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October 17, 2018

Pelosi touts gun control in Broward visit with Parkland parents

Nancy pelosi

@martindvassolo @alextdaugherty

Democrats may be wary of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in other parts of the country, but she’s welcome in South Florida.

With the midterm elections just weeks away, Parkland students and parents convened Wednesday with Pelosi in Coral Springs to game plan for November. The round table discussion focused on gun control, moderated by U.S. Rep Ted Deutch, was equal parts emotional venting and strategizing.

Pelosi called the activists and parents a “blessing to our country,” and said because of the energy coming out of Parkland, the issue of gun control would top the Democratic Party’s agenda in the House of Representatives if they take control.

“I admire you so much,” she said. “You have the purpose, the generosity of spirit. You have the marchers — you have people who will go out there to make a difference — and you just have a relentless, persistent, dissatisfied approach.”

More here.

South Florida Democrats are betting that healthcare is their winning issue

Budget Health Care

@alextdaugherty

Miami-Dade County is home to the largest concentration of Obamacare recipients in the country, and Democrats are spending millions on TV ads, certain that healthcare is the No. 1 issue voters care about this year.

Congress’ attempt to repeal Obamacare during the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency was one of the highest-profile votes that incumbent Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart had to take. They both voted to repeal Obamacare in two majority-Latino districts that have nearly 200,000 Obamacare recipients between them.

Now Democrats are convinced that reminding voters of their representatives’ attempts to repeal Obamacare is the way to flip as many as three GOP-held seats in November, along with keeping incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in office.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is spending nearly $1 million a week on ads related to healthcare in her race against Curbelo.

Donna Shalala has touted her experience running the Department of Health and Human Services under former President Bill Clinton and tried to paint her Republican opponent Maria Elvira Salazar as a “cheerleader of Trump” and his policy preferences like repealing Obamacare. Salazar has said she would have voted against the Obamacare repeal bill with Democrats, but expressed support for allowing health insurance to be sold across state lines, an idea that Shalala said was silly.

And Mary Barzee Flores, a Democrat running against Diaz-Balart, focused on healthcare in her first television ad, noting that her father passed away when she was young.

Read more here.

Mario Diaz-Balart is banned from Venezuela, but his wife promoted travel there

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@alextdaugherty

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart dislikes Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro so much that he framed the notice banning the congressman from the country, hung it in his office and bragged about it on social media.

But the Miami Republican’s wife promoted travel to Venezuela two years ago. In 2016, a year after the ban on Diaz-Balart was announced by Maduro, Tia Diaz-Balart posted a list of “best places to visit in Venezuela” on the website for Ladat Travel, a company founded by the congressman’s wife to create “custom-tailored dream vacations” for clients and groups. The posts mostly describe tourist attractions like Venezuela’s Angel Falls, the world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall. Tia Diaz-Balart’s LinkedIn page says she founded the company in August 2014 and worked there until September 2017, and the company’s associated LLC shows up in Diaz-Balart’s 2014 federal financial disclosure.

When asked by the Miami Herald, Diaz-Balart’s campaign said Mario and Tia Diaz-Balart never made any money off tourists traveling to Venezuela or anywhere else because the business venture never got off the ground.

“She never made any money off of any tour or travel anywhere,” Diaz-Balart campaign representative Cesar Gonzalez said. “It was kind of like this idea that she had of starting this travel agency. It never took off.”

More here.

She doesn’t want it known, but Maria Elvira Salazar favors Trump talks with Castro

 

Via @FabiolSantiago

During her videotaped interview with the Miami Herald’s Editorial Board, in which members of the newsroom like me participated, I asked Republican congressional candidate Maria Elvira Salazar about her position on President Donald Trump’s Cuba policy.

Salazar said she liked that Trump “has changed the rules of the game” and now when people like Madonna want to go to Cuba to celebrate their birthdays, they have to stay in a Cuban home instead of a hotel owned by the Cuban military and buy cigars not from government stores but from the people.

Trump should “do even more,” she said, “and fulfill what he’s promised.”

Should Trump start conversations with Miguel Díaz-Canel, Cuba’s newly appointed president, I asked her?

“He shouldn’t talk to Diaz-Canel because he doesn’t reflect anything. We know it was a transfer of title, not a transfer of power.”

After the Q&A, I approached Salazar for a follow-up and she insisted that there was no point in talking to Diaz-Canel “the puppet” when the man in charge was still Communist Party leader Raúl Castro.

Should Trump then talk to Raúl Castro? I asked — and she immediately and unequivocally answered that yes, he should.

“Trump should talk to Raúl Castro. He calls the shots.”

But as soon as she said that, and I made a gesture to write it in my notebook, Salazar, who has been endorsed by the hardline Bay of Pigs veterans group, called out: “That’s off the record!”

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The Shalala conundrum: wooing Hispanic voters when you don’t speak the language

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Donna Shalala has a conundrum.

In her bid to flip a Miami congressional seat once thought an easy pickup for Democrats, she’s struggling with Hispanic voters. But to woo a majority of the district, she must venture onto Spanish-language television and debate a former Spanish-language broadcast journalist who couldn’t be more at home in a studio.

For the second time in four days, Shalala and Republican Maria Elvira Salazar were beamed Tuesday into the living rooms of Florida’s 27th congressional district. With independent candidate Mayra Joli standing between them, they sparred for an hour from Univision 23’s Doral studios while making their case to serve as the successor to retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

And once again, Shalala was on Salazar’s home turf, listening to her opponent’s interpreted comments through an earpiece and speaking to viewers through a translator. “I’m here for this debate in Spanish, although my Spanish is not very good,” she said.

Before either had even introduced themselves, Salazar put Shalala on the defensive, immediately ripping into the former University of Miami president during her opening comments over the Democrat’s announced appearance Wednesday with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and California Congresswoman Barbara Lee — who reportedly said when Fidel Castro died that “we need to stop and pause and mourn his loss.”

“It seems to me that Mrs. Shalala should reconsider and cancel that press conference,” said Salazar, who is a Republican Cuban-American. “That is an offense and a lack of sensitivity to prisoners, to those shot, to the exiles who live here in the city of Miami.”

Shalala, who had not yet uttered a word, said she didn’t know what Salazar was talking about — even though the press conference was scheduled at her own campaign headquarters. Shalala’s campaign said later that the candidate was thrown off by a muddled translation in her earpiece.

“I definitely don’t know anything about that press conference,” said Shalala. “But I absolutely oppose the Cuban government.

It was a rough start for a campaign that says it does not yet have a date set for an English-language debate as the two campaigns fight over dates. The night also ended strangely, with Joli accusing Salazar of being funded by the Illuminati and Shalala by the Clintons.

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October 16, 2018

Rick Scott to Verizon: Give me a plan to restore service, and waive customers' bills

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Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Wes Maul looks at Gov. Rick Scott during a hurricane briefing at the state emergency operations center Tuesday. (Miami Herald)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued another rebuke of Verizon today, telling the cell provider in a terse press release that he expects the company to give him a plan today to restore service to the areas hit by Hurricane Michael, and that all cell providers should waive bills for October.

The press release was addressed to all cell phone providers, but it singled out Verizon, which has struggled to restore service in Bay County, where Michael made landfall.

Over the last 48 hours, both Scott and CFO Jimmy Patronis have criticized Verizon's slow recovery, and on Monday, Scott met with the company's senior vice president and chief network officer, Nicki Palmer.

"Verizon recently said in a press release that 98 percent of Florida has service," the governor's office press release said. "This statement, which includes customers in Florida that were hundreds of miles away from impacted areas, does not help Florida’s law enforcement in Bay County and families communicate with loved ones in Panama City and does not help those needing medicine call their pharmacy in Lynn Haven."

Scott then laid out his expectations for all cell phone and internet providers:

  • Customers in the impacted counties should be allowed to switch providers without penalty. Some cell phone contracts still penalize customers for switching before their two-year contract is up.
  • Bills for customers in affected counties should have their October bills waived.
  • "Telecommunications companies should be open and transparent with Floridians and do so with a clearly communicated plan to quickly restore service."

"Families understand that the telecommunications industry, like the power companies and other services, experienced catastrophic damage to vital infrastructure," Scott said in the press release, "but that does not change our expectation that each telecommunications company will be open and communicate a clear plan on how they intend to quickly restore service while treating families fairly."

The press release added that "The Governor expects that a plan for full telecommunications restoration will be communicated today."

Verizon has said it's suffered "unprecedented damage" to its network in Bay County.

The return of cell service has been critical to telling people where to find supplies after the storm, Scott has said. In Mexico Beach, people have been forced to stand on bridges to get any sort of cell signal.

Independent poll shows Carlos Curbelo with a slim lead over Debbie Mucarsel-Powell

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@alextdaugherty

An independent poll shows Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo with a 1 point lead over Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell—and a contingent of undecided voters large enough to decide the election.

A poll conducted by Mason Dixon Strategies and Telemundo 51 from October 3 to October 9 with 625 registered voters who said they were likely to vote showed a race that is essentially a toss-up for Curbelo’s Miami to Key West congressional seat that President Donald Trump lost more than 16 percentage points two years ago. Curbelo captures 46 percent support while Mucarsel-Powell takes 45 percent. Nine percent of voters are undecided as both campaigns spend millions on TV advertising.

Curbelo once had a lead in the race but Mucarsel-Powell has closed the gap in recent weeks through increased TV spending. Curbelo is better known than Mucarsel-Powell according to the poll and has a higher favorability rating, though Mucarsel-Powell has a lower unfavorable rating than Curbelo. The poll’s margin of error is 4 percentage points, meaning the race is essentially a tie.

More here.

Sensing an upset, Paul Ryan-aligned super PAC attacks Donna Shalala

Shalala

@alextdaugherty

National Republicans are getting serious about trying to beat Donna Shalala

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, is running a Spanish-language ad targeting Shalala starting today. The six-figure buy on TV and digital platforms is the super PAC’s first foray into retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s district, a Miami-based seat where President Donald Trump lost to Hillary Clinton by nearly 20 points. 

The ad titled “$7” tries to portray Shalala as out of touch with working class voters in the district, noting that she lived in a mansion that eventually sold for $9 million while serving as the president of the University of Miami and led the university when its janitorial staff went on strike because their wages amounted to about $7 an hour. Shalala’s Republican opponent, former TV journalist Maria Elvira Salazar, levied a similar attack on Shalala during a recent Telemundo debate.

“Donna Shalala is just another politician who puts herself first,” said CLF communications director Courtney Alexander. “As president of the University of Miami, Shalala lived in a $9 million mansion, but only paid university janitors $7 an hour while denying them health insurance. Donna Shalala is out for herself, not Floridians.”

The ad includes footage of a mansion juxtaposed with Shalala giving a speech in her UM regalia while criticizing her leadership when university janitors went on a hunger strike over low wages, attacks that she also faced during the Democratic primary. 

“As president of the University of Miami, Shalala lived in a nine-million dollar mansion,” the ad says. “But only paid university janitors seven dollars an hour while denying them health insurance.The scandal made national news and Shalala was called an enemy of the working poor.”

More here.

Hurricane Michael update: State emergency team told to focus on "human comfort"

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An American flag is displayed using sandbags in the coastal township of Mexico Beach, population 1200, which lay devastated on Friday (10/12/18) after Hurricane Michael made landfall on Wednesday in the Florida Panhandle. (Douglas R. Clifford, Times)

The top priority today for state officials handling Hurricane Michael's aftermath is ensuring the comfort of thousands of people staying in shelters in the Panhandle.

Wes Maul, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, told the state's emergency response team in Tallahassee this morning that "human comfort" should be their focus.

"Think about what you can do today to affect that in the next 24 hours in a very big way," he told them.

More than 1,500 people are staying in 13 local shelters, and about 1,400 others are staying in shelters run by the Red Cross.

Among the priorities today is linking people with pharmacies to make sure they can get their prescription drugs, officials said. But there are also other basic needs: installing port-o-potties, making sure the shelters are clean, and having enough showering trailers and cooling tents, for example.

Officials are warning there won't be a short-term solution to getting people back to their normal lives, and the state has been telling local officials that the number of people in shelters is expected to rise as people return to the area and find their homes destroyed.

About 140,000 people were still without power this morning, and many of them will be without power for some time. 400,000 initially lost power when Hurricane Michael made landfall on Wednesday.

Nearly $1.2 billion in food in the Panhandle was lost or destroyed by the storm, officials said today.

Internal poll shows Shalala ahead in campaign to replace Ros-Lehtinen in Congress

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Former University of Miami president Donna Shalala is a long way from silencing the haters, but her campaign has a new poll that should ease doubts that she can win a congressional seat the Democratic party can ill afford to let slip away.

Amid increasing evidence that Shalala has her hands full with Republican opponent Maria Elvira Salazar, the former Health and Human Services secretary’s campaign has released an internal poll showing Shalala ahead in the race to replace the retiring Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as the representatives of Florida’s 27th congressional district.

Shalala, 77, leads Salazar, 56, by five points, according to a polling memo from Anzalone Liszt Grove Research. The firm found Shalala ahead of the former Spanish-language broadcast journalist by a 44 to 39 margin, with about 10 percent of voters undecided.

Shalala’s lead is within the poll’s 4.4-point margin of error, and internal polls should always be received with some skepticism. But following a calendar month in which a non-partisan elections handicapper moved the race to a toss-up and an independent Mason-Dixon Telemundo 51 poll found Shalala down two, Democrats will take all the good news they can get.

The poll, a bi-lingual query by live callers of 500 voters from Oct. 11 through Oct. 14, should give Democratic voters reason for optimism. For one, compared to the Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy poll, Shalala fared better with Cuban voters, who comprise a plurality of the district. Shalala’s poll also found Pro-Trump, no-party-affiliation candidate Mayra Joli earning 6 percent of the vote (compared to 1 percent in the Mason-Dixon Poll), a number that could end up being the difference between the Republicans holding the seat and the Democrats snaring it for the first time in decades.

Read the rest here.

October 15, 2018

Far from the storm-ravaged panhandle, the DeSantis and Gillum campaigns reengage

Gillum DeSantis

In Miami, about as far removed as you can get from the unofficial no-politicking zone in the hurricane-ravaged Panhandle without leaving Florida, the campaigns of Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum are back in the trenches.

Lies. Socialism. Hypocrisy. Anti-Semitism: It’s all on the table in the southern reaches of the state as the campaign for governor enters its final weeks.

Following a stump hiatus called as the state weathered Hurricane Michael, DeSantis has begun to reapply pressure to Gillum during campaign stops in South Florida. Late last week, Broward sheriff’s deputies endorsed the former Republican congressman in Plantation while blasting Gillum for accepting support from a social justice group that believes police have no place in society. On Sunday, DeSantis returned to his criticisms of Gillum as anti-Israel at a Broward County synagogue. And on Monday, it was back to talk of socialism with Hispanic voters.

Appearing in West Miami with U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, DeSantis and running mate Jeanette Nuñez once again described Gillum as far-left and “corrupt.”

A crowd of about 250 supporters mostly spoke Spanish and greeted DeSantis with signs that read “Cubanos” and “Colombianos por DeSantis Nuñez.” Using County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa as a translator, DeSantis rolled out his standard South Florida stump speech and identified himself as a leader fighting for freedom across Latin America. He denounced socialism in Nicaragua and Venezuela, and touted his work to bring an indictment to Cuban dictator Raul Castro for his crimes.

Read the rest here.

Florida Supreme Court ruling raises stakes of governor’s election

Scott

In a decision that further raises the stakes of Florida’s gubernatorial election, the state supreme court has ordered that the job of replacing three of its justices belongs not to lame-duck Gov. Rick Scott but to his successor, whomever that might be.

The high court issued a rebuke of Scott Monday, saying the governor “exceeded his authority” when he moved last month to begin the process of naming new Supreme Court justices. Eager to replace a majority of a liberal voting bloc on the court, Scott directed a state nominating commission to submit names for him to fill upcoming vacancies before he’s forced out of office in January by term limits. But he was sued by the League of Women Voters of Florida on the grounds that he couldn’t legally fill vacancies that hadn’t yet occurred.

Scott wanted the names by Nov. 10, four days after voters choose his replacement. Instead, the high court said the ability to appoint new justices falls to the next elected governor.

That means either Republican Ron DeSantis or Democrat Andrew Gillum will control the tilt of the 7-member court, potentially swaying a generation of precedent-setting legal opinions on issues like labor, school vouchers, gun rights and healthcare. The decision could spark even further interest from organizations like Emily’s List and the Federalist Society to a race that has already drawn tens of millions in outside spending.

“November’s election already held huge consequences for women and families across Florida,” said Lindsay Crete, a spokeswoman for Emily’s List, which backs pro-choice candidates. “Now, the stakes couldn’t be higher.”

Gillum and DeSantis have both held that the next governor retained the right to appoint replacements for Barbara J. Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy A. Quince, who are up against age limits and must resign the day that Scott is set to leave office. Gillum issued a statement, saying “one of my top priorities will be to restore integrity to the judicial nominating process.” The DeSantis’ campaign, meanwhile, used the opportunity to blast Gillum.

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FDLE is investigating an officer-involved shooting in Panama City in the wake of Hurricane Michael

State police are investigating a shooting by a state fire marshal in Panama City in the wake of Hurricane Michael, according to police and media reports.

According to Pensacola-based station WEAR-TV, a Florida State Fire Marshal shot a looter who tried to steal a police car at Pinetree Road and Azalea Street.

The station quoted a Landon Swett, who was across the street and witnessed the shooting.

"He yelled at me a little bit, he said oh, I’m looting, and he opened the door, to the police officer’s SUV with the lights going got in it and shut the door," Swett told the station.

FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger confirmed to the Times/Herald the agency is investigating a shooting by an officer in the wake of the storm, but she did not immediately have more details.

Ros-Lehtinen to teach at University of Miami after leaving Congress

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

@alextdaugherty

Retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has lined up her post-congressional gig. 

The University of Miami announced Monday that the first Latina in Congress and longest serving member of Congress from Florida was named a Distinguished Presidential Fellow at the University of Miami, where she will teach a class called "Congress and American Foreign Policy" during the spring 2019 semester. 

“I’m excited to be back home at the U where I will have the challenging opportunity to exchange ideas with today’s bright minds and future leaders on the vexing foreign policy issues confronting our nation,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.

Ros-Lehtinen's husband Dexter, a former Florida legislator and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, will join her in the classroom. 

“I am delighted to welcome Ileana Ros-Lehtinen back to her alma mater after an illustrious career in Congress. She has always maintained a close relationship with her hometown, and we are proud that she will join our academic community as a Distinguished Presidential Fellow. We look forward to her active participation, which will no doubt enrich the experience of our students and faculty,” said University of Miami President Julio Frenk.

Rick Scott and Jimmy Patronis aren't happy with Verizon's response to Hurricane Michael

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Gov. Rick Scott points out some damage caused by Hurricane Michael while flying somewhere over the panhandle of Florida Thursday. The devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael the day before came into focus Thursday as rows upon rows of homes found smashed to pieces, and rescue crews began making their way into the stricken areas in hopes of accounting for hundreds of people who may have stayed behind. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and CFO Jimmy Patronis have been taking aim at Verizon over the last 24 hours, apparently frustrated by how slow the cell carrier has been to restore service to the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Michael.

During a Sunday press briefing, Scott mentioned Verizon's problems twice, while touting the company's chief competitor.

"There in Bay County, we’re still waiting on Verizon," Scott said, adding why it was important for cell service to be restored.

"We’ve put a lot of food and water out all across the state," Scott said. "Well, if you have no internet and you have no cellphone, it’s hard to get the information out. AT&T is working there, but Verizon is not."

Scott, continuing to dig at Verizon, has also been retweeting AT&T and praising the company on Twitter.

Thanks, @ATT, for working to get communications back online quickly & helping Florida communities following Michael," Scott tweeted.

Patronis, whose hometown is Bay County's Panama City, also took aim at Verizon on Twitter, complete with the hashtag #fixitnow.

"We are on Day 6 with no @verizon service in Bay County," Patronis tweeted. "Phones are critical infrastructure for Search and Rescue and First Responder communications. We need the same response from @verizon as we have seen from our electric companies."

Verizon in a statement said it's suffered "unprecedented damage to our fiber, which is essential for our network."

"Our fiber crews are working around the clock to make repairs, and while they are making good progress, we still have work to do to get the fiber completely repaired," the company said.

But the other three carriers are apparently not having the same problem. The Wall Street Journal quoted customers and company officials with AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint saying that all three carriers were up and running in the area.

The Panhandle suffered widespread cell service outages in the wake of Hurricane Michael, with more than 70 percent of towers down in the hardest-hit areas the day after the storm came through.

And the carriers have made little progress in Bay County since the storm made landfall.

All other counties hit by the storm have at least half of their cell towers back in use, but in Bay County, more than 65 percent of cell towers were still out Monday morning — down from 78 percent the morning after the storm, according to the FCC.

Both Verizon and AT&T have been big donors to the Republican Party of Florida for years, and Verizon has given more than $50,000 to Scott's campaigns since 2013, records show.

On Monday afternoon, Scott issued a press release noting that Verizon has opened an emergency communications center at their Panama City store and was also supporting the Bay County Emergency Operations Center.

Herald/Times staff writer Emily L. Mahoney contributed to this report.

Tallahassee sees 90% power recovery after Michael. Will it help Andrew Gillum?

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Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum gives an update on Hurricane Michael recovery via Facebook Live on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. [Lawrence Mower | Times]

Tallahassee's electric utility said it restored power to 90 percent of its customers Sunday night, meeting its goal just four days after Hurricane Michael knocked out service to nearly everyone in the city.

Schools and universities were reopening in the city Monday morning, and the water and wastewater systems that failed during the storm are now working properly, according to the city.

Roughly 20,000 customers still didn't have power last night, however.

The city's recovery could be a boost for Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for governor who's been criticized for how the city recovered from Hurricane Hermine in 2016. Hermine, a Category 1 storm, knocked out power to 80 percent of city customers, and the city took four days to reach 90 percent recovery.

While Tallahassee's mayor doesn't manage the city or its utility — that's the job of its city manger — it hasn't stopped his Republican opponent Ron DeSantis from criticizing Gillum for Hermine.

The Republican Party of Florida has aired ads saying that Gillum "refused help" after that storm, which Politifact rated "mostly false."

Gambling divides the politics of the family behind the Fontainebleau and Aventura Mall

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Via @doug_hanks

In Miami Beach, Mayor Dan Gelber is campaigning for a referendum to approve an 800-room, city-owned hotel that Turnberry partner Jackie Soffer wants to build under a deal that not only bars gambling but prohibits the operator from owning a casino anywhere in the county.

“We didn’t want anything to do with gambling,” Gelber said.

Gelber, a former state lawmaker, is also helping lead the statewide fight to pass an anti-gambling constitutional amendment — a referendum that’s actively opposed by South Florida’s newest casino mogul, Turnberry partner Jeff Soffer.

“It’s terrible for the state,” Jeff Soffer said at a recent event at the private-jet terminal he owns at Opa-locka airport. “It will kill jobs.”

The mayor’s fall campaigning touches both fronts of a political fracas involving two of the most high-profile siblings in South Florida.

The senior partners in the Turnberry real estate empire have carved out their own lucrative fiefdoms within the family business: Jeff running Miami Beach’s largest resort, the Fontainebleau, an oceanfront hotel with its own casino ambitions; and Jackie running the county’s largest shopping destination, the Aventura Mall. 

During the last decade, the Fontainebleau has paid Tallahassee lobbyists to try and expand gambling in Florida and bring a casino to its oceanfront location. In January, news broke that Jeff Soffer was purchasing the Mardis Gras casino in Hallandale Beach. At the time, Soffer emphasized his purchase of the casino and race track was made on his own, separate from his family’s holdings under the Turnberry umbrella.

That distinction would become notable in the coming months, when his sister and other developers bid on the Miami Beach hotel project, under rules the city inserted into the deal contract that ban any bidder from also owning a casino in Miami-Dade.

Click here for the rest.

October 14, 2018

DeSantis surrogate suggests Gillum would veto security funds for Jewish day schools

Desantis

The battle for Jewish voters in the race for Florida governor escalated another notch Sunday when the Jewish outreach chairman for GOP nominee Ron DeSantis’ suggested his Democratic opponent might veto security funding for Jewish day schools.

While introducing DeSantis to a crowd at Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El in Plantation, Randy Fine, the only Republican Jewish lawmaker in the Florida Legislature, warmed up the audience by describing the stakes of the election. He suggested that Democrat Andrew Gillum might ignore a relatively new law banning the state government from doing business with companies that support a boycott of the nation of Israel. And then Fine mentioned that, over the past two years, the state of Florida has allocated $2.65 million to fund security at Jewish day schools.

“Here’s what I want you to know: When we pass a law it has to be overturned for it to go away. But when it comes to funding, the governor every single year has the ability to line item veto that funding,” Fine said. “So if we have $2 million in the budget next year to make sure Jewish children who go to Jewish schools are safe even though they are Jewish, which one of the candidates running for governor do we believe would sign that into law and which one do we believe might veto that? That is a decision that is at stake.”

The Gillum campaign called the assertion absurd.

“Rep. Fine is doing himself and his constituents a deep disservice by spreading lies and conshttps://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article220017410.htmlpiracy theories like this,” Gillum campaign spokeswoman Carlie Waible said in a statement. “Mayor Gillum strongly supports the $2 million in funding for security at Jewish Day Schools — and Rep. Fine knows it.”

The back-and-forth is just the latest in a contentious and long-running tussle between the DeSantis and Gillum campaigns as they fight for support among Florida’s Jewish community. In what polls and history show to be a tight race, both candidates are aggressively courting a Jewish community that is estimated at about 630,000 strong and known to be a reliable and predominately Democratic voting bloc.

Read the rest here.

Miami’s pro-immigration political booster says Florida must open its primary elections

Mike fernandez

Convinced the best way to change Florida’s politics is to change the system by which its politicians are chosen, former GOP mega-donor Mike Fernandez says he’ll join the push to allow millions of independent voters to participate in the state’s primary elections.

Fernandez, who’s made news over the last two years by leaving the Republican party and promising to spend millions backing pro-immigration politicians, told the Miami Herald that Florida’s August primaries must be opened beyond Democratic and Republican voters in order to effectuate change in the nation’s largest swing state. He says he’s still pushing forward with a non-profit he created last year to help support undocumented immigrants, but is rethinking his plans to promote better immigration policy primarily through political donations.

“Florida is among only a handful of states that do not allow all qualified voters to participate in primaries. How backwards is this? Almost a third of voters are registered as neither Democrats nor Republicans,” Fernandez wrote in an email. “I believe our nation’s founding principles provide that all who register should be able to vote. While three-quarters of all Americans support immigration reform, this wish is not represented by the majority of those currently in public office.”

Fernandez explained his new political priority shortly after the Herald wrote about his decision to refund himself most of the $5 million he deposited last April into a state-registered political committee he created to support pro-immigration candidates.

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