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8 posts from December 5, 2013

December 05, 2013

Of urinating with Mexicans, immigration reform and the battle for CD-26


Congressional District 26 just keeps on giving.

The swing district that stretches from central Miami-Dade to Key West has furnished two separate criminal convictions in unrelated schemes and a tough reelection campaign for Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia.

One of his opponents, Miami-Dade school board member Carlos Curbelo, issued a blistering press release today that questioned Garcia's fitness to lead Democrats' immigration-reform efforts in the U.S. House. Among the many criticisms, Curbelo highlighted a snippet of a quote from a Frontline documentary in 2008 in which Garcia commented on President George W. Bush's impressive Hispanic outreach.

"He'd probably peed by a pickup truck with a Mexican just like anyone else who's been from Texas," Garcia said.

Said Curbelo: "If Joe Garcia is willing to make comments like the one below, how is he well-suited to lead on immigration reform?"

Garcia responded by pointing out that the seven-second snippet highlighted by Curbelo had no context and made it sound as if he were saying something offensive about Mexicans.

"This guy is out there campaigning while I was on the House floor last night standing up for immigrants," Garcia said. "I'm taking a lead role in immigration reform and he's engaging in this silliness."

Garcia said the full context of his quote made clear he was praising the former Republican president's campaigning: "It was an unprecedented effort that yielded unprecedented results. It was the 'I love you' campaign, by George Bush. The ads were called Te Conosco. 'I know you.' And he did. He was from Texas. You know, he—he—he had, you know, he'd probably peed by a pickup truck with a Mexican just like anyone else who's been from Texas. But the reality is, that—that dynamic of knowing these folks—was very powerful."

Curbelo said he didn't know where the video clip came from, but recently happened across it on YouTube, where it was uploaded in 2012 with the headline "Joe Garcia Said What?"

Curbelo's attack on Garcia wasn't limited to the video clip; he referenced the recent conviction and incarceration of Garcia's former campaign and staff chief in an absentee ballot-request fraud case. The congressman was not implicated in the scheme (which yielded no phony votes) and said he knew nothing about it. A candidate Garcia bested in the August 2012 primary was convicted in a separate campaign-finance crime linked to the incumbent he beat in the general election, former Rep. David Rivera.

Curbelo's press release also questioned the sincerity of the Democrats' immigration-reform push overall, but he shied away from mentioning that the House bill pushed by Garcia, patterned after a bipartisan plan that passed the Senate, has been effectively killed by GOP House leaders.

Curbelo's press release, however, didn't condemn Garcia's bill and he reserved a measure of praise for Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., an immigration-reform leader who's in Miami to sign copies of his new autobiography.

"We respect his commitment to finding a bipartisan solution for immigration reform," Curbelo said. "Gutierrez's visit to Miami is an opportunity to discuss the prospects of a bill getting through the House next year and to highlight the many flaws of our existing immigration system."

From Jeb to Crist to Obama, everyone thinks Craig Fugate does a heckuva job


From managing Florida's disaster responses to the nation's, Craig Fugate is that rare government official who transcends partisanship and always seems to get the job done without much trouble.

Fugate worked for former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, then former Republican-turned-independent Gov. Charlie Crist and now President Obama who tapped Fugate to lead FEMA in 2009. Along the way, the praise has followed.

And, in Obama's view, not enough of it has.

On Thursday, in an interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews, the president held Fugate up as example of what goes right in government that you don't read about. At Matthews prodding, Obama even made an oblique reference to one of Fugate's predecessors, Michael Brown, who was lauded by then-President George Bush for doing a "heckuva job" even when he didn't.

The transcript:

Continue reading "From Jeb to Crist to Obama, everyone thinks Craig Fugate does a heckuva job" »

Winston will not face rape charges, family of accuser thanks prosecutor

JansenState Attorney Willie Meggs closed the case against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston on Thursday, saying that the flaws in the accuser's story made it virtually impossible to bring a conviction.

Meggs said the timing of the decision to not bring charges against the 19-year-old Heisman Trophy candidate had nothing to do with the Heisman voting, which ends Monday, or the ACC conference championship game to take place on Saturday.

He said he did not believe he had the evidence to show that a sexual assualt took place as the female Florida State University student alleged after the sexual encounter on Dec. 7, 2012. 

"We came to a decision that it was not a case we could bring forward because we would not have the burden of proof, the probable cause and the reasonable likelihood of a conviction,” Meggs said. "We did not feel we had sufficient evidence to prove that it was not consensual.” He said he will make public the documents relating to his closed investigation by midday on Friday. 

A written statement from the alleged victim released by police Thursday indicates that she told police that she was in a local college bar with her friend drinking shots and "next thing I know I'm in the back of a taxi with a random guy I have never met."

Continue reading "Winston will not face rape charges, family of accuser thanks prosecutor" »

Gallup: Obama hemorrhages Hispanic support, drops 23 points in a year


Gallup, the nation's premier polling outfit, has more grim news for President Obama: Hispanics are turning away from him in greater amounts than any other subgroup.

From December 2012 through November, Obama's Hispanic approval ratings fell 23 percentage points, from 75 percent to 52 percent.

Overall, Obama's approval rating remains near historic lows, 41 percent.

"Hispanics' approval ratings of Obama have shown the most variation of any group's ratings throughout his presidency," Gallup explains in an analysis. "That means their views of him are less firmly anchored than those of other groups, which may help explain why their opinions of the president soured more than any other group's in recent months. Despite the significant decline in their approval ratings over the past 12 months, a majority of Hispanics, 52%, still approve of the job Obama is doing."

Continue reading "Gallup: Obama hemorrhages Hispanic support, drops 23 points in a year" »

Jobs in Florida: The Rick Scott record (preview)

Coming Friday on tampabay.com and miamiherald.com (and Sunday in both print editions), the first of a three-part series investigating Gov. Rick Scott's record on jobs. See the video preview.

To pressure House GOP leaders, Rep. Joe Garcia joins fast for immigration reform


Republican leaders of the U.S. House have stalled taking up an immigration reform bill this year, and Democrats are making sure to keep the pressure on by holding a series of member-to-member fasts.

From a press release:

This morning, Rep. Joe Garcia (FL-26), joined a group of advocates fasting as part of the “Fast 4 Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship” movement.

Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-51) passed his fast on to Rep. Garcia in a brief ceremony in Rep. Garcia’s office.  Rep. Vargas received the immigration reform fast from Rep. Joe Kennedy III (MA-4), yesterday.

“I am honored to participate in this symbolic event dedicated to the millions of people fighting for comprehensive immigration reform as they seek to keep their families together,” said Rep.  Joe Garcia.


Continue reading "To pressure House GOP leaders, Rep. Joe Garcia joins fast for immigration reform" »

Florida Supreme Court grills attorney defending medical marijuana amendment

Florida Supreme Court justices on Thursday peppered the attorney for the group backing a proposed medical marijuana amendment with lots of questions on several issues concerning the language and intent of the amendment during an hour-long hearing.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, legislative leaders and other opponents have raised numerous objections to the proposed state constitutional amendment, which People United for Medical Marijuana wants to put on the 2014 ballot if the group can get the 683,149 signatures it needs by early next year.

Most questions directed at People United attorney Jon Mills addressed possible vague or misleading language in the amendment's title -- "Use of Marijuana for Certain Medical Conditions." They focused on the words "debilitating" and "disease" versus medical condition, honing in on the state's initial complaint that the amendment is too broad, in effect, leading to de facto marijuana legalization under the guise of compassionate medicine.

Continue reading "Florida Supreme Court grills attorney defending medical marijuana amendment" »

Does Broward's "mobile office" that collects absentee ballots comply with Ken Detzner's directive? We don't know because he isn't commenting

by @amysherman1

Secretary of State Ken Detzner issued a directive to election supervisors last week stating that they “should not solicit return of absentee ballots at any place other than a supervisor’s office.” We tried to  find out if Broward's use of a "mobile office" -- a van that travels to announced spots and collects absentee ballots among other tasks -- complies with that directive.

"We don’t have enough details on their activity to comment at this time," Detzner's spokeswoman Brittany Lesser told the Tampa Bay Times' Steve Bousquet. 

If Detzner needs more details, he can read about Broward's mobile office in our post yesterday. Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes told us that she hasn't heard from Detzner's office about her mobile van. 

Any lawyers out there want to comment on whether a van constitutes an office? Let me know @amysherman1