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September 26, 2016

Chamber poll: Clinton, Rubio, medical pot leading


Floridians narrowly favor Hillary Clinton for president and Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate, according to a new poll released Monday by the Florida Chamber.

A constitutional amendment to expand medical marijuana in the state is favord by 73 percent of voters, according to the poll, conducted via 617 live phone interviews statewide.

Clinton is up 43-41 against Donald Trump. Libertarian Gary Johnson has 8 percent support.

Rubio leads Patrick Murphy 46-42 in the Senate race, right on the 4-percent margin of error.

The Chamber notes Trump is struggling in South Florida and among Hispanic voters and women but commands a lead among white voters in the state, largely mirroring trends nationwide.

On medical pot, the high numbers are significant, as it will take 60 percent support from voters to pass the amendment, and the earliest television ads are just beginning in opposition to the initiative.

Three other constitutional amendments are also polling above 60 percent. A solar power amendment backed by utility companies and the Chamber that would enshrine existing regulations in the state constitution has 66 percent support.  Two tax exemption amendments are polling well above 80 percent.

Democratic activist revving up group to beat Donald Trump in Florida


via @adamsmithtimes

Democratic activist and former Orlando-area congressional candidate Susannah Randolph has launched Floridians Against Trump, a grassroot group aiming to help beat Donald Trump in Florida. The group intends to use social media and grassroots events to educate and mobilize voters.

“As a swing state, Florida is poised to be play a crucial role in determining the outcome of the presidential election. Our state also has the dubious distinction of being one that has suffered the ill effects of Donald Trump’s predatory capitalism,” Randolph said. “While Donald Trump’s wallet got fat, hard-working Floridians have been the ones stuck footing the bill.”

Image credit: Floridians Against Trump


Patrick Murphy makes weekend campaign stops in South Florida, Treasure Coast

Unnamed (1)


Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy spent part of this past weekend stumping around South Florida and the Treasure Coast, familiar territory for the Miami native and Jupiter congressman.

Friday and Saturday nights, he spoke to Democratic clubs in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. And earlier Saturday, Murphy also toured waterways in Martin and St. Lucie counties -- in his congressional district -- that are affected by algae blooms.

Murphy's algae tour in Stuart and Fort Pierce was not an announced campaign stop. In a press release afterward, his campaign provided images of the photo-op and said Murphy met with St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky at the two locations.

Murphy's campaign used the weekend's events to tout Murphy's focus on environmental protection and his dedication to serving in public office -- attempts to strike a contrast with Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio.

Murphy has plans to be in Sarasota and Tampa next weekend.

Photo credit: Patrick Murphy campaign

Active military get first shot at deciding Trump vs. Clinton


The wait to vote in the presidential election is already over for thousands of Tampa Bay area residents.

While most Floridians still have weeks until they can weigh in on Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton, thousands of voters who call the Bay Area home but are on military bases or overseas are already getting their ballots. That is because late last week, local elections officials were required to ship ballots to military and overseas personnel to assure it reaches them and can be returned in time to be counted. Combined, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties say they’ve already shipped out almost 10,000 ballots.
How many were shipped out statewide will be tallied later this week. In 2012, more than 65,000 ballots went out to military and overseas voters.

Some of those ballots will come back really fast, said Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett. Unlike traditional vote-by-mail ballots, voters overseas and in the military can fax their ballots in on a secure line to local supervisors of elections. Bennett said he’s certain some of the more than 1,000 ballots his office sent out will start arriving to be counted by mid-week.

Since 2009, the state and federal governments have been trying to improve voting systems for military personnel and people living overseas by having a standardized process. Previously state’s did not have a uniform system of sending out ballots. Many waited weeks longer to get ballots out, making it harder for active duty soldiers to get their votes back in. The Federal Voting Assistance Program has also created an online assistant to help walk military and overseas voters through the process of signing up to get a ballot, and getting it back to their home counties to be counted in time.

Still, despite those steps and public outreach campaigns, thousands upon thousands of potential voters still will never get a say in the election, said Don Inbody, a Texas State University lecturer who has studied military voting patterns for nearly two decades. He said nationwide there is evidence that suggests up to 250,000 people in the military and overseas started requesting ballots but for whatever reason were not able to navigate the system to get a ballot counted.

“There are still many barriers,” Inbody said.

Continue reading "Active military get first shot at deciding Trump vs. Clinton" »

New Republican ad mocks semantics of Patrick Murphy's résumé



In a new ad that debuted over the weekend, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has found a different way to poke fun at Patrick Murphy's disputed credentials of working as a CPA and a small business owner.

Both the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate's campaign and his Republican critics have tried to paint Murphy's résumé as a clear-cut issue -- but the nuances of Murphy's job experience require particular language to describe them accurately.

More from PolitiFact: "A guide to the attacks on Patrick Murphy’s résumé"

The NRSC plays off that necessary specificity in its new ad, "Audition," which is airing in Tampa and Orlando. (The NRSC supports Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio.)

The 30-second spot shows an actor reading lines to play the part of Murphy, but he's repeatedly interrupted because he's not saying the lines in a way that accurately conveys Murphy's credentials.

The NRSC has been running attack ads against Murphy all month as part of $4.8 million in planned TV spending before October. Each ad has attempted to highlight the Jupiter congressman's résumé embellishments, but past ads used language that PolitiFact found was too extreme and worthy of a "Mostly False" rating.

Murphy's campaign has called the Republicans' persistent attacks over Murphy's résumé "discredited lies."

But it's correct for this ad to say "Murphy isn't a Florida CPA." He was licensed in Colorado and worked in Florida as an auditor for Deloitte & Touche.

As for the ad's other claim: Murphy was at least a part-owner in a business -- an environmental services company that was a subsidiary of his father's large construction company. Coastal Construction Group is one of the biggest building firms in South Florida. Murphy's campaign wouldn't disclose how much of Coastal Environmental Services Murphy owned; his father Tom Murphy Jr., Coastal President Dan Whiteman and three other unnamed individuals were also shareholders.

"Patrick Murphy feels so entitled to Florida’s Senate seat that he can't be bothered to be honest about his professional experience prior to his career in politics," NRSC spokesman Greg Blair said in a statement. "Here's the truth: Murphy is an empty suit with a rich dad and has disqualified himself from office by repeatedly lying about his accomplishments."

Murphy spokeswoman Galia Slayen said in a statement in response: "Robot Rubio and his special interest allies are stuck on repeat with false attacks that have already been discredited by multiple, independent fact-checks."

Image credit: NRSC

*This post has been updated with comment from the Murphy campaign.

Tampa Senate candidate Bob Buesing releases first TV ad


Bob Buesing, a Tampa lawyer and Democrat running for one of the most competitive state Senate districts in Florida, today released his first TV ad.

The ad highlights three of Buesing's, "bonus kids," the word he uses to describe the six at-risk youth he and his wife have taken in over the years.

"Every kid in Florida deserves a fair shot," Buesing says in the ad. "We can't let special interests undermine our values."

Buesing faces House Majority Leader Dana Young, R-Tampa, and Joe Redner, who is not affiliated with a party, for the open Senate seat in District 18. Young released her first ads in mid-August.

The Buesing ad features three "bonus kids": Laura Lee, who now works full-time as a waitress and volunteers for the campaign; Bianqa, who graduated from technical college and works as a hospital lab technician; and Alberto, today a certified nurse assistant and community college student.

The ad is the beginning of an expected six-figure ad buy, according to the campaign. See the full version below:

Tim Kaine says Donald Trump's comment on Gennifer Flowers shows he views debate as 'part of the entertainment industry'



CBS4's Jim DeFede asked Tim Kaine about his thoughts on Donald Trump suggesting he would invite Gennifer Flowers, who claimed to have an affair with Bill Clinton in the 1990s, to the first presidential debate.

"What it said to me about Donald Trump was 'I'm viewing this as kind of part of the entertainment industry.' This is deadly serious. This is deadly serious," Kaine told DeFede on Sunday, the day he also spoke at Miami Dade College. "We've got all of these challenges at home and abroad, the good thing is America can always solve our challenges if we just let everybody around the table together -- don't divide against one and other. So the fact that he was doing that to me was par for the course. This was like it was a reality TV show. No, this is not that. This is trying to be commander in chief, the president of the most important nation on earth."

Trump's comment about Flowers began after Mark Cuban, a Trump critic and owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, tweeted that he had been invited to the debate by Hillary Clinton's campaign. Trump responded by bashing Cuban's TV show the "Benefactor" and said:

"If dopey Mark Cuban of failed Benefactor fame wants to sit in the front row, perhaps I will put Gennifer Flowers right alongside of him!"

Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, speaking on CNN’s "State of the Union" Sunday, said "we have not invited (Flowers) formally and we don't expect her to there as a guest of the Trump campaign."

Bill Clinton initially denied rumors of an affair with Flowers but admitted under oath in 1998 to having a sexual encounter with her.

Image credit: CB4 Miami

Bill Clinton to visit North Florida on bus tour


Bill Clinton will be visiting parts of North Florida later this week on a "Stronger Together" bus tour for his wife's presidential campaign.

The Hillary Clinton campaign says the former president will hold public events in Panama City, Tallahassee and Jacksonville on Friday and Saturday, "with additional stops along the way."

"President Clinton will talk to Floridians about Hillary Clinton's plans to build an economy that works for all, not just those at the top," the campaign said.

Further details about the public events haven't yet been released.

Bill Clinton was last in Tallahassee in March, when he attended a private fundraiser and spoke to students at Florida A&M University.

September 25, 2016

A big debate night awaits Clinton, Trump


Let’s stipulate, right from the start, that debates don’t often irreversibly alter the course of a presidential election. That reality frequently fails to meet the hype. That a candidate who stumbles in the first debate has two more to recover.

Now, forget all that for a moment and consider just how big Monday night’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be:

The first time they face off. The first time Trump debates one-on-one against a rival. The first time one of the candidates is a woman. The first time the other is a former reality television star.

In the same room, side by side, for 90 minutes. No commercial breaks. A political fanatic’s dream.

Actually, not just political fanatics. The 9 p.m. debate, from Hofstra University in New York, could draw some 100 million viewers, according to some estimates. Perhaps that’s too high — that’s how many people tuned into the most-watched television show ever: the 1983 finale of “M*A*S*H.” It’s near Super Bowl-viewership territory. But the fact that it’s even a possibility is remarkable.

Every broadcast and cable-news network, as well as Univision, Telemundo and PBS, will air the debate, which also will be streamed online on a number of websites. Its only competition will be ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” featuring an intriguing — but hardly must-watch — game between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints.

In short, Monday could be a defining night in the presidential campaign. There will be few others left: As of Monday, it will be 43 days until the Nov. 8 election. If ever there was a time for undecided voters to start tuning in, now is it; the candidates will be crafting their responses to appeal to voters on the fence more than anyone else.

More here.

Photo credit: Associated Press

Kaine targets millennials at Miami Dade College

via @CTeproff

A day before Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were set to face off in the first head-to-head presidential debate, Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine was at Miami Dade College’s Kendall campus trying to garner votes — especially from 18-35 year-olds.

His strategy: A 45-second sales pitch to Millenials hitting on issues important to them, including immigration reform, climate science, women’s health care, LGBTQ equality, equal pay for women and affordable education.

“Hillary and I are with you,” he said to an eager crowd. “The other guys are against you.”

Kaine’s entrance on a makeshift stage came after several supporters spoke about getting the Democratic candidates elected to address gun control laws, the economy and other critical issues.

“We need to make sure Donald Trump doesn’t get anywhere near the White House,” Debbie Powell, state Senate candidate for District 39, told a roaring crowd.

Among the speakers: Former Florida governor and U.S. senator Bob Graham, who began his speech with a moment of silence for Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández, who was killed early Sunday in a boat crash.

“This is a day of sadness for our community,” Graham said. “We all feel a sense of knowing him.”

More here.

Photo credit: Matias Ocner, Miami Herald

Miami politicians mourn death of Marlins pitcher José Fernández


The death of Marlins superstar pitcher José Fernández in a boating accident off Miami's Government Cut early Sunday prompted an outpouring of grief from local and state politicians who remembered the ace's infectious exuberance for life and the game of baseball.

Here's a sampling of their Twitter condolences:

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, el Nuevo Herald

Hillary Clinton to campaign in Broward Friday


Hillary Clinton returns to South Florida this week when she campaigns in Broward and St. Lucie counties Friday.

The locations of the events have not been announced but the public can RSVP for the Broward event here and the St. Lucie event here. Clinton will fundraise in Miami Beach Friday night. Former President Bill Clinton will hold a bus tour in Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Panama City Friday and Saturday.

Broward has about 581,000 Democrats -- the largest contingent in Florida. Clinton's last public event in Broward was at Broward College in October. Her running mate, Tim Kaine, will speak at Miami Dade College tonight.

September 24, 2016

Snatched naked Trump statue turns up -- with a few missing body parts

via @ChuckRabin  Image1

A Coral Gables man wanted for the theft of a naked Donald Trump statue in Wynwood turned himself in to police Friday — but refused to speak and even invoked the Fifth Amendment, police said.

Pedro A. Rodriguez, 36, a graffiti guide in Wynwood with a history of minor criminal acts, refused to tell police if he stole the iconic sculpture. He wouldn’t even say if he knew where it was.

Still, police and prosecutors believe they had enough probable cause to make an arrest. So​ Friday afternoon, Rodriguez was charged with grand theft and burglary.

Here’s what police say they know: When they arrived at the Harold Golden Gallery at Northwest Second Avenue and 23rd Street​ early Thursday morning​, a witness said he saw a man walking on the roof where the statue was erected. It was about 3 a.m. Thursday.

Then, the man said, a person believed to be Rodriguez picked up the statue and dropped it into the back of a pickup truck. But before he could split, the witness took a picture of the license plate on the 2013, gray, Ford F-150. By early Friday, police linked the license plate to Rodriguez.

More here.

Florida, Miami-Dade at odds over disclosing Zika mosquito sites

via @dchangmiami

At a court hearing Friday for the Miami Herald’s lawsuit against Miami-Dade seeking the locations of traps in Miami Beach where mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus were captured, a county attorney said the Florida Department of Health had instructed local officials not to disclose the information — a statement the state agency strongly denied afterward.

The suit seeks disclosure of the Zika-positive mosquito trap locations on grounds that the information would help the public make decisions about precautions to take if they live or work nearby, and also inform the community debate on the use of the controversial insecticide naled.

Rachel Walters, an assistant county attorney, told Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Samantha Ruiz-Cohen during a scheduling conference that the county plans to file a motion to dismiss the Herald’s lawsuit. Walters said the motion to dismiss would be based on the idea that an “indispensable party” — Florida’s health department — is not included in the lawsuit.

“We’re going to continue speaking with the Department of Health and asking them to release us from their instruction that we maintain confidentiality,” Walters said.

After learning of Walters’s statements in court, however, Florida health officials issued a written statement denying the agency ever muzzled the county.

More here.

Rubio delivers weekly GOP address, criticizes Obama on Gitmo


The Republican Party gave a platform to reach conservative voters Saturday: The Florida senator delivered the GOP's weekly address.

Forty-five days before the election, Rubio's message focused largely on terrorism, citing the recent attacks in Minnesota, New Jersey and New York.

"These attacks remind us once again that evil is real, and that we remain a nation at war against radical Islamic terrorism," Rubio says in the taped message.

Rubio criticized President Barack Obama's handling of terrorist threats, and chided him in particular on his push to get detainees out of the U.S. Navy Base in Guatánamo Bay, Cuba.

"With just four months left in office, President Obama and his allies in Congress want to release every single terrorist from the military's custody at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba," Rubio says. "We've already seen why this is a dangerous mistake, as many have been released to other countries, only to quickly go missing. Others have returned to the battlefield, and replenished the forces of evil."

September 23, 2016

Latest Miami-Dade mayor cash race: Regalado raises $252K, Gimenez raises $542K


It took Raquel Regalado just two weeks in a runoff to raise a quarter of what she took in during the entire primary campaign in the Miami-Dade mayoral race. But it still amounted to less than half of the fund-raising haul of her opponent, incumbent Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Friday brought the first pure look at fund-raising in the runoff, which was required after Gimenez failed to cross the 50-percent threshold in the Aug. 30 primary against Regalado and five other challengers. The previous bimonthly report straddled the primary, but the latest one covered the two-week stretch between Sept. 3 and Sept. 16. 

Regalado, a two-term school board member an daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, raised $252,000. During the primary, she brought in about $1 million. Gimenez, in office since 2011, raised $542,000 in the latest report. That's much more than Regalado brought in but not as impressive a figure relative to his primary haul, which approached $4.5 million.  

Gimenez also has more to spend, with more than $900,000 in surplus dollars, according to the reports. Regalado has about $300,000.

On the Gimenez report, $75,000 combined came from Lennar CEO Stuart Miller and his two siblings, Jeffrey Miller and Leslie Miller Saiontz. The Capo Group, developers of the Bimini Bay resort, which has run a ferry from the county port, gave $50,000, as did Miami Perfume Junction, a global duty-free retailer out of Doral.   Each of the donors gave to Gimenez's political committee, Miami-Dade Residents First. 

Notable donors on Regalado's latest report include auto magnate Norman Braman, who has been her main backer since the start. He gave $50,000 to Regalado's political committee, Good Government in Miami-Dade. Also giving on the Regalado side: Miami developers Ricardo Tabet ($50,000) and Gary Nader ($30,000) and philanthropist Adrienne Arsht ($15,000).




Ros-Lehtinen, Ortega toss verbal grenades at each other

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Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the Nicaraguan government traded bitter criticisms Friday over charges of intimidation and repression.

The exchange started with a statement by the Managua government opposing an effort in Congress led by Ros-Lehtinen to restrict its access to loans in what would be a form of economic sanctions.

Without citing the Miami Republican by name, Nicaragua accused her and other lawmakers of having "been involved in disinformation and intimidation campaigns in the media against Democratic, pluralistic and progressive processes in Latin America and the Caribbean."

The alleged interference in Latin America appeared to be a reference to lawmakers' past criticism of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments.

Ros-Lehtinen has been especially critical of Cuba and its allies in Venezuela and Nicaragua, along with Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and other Cuban-American members of Congress.

Ros-Lehtinen fired back at the Nicaraguan government's latest salvo.

"Ortega's baseless accusations are just his latest attempt to detract attention away from the human rights abuses and the acts of corruption and intimidation he has been perpetrating in Nicaragua, but nobody is fooled," she said.

While Ros-Lehtinen targeted Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, the statement criticizing her bill came from the government he heads, not from him personally, although he all but certainly approved it.

And although Ros-Lehtinen said Ortega had attacked her, the Nicaraguan government statement did not mention her or any other lawmaker by name.

The House on Wednesday unanimously passed a measure that would place U.S. limits on loans to the Ortega government unless it accepts international observers and other steps toward holding free elections.

Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Albio Sires, a Cuban-American Democrat from New Jersey, were lead sponsors of the legislation. The Senate has not pass a companion bill.

Ros-Lehtinen said her measure's main aim was to “stop Ortega from accessing international funds until he adopts reforms that promote democracy, strengthen the rule of law, respect human rights, and celebrate free, fair, and transparent elections supervised by electoral observers.”

For more, read here.

Photo credit: Emily Michot



Kaine will campaign in Miami on Sunday

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Tim Kaine will make a Miami stop Sunday evening, ahead of Hillary Clinton's appearance Monday night at the first presidential debate.

The Democratic VP nominee plans to drop by Miami Dade College Kendall Campus to discuss Clinton's economic plans, according to the campaign. The Clinton team has spent the week trying to reach young voters, an elusive demographic for both big-party candidates this year.

Kaine last visited South Florida in late August, as part of a small-business tour. He's been a consistent presence since Clinton named him her running mate at Florida International University in July.

Clinton is expected to prep this weekend for the debate against Donald Trump, which will take place at 9 p.m. Monday at Hofstra University in New York. She planned to campaign Sunday in Charlotte, North Carolina, where a police shooting has prompted major street protests, but she cancelled the trip after the city's mayor urged presidential candidates to hold off so as not to drain local resources.

Tickets to Kaine's event can be requested here.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, Miami Herald

Ted Cruz endorses Donald Trump


Remember the Ted Cruz who stole the show during July's Republican National Convention, failing to endorse nominee Donald Trump?

He's gone now.

The Texas senator posted a robust Trump endorsement on his Facebook page Friday.

Trump issued a brief statement on Cruz's about-face.

"I am greatly honored by the endorsement of Senator Cruz," he said. "We have fought the battle and he was a tough and brilliant opponent. I look forward to working with him for many years to come in order to make America great again."

Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

Anti-pot group spends $1.3M as medical marijuana boosters keep fundraising


Supporters of a ballot question expanding medical marijuana in Florida continued fundraising the week of Sept. 10-16 while opponents started spending big money on advertising.

State campaign finance records released Friday show that United for Care, the group behind the constitutional amendment, called Amendment 2, raised $20,000 last week, most of it from donations $1,000 or less.

No on 2, the campaign opposing the measure, raised just $1, but they've started using major donations to produce and buy ads. Records show that Drug Free Florida, the political committee opposing medical marijuana, spent more than $1.3 million that same week, most of it going to Jamestown Associates, an ad buying firm.

Here's the dollars in and dollars out for the campaigns thus far:

United for Care: Raised $4.01 million ($32,162 since Sept. 1); spent $3.89 million ($40,474 since Sept. 1)

Drug Free Florida: Raised $2.86 million ($1.03 since Sept. 1); spent $1.79 million ($1.39 million since Sept. 1)

Supporters and opponents of the medical marijuana initiative have both relied heavily on big-money donors to fund their causes.

John Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer, has funded $2.7 million of the money United for Care has spent getting Amendment 2 on the ballot, though he hasn't donated to the committee since Jan. 5.

Conservative Tampa Bay developer Mel Sembler has this year spent $1 million and promised to donate or raise up to $10 million to fund Drug Free Florida. In early September, Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, dropped $1 million in campaign against Amendment 2.