Breakfast bites: GOP debate tonight; Citizens grows; Ethics chair resigns; GOP extends voter lead; storms not a threat

by | Aug 23, 2023



A handful of easily-digested news nuggets to fuel your day


Showtime tonight: DeSantis makes national debut on GOP debate stage
By now, just about every Republican voter across the country has heard of Florida’s Governor, but few know him beyond sound bites on cable news. Tonight marks the first time that large numbers of potential GOP voters will set aside all they’ve heard or read, and give DeSantis (and a few other first-time candidates) serious consideration. Of the eight that made the cut, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Chris Christie, and yes, even Asa Hutchinson (one of the House prosecutors in the 1999 Senate impeachment trial of Bill Clinton), have all previously been household names among GOP voters. The rest – Doug Burgum, DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Tim Scott are this cycle’s complete newcomers.

Citizens Insurance keeps growing
The state’s Citizens Property Insurance Corp. added more than 7,700 policies last week, as its total climbed above 1.37 million policies, according to information posted Tuesday on its website. Citizens had 1,371,324 policies as of Friday, up from 1,363,606 a week earlier and 1,353,786 policies two weeks earlier. Citizens President and CEO Tim Cerio has said the policy count could reach 1.7 million by the end of the year. Citizens, which was created as an insurer of last resort, has seen massive growth over the past three years as private insurers have shed policies and raised rates because of financial problems. As an illustration of the growth, Citizens had 486,773 policies on July 31, 2020; 661,150 policies on July 31, 2021; and 994,456 policies on July 31, 2022. [Source: News Service of Florida]

State ethics chairman resigns
Glen Gilzean
, the chairman of Florida’s ethics commission, has resigned from his position in order to retain his $400,000-a-year job as the leader of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ oversight district for Disney World. Gilzean’s resignation came after media reports highlighted a potential conflict of interest under Florida law. In his resignation letter, Gilzean explained that he was unaware of this conflict until it was brought to his attention through media coverage. Despite serving as administrator of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District since May, Gilzean claimed that the commission’s executive director and general counsel had not raised any concerns about the state law prohibiting ethics commissioners from holding “public employment” until he requested a legal memo. Gilzean emphasized that he had consulted with various legal advisors, including the Commission’s General Counsel, and the conflict hadn’t been identified at the time. The situation came to light when an investigative news outlet reported the conflict, prompting Gilzean to seek a legal opinion from the ethics commission. Ultimately, the conclusion was that Gilzean needed to relinquish one of his roles.

Florida GOP extends lead over Democrats
In July, the Republican Party of Florida extended its lead in registered voters. Recent data from the state Division of Elections revealed that as of July 31, the GOP had 5,244,138 registered voters, while the Florida Democratic Party had 4,676,087. This 568,051-voter lead grew by over 26,000 voters in July, and by over 55,000 in June. The data also showed 3,861,950 voters registered without party affiliations and 292,355 with third parties. Republicans took the lead from Democrats in 2021 and have only strengthened their position since, holding all statewide offices and majorities in Florida’s congressional delegation, as well as in the Florida House and Senate. 

Atlantic storms churn, but still no direct threat
Tropical Storm Franklin, currently harassing Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is slated to become a hurricane once it blows out of the Carribean and back into the mid-Atlantic later this week. But its projected northward and later northwestward track isn’t likely to bring it toward Florida. That leaves only a pair tropical “disturbances,” both with the potential to become named storms, still lurking in the far Eastern Atlantic. Forecasters (and newsrooms!) are keeping a sharp eye out. You can, too.

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