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237 posts from November 2011

November 28, 2011

Mitt Romney's Florida fundraising blitz starts tonight in Coral Gables

Mitt Romney returns to Florida tonight to pick up a few more campaign checks and a little free media as the likeliest of Republican presidential nominees. He starts this evening at the Coral Gables home of insurance wiz Mike Fernandez, who recently raised a few Florida eyebrows when his insurance business negotiated an intriguing deal to take over some of Jackson Memorial Hospital's Medicaid patients. The deal had a whiff of an insider deal (Fernandez is buddies with JMH chief Carlos Migoya), but regardless of all that, it proves one thing: Poverty is big business in Florida.

On Tuesday, Romney will likely host an event in Miami somewhere in the morning before flying off to Naples for another fundraiser, this one hosted by former ambassador Francis Rooney. Later, he'll jetset off to a Tampa Museum of Art fundraiser hosted by Mel and Betty Sembler, Dr. R.R. and Kathleen Vijay, Trey and Nina Traviesa, and state Rep. Will Weatherford.

Hialeah win put focus on political operative

Newly elected Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez did something unusual after being sworn into office earlier this month: He publicly thanked the architect of his victory, campaign manager Sasha Tirador.

It was a rare moment in the spotlight for Tirador, one of a select group of Miami-Dade political consultants who toil in the shadows of campaigns, shaping strategies, crafting messages — and propelling candidates into the spheres of power.

Few operatives have been busier the past year than Tirador, with clients ranging from the county School Board to the state Legislature to Hialeah. In the spring she led two defeated campaigns, Frank Lago for state representative and Julio Robaina for Miami-Dade mayor, but followed that with wins in four Hialeah City Council races.

But it was Hernandez’s 20-percentage point landslide over former Mayor Raul Martinez that may have cemented Tirador’s status as one of the most buzzed about local strategists.

Success is ephemeral in politics, and Tirador has not escaped controversy, particularly over the handling of absentee ballots. Still, her star has clearly risen since leaving Spanish-language radio about five years ago to dedicate herself to campaigns.

It was a natural transition.

More here.

Herman Cain's not-so-fun Florida tour, the Sarasota edition

When Herman Cain came to South Florida two weeks ago, he didn't rack up the best of headlines. He couldn't and wouldn't answer questions about Cuba policy until his staff briefed him. He then asked how you "say 'delicious' in Cuban." An undercover cop working his detail in Coral Springs then got in a physical tussle with a reporter, after which Cain's campaign apologized and then requested Secret Service protection.

It doesn't sound like things got much better this weekend in Sarasota. Cain acknowledged to reporters that he had been slipping in the polls

“Well, I’ve faded from first to third, and that’s not exactly fading all the way down to the bottom,” Cain told reporters, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

And, according to The Shark Tank blog, state Sen. Nancy Detert (a Mitt Romney supporter) kind of dissed the candidate when she introduced him at the Sarasota GOP Statesman Dinner:

During her introduction, Detert told the crowd that if they had been following the news lately, then they would “know more about Herman Cain than Herman Cain would want them to know about Herman Cain”- a clear reference to the sexual harassment allegations that have plagued Cain over the past month.

Bob Graham to Legislature: You are endangering the Everglades

Former Florida Governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham wrote this blistering op-ed in Sunday's Miami Herald blaming lawmakers for eroding progress on restoration efforts for the state's famed River of Grass:

The Everglades is in danger again. This time it is not from a drought, hurricane or other act of nature. It is not from some imminent encroaching development.

It is from the 2011 Florida Legislature and its cascade of damaging legislation which threatens to bring the three-decade-long effort to save the Everglades to a halt.

Everglades restoration is not just a matter of saving one of the Earth’s most important and unique environments and protecting the fresh water supply for a third of Florida’s residents. Everglades restoration is our state’s largest job and economic development program. A 2011 report by Mather Economics to the Everglades Foundation estimated that investing $11.5 billion in Everglades restoration (equally divided between the federal government and the state of Florida) will result in $46.5 billion in gains to Florida’s economy and create in excess of 440,000 jobs in the next 50 years. More here.

Today, a bi-partisan group of legislators will announce the first ever Everglades coalition at a press conference in Boynton Beach. Members include Rep. Steve Perman, D-Boca Raton and Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera.

With first redistricting maps out today, tensions rise over minority districts

As legislators prepare to release the first drafts of their redistricting maps today, racial divisions in Florida’s increasingly diverse state have become a tense undercurrent coursing through the redistricting debate in recent weeks.

Last month, Republican Sen. Alan Hays angered his Cuban colleagues when he suggested the citizenship of every Hispanic resident be verified before legislators draw any Hispanic majority districts. Two weeks ago, Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich criticized a proposal by the NAACP for not reflecting the new standards approved by voters in November 2010.

At the center of the debate is the new constitutional Amendments 5 and 6, which prohibit legislators from making it more difficult for language and racial minorities to elect candidates of their choice when they embark on the once-a-decade reapportionment process. Known in redistricting terms as “retrogression,” it means that minorities end up in worse shape after redistricting than they began.

There is no clear definition in the amendments or in federal law for how to avoid retrogression, and legislators are reluctant to come up with a definition in writing. So House and Senate redistricting committees are proceeding cautiously, expecting the courts to resolve the conflicts.

Absent more guidance, the issue will debated by lawmakers for months and “has the potential to deepen schisms that are already there,’’ warned Susan MacManus, a professor of government at the University of South Florida’s College of Arts and Sciences, who has co-authored a book on Florida redistricting.

Read more here. See current maps, get the story behind the legislature's proposed maps, and follow all our redistricting coverage here.

November 25, 2011

Scott serves up Thanksgiving dinner, explains cuts to homeless veterans program

scott-thanksgiving.jpg

From the Naples Daily News:

As eight tables of eight filled up in the bustling dining room, where pumpkin, pecan, apple and lemon meringue pies lined several side tables, the Scotts rushed back and forth, grabbing plates heaped with fixings for their two tables from an assembly line of volunteers at the kitchen counter.

“I care completely about all these programs,” said Scott, whose budget cuts earlier this year slashed funding to some veteran and farm surplus programs that helped the homeless.

“All the programs are very important, but nobody wants their taxes to go up,” Scott explained, noting that businesses also can help spur the economy. “They’ve got to grow. We’ve got to make this a place people can do well.”

November 24, 2011

Tea partier files ethics complaint against Miami state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla

State Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a Miami Republican, has been hit with an ethics complaint for not listing his bank account as an asset in his annual financial disclosure form.

The complaint was filed Oct. 27 in Tallahassee by Benjamin Gold of Fort Myers. Diaz de la Portilla dismissed the complaint as "immaterial" but said he does have a bank account and will amend his disclosure form if necessary.

The complaint comes as Florida tea party activists instrumental in electing Gov. Rick Scott have expressed frustration with Scott's administration for not doing more to push for state ethics reform.

In an e-mail, Gold said he singled out Diaz de la Portilla because he chairs the Florida Senate's Rules Subcommittee on Ethics and Elections.

"I am a Tea Party member and feel strongly about our movement holding government accountable, especially when the elected leaders who oversee ethics laws seemingly have little regard for them, or worse, stop meaningful reforms," Gold said.

Continue reading "Tea partier files ethics complaint against Miami state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla" »

November 23, 2011

Miami-Dade commissioner proposes gambling straw poll, but idea is tabled for now

Joe Martinez, the chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission, asked his colleagues on Wednesday to support putting a non-binding gambling referendum on the January primary ballot.

But his idea did not get a vote, after Commissioner Barbara Jordan invoked a rule that allows commissioners to table certain agenda items that they have had little time to review.

Martinez wanted to ask Miami-Dade voters, "Do you support the presence of destination resort casinos in Miami-Dade County?" The issue matters because the state Legislature is gearing up to discuss bills that would allow three mega-casino sites in Miami-Dade and Broward. The issue exploded after Malaysian giant Genting bought The Miami Herald's downtown building and surrounding properties.

Jordan told Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4 that she is against putting the question on the January ballot because it is not a general election and will likely draw more Republicans to vote, since there is no contested Democratic presidential primary.

In a news release, Martinez issued this statement:

"Our legislature has introduced a bill that would allow destination resort casinos in our community. We have all heard from those interested in opening a casino but as an elected representative of this community, I want to hear from our constituents. For that reason, I proposed this non-binding question to go forward in the January election along with the Home Rule Charter questions so that the voters can tell us if they want Miami to become a resort casino destination."

Watch video of the meeting here.

Haridopolos admits under oath his Greer answer "was not the whole story"

Senate President Mike Haridopolos, in sworn testimony in the Jim Greer case, now admits not telling the truth last year when he denied that he and other party leaders signed a confidential agreement to force Greer's ouster.

"I believe what I told him was not the whole story, yeah," Haridopolos says in reference to the videotaped interview with Miami Herald reporter Marc Caputo in 2010.

In the deposition conducted last week in Tallahassee, Greer's attorney, Damon Chase, asked Haridopolos why he denied any knowledge of the agreement. The senator's explanation: "I said the contrary, because I thought I wasn't allowed to talk about it."

Continue reading "Haridopolos admits under oath his Greer answer "was not the whole story"" »

PolitiFact: LeMieux says Connie Mack voted to raise his own paycheck

U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, the new apparent frontrunner in the GOP race for the U.S. Senate, is facing a barrage of criticism from one of his Republican rivals over congressional pay raises.

George LeMieux's campaign has claimed at least three different times -- in a press release, an online ad and in a comment from its spokeswoman -- that Mack, a four-term congressman from Southwest Florida, "voted to raise his own pay several times."

PolitiFact Florida found that examining the claim isn't so clear cut, largely because Congress probably wanted it that way. Read their analysis here.