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Morning Watch: John Morgan a strong candidate for governor?; Debra Lafave's new life's story; Mahaffey naming rights for $100K a year; how to get by in Cuba

John Morgan speaks at the Marijuana Business Conference in Orlando in 2016. [Michael Auslen | Times/Herald]
Published Feb. 15, 2017

The latest news and developments to help you get ready for the day ahead.

Unpredictable, politically incorrect, pugnacious, and very, very rich. Yes, it sounds like President Donald Trump, but it also describes personal injury lawyer John Morgan, who is mulling a run for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018. Among more than 170 of the most experienced and plugged in Florida politicos, a plurality thinks he'd be the Democrats' strongest candidate. Here's the full results of our Florida Insider's Poll.

Joe Zuniga figures he was the right person to tell the story of an attempt at a new life by Debra Jean Beasley Lafave — the blonde, blue-eyed, middle-school teacher who had sex with a 14-year-old student in 2004. Debra LaFave: A Crown of Beauty for Ashes is Zuniga's first book, . born of the acquaintance he struck up with LaFave a decade ago through his sister. He believes in second chances.

The name on the outside of the Mahaffey Theater isn't changing, but the names of nearly everything inside and around it is up for sale. St. Petersburg City Council members heard the details of a plan on Feb. 2 to sell naming rights to a dozen spaces on the 98,000-square-foot performing arts venue.

It looks like a perfectly staged assassination, straight out of the pages of a spy novel: Kim Jong Nam, the estranged, exiled half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, falls ill at a Malaysian airport, complains of being sprayed with some sort of chemical, and drops dead. But, as with many things about the motives of cloistered North Korea, the unknowns currently far outweigh the certainties.

[Photo from Diane Persall]

Anyone traveling on their own in Cuba needs to "know a guy."

Could be a woman, but enterprising locals typically offer a guy. Looking for a casa particular, a comfy room rented by friendly, licensed homeowners? Someone knows a guy to make it happen. Want to spin backward through time and Havana in a vintage automobile? Guys arrange that, too. Steve Persall writes about his recent visit to the island nation.

Chris Sale wants to win. He said that Tuesday during his press conference following his first official workout as a Red Sox. Repeatedly. "I've said it 157 times," Sale said. That's an exaggeration, but he used the word often when talking about the offseason trade that brought him from the Chicago White Sox to Boston and about joining a team that dealt two top prospects for the left-handed pitcher to, well, win.

Quite a rally for Rumor, and German Shepherds, too. Rumor was crowned America's top dog Tuesday night when, a year after a near miss, she came out of retirement to win best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club.


  1. The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is hoping to secure a $21.8 million federal grant to help pay for a bus rapid transit line connecting downtown St. Petersburg and the beaches. St. Petersburg City  Council approved an interlocal agreement Thursday supporting the project. ALESSANDRA DA PRA | Times
    Pinellas transit officials hope the project will get a federal grant in 2020. However, St. Pete Beach and South Pasadena still oppose it.
  2. Marissa Mowry, 28, sits in a Hillsborough County courtroom court before her sentencing hearing Thursday. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting a boy when he was 11-years-old. She was his former nanny, and became pregnant with his child. Photo courtesy of WTVT-Fox 13
    Marissa Mowry was 22 when she first assaulted an 11-year-old boy. Now he’s a teenager raising a son, and she was classified as a sexual predator.
  3. The tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico that’s projected to strengthen as it approaches Florida could put a crimp ― or much worse ― in Tampa Bay’s weekend plans. National Hurricane Center
    The National Weather Service warns that the Gulf of Mexico disturbance could strengthen and bring wind, rain and possibly tornadoes to the bay area.
  4. Pat Frank, at a 2016 candidate debate with then-challenger Kevin Beckner. She won. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
    From school board to state lawmaker to clerk of courts, she just keeps on going, Sue Carlton writes.
  5. Researchers from the University of Central Florida and International innovation company, Imec have developed a camera that uses specific wavelength of light to easily find pythons in habitat where they are typically well camouflaged. 
    University of Central Florida researchers worked with Imec to develop the cameras.
  6. Pasco County Sheriff's deputies lead three teenagers from a Wesley Chapel Publix store after responding to reports that the boys had been showing off handguns there in a Snapchat video. PASCO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE  |  Pasco County Sheriff's Office
    The three Pinellas boys were apprehended while they were still walking the aisles of the Wesley Chapel store.
  7. The 59-year-old pastor was arrested Oct. 2 after a young woman told investigators he began abusing her in 2014 when she was 14 and he was senior minister at the First Congregational Church of Winter Park. Orange County Sheriff's Office via AP
    Rev. Bryan Fulwider was released Wednesday night after posting a $700,000 bond.
  8. Sam's Club fulfillment center manager Nick Barbieri explains to a shopper how the new Scan & Go shop works at 5135 S Dale Mabry Highway. SARA DINATALE  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The shuttered store has been reinvented and debuted to the community.
  9. Yogi Goswami
    The Molekule Air Mini is a scaled-down version of its original purifier.
  10. In this image taken from video provided by the Florida Immigrant Coalition, border patrol agents escort a woman to a patrol car on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, at Aventura Hospital in Aventura, Fla. The woman had been detained by border patrol agents when she fell ill. The agent took her to the hospital emergency room for treatment. The presence of immigration authorities is becoming increasingly common at health care facilities around the country, and hospitals are struggling with where to draw the line to protect patients’ rights amid rising immigration enforcement in the Trump administration. (Florida Immigrant Coalition via AP) AP
    Hospitals are struggling with where to draw the line to protect patients’ rights amid rising immigration enforcement in the Trump administration.