highly controversial political moves at the flagship university — actions that critics contend repress academic freedoms and raise fears that the state’s top higher learning institution is being used a political tool. Educators and others lambasted the University of Florida and DeSantis over the weekend after it was revealed that the university blocked three professors from providing expert testimony in a lawsuit challenging a controversial Republican-backed voting bill.
HAPPENING TODAY — It’s election day in Florida, and while the state doesn’t have the big marquee off-year elections like those happening in Virginia and New Jersey, there’s a primary that will likely decide who will be the state’s newest member of Congress. Plus, there are municipal elections across the state including in Hialeah, Lakeland, Miami, Miami Beach, Orlando and St. Petersburg. Former President Donald Trump has endorsed one of the candidates — Esteban “Steve” Bovo — in the Hialeah contest and repeated his support Monday evening.
An invitation — POLITICO will hold a Election Night live chat this evening. Just bookmark the link and return to it tonight for analysis from POLITICO’s campaign reporters as results come in. Results for the crowded Democratic primary in Florida’s 20th Congressional District will be provided here.
YAWN? — “Voters respond to fiercely fought South Florida congressional race with meager turnout,” by Sun Sentinel’s Anthony Man: “South Florida is about to send a new member of Congress to Washington, D.C, and voters are responding by … not voting. By the time in-person early voting ended Sunday, total turnout for early voting and vote-by-mail in the Democratic primary was 11.3%. Primary day is Tuesday. The Broward-Palm Beach county 20th Congressional District is so Democratic that the primary winner is virtually guaranteed to become the ultimate winner, filling the vacancy created by the April 6 death of Congressman Alcee Hastings. ‘The candidates are more excited than the voters are,’ said Mitch Ceasar, former longtime chairman of the Broward Democratic Party. ‘This is symptomatic of special elections. Turnouts are always low.’”
TIME RUNNING OUT — “Candidates in Miami-Dade’s low-turnout local elections hustle for every last vote,” by Miami Herald’s Samantha J. Gross: “With early voting concluded and no time left to post-mark a mail-in ballot, all eyes in Miami-Dade County’s local races were trained Monday on voters who had yet to cast a ballot in what is turning out to be another low-turnout, off-year municipal election. Even after a weekend push at the polls, turnout heading into Tuesday’s Election Day was still paltry. With elections in Miami, Miami Beach, Hialeah, Homestead, Sunny Isles Beach and Biscayne Gardens, and 443,718 eligible voters across all races, combined turnout was at just 11.17% early Monday evening, according to Miami-Dade County Elections Department data.”
Getting heated — “In Hialeah, Esteban ‘Steve’ Bovo, running for mayor with the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, made waves when a video circulated Sunday of the candidate and his supporters getting into a yelling match with a group of people who appeared to be supporters of right-wing activist and mayoral candidate Fernando Godo. In the video, captioned in Spanish ‘trained in Hialeah,’ Hialeah police officers attempted to stop the groups from getting physical on the pavement outside the polling location at the John F. Kennedy Library.”
Well now — “At one point Bovo, a former Hialeah councilman, state representative and county commissioner, walked up to the crowd and said ‘sapingo,’ a slight in Cuban slang, triggering more yelling. Another supporter in a Bovo t-shirt repeatedly called someone in the crowd a gay slur.”
— “On the eve of St. Petersburg’s election, mayoral candidates appear at 2 very different events,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Colleen Wright
— “Central Florida voters head to the polls Tuesday,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Ryan Gillespie
— “Bill Mutz faces far-right political newcomer in Lakeland mayoral race,” by Florida Politics’ Daniel Figueroa IV
ON HIS SIDE — “Florida Gov. DeSantis has the back of his new firebrand surgeon general,” by USA Today Network-Florida’s Jeffrey Schweers: “Don’t expect Florida’s combative, anti-mask, vaccine-dismissive firebrand of a surgeon general to go away any time soon. If anything, he is likely to stay put for the next two years, despite mounting opposition. While Democrats call for Dr. Joseph Ladapo’s removal after refusing the request of a state senator with cancer to wear a mask, Gov. Ron DeSantis has doubled down on his support, accusing the Democrats of politicizing the issue. Democrats want Ladapo, a Harvard graduate and former UCLA professor, to resign or for DeSantis to withdraw his nomination.”
LOCKED OUT? — “Democrats call for more public input on redistricting,” by News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner: “Democratic lawmakers said more public input — beyond people making limited comments at committee meetings and proposing maps — is needed in the once-a-decade redistricting process. During an online news conference Monday, leading Democrats on House redistricting panels discussed holding online workshops or allowing online input from people across the state during committee meetings. House and Senate Republican redistricting leaders said recently they were awaiting a decision about whether to hold online workshops.”
ERROR. PAGE NOT FOUND — “Down for everyone or just me? State website offline since Friday,” by Florida Politics’ Renzo Downey: “Florida’s official web portal, including Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ homepage, has been down since Friday after a hardware malfunction at the State Data Center. A notice on webpages like MyFlorida.com and FlGov.com on Monday said the site is ‘currently under maintenance.’ The crash has been affecting processes like in the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Emails obtained by Florida Politics show that at one point approximately 1,100 servers supporting the state system were offline.”
— “Eckerd Connects loses child welfare contract in Pinellas, Pasco,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Christopher O’Donnell
APPEARING TODAY — Basketball legend Magic Johnson will be at the Old Capitol along with Florida State University basketball coach Leonard Hamilton and Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris. They will be having a discussion with student athletes about mental health in children and teens that was put together by Simply Healthcare which is partnering with the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The daily rundown — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there were 945 Covid-19 infections on Saturday and 949 on Sunday. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that 1,965 hospital beds were being used in the state for Covid-19 patients.
LATHER. RINSE. REPEAT — “Florida Education Commissioner ‘putting districts on notice’ after appeals court masking opinion,” by POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury: Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran attempted to turn up the heat Monday on the school districts still requiring their students to wear masks after an appeals court said the schools are “remarkably open” in defying state law. In a 7-page opinion, the 1st District Court of Appeals slammed school boards in Duval and Alachua counties for enacting mask mandates against the wishes of the DeSantis administration and ordered circuit courts to take up a legal challenge, which was brought by parents against local schools.
Important point — Although the appeals court didn’t rule on the challenge outright, the state Department of Education is using the scathing opinion in an attempt to prod schools into dropping their strict student masking policies.
— “Pensacola and Escambia County will stop reporting COVID hospitalizations as cases drop,” by Pensacola News Journal’s Emma Kennedy
2024 — “Rubio takes big business to task a year before election,” by The Associated Press: “In an op-ed published Monday, the Republican from Florida called corporate America ‘the instrument of anti-American ideologies.’ [Sen. Marco] Rubio bemoaned what he described as corporate America’s ‘wokeness’ — a catch-all phrase for being sensitive to social problems such as racism and inequality but which is also derided by critics as virtue-signaling or adopting neo-Marxist world views. He proposed holding corporate leaders legally liable ‘when they abuse their corporate privilege by pushing wasteful, anti-American nonsense.’”
MURPHY TARGETED AGAIN — Rep. Stephanie Murphy is getting pressure again from groups over the debate in Congress over the fate of President Joe Biden’s social spending bill. The Florida Immigrant Coalition says its launching $10,000 worth of radio and digital ads aimed at asking Murphy to support placing immigration provisions in the final bill. The group is calling Murphy an “obstructionist.” “There are millions of immigrant families in the state of Florida who are counting on Representative Murphy to do the right thing and deliver on her promise to help push for citizenship for (temporary protected status) holders, Dreamers, essential workers, and agricultural workers,” said Yareliz Mendez-Zamora, federal campaign lead for the coalition.
OFF THE MARK? — “With millions of dollars on the line, Florida has high Census undercount, report estimates,” by The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Mark Harper: “The Urban Institute, a Washington-based think tank that conducts economic and social policy research, developed a model to estimate the states’ performances in getting an accurate count. Its findings are being made available ahead of the Census Bureau’s own post-enumeration survey, which also projects undercounts and overcounts. In a report being made public on Tuesday, the Urban Institute projects an overall 0.5% undercount nationwide, with Florida nearly doubling that estimate at 0.95%. That placed Florida as having the eighth-largest estimated undercount. And Miami-Fort Lauderdale was projected to have the highest undercount among metro areas, at 1.7%.”
CONFLICTED — “U.S. Judge Robin Rosenberg should have pulled out of FPL case due to husband’s stock buy, court says,” by Palm Beach Post’s Jane Musgrave: “David ‘Jack’ Wilkinson always suspected something was amiss when a federal judge threw out his 2017 lawsuit, seeking overtime pay from Juno Beach-based utility giant NextEra Energy. ‘It felt like there had to be something that influenced the outcome,’ Wilkinson said. ‘Just throwing it out and ditching it without having a trial. I didn’t really have a chance to do anything.’ Last month, the engineer who lives in Knoxville, Tenn., received a letter that confirmed his suspicions.”
— “More time to choose, more money to educate, could mean more enrollment in Obamacare in 2022,” by Florida Politics’ Christine Jordan Sexton
— “Seminole Tribe quietly launches sports betting app, starts taking online wagers,” by News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam
Want to make an impact? POLITICO Florida has a variety of solutions available for partners looking to reach and activate the most influential people in the Sunshine State. Have a petition you want signed? A cause you’re promoting? Seeking to increase brand awareness amongst this key audience? Share your message with our influential readers to foster engagement and drive action. Contact Jesse Shapiro to find out how: [email protected]