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187 posts from August 2007

August 30, 2007

Univision to candidates: Speak English

The first two Democratic candidates who agreed to a presidential debate broadcast by the nation's largest Spanish-language network were the only two candidates who speak Spanish fluently: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the only Hispanic in the race, and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, who learned Spanish while serving in the Peace Corps.

But Richardson and Dodd will not be able to show off their bilingualism at the Sept. 9 debate at the University of Miami. Univision spokeswoman Maryam Banikarim said the questions will be asked in Spanish and the eight candidates must respond in English, with simultaneous translations.

"It's to give everyone a level playing field,'' she said.

Both the Richardson and Dodd campaigns say that rule was not made clear when they accepted the invitation.

"It's kind of ridiculous,'' said Richardson spokesman Pahl Shipley. "It's understandable for those who don't speak Spanish, but why the candidates who do speak Spanish should be penalized is fairly frustrating...The governor was excited about the prospect of speaking directly to the audience in their native language.''

Dodd spokesman Hari Sevugan held out hope that the rule could be changed. "I'm sure all the campaigns would agree that it could only be to the benefit of all voters if candidates were able to answer questions in either English or Spanish, especially when interpreters would be available to those who need them,'' he said in an e-mailed statement. "As I wouldn't think there would be any objections among the participants, we are hopeful that they will work something out.''

Senator to Miami-Dade: Don't cut our budget to save money

Sen. Frederica Wilson, the chair of the Miami-Dade legislative delegation, sent a letter to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez today that protests a recommendation to slash the more than $262,000 that now goes to pay the expenses of the county delegation office.

"While we understand the County is faced with cutting $224 million due to property tax relief...we are at a complete loss as to why the office that is a direct link to the County and the Legislature is proposed for elimination,'' writes Wilson. Wilson's alternative is to have the county pare back funding for the office to what it was in 2002, which was $190,304.

Wilson, who has requested a meeting with Alvarez to discuss the cut, said that in this time of state budget cuts "the county needs the direct link more now than ever" and called the elimination of the delegation office "inconceivable." Letter here: Download wilson_letter.doc

Edwards campaign manager disses Florida

Of the leading Democratic candidates for president, John Edwards has spent the least amount of time in Florida, despite a new law moving up the state's presidential primary to the front of the line. Trailing behind Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in campaign cash, Edwards is staking his candidacy on smaller states with traditional early primaries.

Even Michigan, which may leapfrog over Florida to host the first big-state primary, isn't getting the love from Edwards, though his campaign manager, David Bonior, represented the state in Congress for 26  years. In today's Boston Globe, he says, "I do believe there is a role for a larger state in this process whether that be Florida or wherever. But this campaign is focused on the four early states of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina because that is where the issues matter most.''


The Meek Dynasty: Generation three?

Rep. Kendrick Meek's 10-year-old son, Kendrick Jr., accompanied his father to a Capitol Hill press conference this morning, resplendent in a suit and tie.

Reporters asked the Miami Democrat whether his son was going to join him on the podium, but Meek said he couldn't.

"I told him House rules wouldn't allow him to line up here with us," Kendrick Meek said, adding, "But I'm pretty sure there'll be a day."

Meek, 40, now serving his third term in Congress, succeeded his mother, former Rep. Carrie Meek, D-Miami.

He and his wife, Leslie, also have a daughter, Lauren. She wasn't with her dad at the presser.

Meek was at the press conference to talk about his trip to Iraq. He's shown here in Fallujah on August 28 with the United States Marine Corps.  Fallujahiraqkendrickmeek_3

Appeals court ethics smackdown

The ongoing ethics battle in the First District Court of Appeal went before Broward County Circuit Judge Paul Backman on Thursday morning, where both sides in the highly unusual case involving First DCA Judge Michael Allen and DCA Judge Charles Kahn argued whether or not the complaint filed against Allen should be dropped.

For those not closely following this twisted tale: Allen lambasted Kahn in an June 2006 opinion that denied overturning W.D. Childers' conviction for bribery. Allen raised questions about whether or not Kahn wanted to overturn the conviction because Kahn was once a law partner with Fred Levin, who was defending his long-term ally Childers in the bribery case. But Allen himself now is fighting ethics charges that what he did was improper.

On Thursday, Bruce Rogow forcefully argued that the charges against Allen should be dropped because there is no proof that his opinion in the Childers case is enough to show that Allen is unfit to be a judge. Rogow said any charge against a sitting judge must have evidence that the actions warrant removal from the bench, even if that ultimately is not the penalty. "The mere publication of that opinion does not demonstrate a present unfitness to hold office,'' said Rogow.

But Wally Pope, the lawyer representing the Judicial Qualifications Commission disagreed, saying that Allen's criticism of Kahn undermined the judiciary overall and suggested that Kahn was corrupt. Pope pointed out that no one had previously asked Kahn to recuse himself in the case and that Judge Allen was relying on information from newspaper articles about Childers and Levin that could not be verified.

After listening to both sides, Judge Backman said he would issue a written order on the motion to dismiss the charges "as quickly as possible."

Nelson keeps pushing back at DNC

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida's highest ranking Democratic official, continues his aggressive public relations campaign against national party bureaucrats threatening to punish Florida for leapfrogging its presidential primary over other states. In a column in today's USA Today, he writes, "And it's ironic, because this year, after heartbreaking losses in 2000 and 2004, Democrats supposedly are united in their determination to win the presidency. That's hard to do when you tell 4 million Florida Democrats they don't count."

Some Democratic leaders are privately grumbling that the senator may be trying to help his colleague in the Senate, Hillary Clinton, who currently has the most to lose if Florida's primary doesn't count at the national convention. Nelson hasn't endorsed, but U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Alcee Hastings, who have also been outspoken, are Clinton supporters.

Nelson's column is billed as the newspaper's "opposing view" to its editorial supporting the national party's crackdown on rogue states like Florida. "Finally, some adult supervision is coming to the process of picking presidential nominees...Florida's argument essentially boils down to one frequently invoked by schoolyard bullies and self-important celebrities: We deserve to go to the head of the line, we're too important to obey the rules and we dare you to stop us."

Nelson's column is here, and the USA Today editorial is here.

Kendrick Meek: From Iraq to C-Span

Miami Democrat Rep. Kendrick Meek and two colleagues have returned from a trip to Iraq and plan to brief reporters about the trip today at the U.S. Capitol.

C-Span plans on running the presser live at 10 a.m. The New York Times reported this week that about 50 lawmakers have visited the war torn country over the August recess and their experiences are shaping the debate over the war.

It'll heat up next week when Congress returns to work, amid word of a congressional report that found the Iraqi government has failed to meet the majority of political and military goals laid out by U.S. lawmakers to assess progress.

It was Meek's third trip to the region.

August 29, 2007

Florida Republicans join calls for Craig to resign

"For the sake of the institution, his family, and his Idaho constituents, Larry Craig should step down from the United States Senate," says Spring Hill Republican Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, who along with Pensacola Rep. Jeff Miller, are joining a number of their fellow GOP'ers in asking the Idaho Republican to call it quits.

Craig's support among his fellow GOP'ers slipped Wednesday, two days after news reports surfaced that he pled guilty to charges stemming from an incident in an airport men's room.

Could Craig's loss of influence affect efforts to weaken the U.S. embargo against Cuba? See earlier posts and read more about the Craig controversy - including MSNBC host Tucker Carlson's role - on our fellow blog, Gay South Florida.

Todd Harris to charm media for Thompson

Atlantic Online is reporting that "Republican sources say that Todd Harris, a veteran Republican communicator who has worked for Jeb Bush, Arnold Scharzenegger and John McCain, sat down in McLean, VA today with Ex-Sen. Fred Thompson. More here.

Harris earned quite a reputation when he took charge of Bush's campaign in 2002. His own website quotes a 2002 story that describes him this way: "The man managing Gov. Jeb Bush's image in Florida and nationwide handles media coverage like a combat sport." The website does not include the rest of that sentence from the Harris profile which was "punishing journalists who write unflattering stories and rewarding those whose readers he wants to cultivate."

Harris was also famous for his "I don't give a s--- about Gannett News Service" comment, a moment that came back to haunt the campaign when the same reporter Harris yelled at later scored one of the biggest scoops of the 2002 campaign.

(Update--AP is now reporting that Harris has agreed to go to work for Thompson.)

Kucinich takes swipe at DNC, Bush

Democratic prez candidate Dennis Kucinich added his voice to the chorus of politicians and political activists who don't understand why Democratic National Committee chief Howard Dean is making good on a rule to cancel Florida's party delegates if the state holds its primary early, on Jan. 29.

"Doesn’t the DNC owe something to Florida?” said Kucinich, an Ohio Congressman. “What Florida went through in the 2000 election was a disgrace. And the DNC owes it to Florida to find a way for Florida to achieve a prominent position in this election season.”

Kucinich's presence alone underscores the fact that Florida will be relevant anyway. Though far down in the polls -- which he rightly dismissed as name-recognition surveys -- Kucinich said he plans to campaign in Florida and suggested the state hold a caucus, something that Floridians will likely not understand nor pay for.

Still, Kucinich said, this primary could go down to the wire and, for the first time in decades, be decided not be plebiscite but by party delegates.

In a recent Time editorial, state Senate Democratic leader Steve Geller questioned whether Dean worked for the Republican party. Also, political pollster/pundit Matt Towery also wondered why the DNC was estranging Florida.

Kucinich spent more of his time in his Tallahassee press conference with reporters touting his solid antiwar record, his plans for a universal nonprofit healthcare system and his proposals to wean the nation off the use of fossil fuels.

He brushed off concerns that withdrawing from Iraq would prompt a genocide, suggesting the U.S. under President Bush was responsible for a 1 million Iraqi deaths, a number he acknowledged was an estimate.