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Hunkering Down With Peter Schorsch
40 minutes | Oct 5, 2021
Ken Welch talks St. Petersburg
On a brand-new Hunkering Down, Peter Schorsch chats with Ken Welch, the former Pinellas County Commissioner and current leading candidate for St. Petersburg Mayor. Topics include: — Getting things done for Pinellas County; no corruption, no fiscal issues. Making trains run on time. — The success of the county’s pandemic response; working together with business (in a non-partisan way) for a quicker, responsible economic recovery. — Emphasizing COVID-19 education and civil (not criminal) compliance measures. — The beauty of South St. Pete; could gentrification be on the horizon? — Driving nearly 1,000 Uber trips for “Project Connect,” listening to a broad cross-section of citizens. — Addressing key issues: workforce needs (especially service industry), housing, growth, and being a Mayor “during prosperity.” — Appointing a good city administrator; dealing with the Tampa Bay Rays. — Talking to colleagues, former Mayors and getting endorsements in the race. — What’s it like to grow up a Black man in St. Petersburg. — Music, race, and “are things getting better?”Special Guest: Ken Welch.
64 minutes | Sep 8, 2021
Hunkering Down continues: Michele Rayner and Anna Eskamani
On a new episode of Hunkering Down, Peter Schorsch explains how podcasting has become a major part of moving ahead during the continuing pandemic, and why the need still exists to “hunker down.” — Rep. Michele Rayner discusses her activist roots and entry into state politics. — The St. Petersburg Democrat talks about how being a gay, Black woman would not have been an easy path in politics 15 years ago. — How do we overcome political polarization? — Rep. Anna Eskamani also reflects on her activism, reproductive rights and the fears that a Texas-style “heartbeat bill” could come to Florida. — Eskamani’s mother was the inspiration for her political life, and how her passing shows you should never put off important conversations. Life is too short to wait. — Peter and guests discuss the death of Michael K. Williams, who played the iconic Omar on “The Wire.” Williams’ portrayal of complex characters made him a well-loved actor, nominated for an Emmy for his role in HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.”
95 minutes | Jul 13, 2020
Hamilton, Reopening Schools, and A Tough Primary: With Richard Reeves, Kirsten Borman Dougherty, and Michelle Salzman
Peter Schorsch hunkers down with lobbyists Richard Reeves, Republican consultant** Kirsten Borman** and Republican House District 1 candidate Michelle Salzman. The three discuss reopening schools, a tough primary coming up in August and, perhaps more important to everyone’s mental health, Hamilton on Disney+. Peter grapples with the disparity between families able to keep their kids home to distance learn in the fall and other families, largely those with limited resources, who don’t have a choice. Also on the slate, missing restaurants and rethinking what the future of hospitality looks like. Borman tackles fundraising in the age of coronavirus, touting the ability to adapt to changing circumstances in order to keep afloat. Low-dollar donors counted out? Peter and Borman disagree about whether that’s the case. And take a break from pandemic chaos for some tips on how to best enjoy Hamilton on-screen, rather than in the theater. Special Guests: Kristen Borman, Michelle Salzman, and Richard Reeves.
87 minutes | Jun 29, 2020
On the Campaign Trail: Mike Binder, Nate Monroe, Steve Vancore
Peter Schorsch hunkers down in an all-Jacksonville episode with University of North Florida Political Science and Public Administration Associate Professor Mike Binder, veteran Florida Times-Union reporter and columnist Nate Monroe and longtime political consultant and pollster Steve Vancore. Each guest offers their expert insight into COVID-19 and politics and the special twist in Jacksonville as the city prepares to welcome thousands of Republicans for President Donald Trump’s re-nomination speech in August, the headlining event for the Republican National Convention. Binder responds to polls showing most Jacksonville residents show opposition for hosting the marquis RNC event, but digs into the underlying question — does it matter? As a reporter and columnist in the city, Monroe offers an insider’s perspective into what it’s like to cover the state’s most populous city at a time when public fear is stoked by the embers of a once again growing pandemic. He also weighs in on Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s controversial political resume and what that means for the convention going forward. Vancore tackles yet another topic crucial for the 2020 cycle — universal vote-by-mail. Democrats want it to stave off potential coronavirus spread at polling places, but Republicans largely oppose the idea. That opposition comes even though the GOP has been wildly successful in their vote-by-mail strategy in Florida, while Democrats have had less success. Taken together, the three offer a robust snapshot of 2020 in Florida.Special Guests: Mike Binder, Nate Monroe, and Steve Vancore.
63 minutes | Jun 22, 2020
On the Campaign Trail: Jason Brodeur, Scott Powers, Anthony Pedicini
In the first episode from the campaign trail, Peter Schorsch hunkers down with GOP political consultant Anthony Pedicini, former Rep. and now Senate candidate Jason Brodeur and Florida Politics Orlando reporter Scott Powers. Brodeur kicks it off with a look at his campaign in Senate District 9, one of the hottest races in Florida politics this year. Powers picks it up with a reporter’s analysis of that race, as well as other intriguing match-ups, including a down-ballot contest for the Seminole County Commission. Powers also laments how baseball is languishing during the pandemic. Pedicini bats clean up, weighing in on Heather Fitzenhagen’s surprise launch into Senate District 27, while bringing in an insider's view to many of the legislative seats in play this cycle. Special Guests: Anthony Pedicini , Jason Brodeur, and Scott Powers.
24 minutes | May 23, 2020
Peter Schorsch hunkers down with lobbyist Ron Pierce, president and CEO of Tampa-based RSA Consulting Group. He began his legislative career in 1998 working in the Florida Legislature as a District Legislative Assistant in the House, later working with Sen. Tom Lee in the spring of 2000, becoming Lee’s Policy Adviser during his tenure as Senate President from 2004-2006. Pierce discusses work in the time of coronavirus, relegated to online correspondence. Peter speculates about the possibility of businesses maintaining work-from-home models even when the virus passes. Working from home, Peter argues, reduces company overhead and gives workers the option to purchase houses in more affordable suburbs rather than buying into the high-rent, high-priced housing market in urban work centers. Pierce said that is something under consideration in his company, though new clients will still need that crucial one on one interaction to build relationships and trust. He discusses how a smaller firm like his can compete in Tallahassee, which comes down to competency and relationships. He also offers some insight into his work with transportation giant Uber. Pierce has worked with the company for the past seven years, developing a relationship with the company amid Hillsborough County’s battle between ride-share and traditional taxis under the now-shuttered Public Transportation Commission. Pierce helped usher in local policies allowing the company to operate under a legal framework in the county before statewide regulations were put in place. Now, his work centers on ensuring clients understand the ever-changing rules in the coronavirus economy — when can they open, how can they open? The two also talk about Jeff Vinik and his efforts in the Tampa Bay community to provide education and resources for residents and businesses as coronavirus restrictions continue to wreak havoc on daily life.Special Guest: Ron Pierce.
34 minutes | May 22, 2020
Peter Schorsch hunkers down with Matt Dixon, senior reporter for POLITICO Florida since March 2014, joining the online news organization after five years covering state government and politics. Before that, Dixon spent four years as bureau chief at the Florida Times-Union. Dixon offers a comedic and dry analysis of the current climate, rife with people opting to stay at home rather than venture out into the coronavirus world. Dixon finds the silver lining in the coronavirus crisis despite it wrecking his March wedding plans. Peter didn’t get an invite and assumes it’s because the date got pushed back (hint: that’s not why). The two discuss a recent analysis Dixon penned for POLITICO in which he speculates about a possible three-way Republican primary among Florida politicians Rick Scott, Ron DeSantis and Matt Gaetz for President in 2024. The also talk about the prospects of Marco Rubio in 2024 and bed the question: Did that ship sail in 2016? They also weigh in on the 2022 election where DeSantis faces reelection and speculate on how the 2020 presidential election outcome could play out in that race. But Dixon calls predictions at this point, “kind of stupid.” Dixon also laments eroding transparency in the DeSantis administration and the frequency for which he’s getting crickets when he requests information. If you’re feeling a little shy about your coronavirus belly, don’t worry, the two share plenty of lamentations of their own belly flab.Special Guest: Matt Dixon.
34 minutes | May 22, 2020
Peter Schorsch and Jeff Johnston take a deep dive into the streaming sports-related content available now in lieu of actual season game play. They dig into The Last Dance and give their takes on the Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James debate. Peter compares lobbying in Tallahassee to the NBA, with fierce competition to get major lobbying contracts. He and Jeff agree that from the top five and the top 20 firms, there are excellent lobbyists in every one. Johnston talks about the dynamic of his firm and his work with his business partner Amanda Stewart. He says working in Tallahassee is still a bit of a boy’s club and he’s deeply impressed by all of the women he’s surrounded by. Peter talks about the many firsts still ahead for women in the legislature, but looks forward to the day when women like his daughter Ella no longer have to worry about the obstacles in their way. Johnston says coronavirus got real for him because of his family. His father, battling cancer, was highly immunocompromised and therefore susceptible to COVID-19. His daughter is a senior in high school, who had long been planning her senior cruise. Cancelling that cruise was the moment things began to get truly real for the Johnston family. Johnston’s father passed away three weeks ago, something he handles with grace and poise throughout the podcast. He explains that his father lived a good life and went out on his own terms. Finally, Johnston makes excellent book recommendations. He suggests a series by Jack Carr, a pen name for co-writers that include Keith Wood, a government affairs professional in The Process. The first book, The Terminal List, was just picked up for a movie contract, starring Chris Pratt. Special Guest: Jeff Johnston.
50 minutes | May 14, 2020
Peter Schorsch hunkers down with lobbyist Jennifer Green, president and owner of Liberty Partners of Tallahassee. Liberty Partners of Tallahassee represents Expedia Group, which owns Vrbo and Home Away, two major vacation rental companies. Peter and Jennifer discuss Phase One reopening, and why vacation rentals are treated differently than hotels by the state of Florida. Green expresses the frustration of her clients in interpreting the latest reopening orders, why vacation rentals should be opened, particularly in places with few hotels like the Panhandle, and why she believes vacation rentals may actually be more cleanly than hotels. Peter and Jennifer debate whether Floridians on the whole are pushing for the state to reopen faster or not ready to end social distancing. Peter says this is because the louder, more visible voices are those defying reopening orders. They discuss stress of all workers right now, from unemployed service workers, to information workers able to work from home, and essential employees. Peter says information workers like him should tread lightly when speaking with those who are serving them (like bartenders, hair stylists and servers) during reopening. Green shares that coronavirus got real for her when her niece, a NICU nurse in New York, explained that she had just one mask to wear for a week. Peter explains why he and his family will continue to social distance for the upcoming weeks, thanks to "aggressively flippant attitudes" of people who are not willing to follow CDC guidelines for social distancing. Green shares her recommendations for entertainment at home.Special Guest: Jennifer Green.
87 minutes | May 14, 2020
Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce
Peter Schorsch hunkers down with a whole delegation of Miami legislators for a virtual legislative wrap-up hosted by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. He poses questions to a panel of legislators, featuring: Rep. Vance Aloupis (District 115), Rep. Nicholas X. Duran (District 112), Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin (District 119) Sen. Anitere Flores (District 39), Rep. Dotie Joseph (District 108), and Sen. Jason W. B. Pizzo (District 38). Peter begins by posing his typical Hunkering Down questions, including: "When did coronavirus get real for you?" and "What was your last normal day like?" He then moves on to policy-focused questions for each of the legislators, on topics like teacher raises; VPK and early learning; the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund; Fernandez-Barquin's domestic violence bill; Duran's "Keep our graduates working" bill; and an update from Pizzo on the state's struggling unemployment system. Peter then takes audience questions ranging from teacher pay to higher education, reskilling and reemployment. He closes with a lighting round asking each legislator to highlighting member projects that they believe should stay funded within the current budget; give a letter-grade for Gov. Ron DeSantis' response to the COVID-19 pandemic; and will there be a Special Session before July 1?Special Guest: Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.
27 minutes | May 12, 2020
Peter Scorsch talks with Sen. Jason Pizzo, as the South Florida Senator spends his quarantine hunkered down in Tallahassee, waging a battle against the broken unemployment system. In this important episode, Pizzo says he's "a little tired and very angry" after weeks of emails, calls and Facebook messages from Floridians in need, whose frustration is turning to desperation. Thousands of applications have sat in limbo for months. It's not about the blame game at this point, Pizzo says, it's about an executive function that isn't functioning. Through the initial weeks of the pandemic, Pizzo volunteered to work through claims manually, to work in the mail room, or to help in any other way possible to get the system functioning. Pizzo suggested that the 160 legislators, along with each of their 2-3 staff people, process claims each day. He says his offer was declined by Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson. He says it was declined again by Department of Management Services Secretary Jonathan Satter when he took over the unemployment system. At this point, Pizzo says the unemployment system is the "definiton of insanity." It's so fundamentally broken, he says, that Florida taxpayers are wasting money to support 72 extra servers and 2000 call center employees, because the employees have no ability to help. In fact, Pizzo received a tip from a call center employee that the "submit" button in their system was not available, and therefore they could not fix any claims. Pizzo says one major problem is the lack of coordination between government and the businesses that have laid off their employees. As of last count, Pizzo explains, 138,000 people were waiting just for employer wage verification, even as thousands of those claim came from large employers like Disney. The most frustrating component of this systemic failure, Pizzo says, is the way Gov. Ron DeSantis has spoken about it. In one press conference, he told Floridians, that if they filed their unemployment claim in March and haven’t got paid yet, either the filer made a mistake or they’re not eligible. Pizzo took six stories of unemployed women who did not get unemployment assistance directly to the governor and while not all claims have been processed, but six of the 10 have all qualified for unemployment. And these failures will have dire consequences for Floridians, Pizzo explains. Default car loans, evictions and the future consequences of plummeting credit scores will haunt Florida for years. Finally, Peter and Pizzo discuss the political implications of this failure and what it could mean for upcoming Florida elections.Special Guest: Jason Pizzo.
40 minutes | May 12, 2020
Peter Schorsch hunkers down with Kelly Mallette, Director of Government Affairs at Ronald L. Book, P.A. Mallette, a native of Biscayne Park neighborhood between North Miami and Miami Shores, lives just three blocks from her childhood home today. She shares a recap of her Mother's Day and tells listeners about her family, including her two children ages 12 and 9. Mallette gets into the nitty gritty of why lobbyists were so busy at the beginning of the pandemic, reading and intepretating state, county and city orders for industry closures and the requirements for essential businesses, and then communicating those orders to clients. She also reminds listeners that the government is essential, and never stopped working during this crisis. She says lobbyists continue at a break neck pace as reopening orders roll in and clients begin to get back to work. Mallette talks about the economic consequences of the pandemic, and explains why her firm continues to work with clients who are feeling the brunt of closures and the economic downturn. It's not about the next eight weeks, she says, but the next eight years. Peter asks Mallette what it's like to work for the legendary Ron Book - and the answer might surprise you. Peter finishes off the podcast asking his typical Hunkering Down questions, including, "What are you reading, listening to and watching?" And, "When did the pandemic get real for you?" Mallette says the seriousness of COVID-19 got real when Disney World closed its doors. Special Guest: Kelly Mallette.
43 minutes | May 5, 2020
Peter Schorsch hunkers down with Glenn Kirkland, Jon Menendez and Heath Beach of Kaleo Partners, a Tampa and Tallahassee-based tech policy and government advocacy firm specializing in technology policy, budget and procurement. Kirkland, a Tallahassee native, served as Chief Legislative Aide to then-Rep. John Legg and later became special assistant to House Speaker Dean Cannon, before transitioning to Deputy Chief of Staff of the House Majority office under Cannon. Menendez worked as an analyst in the Florida House Majority Office under Speaker Cannon and House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Beach held several high-profile positions in city, county, and state government, including working for Hillsborough County The three share their entrance into politics, including through work with Cannon. In the midst, Peter spills the beans on how he coaxes former Speakers to open up. If anyone’s listening, his trick might not work anymore. The three also discuss how the government often lags behind the private sector in technology and how to remedy that issue. The discussion also touches on new ways of campaigning in the era of COVID-19 and how new strategies could become permanent. And it’s not just politics, the three envision technology being used in day to day business as well as companies decide work from home models can be successful. Peter also asks the group about one of the state’s biggest issues right now — it’s $77 million clunker of an employment website. The three discuss how the state could have wound up with an over-priced site that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do.Special Guest: Kaleo Partners.
33 minutes | May 2, 2020
Peter Schorsch hunkers down with former House Speaker Will Weatherford who is now the managing partner of Weatherford Capital, a family-owned private investment firm based in Tampa. In a silver lining to the pandemic and related social distancing requirements, the two share their mutual gratitude for the chance to squeeze just a bit more time with their kids who, of a certain age, begin to drift away from their parents into independence. Weatherford discusses the Chamber of Commerce’s role in the coronavirus response, which the pro-business organization could have taken a hands-off approach on, but instead rose to support struggling businesses as statewide closures plagued their bottom line. Ever wonder what the social dynamic is like in the Florida House? Weatherford shares insight into the different personalities and how they work together despite differences in style, even if the majority are all Republicans. Listen also as the two discuss the stock market and economy in the age of coronavirus. It isn’t all bad news and, as Weatherford explains, that doesn’t necessarily make sense. Peter also discusses the diverging opinions on stay-at-home orders as some embrace them as a public health necessity and others feel the brunt of the economic hardship it breeds. Weatherford provides insight into the pandemic and politics surrounding it reminiscent of his leadership style from his days as House Speaker in this must-listen episode.Special Guest: Will Weatherford.
44 minutes | May 1, 2020
Peter Scorsch hunkers down with Nick Iarossi, co-founder and owner of Capital City Consulting, as well as one of INFLUENCE Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in Florida. Iarossi has represented clients in a vast range of issues including financial services, insurance, environmental, gaming, retail, education, alcohol, information technology, tobacco, and procurement. Iarossi talks about the economic recovery in a state still reeling from coronavirus, but finding new ways to do business. Iarossi also tackles the tough work Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Florida officials are tackling during the pandemic and the perhaps over-scrutiny applied by Tallahassee media. Peter doubles down on his criticism of some aspects of the Governor’s pandemic response, but also critiques the media’s treatment. Iarossi defends the Governor’s pushback against media. He describes a “gotcha” sort of scenario in which reporters have been relentlessly critical. Did you know Iarossi also races cars? He compares that to the world of political lobbying. Special Guest: Nick Iarossi.
30 minutes | May 1, 2020
Peter Schorsch hunkers down with Kelly Cohen, lobbyist, strategist and fundraiser who serves as a partner and chief marketing officer for The Southern Group. Since opening TSG’s first regional office in Orlando in 2005, Cohen has used her skills at building partnerships to drive public policy and growth throughout Central Florida, making her a key asset to the region’s businesses and a boon to its development. Cohen describes how Orlando is doing as a region with the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Sadly, she explains, the region is uniquely qualified to manage a crisis after navigating the fall out from the tragic Pulse nightclub shooting. She describes the political component in Central Florida, one that is less partisan than the state as a whole. Disney, she said, has been a great resource in the region because they not only have a team of highly qualified professionals, they also have experience navigating the virus in other ares like California. Cohen also talks about her company’s robust communication strategies and how that’s helping clients navigate the coronavirus crisis. As a statewide firm, Cohen also discusses the importance of focusing regionally on the impacts of coronavirus because different areas are facing unique challenges. Special Guest: Kelly Cohen.
25 minutes | May 1, 2020
Peter Schorch hunkers down with Bill Carlson, Tampa City Council member and Tucker/Hall communications firm president. Carlson, a father of three boys, talks distance learning from the perspective of a parent, finding the silver lining in the lessons it affords kids. Technology is the future of business and kids are getting a front row seat to how that works. Carlson, a seasoned traveler, also talks about his experiences abroad pre-coronavirus and how different cultures can be applied to solutions during the virus. The two also discuss poverty and its exacerbated effects during a pandemic. Even before the virus, poverty was rising as others thrived and the middle class shrunk, even if slightly, Carlson said. He talks about why he thinks the economy needs to focus on more than just the real estate market to bridge that gap. Carlson also envisions a new way of working in the future. Peter optimistically envisions a Pinellas County that emerges better than ever as South Florida bound travelers head to its beaches instead because it wasn’t plagued by the virus during the pandemic. Listen also as Carlson talks about when the virus really hit home for him and talks about what he’s missing, but also what he’s enjoying.
32 minutes | May 1, 2020
Peter Schorsch hunkers down with Carol Dover, president and CEO of Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. Before that, she served as assistant director of the Beer Industry of Florida and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Gov. Bob Martinez. Dover describes an industry that is broken and hurting, but recovering. There is some hope, she explains, for normalcy now that Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced plans for the economy to begin to start getting back to normal. Dover describes the new look for restaurants — staff wearing masks and gloves, hand sanitizer on the table, a more spread out environment — that blends hospitality with hospital, without looking like a hospital. Peter describes his efforts to support local restaurants, grabbing takeout and cocktails to-go, and being inspired by the rule-following he observes as people line up, with distance, to do the same. Dover talks about the importance of following the rules. If restaurants follow them, recovery will be much easier, she said. Dover also explains how the lodging industry will slowly plan to reopen, with an emphasis on outdoor seating and rethinking amenities. On employment, Dover said the industry is encouraging people to come back to work regardless of unemployment benefits that may look enticing. Those benefits are temporary, she said, while employment is not. Special Guest: Carol Dover.
71 minutes | Apr 28, 2020
James Grant Part 2
Peter Schorsch hunkers down with House District 64 Rep. Jamie Grant, which covers parts of north Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. The Tampa Republican is also a co-founder and Senior Solutions Architect of CareSync and a co-founder of LifeSync Technologies. First thing’s first, Grant clears up the name he prefers to go by. Is it James? Jamie? J.W.? The two, who have at times been at odds over various issues, also talk friendships, particularly in the era of divisive politics. Grant acknowledges that conflict is healthy in a friendship, a take he has to take as a lawmaker who has to deal on a daily basis with colleagues with opposing views. Grant also offers an inside glimpse into the dynamics of relationships in the halls of the Capitol. Grant also addresses the Payment Protection Program (PPP) controversy in which some large companies like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse taking money that was meant for small businesses. Grant explains why he doesn’t blame them for taking advantage of a program they qualified for. Peter pushes back some, pointing out he didn’t apply for PPP funding, but didn’t think it was right because other’s needed it more. On one topic on which there’s little debate, Peter talks with Grant about the challenges facing the Florida economy and the financial hardship that’s bringing to residents and businesses. Grant describes the situation as one that would have been unbelievable even just a couple months ago, likening it hypothetically to a dystopian story like Handmaid’s Tale. Grant offers in this episode a pointed critique of the coronavirus response in this extended interview tackling the virus and government with an occasional personal flair. Special Guest: Jamie Grant.
27 minutes | Apr 28, 2020
Peter Schorsch hunkers down with Slayter Bayliss, lobbyist and partner at The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners. The two take a deep dive into the docuseries “The Last Dance” and NBA legend Michael Jordan’s shocking-to-some comments calling Isiah Thomas an a-hole. The two jump back in time to reminisce about the glory days of basketball from the fierce competition to the seemingly different world void of social media and constant scrutiny under the 24-hour news cycle’s watchful eye. Peter recollects his affinity for the sport as a youngster and speculates on the NBA’s role in breaking down racial barriers, particularly through Michael Jordan’s fame and resulting wardrobe must-haves like Air Jordans. On the coronavirus, Bayliss explains why he started taking the pandemic seriously sooner than most. He remembers a February 6 article in the New York Times highlighting the death of a Chinese doctor who attempted to warn of the severity of the virus in December who was later forced to recant his statements as false, only to then die of the illness himself. And on a lighter note, Peter speculates about a possible new business venture — a product Bayliss admits his own family recently used. Tune in to find out how to get in on the investment.
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