Your Sunday buffet of Florida politics, food, culture & more.
Good Sunday morning and welcome back to “Brunch,” a pop-up newsletter about the hurricanes, state government, and the 2022 campaign cycle in Florida.
While it was a great Saturday night in Tallahassee and the rest of the Big Bend region with Florida State trouncing Boston College, it is shaping up to be a difficult week for the Panhandle as the track for Tropical Storm Ian continues to shift west and, at the time of this publication, is taking aim at the Panhandle.
Gov. Ron DeSantis is about to hold a news conference at the State Emergency Operations Center with FDEM Director Kevin Guthrie, Major General James O. Eifert, Federal Emergency Management Agency Regional Administrator Gracia Szczech.
President Joe Biden and FEMA have approved an emergency declaration for Florida, making available federal emergency to supplement the state, tribal and local response efforts.
Charlie Crist’s rally with Biden, slated for Tuesday in Orlando, is canceled due to the storm.
Be sure to check out our choices for Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics.
Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, begins this evening. Ketivah v’chatima tovah.
Happiest of birthdays to one of our favorites, Christina Johnson of On3PR, who while enjoying her day is probably having to put up with DJ crowing about his Volunteers beating the Gators.
Now, please enjoy Brunch.
— Storm update —
According to the Weather Channel, as of Sunday morning, Tropical Storm Ian is currently in the Caribbean Sea, where it is expected to make a ‘rapid intensification’ into a major hurricane — as much as a Cat 4 — in the Gulf of Mexico.
— In the coming days, meteorologists say the newly formed Hurricane Ian could threaten the Cayman Islands, western Cuba and Florida. Officials warn those in the area should actively have their hurricane safety plans ready to go.
— As Cat 4 storm, Ian will also spread heavy rain and some wind inland over the Southeast throughout the week.
— DeSantis proactively declared a state of emergency for all 67 Florida counties, freeing up resources for storm preparation and activating members of the Florida National Guard to be on standby ahead of the storm’s arrival. Heavy rains could begin in South Florida as soon as Monday.
Forecasting models show Ian traveling westward in the next day or so and is expected to track near the Cayman Islands and western Cuba Monday into Tuesday — where it could then make landfall in the Gulf Coast of Florida, anywhere from the Panhandle to the Peninsula.
— NASA foregoes launch —
NASA will forego a launch attempt this Tuesday for its Artemis I as Tropical Storm Ian continues to brew off the Florida coast.
— Why the delay? Tropical Storm Ian maintains a troubling forecast path toward Southwest Florida, and is expected to strike sometime late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning possibly as a Category 3 Hurricane.
— To rollback or not to rollback: Foregoing the launch will allow the teams to roll the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft back to the Vehicle Assembly Building. But engineers deferred a final decision about the rollback to Sunday to allow for additional data gathering and analysis.
— If officials decide to roll back, it will start moving the massive 5.75 million-pound, 322-foot-tall structure back to the safety of the Vehicle Assembly Building late Sunday night or early Monday morning.
— What can it withstand? The rocket can withstand gusts of 85 mph at the pad, but only 46 mph once it’s on the move.
— It’s failed before. This would be the third launch attempt for the Space Launch System rocket, the most powerful ever built by NASA. Fuel leaks and other technical problems scrapped the first two tries, in late August and early September.
— DeSantis odds —
Donald Trump and DeSantis are tied in the odds market for who will win the 2024 Presidential Election, according to FloridaBook.com.
—10/3. Those are DeSantis’ odds of winning the whole shebang two years from now. That equates to 23% implied probability or +333 in the American odds system.
—Same goes for Trump. His stock is selling for the same price as DeSantis’ in the betting market, which represents a downswing for the former President, whose chances peaked at 27% in June.
—Biden lagging behind. Biden hasn’t been very popular since … well, ever. But the probability of him winning re-election has hit a new low: 15.4%.
—What about everyone else? They barely register. Vice President Kamala Harris is a distant No. 4 at 7.7%, followed by former VP Mike Pence at 5.9% and California Gov. Gavin Newsom at 2.4%. Add them all together and they’d barely crack No. 3.
—DeSantis 2032? If 2024 doesn’t go the Governor’s way, his career won’t be over. According to oddsmakers, he has a one-in-three shot of being sworn in as President by 2033.
You can’t actually bet. It should be noted that betting on politics is currently prohibited in Florida. The odds themselves are from Ladbrokes Sportsbook in the United Kingdom, where you’ll have to go if you want to put your money down.
— Rubio ad —
Drag queens, illegals and drugs, oh my! U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is invoking a few boogiemen in the latest ad from his re-election campaign.
—Transition. Rubio apparently sees himself as America’s last best hope to stop a supposed cabal of woke leftists from “turning boys into girls,” which he says over footage of drag queens, likely because the distinction between them and transgender individuals matters not to his target audience.
—Cancel culture. But wait, there’s more. The second-term GOP Senator also grouses about supposed cancel culture, where those who “speak out” about left-wing boogiemen get the ban hammer from Big Tech.
—“Demings is for all of this.” Rubio’s spot, titled “Save America,” claims Democratic challenger Val Demings wants to turn boys into girls and silence everyone ringing the alarm bells on social media. The evidence? “She votes with Pelosi 100% of the time.”
Rubio’s close leans on his Cuban heritage. He reminds viewers that he “was raised by people who lost their country” and vows that he is “not going to let us lose ours.”
To watch the ad, please click on the image below:
— Community Center cash —
U.S. Rep. Val Demings, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate this year, will have a member of her office join a groundbreaking at Orlando’s Wayne Densch Apartments to present a ceremonial $500,000 check, representing federal funding secured to upgrade the complex.
— Homeless focus: The Wayne Densch Community Center will offer affordable and supportive housing aimed to help serve the area’s homeless community. The community center is part of a larger renovation for the complex.
— Rescue Plan dollars: Demings said she helped secure the $500,000 federal pot being used for the project. The Orange County government will also put toward $250,000, which came from the American Rescue Plan pushed by Demings and her Democratic allies.
— When and where: Sonja White, a District Director for Demings, will appear at the groundbreaking event Monday, Sept. 26 at 10 a.m. The Wayne Densch Community is located at 1000 W Kennedy Boulevard in Orlando. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, the husband of U.S. Rep. Demings, is also scheduled to appear.
— APL debate item —
Anna Paulina Luna is taking heat, again, for skipping out on a debate. Democrat Eric Lynn’s campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District sent a scathing news release Friday criticizing his Republican opponent for declining attendance at a Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce debate the same day.
— The campaign argues Luna is “scared of having to defend her extremist and very unpopular views” and pointed to several other instances in which she declined a debate.
— Those include an AARP/Bay News 9 debate Aug. 2 and a challenge Lynn issued in September to take part in three debates. Luna, the campaign said, has yet to agree to any.
— The Lynn campaign claims Luna is avoiding debates because she knows “her views are too extreme for Pinellas” County and cites Luna’s stance as a “pro-life extremist” amid the backdrop of polls showing 60% of district voters “support a woman’s freedom to make her own health care decisions.”
— Purple I-4 —
The reputation of the I-4 Corridor comes into full view once the Primary fades from sight. A significant percentage of Florida’s most closely divided House districts have the attention of Florida’s political class and fundraising figures show that.
— House District 29: What, you thought things were over with GOP Rep. Daniel Webster’s recount-margin primary win? Maybe. He raised $32,750 last period and he’s now got $39,189. Democrat Rick Karl just reported $7,261 and now boasts $35,130 in the bank.
— House District 35: Rep. Fred Hawkins, a Saint Cloud Republican, pulled in $7,150 last period and now has $28,814 to spend in November. Democratic challenger Rishi Bagga meanwhile reported $2,774 and now has $12,424. Both went through primaries.
House District 36: Republican Rachel Plakon of Lake Mary collected a fresh $3,600 as she seeks her husband Scott’s seat and now has $63,250 left to spend. Democrat Deborah Poulalion, meanwhile, collected another $6,548, but still lags in cash with $14,005 on hand.
— House District 37: Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat, seems to be holding an upper hand here with $30,931 freshly raised and $154,856 still in the bank. Republican challenger Susan Plasencia collected another $5,843 and holds $39,258 in cash.
— House District 39: In this open seat, Republican Doug Bankson just took in another $7,025 and posts $62,821 available cash. Democratic opponent Tiffany Hughes, meanwhile, collected a fresh $4,832 and now holds $67,959 as she looks to November.
House District 45: This heated race to represent the Magic Kingdom saw Republican Carolina Amesty continue aggressive fundraising and reporting another $59,500 and now she has $63,308 in cash on hand available. Democrat Allie Braswell, meanwhile, took in another $10,657 and has about $30,573 still ready to spend on the race.
— Mural referral —
Speaker Chris Sprowls is promoting a video series highlighting 10 murals painted by artist Christopher Still in the House Chamber.
— Access to all: The video series includes an introduction video with Sprowls, Still and former Speaker John Thrasher, where the three give detailed background surrounding each of the murals and their history.
— More mural content: From there, viewers can watch shorter videos on each of the 10 murals, getting an up-close-and-personal experience with the projects and why they were included.
— First of its kind: “This is a never-before-seen — or heard — experience for every Floridian or anyone who loves Florida history and civics,” Sprowls said. “Most people will never get the chance to tour our Chamber, and even fewer will be able to hear from artist-in-residence Christopher Still about his process and the meaning behind each mural. This video series connects people in new and exciting ways to the room where lawmaking happens in Florida.”
To watch the video, please click on the image below:
— Blue Star Welcome Week —
Around 600,000 military families move each year, and this week marks a chance to recognize and help out those families as they support a loved one’s military service.
— Thanking for their service: Tampa Bay’s Blue Star Welcome Week began yesterday and runs through Sunday, Oct. 2. The effort, sponsored by CSX, will feature 11 events across the Tampa Bay area in total.
— Hitting the ice: One of those events will be a Tampa Bay Lightning preseason game Thursday, Sept. 29, where military families will be invited to connect to the community. That event begins at 6 p.m., while the game, against the Nashville Predators, starts at 7 p.m.
— Vets in the Bay: Approximately 69,000 active military members, veterans and retirees live in the Tampa Bay region, according to the group organizing this year’s events. The Welcome Week will also feature a “story time” event at MacDill Air Force Base Library on Sept. 27 at 10 a.m.
— Terp herpin’ —
If you want to see people passionate and upset about reptiles and amphibians, meetings of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are a good place to start. Subjecting diamondback terrapins to the whims of a commercial market, which a significant number of Floridians would like to do, has yet to catch the favor of the current set of FWC Commissioners. Commissioners will address diamondback terrapin captive breeding again, this time at the FWC meetings Sept. 28-29 in Miami.
— Leave ‘em: Despite a strong push by some reptile breeders, FWC staff believe case studies and market data indicate allowing captive breeding of diamondback terrapins “would not reduce turtle trafficking, but it likely would lead to increased illegal collection and demand for native terrapins.” The terrapins are considered biologically vulnerable and declining throughout their range, including Florida.
— Uniquely Floridian: While a reptile breeding discussion at the higher levels of state government flirts with aspects of the Florida Man trope, many of these diamondback terrapins are indeed unique to the state. Three of the five subspecies seen in Florida are only found here.
— No change: It’s been illegal to captively breed diamondback terrapins in Florida since 2006, despite efforts to change the policy. The recommendation to Commissioners is to keep the policy. There will not be a vote, but there will be a staff report detailing that proposed decision of non-action, and an hour reserved for public comment.
— We like football, yes, we do —
The state of Florida’s love affair with football is well-documented, but now we have proof that the National Football League loves Sunshine State football almost as much as the fans.
— The stats: Axios Sports reported that only Texas had more players on opening-day NFL rosters than Florida. Basing the numbers on where a player went to high school, the Lone Star State had 199 players make NFL rosters this season while Florida had 185. California (166). Georgia (161), and Ohio (74) round out the top five. Writer Brian Smith of SI.com dug into the reasons why Texas and Florida produce so many top-notch players. Not surprisingly, it starts at the high school level.
— Five-star facilities: “There’s no state like Texas when it comes to facilities. None. Zero. Zip. Even many of the smaller programs have turf fields and/or an indoor practice facility. Southlake Carroll has three outdoor turf fields and an indoor turf field that the Dallas Cowboys have used,” Smith wrote. “Yes, a high school has that. Keep that in mind. Talking to coaches and people in Dallas alone took care of any question about whether or not Texas was the King of facilities.”
— Texas spends big —
It doesn’t stop there. Texas high school coaches can make big bucks.
— Say what? Salaries in Texas can surpass $100,000 a year for a public-school head football coach, who probably has the athletic director’s job as well. Take a guess whether that coach has an aide to manage all that technical paperwork stuff.
— Florida floundering: It’s a different story at Florida public schools. A head coach might get a $5,000 annual supplement while keeping up with a full schedule of teaching classes. “Florida coaches are extremely underpaid. It’s pathetic, actually,” Smith noted.
— How does Florida do it? Great question. In the 2021 NFL Draft, Florida had 37 players chosen to 33 for Texas. That flipped this year, with Texas ranking first with 32 players chosen. Georgia was next with 30, then California with 22, and Florida was fourth with 21. Not bad.
Maybe celebrate that kids here are great athletes, loaded with speed and football smarts. Since they don’t know what they’re missing with facilities and all those bells and whistles compared to Texas, they just go out and play ball. That works.
— Brunching Out —
Fall is nearly here and there’s already a hint of apple-crisp air in the Capital City. If you’re ready to return to outdoor brunching there are plenty of choices for savoring your bloody marys, Benedicts or brews. Here are some of our prime breakfast spots with al fresco options.
— Bada Bean: The family-owned restaurant, known for its comfort food, has limited outdoor seating so arrive early during peak times. Open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily except Tuesday. 2500-B Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-562-2326.
— Black Dog Cafe: Relax by Lake Ella while savoring light breakfast fare including baked goods, with vegan picks, and hummus on the cafe deck. Open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 229 Lake Ella Dr.; 850-224-2518.
— Blu Halo: Dine on dishes like a Country Eggs Benedict, blackened shrimp and grits and chicken and waffles on the covered patio at this chic restaurant. Open for brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Bannerman Crossings, 3431 Bannerman Road, #2; 850-999-1696.
— Cafe de Martin: The Peruvian cafe has added breakfast and sandwiches to its weekend lineup. Sip their organic Peruvian coffee on the patio amid greenery and shady umbrellas. The cafe opens for breakfast at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. 2743 Capital Circle NE; 850-900-5969.
— The Edison: Breakfast, lunch and cocktails are served on the patio with a lovely view of Cascades Park. Brunch 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. 470 Suwannee Street; 850-765-9771.
— Food Glorious Food: Start your weekend with an extensive list of breakfast and lunch fare plus morning beverages and dessert on the patio. Brunch 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 1950 Thomasville Road; 850-224-9974.
— Grove Market Cafe: Owned by top chefs David and Elizabeth Gwynn, (owners of the former Cypress Restaurant), the cafe features an array of breakfast and lunch fare on the large patio. Open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily except Tuesday. 1370 Market Street; 850-894-5060.
— Horizons Bar and Grill: Enjoy brunch and lunch classics, with an extensive list of breakfast cocktails, on the covered patio. Brunch is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Bannerman Crossings, 3427 Bannerman Road, Suite 104; 850-329-2371
— Jeri’s Midtown Cafe: Breakfast specials, lavish French toast and pressed sandwiches are available in Jeri’s cozy courtyard. Brunch is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 1123 Thomasville Road; 850-385-7268.
— Kool Beanz Cafe: Savor an eclectic brunch on the covered patio or under umbrellas from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. 921 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-2466.
— La Florida: The downtown coffee shop offers homemade pastries and coffee with outdoor seating on the Kleman Plaza. La Florida opens at 7 a.m. Monday to Friday, at 9 a.m. Saturday and closed Sunday. 350 S. Duval St.; 850-296-0110.
— Liberty Bar & Restaurant: Pair breakfast cocktails with dishes like steak and eggs, corned beef hash and a Scottish egg on the covered patio. Brunch 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 1307 N. Monroe St.; 850-354-8277.
— Lofty Pursuits: Why not have ice cream for breakfast or enjoy breakfast at this ice cream parlor? Lofty Pursuits opens daily at 8 a.m. 1355 Market Street; 850-521-0091.
— Ology Northside: Grab a quick breakfast, including bagels and burritos, on the patio at the brewery’s new branch, with coffee from Java master Jason Card. Opens at 7 a.m. daily. 2910 Kerry Forest Pkwy.; 850-296-2809.
— Square Mug Cafe: Sit on the outdoor deck at this casual cafe and enjoy bagels and other breakfast fare in the Railroad Square Art District. Opens 7:30 a.m. Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. 663 Railroad Square; 850-765-8356.
— Railroad Square Craft House: Enjoy all the outdoor space at the Craft House, featuring breakfast items and morning cocktails from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 644 McDonnell Dr.; 850-296-3496.
— Table 23: Southern-style dishes star at this restaurant, with several outdoor options, including a large covered terrace. Sunday brunch is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 1233 Thomasville Road; 850-329-2261.
— Uptown Cafe: This longtime spot is known for its classic and creative breakfast fare and treats like house-smoked salmon. Open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. 1325 Miccosukee Road; 850-219-9800.
FYI: Andrews Downtown is returning to a brunch buffet with omelet stations. We’re advised to look for the restaurant to resume its Sunday brunch operation within the next few weeks so give them a call before you stop by. 228 S. Adams Street; 850-222-3444.