April 19, 2018

Darren Soto endorses David Richardson in Dem primary for Ros-Lehtinen's seat

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@alextdaugherty

Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, is wading into the crowded Democratic primary to replace outgoing Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, endorsing State Rep. David Richardson. 

Soto is the first sitting member of Congress to make an endorsement into the race. He's also the first Puerto Rican member of Congress from Florida and a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. 

"David Richardson is a fighter for the progressive cause. During his years as a State Legislator he fought for social rights and civil liberties for DACA recipients, LGBTQ Americans, and incarcerated Floridians," Soto said in a statement. "His campaign for Congress has continued this trend with his support for Medicare-for-All, his calls for immediate aid to Puerto Rico, and his demands for gun reform nationwide. As such, I am proud to endorse his campaign for Congress, and look forward to serving with a progressive voice like David's in Washington, D.C." 

The Democratic primary also includes includes former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman and former judge Mary Barzee Flores.

 

Shalala and Richardson have over $1 million to spend on the race after the latest fundraising quarter, though both have loaned money from themselves to their campaigns. Soto and Richardson served together in the Florida Legislature. 

"I’m deeply honored to receive the support of Congressman Darren Soto," Richardson said in a statement. "Darren since his days as a State Legislature has become a national leader on progressive issues and has fought tirelessly for the people of Florida. I’m happy to have his support as we approach the Democratic primary election on August 28th." 

National Democrats groups have largely stayed out of the primary for Ros-Lehtinen's seat and whoever wins the primary will be favored to flip the seat in November, though the Democratic Party lacks a Hispanic candidate in a majority-Hispanic district after state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez dropped out of the race last week. 

 

April 18, 2018

Curbelo to appear with Trump in Key West (updated)

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@alextdaugherty 

Rep. Carlos Curbelo is headed to Key West with President Donald Trump tomorrow, but don't expect the duo to applaud the sunset at Mallory Square. 

The president will visit Naval Air Station Key West for a few hours on Thursday to receive a briefing from the Joint Interagency Task Force South, and Curbelo said Wednesday he'll join Trump on Air Force One for the quick visit.

"I’ll go ahead and break the news that I will be traveling with the President tomorrow, and will be arriving with him, and will be out at JIATF, and I am very grateful that he is taking the time to visit such a valuable asset for law enforcement, for our military, for our partners from other nations from the region," Curbelo said to U.S. 1 Radio News. "And I think for the Florida Keys it is wonderful that a president is visiting, taking the time to learn about a facility that is not only so critical for our national security, but obviously employs a lot of people in the Florida Keys." 

Curbelo doesn't have much of a relationship with Trump. He was the first Republican lawmaker to suggest Trump could be impeached and declined to vote for him in 2016. Since Trump assumed office Curbelo criticized some of his policy decisions like withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord and recently called on EPA secretary Scott Pruitt to resign amid mounting ethics issues. 

Trump was in Hialeah on Monday to tout the tax bill, a law Curbelo helped draft, but Curbelo wasn't there. He was traveling home from the Summit of the Americas in Peru. 

Curbelo is in the midst of a contentious reelection campaign against Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in a Democratic-leaning district, and appearing with Trump in public could be fodder for his opponent. The event on Thursday is an official White House event and not a campaign stop, though Trump riffed about his 2016 victory in Florida on Monday. 

UPDATE (4/19): Here's what Curbelo talked about with Trump, per his office. 

“I also appreciated the opportunity to travel with the President ‎and his team," Curbelo said in a statement. "I was able to stress to him the importance of finding a compromise on immigration that protects young immigrants brought to our country as children and also strengthens border security. We discussed FEMA's role in hurricane recovery, Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, and as we were arriving at our destination I shared with the President that sea level rise is increasingly a concern in the Keys and throughout South Florida."

Oil industry announces opposition to amendment to ban drilling in state waters

CRC in Miami
Signaling its predictable opposition, the Florida Petroleum Council issued a statement Wednesday opposing the proposed amendment to the state constitution that bundles a ban on oil drilling in state waters with a ban on vaping in indoor work spaces.

The Constitution Revision Commission wrapped together the two proposals Monday, dubbed the amendment "clean air, clean water," and placed them on the November ballot on Monday. The 37-member citizen panel is convened every 20 years to put amendments directly on the ballot. 

“Domestic oil and natural gas development is a key driver of Florida’s economy – supporting high-paying jobs and investments in our state," said David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council, which represents the oil and gas industry. "Linking this important decision with electronic cigarette use just doesn’t make sense. Voters should be able to make decisions on public health and its economic future separately.”

The GOP majority panel was dominated by appointees named by Gov. Rick Scott, who hopes to also be on the ballot in November. It bundled together separate constitutional questions on five other amendments and rejected repeated attempts by several members of the commission to separate them. 

Mica said that by bundling the issues together, the CRC "will force Florida’s voters to vote for or against two completely unrelated, but important, issues at the same time. Bundling these issues is mixing apples and oranges, and this decision, made without any public debate, could harm jobs, the state economy, tax revenues, and our long-term energy future.”

In 2010, in the face of oil industry pressure, the Florida Legislature rejected a call by then-Gov. Charlie Crist to put a similar ban on oil drilling off state waters. Crist called a special session to ban the prospects of the practice in Florida in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill the year before, but the GOP-controlled legislature insisted it wasn't needed and adjourned the session after 49 minutes. 

Photo: Constitution Revision Commission members meet in Miami as part of its listening tour last year. Pedro Portal, Miami Herald. 

 

April 17, 2018

Scott wants to end career politicians. So why are they fundraising for him? He won’t say

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via @scontorno

Gov. Rick Scott told a room of local businessmen and women Tuesday that he wants to put an end to career politicians, a frequent mantra of his nascent Senate campaign.

Yet in the 48 hours after his Tampa appearance, the Republican's campaign will hold fundraisers with some of the most seasoned creatures on Capitol Hill.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — the early front runner to be the next Speaker of the House — is scheduled to appear at a Wednesday night D.C. fundraiser for Scott. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is headlining another fundraiser, this one with a suggested contribution of $5,000, that features a half dozen other Senators and former elected officials.

McConnell was sworn into the Senate in 1985 — a career that easily surpasses Scott's proposal to cap a Senator's tenure at 12 years. McCarthy was first elected to the House in 2006 after a long career in California politics, so this would be his last term in office if Scott's idea was in affect.

Term limits are so central to Scott's early campaign, they were the subject of his first campaign ad. He plans to spend $2 million getting that message to voters across Florida.

So how does Scott reconcile these two realities? Asked about it after his Tampa event, he didn't really say.

"I think this concept of career politicians is why we don't get change in Washington," Scott said. "I really do believe we've got to bring in new ideas, fresh ideas, people that are up there saying I've got limited time, I want to get something done."

But why would you take money raised by career politicians if you want to get rid of them?

"My focus is, I have been very clear, I don't like the concept of career politicians," he said, "and I believe we ought to have term limits."

April 16, 2018

Philip Levine, Gwen Graham say Trump should be impeached if he fires Mueller (Updated)

Levine

@alextdaugherty

Florida governor hopeful and former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine joined the Democratic pile-on of Donald Trump on Monday, calling for the president's impeachment if he fires special counsel Robert Mueller

"As Donald Trump heads to Miami today, we need to send a clear message that his efforts to obstruct the Mueller investigation from continuing will be met with full force from Floridians," Levine advisor Christian Ulvert said in a fundraising email. "The GOP-controlled Congress likely won't do it and we need Democratic Governors in states like Florida to stand up to the D.C. insiders." 

Levine's stance on potential impeachment for Trump puts him between the two other Democrats running in the primary. Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum called for Trump's immediate impeachment last year while former Rep. Gwen Graham called Trump a bully in a digital ad released earlier this month, though she stopped short of calling for impeachment at the time. 

Calling for Trump's impeachment could energize the base in contested Democratic primaries around the country, though an attempt to impeach Trump late last year garnered just 58 votes in the 435 member House of Representatives. 

UPDATE 4:50pm: Graham also said Trump should be impeached if he fires Mueller. 

"The House should start impeachment proceedings within 60 seconds of Trump firing Mueller," Graham said in an email.

A second Republican emerges in the race to replace Ros-Lehtinen

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@alextdaugherty

Miami broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar looks like she could force a competitive Republican primary in the race to replacing retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Former Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barreiro was largely running a one-man money race among Republicans since he entered the primary shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement, but Salazar bested his fundraising numbers in her first fundraising quarter since she officially jumped into the race in March. 

Salazar raised $303,115 from January 1 to March 31 and she has $287,612 left to spend, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Barreiro raised $264,778, his best haul since entering the race shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement last year. He maintains a cash on hand advantage over his new rival, with $420,978 left to spend. 

The pair have separated themselves from the rest of the Republican pack, though newcomers Stephen Marks and Michael Ohevzion have six figures left to spend. Marks loaned himself $200,000 while Ohevzion loaned himself $100,000 and directly contributed $35,000 to his own campaign. Angie Chirino, the daughter of Miami singer and songwriter Willy Chirino, hasn't had her fundraising totals processed yet by the FEC. 

Republicans are not favored to keep Ros-Lehtinen's seat in 2018, as the district voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by more than 19 percentage points. Multiple election prognosticators rate Ros-Lehtinen's district as "lean Democratic" and former University of Miami president Donna Shalala headlines a Democratic field that narrowed in the past week after two contenders dropped out after choosing to keep their current elected offices over making a run for Congress.

State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez's departure leaves Democrats without a Hispanic candidate in a majority Hispanic district. State Rep. David Richardson, former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman, former circuit court judge Mary Barzee Flores and Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez are among the remaining Democrats seeking Ros-Lehtinen's seat. 

 

April 13, 2018

Curbelo won't appear with Trump in Miami on Monday

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@alextdaugherty @newsbysmiley

President Donald Trump is coming to South Florida to talk up the GOP tax bill on Monday, but a Miami Republican who played a role in its creation—and who is facing a tough reelection—won't be there. 

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a member of the House tax writing committee that drafted the tax bill signed into law by Trump late last year, is in Lima this weekend at the Summit of the Americas and won't be back in time for the Monday afternoon event, according to spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez

"Congressman Curbelo is part of the U.S. Delegation to the Summit of the Americas, taking place in Peru this weekend, promoting our engagement in the region," Rodriguez said in an email. "The delegation is not set to return until Monday so he is currently not expected to make it back in time to attend the event in Miami." 

Curbelo had plans to attend the summit well before Trump’s event was announced, Rodriguez said. 

The Monday event is an official White House event and not a Trump campaign stop, though Curbelo appearing alongside a president who overwhelmingly lost Curbelo's Miami-to-Key West district to Hillary Clinton could be ad fodder for Democrats seeking to defeat him in November. Curbelo's campaign previously said he doesn't invite people to campaign with him but "anyone who wants to support Carlos' efforts and endorse his bipartisan approach to public service is welcome to do so." 

Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who doesn't have a serious Democratic opponent and who has worked with Trump on Cuba policy and immigration, confirmed that he will attend the event, though details have not been publicly released yet by the White House. 

Sen. Marco Rubio's office did not immediately respond when asked if he plans to attend, though Rubio is also attending the Summit of the Americas in Peru. 

The GOP’s biggest LGBT advocate is retiring. Here’s how the party plans to move ahead.

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@alextdaugherty

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuba libre in hand, was busy waxing nostalgic with former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart about their efforts to undermine Fidel Castro when the animated discussion was interrupted by Caitlyn Jenner.

The world’s most recognizable advocate for transgender causes wanted to hug the retiring Miami lawmaker with a history of bucking and pushing the Republican Party on LGBT issues.

“Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a person of many firsts, and if you know anything about me I love firsts,” Jenner said at a recent gala honoring Ros-Lehtinen’s career. “The first Latina elected to Congress, the first woman elected to Congress from Florida, the first Republican in the House to support marriage equality, and she did it in a very big way.”

Jenner, also a Republican, and Ros-Lehtinen are at odds with the majority of Republican lawmakers. President Donald Trump has announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military via tweet and multiple state legislatures have considered legislation that would restrict access to restrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-segregated facilities on the basis of sex assigned at birth.

“Fighting for gay rights, transgender rights is such an important part of my DNA and what I do,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

Ros-Lehtinen introduced legislation in 2015 that would prohibit schools from discriminating against students based on sexual orientation or gender identity. She also signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief in a Supreme Court case seeking to protect access to public accommodations for transgender students. And Ros-Lehtinen’s son, Rodrigo, is the first openly transgender child of a sitting member of Congress.

“The most important job Ileana’s had... is being a mom,” Jenner said. “For the trans community we have many, many issues. The suicide rate for young trans youth is nine times higher than the general public, we have homelessness, we have young trans people being kicked out of their homes all across this country. Transgendered kids … may be bullied in school, they may be a little different, but when they go home, [if] they go to a safe place and a loving family, that is by far the most important thing we can do for our kids. So Ileana, I want to thank you for that.”

But Ros-Lehtinen, the only Republican in Congress with a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBT rights organization, won’t be in office next year.

Her retirement and a potential wave election for Democrats in 2018 could make pro-LGBT Republicans a rare breed in the next Congress. Four of the eight Senate Republicans endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans, a pro-LGBT group, could be gone next year, and nine of the 11 House Republicans endorsed by the group are retiring or face tough reelection campaigns.

Ros-Lehtinen was honored by Jenner at the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute's annual gala. The institute recognized Ros-Lehtinen with its Leadership in Public Service Award and Leadership in International Relations Award, and it renamed the latter award after Ros-Lehtinen in her honor.

Read more here.

April 11, 2018

Miami Republicans say lame-duck Paul Ryan unlikely to go rogue on immigration

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@alextdaugherty

The three Miami Republicans in Congress don't think House Speaker Paul Ryan will change course and force a slew of immigration bills onto the floor for a vote now that he's announced he'll leave office at the end of his term. 

"I don't that you'll see a rogue speaker," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is also retiring after the 2018 elections. "I think he'll be doing more or less what he's been doing, listening to the conference and making decisions that he thinks are in the best interest of the conference. It would be ideal for him to pass a Dreamer bill or put something else up for discussion. I don't suspect that he will do that." 

Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo are hopeful that Ryan will continue to listen to the more moderate wing of the Republican caucus.

"We have this log jam of issues that don't get resolved here, whether it be immigration or a number of others," Curbelo said. "I think Speaker Ryan's intention when he took over was to allow the House to work its will and have a more open process and in that regard I think he could have done a little better." 

Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen voted against a slew of spending bills in recent months over inaction on immigration. But Curbelo changed course and voted in favor of a spending bill in the midst of a debate on young immigrants who came to the U.S. as young people because he argued enough progress had been made, a decision that angered some activists in his majority Hispanic district. 

"I changed my vote on two occasions when there was measurable progress," Curbelo said. "In one case Senator (Mitch) McConnell kept his word with regards to a immigration debate and votes on the Senate floor and the second time the Speaker made a commitment that the House would take action," Curbelo said. "Now the last time, the omnibus vote, no progress had been made and I reverted to my original position. The Speaker remains committed to solving this issue so I think we're going to have a chance to." 

Curbelo said "it's possible" that Ryan could choose to hold votes on immigration, though Republican leaders will likely have the ultimate say on whether something gets to the floor before the 2018 election. 

"I'm going to keep working on it and I can tell you that Paul Ryan has been one of the people that I've always been able to confide in on that issue," Diaz-Balart said, adding that he doesn't know that Congress will act on DACA after a deadline mandated by President Donald Trump was rendered useless by the courts. 

Democrats face long odds in effort to topple Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart

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@alextdaugherty

Democrats are scrambling to find a credible challenger for Mario Diaz-Balart.

They may not find one.

Though a slim majority of the Miami Republican’s district voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, Democrats don’t control any significant state or local offices in the area, depriving them of a potential bench to take on a well-known and well-funded incumbent in the 2018 election.

“That’s a district that is very hard to win for a Democrat, especially if you’re not Hispanic and don’t speak Spanish,” said Raúl Martínez , a Democrat who served as mayor of Hialeah from 1981 to 2005 and who unsuccessfully challenged former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, the congressman’s brother, in 2008. “You’ve got to remember this district was hand-drawn for Mario. It takes Hialeah and the conservative areas and goes all the way to Naples. The alligators in the middle don’t vote and the Florida panthers don’t vote.”

There are just more than three weeks before congressional candidates in Florida must decide whether to run for the August primary election, and Martínez, along with other Republican and Democratic sources, could not name a Democrat with deep connections to the district that could seriously threaten Diaz-Balart.

National Democrats insist there’s still time for a candidate to emerge, though Politico Florida reported House Minority whip Steny Hoyer recently tried and failed to persuade former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman, who is running in a crowded Democratic primary to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, to take on Diaz-Balart.

Read more here.