Backroom Briefing: Taste of the Florida Senate

TALLAHASSEE — As Senate President Kathleen Passidomo gets ready to end her second regular legislative session leading the Senate, she wanted to leave lawmakers with a good taste.

Passidomo has earned a reputation for her skills in the kitchen, making meals over the weekend at her Naples home and hauling the food to Tallahassee for staff members and senators.

So, on Wednesday, she gave senators a self-financed cookbook that features some of her favorite recipes — “World’s Best Red Sauce,” meatballs, eggplant parmesan, chicken parmesan, lasagna, beef wellington and grilled swordfish steak.

“We leave this term with many, many great memories. So many of my memories with you were shared over meals,” Passidomo said from the podium Wednesday during a ceremony to unveil her portrait.

“Test out one or a dozen or all 40-plus recipes,” Passidomo said. “And when you do, celebrate all parts of Florida, and enjoy the memories we made together.”

Besides her favorites, the book “Capitol Cuisine: Favorite Flavors of the Florida Senate” also features dishes, desserts and cocktails provided by senators and some staff members.

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Sen. Jay Collins, R-Tampa, offered a recipe for smoky tamari-lime tri tips. Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Indialantic, provided seafood gumbo. Sen. Alexis Calatayud, R-Miami, included a recipe for creme de vie accompanied with instructions in Spanish written by her grandmother.

Not everyone in the chamber has a deft hand for the culinary arts. Sen. Tom Wright, R-New Smyrna Beach, chipped in with a lasagna entrée from Giuseppi’s Steel City Pizza, which he listed as his “favorite dish from my favorite restaurant in District 8.”

People have inquired about buying the book, but right now that’s not planned, Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta said.

In 2023, Passidomo, who has two years remaining in the Senate but will hand off the leadership role to Sen. Ben Albritton in November, gave members copies of “Path of the Panther: New Hope for Wild Florida” by Carlton Ward Jr. She tied the book to a proposal approved by the Legislature to link hiking and biking trails to a statewide wildlife corridor.


After U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz posted online last month that he had “no plans” to run for governor, a poll released this week by Kaplan Strategies put the Panhandle Republican at the top of a field of potential 2026 GOP gubernatorial candidates.

While Gaetz’ 16 percent support outpaced Naples Congressman Byron Donalds by 3 percentage points and Attorney General Ashley Moody by 6 percentage points, the results were dominated by 51 percent of voters who declared themselves undecided.

Other potential candidates included in the poll of 1,151 likely voters were Lt. Gov. Jeannette Nunez, garnering 3 percent; Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Congressman Michael Waltz and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, each at 2 percent; and Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson, with 1 percent.

“Our analysis indicates a strong MAGA influence within the Florida Republican electorate, with 63% identifying as ‘MAGA Republicans,’” Kaplan Strategies said. “This demographic could play a pivotal role, especially if former President Donald Trump, who enjoys a favorable view from 82 percent of the respondents, chooses to endorse a candidate. The impact of such an endorsement is deemed more influential than one from Gov. Ron DeSantis, suggesting potential shifts in voter support pending high-profile endorsements.”


Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried announced Monday the suspension of three county chairs — Robert Dempster in Miami-Dade, Mindy Koch in Palm Beach and Carol Barfield in Franklin — for “ongoing and unresolved” noncompliance with party rules.

“There is too much at stake to ignore the challenges before us and we need all of our local parties engaged in our mission to take back Florida,” Fried said in a statement.

Fried said the party had made repeated attempts over the past year to support the county chairs and mitigate complaints.

Acting Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chairwoman María Elena López called for Dempster’s reinstatement and criticized Fried’s action as overriding the will of the local party members.

“Time is of the essence. Using FDP’s (the Florida Democratic Party’s) limited resources to undermine the sustained work and the all-important morale of two of the largest Democratic counties in the state will no doubt affect the work that needs to be done in this election year,” López said in a statement, referring to Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

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A Florida Atlantic University poll indicating a sizable number of Republicans still aren’t behind former president Donald Trump wasn’t going to sway Gov. Ron DeSantis to revive his presidential campaign.

“Been there. Done that. Got the T-shirt, my man,” DeSantis replied when asked Tuesday in Miami Beach.

But DeSantis also questioned the polling results from Florida Atlantic University/Mainstreet Research/PolCom Lab released on the eve of the 15-state Super Tuesday primaries.

SOCIAL MEDIA POST OF THE WEEK: “@CarlSzabo saying HB 3 is ‘like a zombie coming back from the dead’ is a poor choice of words considering how many kids have lost their lives to social media. Florida’s kids do not belong to @NetChoice and their Big Tech cronies. Bring it!” — House Speaker Paul Renner (@Paul_Renner) responding to NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel Carl Szabo’s opposition to a bill that seeks to keep children off social-media platforms (HB 3). NetChoice is a tech industry group.

Other stories you may want to read:

Delray’s Ryan Boylston and Nick Coppola Savaged in New Mailer


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