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237 posts from November 2011

November 28, 2011

Mitt Romney's Florida endorsement coup

Mitt Romney will pick up the ultimate Cuban-American endorsement trifecta Tuesday in South Florida: The support of U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, and his brother, former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

The endorsements of the Miami Cuban-American leaders is a leading indicator that Romney is making a big push in Florida for one of its most crucial voting blocs in the state's Republican primary, scheduled for Jan. 31.

“It’s a major boost for any candidate when the three of them get together and move in one direction,” said Carlos Curbelo, a Miami-Dade School Board member who has worked for the Diaz-Balart brothers.

“They represent this community,” he said. “In Miami-Dade, their support is crucial.”

Romney learned that the hard way in 2008 when the three representatives joined another Cuban-American leader, then-Sen. Mel Martinez, and endorsed John McCain.

McCain effectively ended Romney’s candidacy by winning Florida’s GOP primary with a margin of 97,000 votes. McCain’s Miami-Dade margin: 52,000.

Miami-Dade is Florida’s largest and most-Hispanic county. Hispanic voters, nearly all of whom are of Cuban descent, account for 72 percent of the roughly 368,000 registered Republicans in the county.

Exit polls showed McCain took 51 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2008 primary, while Romney only garnered 15 percent support in Florida, the nation's largest swing state.

More here

Probe finds 'unscrupulous' absentee-voting practices at Miami-Dade ALF

A Miami-Dade ethics commission investigation has found questionable absentee-ballot practices at a North Miami Beach assisted-living facility where three residents reported voting problems — and where, after a visit from investigators, one employee said she was instructed to toss all future ballots “in the garbage.”

The nine-month investigation began after Judith Thompson was turned away from the polls in last year’s general election after being told she had already voted absentee — though she had never requested a ballot. Two other women at the Park Plaza Retirement Residence also had trouble voting by mail.

No charges were filed as a result of the probe, initiated by the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office in January and completed by the Commission on Ethics and Public Trust last month.

The six-page investigation report found Thompson was denied her right to vote when someone else, with a different signature, mailed an absentee ballot in her name.

Two other incidents also revealed irregularities. Daisy Davis’ vote was rejected because the “X” signature on her absentee-ballot envelope did not match her signature. And Agnes Keyzer never requested or received an absentee ballot — though one was mailed to her after someone sent a request with a forged signature.

More here.

Democratic leaders blast Senate maps

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith and Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich wasted no time criticizing the proposed redistricting maps for congressional and senate districts released by the Republican-led state Senate today.

"Today, Florida Republicans have taken a state - which experts have long considered one of the most malapportioned states in the country - and worsened it,'' Smith said in a statement. "In doing so, they have chosen to thwart the will of 63-percent of Florida voters by proposing maps that are aimed at incumbent protection and partisan advantage - the very things which Florida’s Constitution now prohibits.

“From virtually eliminating the seat currently held by the Democratic Senate leader, to avoiding placing a single Republican incumbent at risk, it is clear the Florida GOP are working overtime to protect their interest ahead of the interest of the people they serve.”

Continue reading "Democratic leaders blast Senate maps" »

Mel Martinez: immigration 'nuances' separate me and Mitt Romney

Former Florida Sen. Mel Martinez used a conference call this afternoon to defend Romney's harder shift on immigration, saying himself and other architects of the failed comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2007 misread public sentiment.

"We really, at the time, I think made a mistake in not understanding just how passionate the American people felt about the issue of securing the border," said Martinez, who has participated in White House talks this year on immigration.

Romney at one point lined up with Martinez, but his position changed as he ran for president in 2008, according to a Bloomberg story today. Martinez, who was backing John McCain, even criticized Romney and Rudy Giuliani. “They are wrong on that and they are wrong in just criticizing,” he said. “I wish that as presidential candidates, they would take the next step, which is to say: here is how I would solve the problem.”

Romney has maintained his posture, saying in the last debate that amnesty is a "magnet" for other illegal immigrants.

But Martinez minimized that today. "I understand Mitt Romney to be a fair-minded, decent person," he said. "I'm not concerned about what may be some difference in nuances ... ."

The conference call, joined by state Sen. John Thrasher, was in response to the DNC's new attack ad over Mitt Romney's changing stance on several key positions. Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who doubles as DNC chair, held a conference call with reporters and pretty much called him a liar.

She said she tells her children not to fib because, "Keeping track of all the lies gets a little tiring and difficult."

The ad will run in Albuquerque, Raleigh-Durham; Columbus, O.H.; Pittsburgh; Washington, D.C.; and, Milwaukee.

"A lot of this ad talks about the life issue," Martinez said in today's call. "I’m pro-life, and I would much rather have a President Romney over a President Obama when it came to that issue."

--Alex Leary

Gov. Rick Scott schedules morning State of the State speech

rickscott-stateofthestate-2011-stpetersburgtimes.jpgRepublican Gov. Rick Scott will deliver his second State of the State speech at 11 a.m. on Jan. 10, ending the recent run of evening deliveries and returning the speech to a more traditional morning time-slot.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist moved the speech to the evening in 2008 hoping to reach a statewide television audience with live snippets on the 6 p.m. newscasts. Scott scheduled his first State of the State this year at the same time with his communications team citing the same reason.

The schedule for the 2012 speech was noted in a memo House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, sent today to state House members regarding the opening day of session.

Two of three Senate redistricting maps are out

The Senate staff has released two of its proposed redistricting maps. Here's a link to the Congressional map. Here's the Senate map.

The Senate press release:

Continue reading "Two of three Senate redistricting maps are out " »

House Ethics Committee extends Alcee Hastings probe

The House Ethics Committee said it will take another 45 days to look into allegations that U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, subjected a former employee to sexual harassment and retaliation when he was co-chairman of an independent U.S. agency.

Hastings has asked a court to throw out claims that he subjected a former employee to sexual harassment and retaliation when he was co-chairman of an independent U.S. agency. The Office of Congressional Ethics this summer contacted the staffer, Winsome Packer.

Judicial Watch in March filed a lawsuit against Hastings on Packer's behalf. The lawsuit alleges that Packer, a staffer on a House commission that Hastings led, was subjected to a "never-ending barrage of unwanted sexual advances" and was threatened and intimidated when she tried to report Hastings' behavior. Hastings in March called the assertions "ludicrous" and said he'd "never sexually harassed anyone." His attorney, Tonya Robinson, said the lawmaker was "deeply disturbed" by the allegations in the lawsuit "and, in the strongest terms, denies the charges. Mr. Hastings has stated unequivocally that the plaintiff's claims are untruthful and without merit."

Packer says Hastings asked several times to stay at her apartment or to get her to visit his hotel room in Vienna, Austria, when she worked as staff representative and he was co-chairman of the Helsinki Commission. She also said Hastings asked her what kind of underwear she was wearing and alleged that much of the harassment occurred when he was in Europe on business for the commission, which advises on U.S. policy about security, human rights and other issues in Europe.

The committee said in a statement that the "mere fact of a referral or an extension, and the mandatory disclosure of such an extension and the name of the subject of the matter, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the committee." The committee said it will announce its course of action on or before Jan. 11.

Tim Pawlenty: 'Barack Obama is the Barney Fife of presidents,' like Jimmy Carter

Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign hosted 12 press-conference calls this afternoon to respond to the Democratic National Committee's two "Mitt vs. Mitt" ads hitting the presidential candidate for his reversals.

Romney's campaign co-chair and former rival, former Minn. Gov. Tim Pawlenty, said President Obama and the Democrats are doing all they can to avoid talking about jobs.

"Barack Obama is the Barney Fife of presidents," Pawlenty said, calling Obama's performance "stumbling, bumbling, ineffective" and reminiscent of Jimmy Carter.

"The last thing they want to do is run against Mitt Romney....They are purposely and systematically... trying to tear him down," Pawlenty said.

Pawlenty ticked off the misery-index increases under Obama: unemployment, deficits and taxes (albeit, they haven't increased much).

"It's obvious Barack Obama does not want to face Mitt Romney.... He would lose in each of these categories," Pawlenty said. He said the DNC's character assassination of Romney was simple: They have nothing to brag about.

"They dont want to focus on their own failure," Pawlenty said.

When asked about the New Hampshire Union Leader's endorsement of Newt Gingrich, Pawlenty shrugged it off. He said Romney was going to get his "fair share" of endorsements, but can't "win them all."

Added Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho: "In no way is this primary over yet." She said the campaign would try to win in Iowa (a first by a campaign at times that seemed to cold-shoulder the Hawkeye State). "Our strategy is to win there," she said. 

No mention of Florida, but Romney is well-positioned to win here. He'll be fundraising and campaigning tonight and tomorrow in Coral Gables, Miami, Naples and Tampa. In Miami, at 8:30 a.m., he'll tour Conchita Foods (maker of tasty guava paste and other Cuban foods) and at 4 p.m., he has a Tampa Port event.


What's behind 'retrogression?' The big word that's become focus of redistricting debate

Retrogression. It’s a big word, with heavy implications for Florida’s redistricting debate. We wrote about it in today’s story, highlighting how the issue is already causing some intra-party turmoil for both Republicans and Democrats.

Legislators must decide how many new districts should be carved to elect minorities, comply with the new standards of Amendments 5 and 6, and stay clear of violating the federal Voting Rights Act.

Retrogression is basically the reduction in voting strength of a racial or ethnic minority based on a redistricting plan.

There are questions galore: Does retrogression apply to the whole map or to just voters in a certain region? Is it retrogression if the voting strength of a minority majority district in Jacksonville is reduced but two new districts are created that increase the opportunity for blacks to be elected in other parts of the state? What constitutes voting strength? Performance or percentage?

Continue reading "What's behind 'retrogression?' The big word that's become focus of redistricting debate" »

Dems begin the say-anything bash-o-rama on Mitt Romney

Guess who Democrats think the Republican presidential nominee is? Roll the video. Or, actually, videos. The Democratic National Committee unveiled a 4 minute web ad and a new TV ad (which can't run in Florida due to limitations before the Jan. 31 primary) bashing Mitt Romney for being "two men trapped in one body."

DNC chair, Weston Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, just finished a conference call to tout the ads and drive the message home. "He is a flip flopper, a candidate with no core beliefs and someone who will say anything to get elected," Wasserman Schultz said, likening Romney to one of her children who fibs.

"Keeping track of all the lies gets a little tiring and difficult," she said, chiding Romney for his positions on payroll taxes, Grover Norquist's tax pledge, the auto bailout, Obama's healthcare plan, climate-change legislation, Iraq, Afghanistan, trade with China, immigration (as evidenced in today's Bloomberg story), gay rights, abortion and....?

Wasserman Schultz disputed the idea that the DNC believes Romney is the frontrunner. She said that the other Republican candidates haven't done a good enough job exposing Romney for his shifting positions. Yeah, right.

Here's what conservative blogger Erick Erickson says: "The DNC is gambling that Romney will be the nominee, but they also know there is a lot of angst with the GOP. By hitting Romney now they can potentially drag out the pain of the Republican Primary before doing what every Democrat and Beltway Pundit in America thinks — settling for Romney, a guy they will have already defined as a flip-flopper."