October 10, 2017

Taddeo joins Florida Senate as first Hispanic Democratic woman elected to chamber

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Beginning her service in Tallahassee this week as Florida’s newest state senator, Miami Democrat Annette Taddeo said she aims to be “a voice of inclusion, a voice of opportunity for all.”

“Just bringing the voice of the people,” Taddeo said at the state Capitol Tuesday morning after she was officially sworn in as District 40’s next senator. “It was not just a hashtag when we said it was ‘a people-powered campaign’ — it was truly born from the community and I’m very proud of that.”

Taddeo won a special election on Sept. 26 to replace disgraced former Sen. Frank Artiles, a Miami Republican who resigned in April. Her upset win over former state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, helped the Democrats secure an additional seat in the Senate, narrowing the Republican majority to 24-16.

In joining the Senate, the Colombian-born Taddeo also became the first Hispanic Democratic woman elected to the chamber.

“It’s a humbling experience; I’m very excited and honored to be given this responsibility,” she said. “I’m ready.”

Full story here.


Photo credit: State Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, center, is sworn in to office by Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince on Oct. 10, 2017. She was joined at her swearing-in ceremony by her 11-year-old daughter Sofia Taddeo-Goldstein, her husband Eric Goldstein and her mother Elizabeth Taddeo. [Florida Senate]

August 31, 2017

Rubio records robocall for Miami Senate candidate Diaz

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has lent his name -- and now, his voice -- to help a Republican friend campaign for the Florida Senate in Miami.

Rubio recorded a robocall in English and Spanish for state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, who's running in a special Sept. 26 election for Senate District 40. Diaz faces Democrat Annette Taddeo and independent Christian "He-Man" Schlaerth.

Rubio had already been featured in a mailer for Diaz, asking voters to sign up to vote by mail. The robocall "chases" those forms, asking voters to return them.

Here's the call script, transcribed from an audio of the call obtained by the Miami Herald:

His, this is Sen. Marco Rubio. I'm calling on behalf of my good friend Jose Felix Diaz, who's a candidate for state Senate District 40. I recently mailed you an absentee-ballot request form, and it's important that you return it today. Jose Felix Diaz voted to cut taxes by over a billion dollars in the past two years, saving you and your family money on school supplies, property taxes and small businesses. Jose will be what he's always been, a tireless champion for your family in the Florida Senate. But he needs your help to get there, so please return your absentee-ballot request form today.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

August 24, 2017

Taddeo fundraiser will feature former presidential candidate O'Malley

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An unexpected guest is headlining an upcoming fundraiser for Miami Democratic Senate candidate Annette Taddeo: one-time 2016 presidential candidate Martin O'Malley.

O'Malley, the former Maryland governor, will join other Taddeo supporters Tuesday at the posh Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. Taddeo is running in a special Sept. 26 Senate Districit 40 election against Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.

O'Malley dropped out of the 2016 race after a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses, but he may still have future presidential ambitions -- which explains why he's trying to be helpful to a Democrat in swing-state Florida.

Also hosting the reception are a slew of state and local elected Democrats, activists, attorneys and donors, according to an invitation obtained by the Miami Herald.

Taddeo raised more than $152,000 from July 21-Aug. 18, the latest campaign-finance reports show. But that still lagged behind Diaz, who raked in more than $382,000. The primary was July 25.

Republicans expect to spend $3 million in the expensive race to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles, a Republican who resigned in scandal in April.

Christian "He-Man" Schlaerth is also running, without party affiliation.

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: 

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