First Read for Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023

The must-read morning roundup of Florida politics and government.

Good morning. It’s International Customs Day. Florida exported $55.5 billion and imported $93.6 billion in goods in 2021, making it the 7th largest importer and 10th largest exporter in the United States. The state’s most frequent trade partners were Brazil and China.


In a political Hail Mary, suspended Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis asking to be reinstated after a federal judge’s opinion that while the court couldn’t reinstate Warren, the suspension was illegal

In the letter, Warren said that the findings of fact in the case made it clear that he had not done what DeSantis’ suspension of him had claimed: neglect his duty by refusing to prosecute certain offenses. “The facts are now known, and the Court’s findings are clear: I engaged in zero misconduct; the allegations in the Executive Order are false; and the suspension violates federal and state law,” Warren wrote.

But a DeSantis spokesman said the decision to reinstate Warren now falls to the Florida Senate, controlled by a more than ⅔ supermajority of Republicans. “Andrew Warren, of all people, should understand the distinction between legal dicta and the holding of a court’s decision,” DeSantis spokesman Bryan Griffin told The Florida Standard. 

Dicta “refers to a comment, suggestion, or observation made by a judge … that is not necessary to resolve the case, and as such, it is not legally binding on other courts but may still be cited as persuasive authority in future litigation.” Griffin concluded: “Mr. Warren remains suspended from the office he failed to serve.”

– Tristan Wood


* ‘GRAPHITE & GLITTER’: Brightline, the privately-run passenger train system that aims to eventually connect to Orlando, is selling a sparkly alternative to sitting in South Florida traffic.

* NEW COLLEGE TRUSTEE: The Board of Governors appointed Ryan T. Anderson, whose books have included, “Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing” and “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.”

* SILAGY OUT: Eric Silagy – the chairman, president and CEO of Florida Power & Light and a prominent figure in state political and business circles – will step down next month, with John Ketchum and Armando Pimentel assuming his responsibilities.


* Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump is threatening to sue DeSantis over his administration’s decision to reject an Advanced Placement course in African American studies, Politico Florida reports.

* The syllabus for the College Board’s AP African American Studies course was provided Wednesday to the Herald/Times by attorney Craig Whisenhunt, the newspapers’ Tallahassee bureau reports.

* As DeSantis and other Florida Republican leaders regularly criticize “environmental, social and governance” investing (ESG), state pension-fund managers maintain some investments in firms that could draw fire for being overly progressive, the News Service of Florida reports.

* DeSantis raised the idea this week of changing state law to allow juries to impose the death penalty without unanimous agreement, suggesting that perhaps only eight out of 12 jurors need to vote in favor, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

* Christopher Rufo, one of its new trustees, has a message for the students and staff of New College of Florida: the small, public liberal arts school on the state’s Gulf Coast is in a crisis, National Review reports.

More news below …


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* A new report says that more than half of LGBTQ+ Florida parents surveyed say they’re considering moving out of the Sunshine State because of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill that has already impacted families since it was enacted last year, the Florida Phoenix reports.

* Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna is under “preliminary investigation” by the state’s Department of Education for allegedly infusing “personal views” into his work as the head of the school district, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

* Roughly two weeks after throwing his hat in the ring for Florida Democratic Party chair, Tallahassee City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow has bowed out, the Democrat reports

* After incidents in West Palm Beach and Jacksonville, a bill now in the Legislature would make it a felony to project antisemitic images onto buildings, the Palm Beach Post reports

* Business mogul Blake Casper is launching his campaign to challenge Tampa City Council member Bill Carlson, the Tampa Bay Times reports


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The governor on Wednesday had meetings with Deputy Chief of Staff Alex Kelly, Policy & Budget Director Chris Spencer, State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Strickland, Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie, General Counsel Ryan Newman, Chief of Staff James Uthmeier, and had a call with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, according to his official schedule. 


* Republican 2024 presidential hopefuls already knew they would have to contend with Donald Trump. Now they are increasingly concerned with another problem – how to get past Ron DeSantis, the Wall Street Journal reports.

* Meta is ending its suspension of Donald Trump on its Facebook and Instagram platforms, with new guidelines to deter repeat terms of service violations, the company writes

* Over the past several months, Trump has launched a series of racist attacks on Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a woman who once served as his secretary of transportation, Politico reports.

* Trump, who at 76 is heading into his third presidential campaign and is still under scrutiny by investigators on multiple fronts, has at last become a texter, according to three people with knowledge of his new habit, the New York Times reports.


* Abortion first became a political issue in the United States because in 1972 President Richard Nixon needed it to be one, Heather Cox Richardson writes in the Palm Beach Post.

* CEO Eric Silagy’s retirement from Florida Power & Light marks the end of a scandal-plagued year in which Silagy and his company were connected to controversy across Florida, accused of doing nothing less than declaring a “war on democracy,” Nate Monroe writes in the Florida Times-Union.

* DeSantis and state lawmakers gave a tax break to a small group of multinational giants, even though they had no idea how much that tax break would cost the state, Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents writes.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY: To Claudia Davant, owner of Adams Street Advocates … to the Tallahassee Democrat's Byron Dobson … to Jill Weinstock Deutch, director of development at Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach … to Jan Pudlow, retired senior editor at The Florida Bar … to Dave Royse, author, journalist and News Service of Florida alum.

SAVE THE DATE: Authors Melissa Korn and Jennifer Levitz are the featured speakers for “A Supreme Evening 2023,” the annual fundraiser for the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society. They wrote “Unacceptable: Privilege, Deceit & the Making of the College Admissions Scandal,” covering what became known as “Operation Varsity Blues.” The event is tonight in Tallahassee. For more information, go to

Have a birthday, career change, birth, death or life event to announce? Email us:


“I can’t see what you’re saying behind your mask, but you’re not right.”

Chris Rufo, via the National Review, to a New College of Florida staff member trying to dispute data he gave during a meeting with students and faculty.