October 04, 2017

Annette Taddeo has a message for national Democrats: work together

Florida_Candidates 01 EKM (2)


Incoming Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo didn't get the same national attention as other special election candidates in recent months. 

But the 50-year-old Colombian-American businesswoman and former congressional candidate differed from better-known figures like Jon Ossoff in Georgia and Rob Quist in Montana in one notable way: she won.

Taddeo defeated former state Rep. José Félix Díaz last week in a Miami-area special election even though Diaz was better-funded. 

And as national Democrats begin to campaign for Doug Jones in an Alabama Senate special election against Republican Roy Moore, Taddeo is urging the likely flood of liberal interest groups interested in flipping Attorney General Jeff Sessions' old senate seat and other upcoming races in Virginia to put aside intra-party differences and communicate. 

"One clear thing that happened here is that there were a lot of different organizations and groups wanting to help," Taddeo said. "We got to make sure that the egos are left at the table and that everyone one has one goal." 

Taddeo noted that during Ossoff's campaign, which received record amounts of money, different groups didn't necessary work together as well as they could have. 

"There would be people knocking on that door and finding out that five other people had been to the door that day," Taddeo said. "We need to silo the responsibilities and make sure everyone is working toward that one goal." 

Taddeo was part of a press call with Latino Decisions, a Democratic-leaning polling firm, to announce the results of a new poll that shows Donald Trump is losing support among Florida Hispanics. Nearly two-thirds of Florida Hispanics disapprove of Trump's job performance while 76 percent of Hispanics nationwide disapprove of Trump's performance. 

"The poll is significant because it's proof that President Trump and the Republican Party are alienating Latinos of all backgrounds and all political stripes," said Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee.

Immigration reform and the Dream Act is the most important issue facing the Hispanic community that Congress and President Trump should address, according to the poll. 

The poll, which included 369 Florida Latinos, was conducted on Sept. 20 and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. 


October 03, 2017

Miami Beach mayor and potential gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is a father


Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine's fiancee Caro Murciano has given birth to their son Henry Joel Levine. 

Levine, a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2018, shared the news on his social media profiles Tuesday morning. The mayor has told the Miami Herald he expects to make a decision on a run for governor in November.


Gillum campaign names new finance director after summer shake-up



Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum has brought in a new finance director in an effort to revitalize his campaign's fundraising, which languished over the summer.

Gillum's campaign announced Tuesday it had hired Akilah Ensley, a Democratic political advocate who is also a lifestyle coach. Ensley's political resume includes work on President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign and on the U.S. Senate campaigns for Kay Hagan and Erskine Bowles in North Carolina, Gillum's campaign said.

"She brings a wealth of knowledge to the Gillum campaign, including numerous statewide campaigns in the Southeast," Gillum campaign spokesman Geoff Burgan said in a statement. "With the Democratic primary under a year away, her addition comes at a critical time, and we’re thrilled that she’ll be leading the charge as we run a strong people-powered campaign to take back Florida.”

The hire comes three months after Gillum's campaign was left leaderless when both campaign manager Phillip Thompson and deputy campaign manager and finance director Brice Barnes left.

No formal replacement has yet been hired for Thompson. Burgan has taken on more day-to-day work in the interim.

The Gillum campaign explained the shake-up as a typical "reset" in the year prior to the primary election; however, Thompson's and Barnes' departures came after Gillum saw weeks of relatively low fundraising totals in May and June.

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October 02, 2017

Florida Republicans create distance with Trump on Puerto Rico


@alextdaugherty @patriciamazzei

While President Donald Trump spent the weekend attacking the mayor of San Juan and blasting negative coverage of Hurricane Maria recovery efforts, Florida state Rep. Bob Cortes was worried about his daughter in San Juan’s western suburbs.

Cortes’ daughter, Leslie, and her 2-year-old son, Jeremy, had their roof torn off during Hurricane Maria, and two feet of water rushed into their house in Dorado.

“I was terrified they were going to lose their lives,” Cortes said, as his voice trembled.

The second-term Republican lawmaker from Altamonte Springs spent days trying to reach family members in Puerto Rico and is asking anyone he can for help.

They might not be directly criticizing Trump. But Florida Republicans are taking a noticeably different tack from the leader of their party when it comes to Puerto Rico, an issue that affects some of them, like Cortes, personally — and many of them politically.
Instead of adopting the president’s finger-pointing rhetoric, the federal and state GOP lawmakers are highlighting the need for action in Puerto Rico. Some 1 million Puerto Ricans call Florida home.

Last week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio urged Trump to let the military lead logistical Hurricane Maria relief efforts. Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday that Florida will open relief centers Tuesday for Puerto Ricans arriving in Miami and Orlando. He also asked schools to give in-state tuition to Puerto Rican students displaced by the hurricane.

How many might come is unknown. “A lot,” Scott guessed.

Rubio has said this isn’t the time to talk hurricane-relief politics, but a day before Trump was scheduled to land in San Juan, the senator acknowledged the initial response from the administration could have been swifter.

“In hindsight, we all wish we could get those three or four days back,” Rubio told reporters in Miami on Monday after they asked if Washington could have done more — and more quickly — to aid the island. “I want us to focus 100 percent on what we need to do to improve the recovery effort. And we have plenty of time in the future to sit there and point to the mistakes that were made.... But right now every minute we spend doing that sort of thing is a minute that isn’t being spent trying to improve reconstruction and deal with it.”

State lawmakers said that an influx of thousands of Puerto Ricans won’t go unnoticed.

“Florida’s the closest one to Puerto Rico, and it’s ground zero for relief efforts,” said Cortes, who represents a portion of Orange and Seminole Counties. “We’re going to be shipping most of the things they need to get back on their feet.”

Cortes said he expects at least 100,000 Puerto Ricans to relocate to Florida after the storm, and many of them will settle in greater Orlando. Puerto Ricans already tend to vote Democratic, potentially altering the political dynamics of America’s largest swing state ahead of the 2018 elections.

“It can be a game-changer politically,” said state Rep. Amy Mercado, a Puerto Rican Democrat from Orlando. “The speed of what’s occurring, that’s the million-dollar question. How fast, how much and how long?”

A 100,000-vote swing in favor of Democrats would have given Charlie Crist the governorship in 2014 over Scott and would have eaten up most of Trump’s margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

But the math isn’t that simple. Not all Puerto Ricans will vote for Democrats, and many will choose not to vote at all. Cortes argued that Puerto Ricans coming directly from the island are more likely to vote Republican than second-or third-generation Puerto Ricans.

“Those that have been coming usually tend to be more ideologically with the Republican Party because they are leaving a place that had fiscal issues,” Cortes said, adding that both parties need to do a better job of reaching out to Puerto Ricans in Florida.

Read more here.

September 29, 2017

Carlos Curbelo blocks Democratic operatives on Twitter



Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo has a habit of blocking critical voices on Twitter. 

Curbelo has blocked at least seven Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee staffers from his official or personal accounts, according to DCCC spokesman Cole Leiter. This comes after local progressive activist Tomas Kennedy was blocked by Curbelo's personal account in August after pointing out that the second-term congressman does not live in Florida's 26th district. Curbelo lived in the 26th district until the lines were redrawn in 2015 and members of Congress are not required to live in the districts they represent.

Leiter said that none of the seven accounts that were blocked are Curbelo's South Florida constituents.

Curbelo's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  

Curbelo's blocking habits mirror President Donald Trump, who has blocked many advocacy groups and constituents on the social media platform. Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine was sued last year by a local radio host for blocking people on Facebook and Twitter. 

Trump is also the subject of a lawsuit by Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University over blocking people on Twitter. This week, Trump admitted that he blocks people on Twitter as part of a process in the lawsuit where both sides agree to a set of facts. 

Alice Visocchi, a researcher with the DCCC, was blocked by Curbelo after asking him a sarcastic question about his vote in favor of the American Health Care Act, which repealed parts of Obamacare.


In July, a federal judge in Virginia ruled that a politician committed "a cardinal sin under the First Amendment" after blocking a constituent on Facebook.  The politician argued that the page was personal but the judge ruled that the politician was using the account as a public official because it asked for comments from constituents. 

Curbelo's personal account, @carloscurbelo, is mostly links to news articles and his work as a member of Congress. His official account, @repcurbelo, includes information that assists constituents. On Thursday, his official account included an office phone number so that constituents recovering from Hurricane Irma could receive assistance in applying for a Small Business Administration loan.

September 27, 2017

José Javier Rodríguez endorsed by Congressional Hispanic Caucus

007 Amendment 4 DS

@alextdaugherty @patriciamazzei

State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, one of seven Democrats seeking to replace retiring Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, was recently endorsed by the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a potential source of campaign cash in a crowded primary field. 

Rodriguez is one of three Democrats nationwide to get CHC's endorsement for the 2018 election cycle. CHC's political arm, chaired by California Rep. Tony Cardenas, has also endorsed a Senate candidate in Nevada and a House candidate in Texas.

During the 2016 cycle, the group raised just over $6 million and between January and March of this year the group raised more than $2 million.

"José Javier has proven he can win tough races," Cardenas said in a fundraising email that will go out to Rodriguez supporters tomorrow. "We need him in Congress to expand access to health care and stand up to Donald Trump in support of a fairer and more inclusive America." 

Six others are vying for the party’s nomination to the rare open seat: former state Judge Mary Barzee Flores, state Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach, former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn and Mark Anthony Person. Miami Commissioner Ken Russell is also mulling a run.

September 25, 2017

Have ideas for how to fix Florida after the storm? CRC extends the deadline

CRC Miami listening

If you have any ideas about the future of Florida after the storm, you now have until Oct. 6 to prepare your pitch to the Constitution Revision Commission.

The powerful panel meets every 20 years and has the authority to put constitutional amendments directly on the November 2018 ballot. On Monday, its rules committee tentatively extended the deadline for Floridians to submit ideas. The previous deadline of Sept. 22 was postponed because of Hurricane Irma.

After months of public hearings around the state, the commission has already received more than 1,400 proposals from the public through its public web site, FLCRC.gov, said Tim Cerio, chair of CRC's Rules and Administration Committee.

"How we handle these proposals is going to be critically important,'' he said at a meeting of the committee. Some ideas may be duplicates, others may be consolidated, and some may merge as a proposals authored by one of the 37 commissioners on the panel. More details here.

Photo: Constitution Revision Commission in Miami In April. Pedro Portal for the Miami Herald.


September 15, 2017

Scott picks Ritch Workman over Ron Brisé for PSC post

BrisePageGov. Rick Scott rejected the re-appointment of Ron Brisé, a former Democratic legislator from North Miami, to a third term on the state’s powerful Public Service Commission Friday, replacing him with a former lawmaker from Melbourne.

Scott named David “Ritch” Workman, 44, a former state legislator who how serves as the director of business development at Keiser University, to the utility board, replacing Brisé, a former telecommunications consultant.

The appointment was one of three made by Scott to the five-member utility board that oversees regulation of the state’s electric, water and sewer industries.

Workman has worked as an Uber driver, served in the Florida Army National Guard, and received his bachelor’s degree from Appalachian State University. He has no utility industry experience. His term will expire Jan. 1, 2022.

Brisé, 44, had been a telecommunications consultant before he was first appointed to the Public Service Commission in 2010 by former Gov. Charlie Crist. He had been reappointed to the four-year term by Scott and was seeking a third term. When he represented North Miami, Brisé had been an outspoken critic of Florida Power & Light’s high voltage transmission lines and sought to give the community more input in the process.

Scott reappointed Art Graham, 53, of Jacksonville Beach, who was also first appointed by Crist in 2010. He has previously served as a city councilman for the City of Jacksonville Beach. His term also ends Jan. 1, 2022.

Scott also appointed Gary Clark, 49, of Chipley, to the shortest term on the commission. Clark, the deputy secretary of Land and Recreation at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, will fill the seat vacated by Jimmy Patronis. The former Panama City legislator left the commission when Scott named him to be the state’s chief financial officer.

Clark received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Phoenix. His term began Friday and will extend through Jan. 1, 2019.


September 14, 2017

UPDATE: Governor rejects attempt to postpone Miami special election, early voting starts Saturday

Gov. Rick Scott has rejected a Democratic Party of Florida request to postpone for two weeks the Sept. 26 special election in Senate District 40, saying Miami-Dade County officials are ready to move forward with early voting on Saturday despite the disruption from the storm.

“Elections headquarters is fine and with power. Staff was back to work yesterday. The post office was operational as of yesterday, so ballots are coming in/out,” Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections Christina White wrote in an email to the Florida Department of State on Wednesday. “I confirmed that all three early voting sites are fine and have power. It starts Saturday.”

In a letter to Scott, a Republican, Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel urged the governor to postpone the election between Democrat Annette Taddeo and Republican former state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz for two weeks until power is fully restored and people can get their lives back together. Story here. 

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September 04, 2017

Latvala, Putnam: 'Dreamers' should not be punished

via @learyreports

Republican candidates for governor Jack Latvala and Adam Putnam on Monday offered support for young immigrants and say Congress needs to act. Their comments come as President Trump is deciding the fate of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, DACA.

“We must lead with a compassionate heart, not by punishing children,” Latvala said in a statement. “Florida is a diverse state and our economic success depends on a strong diverse workforce. If DACA ends in 6 months it will have a disastrous impact not only on hundreds of thousands of bright, promising young people but also on our business climate.

“Congress has dropped the ball on this issue like so many others. It’s time for Congress to pass a law protecting Dreamers. I call on other leaders of the Republican Party in Florida to join me in supporting these children so they can come out of the shadows and legally secure jobs.”

We reached out to Putnam and his campaign provided this statement from him:

“Our national immigration system is broken, and the federal government must fix it. We must secure our borders, end illegal immigration and rid our nation of sanctuary cities,” Putnam said. “But the children of illegal immigrants should not be punished for their parents’ wrongdoings. I am glad to see the President will allow Congress to develop a solution to replace Obama’s unconstitutional program.”

The Times has sought comment from potential GOP candidates Richard Corcoran and Ron DeSantis.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times