December 14, 2017

Democratic poll: The GOP tax bill is unpopular among independents in swing Florida districts

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As Republicans negotiate the final touches on a plan to overhaul the nation's tax system, with a few kinks along the way, Democrats say that the GOP tax plan will hurt the majority party at the ballot box if it passes.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a Washington-based organization tasked with electing Democrats to the House of Representatives, found that Democrats and independents living in competitive House districts do not support the GOP-led tax plan. 

The DCCC commissioned an 800 person poll among registered voters in 51 competitive House districts around the country, including Florida districts represented by Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen along with Treasure Coast Republican Rep. Brian Mast and Orlando-area Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy. The 51 districts included 41 Republican-held seats and 10 Democratic-held seats. 

Independents oppose the tax plan 41 percent to 23 percent while Democrats oppose it 71 percent to 6 percent. Republicans favor the plan 53 percent to 12 percent.  

The poll was conducted by GBA Strategies, a Democratic polling operation based in Washington. The poll administered approximately 40 percent of its interviews by cell phone and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. 

After being surveyed, the DCCC said the generic congressional ballot shifts from a 4-point Democratic advantage to an 11-point advantage, an indication that voters in competitive districts are leaning towards Democrats. 

Democrats must win about two dozen seats to regain control of the House of Representatives in 2018, though that number may fluctuate due to retirements and resignations. Curbelo's seat is rated as a "toss-up" by multiple national prognosticators, while Ros-Lehtinen's seat is rated as "lean Democratic." 

December 04, 2017

Progressive group targets Carlos Curbelo over tax bill

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Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo is a champion of the tax overhaul plan that passed the Senate over the weekend, frequently appearing with House Speaker Paul Ryan and touting the bill in Spanish. 

But as the House and Senate confer on a compromise tax bill to send to President Donald Trump's desk, Curbelo is being targeted by a progressive group that's hitting vulnerable GOP incumbents who supported the tax plan. 

Not One Penny is blasting the tax bill and pressuring Curbelo as part of a seven-figure nationwide ad buy, the first time that the progressive group has launched a widespread campaign against incumbent Republicans. Curbelo represents the most Democratic-leaning congressional district in the country currently held by a Republican who is up for reelection in 2018.

The 30-second spot claims that the Curbelo-supported tax bill will raise taxes on 36 million middle class families. 

"Representative Curbelo continues to blindly support tax legislation that is nothing more than a giveaway to millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations," said Not One Penny spokesman Tim Hogan. "Republicans are looting the middle class in order to line the pocket of the wealthy and well-connected. As the focus once again turns to the House, Representative Curbelo should stand up for his constituents instead of his wealthy donors and vote against this harmful legislation."


November 30, 2017

Mario Diaz-Balart's district now rated "safe Republican"

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Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, popped up as a potential target for Democrats in 2018 when President Donald Trump carried his district by fewer than 2 percentage points in 2016. 

But Diaz-Balart hasn't drawn a big-name challenger in 2018 yet, prompting Sabato's Crystal Ball managing editor Kyle Kondik to move Diaz-Balart's reelection chances from "likely Republican" to "safe Republican" on Thursday. 

While other Republicans' reelection chances aren't as rosy, Kondik rated 18 Republican-held seats as more competitive for Democrats in his recent ratings, Diaz-Balart was one of just two GOP incumbents whose reelection chances improved. 

"As we cycle more races onto the competitive board from Safe to Likely Republican, it makes some sense to cycle out a couple of Republican-held seats with long-time incumbents where there’s not much going on at the moment," Kondik said, referring to Diaz-Balart and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska. "Both of these seats qualify." 

Currently, Diaz-Balart faces nominal Democratic opposition from Alina Valdes, who handily lost to Diaz-Balart in 2016. She has raised barely over $1000 in her bid to take on the longtime Republican. 

Kondik rates Rep. Carlos Curbelo's reelection chances as a "toss up," though he referred to the Miami Republican as one of the party's "best incumbents." 

"Despite the aforementioned retirements, Republicans have some of their best incumbents digging in to defend some of their most vulnerable districts: Reps. Mike Coffman (R, CO-6), Carlos Curbelo (R, FL-26), Barbara Comstock (R, VA-10), and others. If the wave is big enough, there may be nothing these members could do to survive, but they all should run strong, well-funded races and won’t be easy for Democrats to defeat." 

Retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's seat is rated as "leans Democratic," an indication that it will be challenging for Republicans to hold that seat. 

November 29, 2017

A Miami congressional candidate shares her #metoo moment

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Mary Barzee Flores was 17, working the night shift at Pizza Hut when her boss followed her into the walk-in freezer.

She had just been installed as the night manager after the previous night manager, the boss’s wife, was ousted after Barzee Flores noticed irregularities on the books.

Her boss was angry.

“The manager followed me in and shut the door,” Barzee Flores said. “He said if I was going to take his wife’s place I would have to do all of her duties, and he made clear what he meant by that.”

Her boss groped her, she said.

“It was terrifying thing to happen, but I pushed him off and told him off and got out of there,” Barzee Flores said.

Barzee Flores is now a 55-year-old lawyer and former judge who is running as a Democrat to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The recent #metoo movement that exploded after high-profile sexual assault and harassment allegations against dozens of men in politics, entertainment and media gives more women the opportunity to speak out about their personal experiences, Barzee Flores said.

She didn’t tell anyone about the Pizza Hut incident at the time, choosing instead to keep working while keeping her guard up. Looking back, she said, it was a “terrible position for a kid to be in.”

“Sexual harassment is a bipartisan issue, it doesn’t have to do with whether you’re a Democrat or Republican,” Barzee Flores said. “It’s an abuse of power when it happens and I think that the last few months with these allegations coming out, whether in politics or Hollywood and workplaces all over the country have been very important.”

And Barzee Flores has been quick to criticize members of her own party who have been accused of sexual harassment.

She was one of the first Democrats to call for the resignation of Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a civil-rights icon and the longest-serving member of Congress, after multiple women accused the congressman of sexual harassment. At least one woman reached a taxpayer-funded settlement with Conyers.

“There is no reason we should hold Rep. Conyers to a different standard than any TV show personality, movie mogul, or corporate leader,” Barzee Flores said last week. “In fact, we must hold him (and every elected official on both sides) to a higher standard. For that reason, given everything I’ve read and seen, Rep. Conyers should resign.”

Read more here.

Progressive group launches ad campaign and website focusing on working class poverty: Rick's Recession

Ricks Recesssion screen shotA day after the Florida Chamber held a day-long "prosperity summit" to focus on Florida's growing population of people in poverty, a left-leaning advocacy group has launched a website and social media ad buy highlighting Gov. Rick Scott's economic record -- and focusing on the regions of the where the economy has not improved during his term. is the work of For Florida's Future, an organization that calls itself a "working families advocacy group"  and which also operates a super PAC. The data comes from the Florida Chamber Foundation, the FIU Metropolitan Center, and uses media reports over the last year -- such as how 36 of the state's 67 counties have still not returned to pre-recession employment levels and how 45 percent of all Floridians are considered "working poor." 

Blake Williams, For Florida's Future communications director, said the group is highlighting the issues in a "significant" social media ad buy on Facebook and Twitter. 

“Not a single thing Scott has focused on - slashing funding for public schools, refusing to expand Medicaid for millions of low-income Floridians or giving taxpayer funding to corporations who donate to his campaigns - has helped everyday Floridians,'' he said in a press release.

"If we’re going to dig our way out of Rick’s recession, the first thing we need to do is start prioritizing working and middle class families, something Scott clearly hasn’t done.”

An economic analysis compiled for the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau by Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center in October 2016 showed that in 40 of the state’s 67 counties there were fewer people working in 2015 than were working in 2007. Only South and Central Florida’s metropolitan areas had seen employment levels return to — or exceed — pre-recession levels.

Scott spokesman John Tupps called the information on the web site "outdated and misleading."

“Florida has been a national leader in job creation since Gov. Scott took office and the state has gone from losing 800,000 jobs in the four years before he took office to adding more than 1.4 million in less than seven years,'' he said. 

The Herald/Times asked the governor’s office to provide answers to the following questions, as well as to supply information on what the governor’s office is doing to narrow the prosperity gap in the counties that have not recovered the lost jobs. We will update this post if they do.

Can you provide me with an update of the data you allege is outdated on
Do you dispute the Florida Chamber claims and concerns about the widening prosperity gap in Florida?

November 24, 2017

John Morgan leaves Democratic party

via @harrisalexc

One of Florida’s most prolific Democratic donors, a bourbon-swilling, salty-tongued lawyer with his own slogan and medical marijuana as his pet cause, is out.

In a series of tweets Friday morning, John Morgan announced his flirtation with running for governor as a Democrat is over, as is his affiliation with either political party.

“While it’s amazing to be leading the polls for Governor without being a candidate I can’t muster the enthusiasm to run for the nomination,” he wrote.

He said he plans to register as an independent and vote for “the lesser of two evils.” If he were to run, he said, he would run as an independent. 

This likely isn’t great news for Florida’s Democratic Party, which has traditionally counted on Morgan to open his wallet for its candidates. He’s been known to host fundraising dinners for Hillary Clinton and charge thousands of dollars a plate.

But Morgan said the tweets don’t mean he’s out of the race altogether.

“As a Democrat, yes,” he said. “I’m not sure about what I want to do, but I know what I don’t want to do.”

More here.

Photo credit: Brendan Farrington, Associated Press

November 21, 2017

Democratic group launches new tax ads against Carlos Curbelo

Congress Taxes

via @alex_roarty @alextdaugherty 

A well-funded Democratic outside group is running a new series of digital ads targeting vulnerable House and Senate Republicans over the GOP tax bill, part of an ongoing effort to criticize the lawmakers while the legislation is still being debated in Congress.

The online attacks from the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA are part of multi-million-dollar campaign that began last month with a nationwide cable TV buy, and one of the targets is Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

The group is focusing on digital ads to run on websites, on social media platforms, and streaming music services. In total, Priorities plans to spend $2 million between the TV and online buys. The House passed an overhaul of the nation's tax system last week on a mostly party line vote.

“The more voters learn about this bill the less they like it, which is why Priorities is launching an all-out effort to reach voters, educate them on the bills consequences and encourage them to contact their representatives and stop this attack on the middle class,” said Patrick McHugh, executive director of Priorities USA, in a statement.

Curbelo, a member of the House tax writing committee, has publicly embraced the GOP tax overhaul and appeared with House Speaker Paul Ryan at multiple events to promote the bill in Spanish. 

The ads will also target some Republican senators reportedly on the fence about the legislation, which has not come up for a vote yet. Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, and most GOP senators up for re-election next year, including Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, are part of the ad buy.

The ads will also run against 20 House Republican incumbents who voted for the legislation earlier this month and are considered top targets of House Democrats next fall, including Reps. Mike Coffman of Colorado, Brian Mast of Florida, and Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania.

Read more here.

Curbelo constituents will get robocalls in pitch to pass GOP tax bill

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON – Constituents of Republican Reps. Brian Mast and Carlos Curbelo will soon get robocalls informing the lawmakers voted for the sweeping tax reform package.

Mast and Curbelo both expect tough re-election battles and this is only the latest in a string of supportive efforts from American Action Network, an outside group tied to Speaker Paul Ryan.

On Tuesday, ANN said it would do 1 million robocalls in 29 Congressional districts across the country. "The calls are aimed to build momentum for the recently passed bill while families are home for Thanksgiving, and prompt constituents to call their representative to express their continued support for tax reform," the group said.

ANN has spent more than $20 million on TV, radio, direct mail, billboards and now robocalls to promote the tax package, which gained support of all Florida Republicans.


"Hello, I am calling on behalf of the American Action Network at 800-339-4650 about tax reform. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This historic tax reform legislation will provide tax relief for millions of Americans. In fact, the average middle-class family will receive a $1,200 tax cut!

"Your Representative, [MEMBER OF CONGRESS], kept [his/her] promise and voted to cut middle-class taxes. Please call Representative [MEMBER OF CONGRESS] at [NUMBER] to thank [him/her] for voting for tax cuts and tell [him/her] to keep up the fight."

PolitiFact looked at the estimated savings.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

November 20, 2017

Levine unveils another TV ad, this one in Spanish and on Puerto Rico


Another week, another ad for Philip Levine -- this time on helping Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria.

The bilingual ad for the 2018 candidate for Florida governor features bits of his campaign launch speech in which he noted he delivered supplies to San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz after the storm.

"The people of Puerto Rico needed help, and Philip Levine took action," the narrator begins.

Paying for the spot is Levine's political committee, All About Florida, which did not say how big the ad buy will be. It will air for five weeks in "select markets," the committee said.

The committee has already put up an introductory TV ad, also pulling from Levine's speech, and a Spanish-language radio ad plugging Obamacare.

Miami’s ‘master of selfies’ mounts a pro-Trump congressional bid

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Republicans and Democrats beware: The “master of selfies” is running for Congress.

Mayra Joli, a Brickell-based immigration attorney and five-time beauty queen who dabbles as a pundit on Spanish-language television, is running without a party affiliation for retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s Miami-based seat.

Joli, a lifelong Democrat, is also an ardent Donald Trump supporter who says that her 12 years on television gives her enough visibility to win.

“I am not looking to run because I need a paycheck, like Donald Trump. I’m not looking to run because I need fame, like Donald Trump. I’m running because I need this country to succeed,” Joli said. “Like Donald Trump, I don’t drink.”

The self-described “Jenny from the block” could potentially impact one of the nation’s most competitive congressional elections in 2018 due to her pro-Trump message.

While Joli will face an uphill climb to win the open congressional seat that favors Democrats, her pro-Trump stance could create a complicated situation for the Republican nominee in a district where Hillary Clinton beat Trump by over 19 percentage points in 2016.

“Being a Trump supporter in that district may not be the best tactic or person to be supporting if you actually want to win,” said Miami attorney Rick Yabor, a frequent political commentator in Spanish-language media. “What I think she does as an independent is she’s going to hurt the GOP candidate when it comes to the general.”

Joli kicked off her campaign two weeks ago at a pro-Trump rally in Tropical Park, complete with an LED billboard displaying her face and a karaoke machine.

As she grabbed the microphone to introduce herself to the audience, the karaoke machine began to play Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and Joli jumped right into the chorus, belting out an off-key “And I...” before beginning her stump speech.

“Eventually I’m going to master it,” Joli said, adding that the karaoke machine will be a fixture at all of her future campaign events.

Read more here.