January 29, 2018

Carlos Curbelo outraises Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in latest fundraising quarter




Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo continued to outraise his chief Democratic opponent Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in latest fundraising quarter for the most Democratic-leaning seat in Congress currently represented by a Republican running for reelection in 2018. 

Curbelo's campaign said Monday he expects to file a report showing "approximately $500,000 raised" in the last quarter of 2017 which ran from September 30 to December 31. He has approximately $1.7 million on hand, according to his campaign.

"Carlos continues to receive strong support from people all across the political spectrum," campaign manager Chris Miles said in a statement. "Never has the campaign been in such a strong position at this stage of an election cycle. We are very grateful to all our supporters who believe in Carlos' ability to change Washington for the better." 

Mucarsel-Powell raised "nearly $240,000" in the fourth quarter of 2017, according to a press release issued by her campaign. They did not immediately release a cash on hand figure. 

"I am extremely grateful for the ongoing support we’ve received from the 26th district and across Florida," Mucarsel-Powell said in a statement. "While I’m building grassroots momentum, Congressman Curbelo is working to hide from his Republican voting record. With our large coalition of supporters, we are poised to take back this seat for the people of Florida in November." 

Both campaigns' totals aren't finalized because the totals aren't due to the Federal Election Commission until January 31, but both Curbelo and Mucarsel-Powell reported gains over their third quarter fundraising totals. 

Curbelo is known as a strong fundraiser in Washington and Florida, but outside groups may play a large role in this campaign. Mucarsel-Powell received the endorsement of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' political arm earlier this month, a potential source of campaign cash, while outside groups aligned with the Koch Brothers are already doing grassroots work in Curbelo's Miami-to-Key West district. 

In 2014, third party groups poured about $8.5 million into Curbelo's successful campaign over Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia

Multiple national election prognosticators rate Curbelo's district as a toss-up. 

January 25, 2018

Curbelo to donate contributions from lawmaker who called a former aide his 'soul mate'



Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo will donate a portion of at least $6,000 in campaign contributions from a Republican lawmaker who is drawing national attention after using taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment case and referring to the former aide who accused him of harassment as his "soul mate." 

Curbelo's 2018 opponent, Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, demanded that he return the money from Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Pat Meehan

"For years, Congressman Curbelo has received thousands of dollars in campaign cash from Congressman Pat Meehan, who covered up his own history of sexual harassment with our tax dollars,” said Mucarsel-Powell campaign manager Madalyn Blackburn in a statement. “Curbelo’s silence on his colleague’s abuse of power, and his failure to rid himself of this tainted money, raise serious questions about the ethical standards Curbelo holds himself to when his contributors are involved.”

A Curbelo staffer said Thursday he plans to return the funds from the 2018 cycle to a women's organization in South Florida. 

Curbelo received the contributions from Meehan's leadership PAC, a vehicle for lawmakers to support one another with campaign funds. Federal Election Commission records show that Curbelo received a $2,000 donation in June 2017 from Meehan's leadership PAC called Patriots Leading a Majority. Curbelo also received $1,000 in September 2016, $1,000 in October 2016, $1,000 in November 2016 and $1,000 in March 2015.

Meehan's leadership PAC doled out $90,500 to federal candidates during the 2016 cycle and $29,000 so far in the 2018 cycle. At least one other recipient, Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, said he would return donations from Meehan's leadership PAC. 

Curbelo's leadership PAC, What a Country PAC (WACPAC), donated $1,000 to Meehan during the 2016 cycle.

Meehan was removed from the House Ethics Committee, a panel that investigates sexual harassment complaints on Capitol Hill, after the New York Times reported that he used taxpayer funds to settle his own harassment case. Meehan then went public, producing a letter to his former aide that thanked God “for putting you into my life." The former aide accused Meehan of retaliating against her after she started dating someone else. Meehan says he's running for reelection and denies harassing the aide, though he did refer to her as his "soul mate" at one point. 

A slew of lawmakers nationwide, including Democratic Sen. Al Franken and and Republican Florida state Sen. Jack Latvala, have resigned in recent months after various allegations of sexual harassment.  

January 24, 2018

Poll: Bill Nelson has highest net approval of any red state Senate Democrat running in 2018



Sen. Bill Nelson is facing criticism from his own party and Gov. Rick Scott, his likely 2018 opponent, after helping craft a plan to reopen the federal government on Monday. 

But Nelson does have one advantage over his nine fellow Democratic Senators running for reelection in states won by President Donald Trump in 2016: a 25 percentage point net approval rating that ranks as the best among senators facing tough reelection challenges, according to a new poll released by Morning Consult

Fifty-one percent of registered voters polled by Morning Consult approved of Nelson's job performance while 26 percent did not approve. Nelson's net approval rating fell by two percentage points from an earlier Morning Consult poll but his marginal drop was smaller than many other Democrats facing tough reelection bids. Additionally, 23 percent of registered voters either have no opinion of Nelson or don't know enough about him to form an opinion. 

Only three senators have a net disapproval rating, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican Trump critic who is retiring and Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who is being retried for corruption after beating charges last year. Flake and Menendez are two of the most vocal senators on Cuba, with Flake favoring a thaw between Washington and Havana while Menendez advocates for a tough-on-Cuba approach. 

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has a 10 percentage point net approval rating, with 47 percent favoring his job performance and 37 percent disapproving. Rubio isn't up for reelection until 2022. 

January 19, 2018

Rubio calls out Puerto Rico’s governor and tampers statehood push

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Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is learning what happens when you challenge Marco Rubio.

In December, Rosselló called out Rubio by name because he was unhappy with the Republican tax bill and said he would campaign against those who “turned their backs” on the U.S. territory.

Now, the Florida Republican who is often regarded as Puerto Rico’s most important advocate in Washington, is throwing cold water on Puerto Rican statehood and is urging Rosselló, a Democrat who won election in 2016, to spend more time governing in San Juan than campaigning in Florida. Rubio’s comments in Puerto Rico’s largest newspaper are a blow to Rosselló’s hopes for Congress to act on statehood, his party’s most important policy issue.

“If I were the governor of a state or territory that does not have power, I would spend more time [there] than in Orlando,” Rubio said to El Nuevo Día. “Sometimes, when people feel criticized and under pressure, they look for someone to blame, because they did not achieve this or that. I do not think it is smart to turn the Puerto Rican issue into a partisan issue.”

Rubio’s comments come after Rosselló was in Washington last week to announce a Puerto Rican “shadow delegation” of two U.S. senators and five U.S. House members who demand to be seated in Congress. Puerto Rico’s “shadow delegation” is attempting to gain statehood through a similar plan successfully adopted by Tennessee in the late 1700s and copied by other states like Alaska.

Rosselló’s shadow delegation was a 2016 campaign promise, but the effort is getting more attention after Puerto Rico’s power grid was destroyed by Hurricane Maria and thousands on the island are still without power months later.

“Certainly the hurricane has had an influence,” said Pedro Rosselló, Ricardo Rosselló’s father and the governor of Puerto Rico from 1993 to 2001, in an interview with the Miami Herald.

Pedro Rosselló said the hurricane and the federal government’s slower response compared to disaster recovery efforts in Florida and Texas has raised the profile of the statehood issue.

“Stateside, U.S. citizens recognize that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, natural born,” Rosselló said. “That wasn’t so before [Hurricane Maria]. Before, our polling shows that about 25 percent recognize that fact, after that it’s up in the 85 percent level. That’s a direct result of the hurricane.”

But while Rubio hasn’t changed his longtime position supporting statehood, a public admission that there aren’t 60 votes for statehood in the U.S. Senate is a blow to Ricardo Rosselló’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party.

Read more here.

January 18, 2018

Two women running for Congress in Miami make Time Magazine cover



Two Democrats running for competitive congressional seats in Miami are getting some exposure on the cover of Time Magazine, one of President Donald Trump's favorite platforms. 

Democrats Mary Barzee Flores and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell feature on Time's latest cover in a story highlighting the hundreds of women nationwide who decided to run for office after Trump's victory in 2016.

Barzee Flores is one of a host of Democrats seeking to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, while Mucarsel-Powell is Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo's only serious challenger. 

Barzee Flores is mounting her first campaign for elected office. The former federal judge nominee works as a lawyer in Miami. Mucarsel-Powell is in her second campaign, she ran a closer than expected race against well-funded Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores in 2016. 

Both Barzee Flores and Mucarsel-Powell are endorsed by EMILY's list, which provides money and operational support to progressive, pro-abortion rights female candidates nationwide.

Saturday is the one year anniversary of Trump's inauguration and hundreds of women's marches are planned around the country this weekend. 

January 17, 2018

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus spurned Carlos Curbelo, now they're backing his opponent

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The Congressional Hispanic Caucus' political arm is gearing up against Rep. Carlos Curbelo after the Miami Republican caused a stir when he unsuccessfully tried to join the all-Democratic caucus last year. 

On Wednesday, BOLD PAC announced that it's backing Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Curbelo's Democratic opponent, for a Miami-to-Key West seat that is the most Democratic-leaning district in the country represented by a Republican running for reelection in 2018. BOLD PAC's endorsement is a potential source of campaign cash for Mucarsel-Powell as she seeks to unseat Curbelo, a prolific fundraiser himself. 

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of the CHC’s BOLD PAC in my campaign for Florida’s 26th Congressional District," Mucarsel-Powell said in a statement. "We need real leadership in South Florida on issues impacting our families the most: expanding access to affordable health care and a tax reform bill that helps, not hurts, working families. That’s a far cry from our current Congressman, who has put his party’s leadership in Washington ahead of the needs of hardworking people in Miami. As an immigrant, I’ve lived the American Dream and I’ll work every day to make sure that American Dream is alive and well for South Floridians.”

Mucarsel-Powell is the second Miami-area candidate to receive BOLD PAC's blessing. State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, one of a number of Democrats seeking to replace retiring Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, won their endorsement in September. 

"As a Latina and an immigrant, Debbie knows exactly what it means to fight for the right to live the American Dream. Unlike her opponent, she shares our values of passing a clean Dream Act, expanding access to healthcare, and improving the lives of hard-working Florida families,” said BOLD PAC chairman Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif. “There is no doubt she is the progressive voice the families of South Florida deserve and a fighter they can always count on to stand up for them in Congress. BOLD PAC is proud to support Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in her campaign to flip Florida’s 26th Congressional District.”

Curbelo tried to join the caucus for months in 2017, privately meeting with lawmakers and joining the organization's advisory council. But Curbelo's membership application stalled, and he took his grievances with the caucus public. 

“It is truly shameful the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has decided to build a wall around the organization to exclude Hispanic-Americans who aren’t registered in the Democratic Party,” Curbelo said after his membership was denied. “This sends a powerful and harmful message of discrimination, bigotry, and division. Unbelievably, petty partisan interests have led the CHC to formally endorse the segregation of American Hispanics. It is a dark day on Capitol Hill." 

Mucarsel-Powell, a former associate dean of fundraising at FIU and a consultant for non-profits, is the only Democrat raising serious money in an attempt to unseat Curbelo. 

After BOLD PAC announced its endorsement, Curbelo spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez issued a statement: 

"The Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ extreme partisanship has led them to embrace bigotry and discrimination against any Hispanic American who isn't a card-carrying member of the Democratic Party," Rodriguez said. "The Congressman feels sorry for any candidate who feels desperate enough to embrace the endorsement of individuals who promote bigotry and discrimination against fellow Americans of Hispanic descent. Despite many of the caucus' members efforts to segregate and divide America's Hispanic community, Carlos will not stop working with Chairwoman (Michelle) Lujan (Grisham) and others to find a fair solution for Dreamers.”

January 16, 2018

Oops. Senate Republicans return in-kind contribution from Palm Beach gentleman's club

Monroe's of Palm BeachThe Florida Republican Senatorial Committee blew the optics test this month when it reported it had taken $2,100 in in-kind contributions for a Dec. 18 fundraiser from Monroe's of Palm Beach, a gentlemen's club that touts itself as "the #1 Adult Entertainment Club and Steakhouse in America.''

The contribution was for beverages at the event held at the Cars of Dreams Museum in Palm Beach, said Sen. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican designated the next Senate president if Republicans hold their majority. 

Were any other staff of the gentlemen's club used for the event? "Absolutely not,'' Galvano said. He said the event was organized by Palm Beach political consultant Tom DaVita and "he chose the vendor."

The Senate has been under fire for the last three months because of sexual misconduct scandals. After the Herald/Times alerted Galvano to the in-kind donation, he said he was returning the contribution.

"I've instructed the staff to send them a check,'' he said.

The FRSC fundraiser occurred the day the special master's report the second Senate report came out detailing sexual harassment allegations against Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

The political committee also reported $1,750 in in-kind contributions from Vic & Angelo's in Palm Beach for food and beverages and $5,000 from Cars from Dreams, a Car Museum, in-kind donations for parking. DeVita's company, Resource Group, contributed $1,113 in in-kind consulting support as well. 

Matt Haggman leads in fundraising, David Richardson in cash on hand in Dem race for Ros-Lehtinen's seat



At least five Democrats in the hotly contested race to replace retiring Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have raised six-figures in the latest fundraising updates provided by their campaigns. 

Former Knight Foundation Director and Miami Herald reporter Matt Haggman leads the pack in money raised for a second straight quarter after entering the race in August. Haggman's campaign said he raised $402,000 with $747,000 on hand to spend as of the end of 2017. 

"We desperately need to turn a new page in our politics. I'm proud to have the support of so many friends and neighbors who are ready to do just that, and I'm proud to be running a campaign powered entirely by people—not PACs," Haggman said in a statement, referencing a pledge not to accept campaign contributions from political action committees that drew shade from some of his competitors.

PACs are typically created to further business and ideological interests or organized labor by funding candidates and campaigns. 

State Rep. David Richardson leads the race with $850,000 cash on hand according to a release from his campaign but he trails Haggman in fundraising after he loaned himself $250,000 for his campaign last quarter. That means Richardson raised just over $250,000 after his campaign said he raised $505,000 total from October to December. 

"We progressives must strive to implement a single-payer healthcare system, tackle climate change once and for all, reform our prison and criminal justice systems, and protect as well as expand upon the great strides we have made in this country on the rights of women, Hispanics, African Americans, the LGBT community, and other minority groups," Richardson said in a statement. 

Former federal judge nominee Mary Barzee Flores' campaign said she raised $220,000 in the latest quarter with $330,000 on hand. 

"Having spent her entire career in service to this community, the community she’s lived her whole life, makes Mary the exact type of candidate people want to rally around, a fact we’re seeing more and more each day," Barzee Flores' campaign manager Sam Miller said in a statement. "The tremendous amount of support from those who believe in Mary and share her values has allowed our campaign to build the sort of momentum that gets people paying attention, and they certainly have been." 

State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez raised $230,000 in the latest quarter with $325,000 cash on hand, according to his campaign. 

"We're in a pretty strong position," Rodríguez's campaign consultant Christian Ulvert said.

Miami commissioner Ken Russell, who officially joined the race in October after initially setting up an exploratory committee, raised about $222,247 with $325,392.35 cash on hand according to his campaign. Some of the cash on hand amount includes donations after December 31, 2017.

Russell's "record of progressive results, from increasing the minimum wage to expanding affordable housing to battling sea level rise as reasons for his campaign’s early appeal," campaign spokeswoman Sarah Awan said in a statement. 

Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez said she raised $55,000 raised in the latest quarter with $175,000 on hand. 

"Our campaign doesn’t have a finance director or fundraising committee," Rosen Gonzalez said in an email. "These contributions came in from people who believe in our campaign." 

The fundraising totals are estimates and the final numbers could change when they are reported to the Federal Election Commission at the end of the month. 

University of Miami academic advisor Michael Hepburn said his campaign hasn't finished tallying the latest fundraising totals.

Democrats are buoyant about their chances of winning a Miami-based seat long held by Republicans in 2018, as Ros-Lehtinen's district voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by more than 19 percentage points in the 2016 election. 

Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barreiro is the lone Republican with enough money so far to mount a viable campaign, though two women recently filed paperwork with the FEC to run in the Republican primary. 

This post was updated with figures from José Javier Rodríguez and includes updated figures from Ken Russell after his campaign sent new information. 

January 15, 2018

Bill Nelson raised $2.4 million in last quarter, campaign says


via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson raised about $2.4 million in fourth quarter of 2017, his campaign said Monday, and has $8 million cash on hand.

The Democrat "received more than 30,600 contributions from more than 21,500 individual donors during the last three months of 2017 alone," his campaign said in a release.

Nelson is seeking a fourth term and is expected to face Gov. Rick Scott, though Scott hasn't declared he's running.

January 11, 2018

Two women enter the Republican race for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat

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Angie Chirino and Ariadna Balaguer are political novices running for Congress, but their names may sound familiar to some in South Florida.

That’s because Chirino is the daughter of Miami singer and songwriter Willy Chirino, while Balaguer’s father was Joaquín Balaguer, the longtime president of the Dominican Republic from 1966 to 1978 and 1986 to 1996.

Both women have officially entered to run as Republicans for retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat, according to recently filed Federal Election Commission records, though neither has announced any fundraising totals. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro is the only announced GOP candidate with enough cash to run a viable campaign so far.

Balaguer, who holds two Ph.D. degrees in metabolic medicine and alternative therapies, works at a Sunny Isles Beach medical clinic that focuses on “integrative medical treatments” like an intravenous nutrient mixture called a Myers’ Cocktail that helps cure the side effects of a hangover. She was not immediately available for an interview.

Balaguer maintained a relatively low public profile, living and attending school in Florida, despite her famous father, who passed away in 2002.

Her father was a U.S. ally while leading the Dominican Republic, though he was criticized for manipulating elections and spending large sums on public works projects while many of his constituents were mired in poverty.

“He is not afraid to rule with iron will in the fashion of the old-style caudillo,” noted a 1994 Miami Herald article detailing an appearance by President Bill Clinton and Joaquín Balaguer at Vizcaya. “Balaguer's political legacy includes a dedication to huge public works projects, often at the expense of social welfare programs. It is a legacy that may always be tainted by charges that he won elections by vote-tampering.”

Chirino, a songwriter herself who also works as a donor-relations manager with the Voices of Children Foundation, declined to be interviewed through an inquiry with her campaign manager, as she plans to make a campaign announcement on January 18 at Versailles Restaurant.

Willy Chirino hinted at her daughter’s candidacy on Facebook earlier this week without explicitly naming her, and Ros-Lehtinen recently tweeted a photo of her and Willy Chirino at a Hair Cuttery.

The Miami New Times first reported that Chirino filed FEC paperwork for the seat.

Ros-Lehtinen’s open seat, which includes Miami Beach, downtown Miami and Little Havana, is considered a prime pick-up opportunity for Democrats this fall after Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by more than 19 percentage points in the district. The margin of victory was Clinton’s largest in a district currently held by Republican. Multiple Republicans have expressed doubts that the GOP can keep the seat as Democrats are hoping to take control of the House in 2018.

Read more here.