August 19, 2017

Taddeo denounces GOP ad that casts her as apologist for Castro, FARC

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@PatriciaMazzei @AmySherman1

Democratic Senate candidate Annette Taddeo has denounced as false an explosive Spanish-language radio ad from Florida Republicans casting her as — wait for it — a tax-hiker, job-offshorer, Colombian-guerrilla sympathizer and Fidel Castro apologist.

The ad reflects a tried-and-true campaign tack in Miami politics: paint your opponent as soft on Cuba, or soft on Communism.

Particularly offensive to Taddeo is the suggestion that she wanted to “legitimize” the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Taddeo was born in Colombia and fled as a teenager after the FARC captured her father, an American military veteran, at the family ranch.

“How dare my opponent, lobbyist Jose Felix Diaz, use our community’s painful history for political gain?” Taddeo said in a statement. “My father was kidnapped by the FARC and my family had to flee Colombia because of our safety.”

She will face Diaz, a state representative, and independent candidate Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth in the special Sept. 26 Senate District 40 election to replace Republican Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned in disgrace in April. 

The ad claims that “when [former President Barack] Obama insisted on a peace plan in Colombia that would legitimize the FARC, Taddeo put partisanship over everything else to support it.”

More here.

Listen to the radio ad here.

Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff

August 10, 2017

Florida Democrats release first TV ad for Taddeo in Miami Senate race. It's all about Trump


Florida Democrats are going up on TV first in a special Miami Senate election, trying to portray Republican Jose Felix Diaz as a lackey of President Donald Trump.

The spot by the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee begins with Trump on the TV -- and Democrat Annette Taddeo turning it off.

"Families are too busy to worry about this drama," she says, rattling off a list of education and especially health care issues she argues are more important to voters. "But Jose Felix Diaz supports Trump's every move."

Ballots don't go out til later this month for the Sept. 26 election for Senate District 40. But Republicans far outraised Democrats in the primary, and got more of their voters to the polls -- suggesting Democrats had some catching up to do ahead of the general. 

"This is going to be a close race," incoming Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Clemens said in a statement.

During the primary, all three Republicans vying for the GOP nomination campaigned on their Trump connections to appeal to base voters with whom the president remains quite popular. But that left Diaz, the eventual winner, vulnerable to Trump attacks in the general.

August 07, 2017

Florida Democrats go after 'Trumpcare' in special Miami Senate election

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Florida Democrats are attempting to tie Republican Senate candidate Jose Felix Diaz to President Donald Trump through Obamacare.

Repealing or replacing Affordable Care Act is not under the purview of the Florida Legislature, though state legislators did choose not to expand Medicaid under the law.

But campaign fliers sent over the past few days to Democratic Senate District 40 voters in Miami accuse both Diaz, a sitting state representative, and Trump of trying to worsen healthcare coverage. South Florida has some of the highest rate of enrollment in the ACA's federal insurance exchanges.

"Jose Felix Diaz would bring Trumpcare to Florida (and cost millions of Floridians their health care)," reads the flier from the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, accusing them of pushing a plan that would increase premiums and leave people uncovered.

Democrats had signaled they would go after Diaz's personal Trump connection: He was once a contestant on Trump's "The Apprentice" reality TV show.

Diaz is running in a special Sept. 26 general election against Democrat Annette Taddeo. They're vying to replace former Republican Sen. Frank Artiles.

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August 02, 2017

Taddeo settles AmEx lawsuit


Democratic Florida Senate candidate Annette Taddeo said she settled a lawsuit Wednesday with American Express over what the company had claimed were nearly $38,000 in unpaid charges.

The terms of the lawsuit were kept private. In a statement, Taddeo's campaign spokesman said the lawsuit "has been amicably resolved by both parties." AmEx sued Taddeo and her translation business, LanguageSpeak, in Miami-Dade Circuit Court last month. 

"As mentioned earlier, LanguageSpeak worked diligently to resolve this matter in short order and speaks to Annette Taddeo's well respected record as a longtime successful business owner of nearly 25 years," spokesman Christian Ulvert said. "Further, unlike her opponent, Annette has disclosed more than needed as this matter pertains to company matters, not personal credit cards."

At the time she was sued, Taddeo claimed the suit was politically motivated. She's running for Senate District 40 in a special Sept. 26 election against Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.

An AmEx attorney did not immediately respond to a emailed request for comment late Wednesday.

Ulvert used the lawsuit settlement to urge Diaz, an attorney who does lobbying work, to "offer a complete and full account of his clients, retainers paid, issues that were before the Legislature that conflicted with his public service and any activity he engaged in as lobbyist in Miami-Dade County."

July 31, 2017

Who will be the next South Florida Water Management district director?

Everglades sunrise by Jon KralWho will be the next director of the South Florida Water Management District?

The board convenes today in a conference call to announce a replacement to outgoing director Pete Antonacci, who was named by Gov. Rick Scott last week to head the embattled Enterprise Florida economic development agency, a lateral move for the governor's former general counsel and loyal supporter.

The replacement director may be an interim appointment or permanent -- potentially, only an 18-month job -- and the candidates include:

  • Ernie Marks, director of Everglades Policy and Coordination. He is considered the favorite of Antonacci, having moved to the district as recently as March 2016 from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission where he was South Florida regional director. He previously worked for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as Director of the Office of Ecosystem Projects and as a regulatory manager.
  • Terrie Bates, water resources director for the district, is a three-decade veteran of the agency. She manages the WMD's scientific focus on ecosystem and technology research.
  • Jeff Kivett, former director of the districts's operations, engineering and construction, who left in 2016 and is now vice president of the Northern California area at Brown & Caldwell, a California engineering firm. 
  •  Drew Bartlett, deputy secretary at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, has been with the state since 2007 and before that spent 16 years with the EPA. 

Once the new, or interim ED is in place, one question ahead is whether the  new director will pivot the agency to reversing the decision by Antonacci to sever ties with the National Academies of Science. Antonacci apparently took the governor's office, and his political staff, by surprise when he announced to the governing board that he no longer wanted his staff to continue the relationship with the top scientists charged with reviewing the Everglades project. 

The organization has a $358,000 annual contract with the SFWMD and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review Everglades restoration progress and to produce a report every other year.

In a July 5 letter to Stephanie Johnson of the NAS, Antonacci referred to an agenda for the August 2017 Committee on Independent Scientific Review of Everglades Restoration Progress (CISRERP), criticizing it.  "It is plain on the face of the proposed agenda that your panel of distinguished scientists are being lead (sic) down a path of unscientific meddling into the art of budgeting, management and operation by entities designated for such purpose," he wrote.

He complained that "top down Washington nitpicking" was adding "little to the goals of Everglades Restoration" and suggested, for example, that the "development of a Combined Operation Plan" in South Miami-Dade was not helpful to Everglades restoration.

He added that if the group continued to "put science on the back burner," the SFWMD "will have no choice but to legally withdraw from any financial commitments" and he suggested the agency could instead rely on the University of Florida Water Institute, which was hired by the Florida Senate to author a 2015 a report on Everglades restoration.

Among the issues on the draft agenda was an update on Senate Bill 10 which asked the question:

"Does the Senate Bill in essence direct the Corps and District to choose the more expensive but slightly more effective '2nd best option' presented in the CEPP...i.e. the 12' deep 21,000 ac reservoir with 7000 ac STA on the A1-A2 footpront (sic) (estimated to cost $2B more but provide 2-% greater benefits?)

Antonacci was harshly critical of the Senate proposal to build a water-storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to offset the need for damaging water releases into nearby estuaries, arguing that buying land would postpone other needed improvements.

"It is well-recognized that more storage is needed system-wide, however, the myopic focus on land acquisition south of Lake Okeechobee does little to contribute to restoration success,'' he wrote in a letter to Miami-Dade commissioners.

In its latest report, the NAS noted that less than 18 percent of the $16 billion effort needed to complete the restoration project has been funded.

In his July letter, Antonacci suggested replacing the National Academies group with scientists from the University of Florida's Water Institute.

When Johnson responded in a letter, saying that "some information on budget and management is necessary for the Committee to understand the broader context for restoration progress and the relative impact of scientific issues," Antonacci was blunt.

He accused the group of "highly objectionable mission-creep" and suggested that the WMD staff "will not participate in your August meeting."

More from Craig Pittman here: Everglades restoration project leader tells top scientists: Stay in your lane

July 27, 2017

American Express lawsuit dogs Taddeo going into Miami Senate election


Democratic Florida Senate candidate Annette Taddeo and her translation business owe American Express nearly $38,000, according to a lawsuit the credit card company filed last month.

American Express sued Taddeo and her company, LanguageSpeak, in Miami circuit court June 29, seeking payment for an unpaid balance of $37,794 due since December. In a statement, Taddeo said she was "blindsided" by the lawsuit and said she has "disputed" some $15,000 in charges.

She claimed the suit, first reported by Politico, was politically motivated. She won the Democratic primary Tuesday for Senate District 40 -- and was served with the lawsuit Wednesday.

"My team was working to get this resolved in short order prior to the lawsuit, and believe it will be by the end of the week," she said. "I have no doubt that this suit is timed with my campaign for state senate given the over $300,000 in attacks waged by Tallahassee special interests against me over the last five weeks."

Taddeo has campaigned -- in this race and her past candidacies -- as a successful small-business owner. She faces Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in the Sept. 26 primary. Democrats have already started to attack Diaz as a lackey of President Donald Trump, despite Diaz's reputation in Tallahassee as a moderate. The lawsuit gives Republicans fresh fodder to go after Taddeo.

Taddeo's May 24 state financial disclosure lists LanguageSpeak's value at $1 million. She drew a salary of $17,111 from the business in 2015 but listed none in 2016, when she was campaigning for Congress. Her federal financial disclosure from May 2016 also reported 2015 income of between $100,001 and $1 million from her husband's psychology practice.

Taddeo hasn't loaned herself any money for the special Senate race. But she is still owed nearly $400,000 from her 2016, congressional campaign, in which she lost the Democratic primary to Joe Garcia. Taddeo says she written off that money as a loss.

Republicans pump $100,000 into Senate committee to help Diaz in SD 40 race -- but is it insurance or worry?

DiazAndTaddeoInsurance money or concern? That is the question after the Republican State Leadership Committee sent a $100,000 check late Wednesday to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, run by state Senate leaders, to boost the chances of Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in the Miami District 40 special election. 

A Democratic poll conducted in June and released on Wednesday found that Democratic nominee in the race, Annette Taddeo, edged Diaz 42-38 percent. According to the memo by pollster Anzalone Liszt Grove Research for the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, Taddeo was also ahead by 16 percentage points among voters without party affiliation who couldn't cast primary ballots.

But, as the primary turnout showed, ensuring voter enthusiasm in the district for the Sept. 26 general election is going to be a challenge -- and margins will matter.

On Tuesday, only 10.4 percent of the district's registered Democrats showed up to vote and 13.5 percent of the registered Republicans. Diaz collected more total votes against his two rivals, 7,678, than Taddeo -- who got 7,101. 

The poll also suggests that Diaz's allegiance with Donald Trump could spell trouble in the district. Hillary Clinton beat Trump in SD 40 but the same voters also preferred Republican Marco Rubio over Democrat Patrick Murphy in the U.S. Senate race and elected Republican Frank Artiles over Democrat Dwight Bullard for the Senate seat that's now open as a result of Artiles' resignation.

Diaz, a former contestant on Trump's "The Apprentice" reality TV show, did not distance himself from the president in the primary and included pictures of himself with Trump in campaign materials. He has, however, removed all but one photo from his Facebook and Twitter feeds of him attending inaugural events, including one of him posing with the president. He cited “aggressive trolling” from enemies as the reason.

Diaz, an attorney and lobbyist who was the favorite of Tallahassee Republicans, spent more than $2 million between his campaign and political committee, Rebuild Florida -- much of it after the poll was taken. Taddeo, by contrast, spent $60,000.

The Republican State Leadership Committee has raised and spent much in Florida in recent election cycles. In February it gave $125,000 to the Florida Republican Party. It's chair is former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and former Republican House Speaker Will Weatherford sits on its board of directors. 

Here's the RSLC announcement: 

Continue reading "Republicans pump $100,000 into Senate committee to help Diaz in SD 40 race -- but is it insurance or worry?" »

July 26, 2017

Democratic poll: Taddeo edges Diaz in Miami Senate matchup


A poll conducted last month by Florida Democrats found Annette Taddeo edged Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in a special general election race for a Miami state Senate seat.

Taddeo led Diaz by 42-38 percent in the June poll, released Wednesday after both candidates won their respective primaries Tuesday. The survey, by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research for the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, also found Taddeo ahead by 16 percentage points among voters without party affiliation who couldn't cast primary ballots, according to a memo from the pollsters summarizing their results.

"The poll also shows a generic ballot currently favors a Democrat, and Donald Trump continues to be toxic in this seat that he lost by roughly -17 points in 2016," Josh Weierbach, the FDLCC's political director said in a statement.

According to the poll, the Republican president is viewed unfavorably by 56 percent of respondents. Forty percent view him favorably.

While Trump did lose the Senate district to Democrat Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio fared much better, besting Democrat Patrick Murphy there. And the district was represented by a Republican, Sen. Frank Artiles, until he resigned in April.

Diaz is a former contestant on Trump's "The Apprentice" reality TV show. Faced with GOP opponents who tried to tie themselves to Trump as much as possible, Diaz also campaigned in the primary displaying his photo with the president -- a move Democrats hope will be a liability in the general election. Diaz, however, is expected to outraise Taddeo, which should help him campaign as his own man separate from the White House.

The Anzalone firm interviewed 400 likely voters by phone from June 21-26 in English and Spanish. The poll, which used a GOP-leaning sample, has an error margin of plus-or-minus 4.9 percentage points. Democrats did not publicly release the full poll results, including what the questions were and how results broke down for each. That's likely because the poll included questions intended to test future campaign messages.

The survey is a month old, which matters because during that period Diaz spent serious cash campaigning in the Republican primary, eventually overtaking his chief rival, former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla. Diaz acknowledged Tuesday night early polls had him trailing Diaz de la Portilla, whom he ultimately crushed by 32 percentage points.

The GOP primary drew 3,251 more voters than the Democratic primary -- which Republicans argue suggest more excitement in their candidate and perhaps better turnout in the Sept. 26 general election. Special elections in Florida consistently draw low turnout.

Read the poll memo here.

July 25, 2017

Perez defeats Mallea in special Miami House GOP primary

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@PatriciaMazzei @CrossingBordas

Daniel Perez won a special Republican primary in a GOP-leaning Miami state House district Tuesday — meaning the attorney and political newcomer is now the heavy favorite to head to Tallahassee in a few months.

Perez defeated brewery owner Jose Mallea in the race for House District 116, a Southwest Miami-Dade County seat that is unlikely to switch to Democratic hands. Perez will nonetheless face Democrat Gabriela Mayaudón, herself a first-time legislative candidate, in the Sept. 26 general election.

“I’m very humbled, and I’m very thankful, that the residents of District 116 have trust in me, as one of their own, to represent not only the Republican Party but the district moving forward,” Perez told the Miami Herald. He was leading Mallea by 55-45 percent in unofficial, and still incomplete, results late Tuesday.

The fresh-faced Perez, 30, won despite being outraised in the campaign by Mallea, a former aide to Jeb Bush and former U.S. Senate campaign manager for Marco Rubio

More here.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, Miami Herald

Diaz, Taddeo notch easy victories in special Miami Senate primaries

Diaz and Taddeo
@PatriciaMazzei @CrossingBordas

Two Miami state Senate candidates who raised and spent the most in their respective primaries — Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democratic businesswoman Annette Taddeo — notched easy victories in a special election Tuesday night.

Taddeo and Diaz will now face off in the Sept. 26 general election for Senate District 40, a competitive seat in the heart of Southwest Miami-Dade County.

Diaz defeated two opponents, former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and attorney Lorenzo Palomares. The testy rivalry between Diaz and Diaz de la Portilla — who released a pair of polls early on boasting about his broad name identification — suggested the race could be close.

But Diaz, who along with his political committee spent more than $2 million on the campaign, won decisively Tuesday: He took 58 percent of the vote, compared to Diaz de la Portilla’s 26 percent and Palomares’ 17 percent, according to unofficial results that were still incomplete late Tuesday. 

Diaz, who is known as Pepi and is a beloved figure among most Tallahassee Republicans, resigned his House seat to run.

“When this race started and we looked at the numbers, they weren’t wrong: We were losing by a lot,” Diaz told supporters Tuesday at the Latin American Cafeteria in Kendall. Some of them celebrated by playing bongos and singing “Guantanamera.”

More here.