November 17, 2017

Carlos Curbelo's district now rated as "toss up" after tax bill passes the House

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Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo represents the most pro-Hillary Clinton district in the country currently held by a Republican running for reelection in 2018, and he could be in trouble if Democrats make nationwide gains next year. 

On Friday, the Cook Political Report changed Curbelo's reelection rating from "lean Republican" to "toss up" a day after the House passed an overhaul of the nation's tax code that Curbelo supports. 

"Curbelo impressed in 2016, winning a second term by 12 points while Hillary Clinton carried this 69 percent Latino district by 16 points," Cook editor Dave Wasserman wrote. "But Curbelo also had the luxury of running against Democrat Joe Garcia, who was disgraced by an absentee ballot scandal. And despite his push for a bipartisan immigration reform bill, Curbelo's recent votes in favor of the GOP's healthcare and tax bills give Democrats fodder to tie him to Trump." 

Wasserman also mentioned Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, noting that she captured 46 percent of the vote against sitting state Sen. Anitere Flores in 2016. Flores' district closely mirrors Curbelo's Miami-to-Key West seat. 

"She raised $177,000 last quarter and has a long way to catch up to Curbelo's $1.3 million, but Democrats are encouraged that they flipped a nearby state senate district in a September special election," Wasserman said. "No Republican running for reelection represents a more pro-Clinton district than Curbelo. He's in for another tough race." 

Nationwide, Wasserman rates 17 Republican-held seats as "toss ups" compared to four Democratic-held seats. Retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's open seat, in a Miami district that voted for Clinton by a larger margin than Curbelo's, is rated as "lean Democratic." 

Democrats must win 24 seats nationwide in the 2018 elections to gain a majority in the House of Representatives. 


November 16, 2017

Should Hispanic caucus have snubbed Curbelo? Miami Democrat endorsed by group won't say


State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, the only Miami Democrat backed so far by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus ahead of the 2018 election, won't say whether the group should have allowed Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo into its ranks, chalking up the dispute to "political gamesmanship."

"I'm not focused on the political gamesmanship of D.C., in fact that's why I'm running, to change that," Rodríguez said in a statement to the Miami Herald. "I'm focused on campaigning in my district and earning the trust and support of CD27 residents to be their voice and champion in Congress."

In September, Rodríguez made much ado about being one of only three Democratic candidates nationwide endorsed by the CHC's political arm. Rodríguez is one of eight Democrats trying to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in a district that leans even more Democratic than Curbelo's neighboring 26th district. 

Despite hailing from opposing political parties, Curbelo and Rodríguez share a Cuban-American heritage and a moderate approach to politics. 

The 30-member CHC is made up strictly of Democrats, some of whom argued that Curbelo -- who didn't seek membership as a freshman two years ago -- was pushing to join now solely to help him get reelected to a district where Hillary Clinton trounced Trump. Curbelo countered he sought to join in February, long before his reelection, to discuss issues affecting Hispanics.

--with Alex Daugherty in Washington

The early race for Florida governor: Levine goes up on TV


Philip Levine will hit TV airwaves beginning Thursday to tout his young 2018 candidacy for Florida governor.

The 30-second spot, titled "Lead," features snippets of the speech Levine gave in Miami two weeks ago launching his campaign.

"It's time," the former Miami Beach mayor says in the ad, "to address climate change by addressing Tallahassee's climate of denial. It's time to restore power back to the level where people live, instead of Tallahassee, where politicians live. It's time to make a day's pay enough to avoid a lifetime of dread. Why a living wave? Because it's the right thing to do."

Levine's political committee, All About Florida, has purchased $800,000 in five weeks' worth of ads "in media markets across the state of Florida," senior adviser Christian Ulvert said in a statement.

Last week, Levine's committee put out an inaugural ad, on radio, urging listeners to sign up for Obamacare, which has become a key issue for Democratic primary voters.

The danger with misreading Florida's number of Puerto Rican arrivals since Hurricane Maria


The number of Puerto Ricans who have arrived in Florida since Hurricane Maria hit the island Sept. 20 is large. But it's probably not as large as the figure being mentioned in news articles, opinion columns and social-media posts.

According to the Florida Division of Emergency Management, more than 160,000 people have arrived from Puerto Rico to the Miami, Orlando and Tampa airports (MIA, MCO and TPA, respectively) since Oct. 3, when regular commercial flights to the island resumed after the storm.

That doesn't necessarily mean more than 160,000 Puerto Ricans have moved to Florida.

The state's number includes everyone who has landed in Florida from Puerto Rico, including aid workers, reporters, government officials and Puerto Ricans who already live on the mainland and went to help their families. It also includes Puerto Ricans who might have landed in Florida but continued to travel elsewhere. And it doesn't include Puerto Ricans who might have arrived to some other airport and then traveled to Florida.

The number of Puerto Ricans assisted by the state government's disaster relief centers at the Miami International Airport, Orlando International Airport and the Port of Miami has been far lower. As of Nov. 10, for example, more than 73,000 people from Puerto Rico had arrived to MIA, MCO and Port Everglades, but the number of people served at the disaster relief centers was about 15,000.

As of the same date, Florida public school districts had enrolled some 3,500 displaced Puerto Rican students.

Of course, not every Puerto Rican will need state help, especially if they already have family and friends here. Not all will have children. Some will register children in private schools.

But, in short: None of these numbers offers a clear picture yet of exactly how many Puerto Ricans have moved to the state or plan to remain here permanently -- though it's safe to assume at least some will, and that might be enough to shift the state's demographics, including for the 2018 election.

The number of Puerto Ricans arriving in Florida has continued to grow as the island's prolonged power outage continues to be unresolved, and jobs continue to be scarce, and clean water continues to be a luxury.

But it's still too early to say by how much Democratic-leaning Puerto Ricans will alter Florida's swing politics and decidedly make Central Florida blue.

Emily's List backs Barzee Flores in Democratic race to replace Ros-Lehtinen


Miami Democrat Mary Barzee Flores won the endorsement Thursday of Emily's List, which backs progressive, pro-abortion rights female candidates.

Barzee Flores, a former state judge, is one of two women seeking to replace Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring, in Florida's swing 27th congressional district.

"This open seat represents an opportunity for Floridians to send a message to Washington," Emily's List president Stephanie Schriock said in a statement. "Working families need a representative who will fight to protect basic women's health care services, defend against the rolling back of environmental protections, and push to reform our broken immigration system. Mary is ready for the job, and we look forward to supporting her every step of the way."

Last week, Barzee Flores joined a small group of vocal Democrats across the country calling for President Donald Trump's impeachment.

The only other woman running in the packed field of eight Democrats is Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez., who sent supporters a fundraising email Thursday blasting Emily's List.

"Well, the establishment has spoken. Emily’s List has decided who your Congressperson should be. Did they ask you?" Rosen Gonzalez wrote. "No. They told me their endorsement came at a price. They told me I'd have to hire their consultants at astronomical prices as the price for their endorsement. I said 'No.' They said I'd have to sit in a room and 'dial for dollars' all day, putting the arm on all the special interests as the price for their endorsement. I said 'No.' Selling my independence is too high a price to pay."

The fundraising leader so far is Matt Haggman, former program director for the Knight Foundation.

This post has been updated.

November 13, 2017

Florida Republican urges Trump to support Paris Climate Accord



For years, Miami Republicans were often isolated from the rest of their GOP counterparts in Florida on climate change issues. 

A 2018 election environment that appears to favor Democrats could change that approach. 

Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, announced Monday that he wants President Donald Trump to reconsider his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord after Syria joined the pact, leaving the U.S. as the only country who hasn't signed on. Buchanan also urged Trump to stay in the accord in May, though Trump announced that the U.S. would pull out in June. 

"Climate change is a serious threat, especially for a state like Florida that has two coastlines vulnerable to rising waters," Buchanan said. "There is a reason why 196 nations across the globe support this voluntary and non-binding agreement."

Since Trump made his decision to leave the accord, Hurricane Irma swept through the state and Buchanan drew a serious Democratic challenger who once came within 750 votes of winning a state House seat. Siesta Key attorney David Shapiro said Buchanan's stance on the Paris Climate agreement was "too little too late," indicating that climate change will be a major campaign issue in Buchanan's low-lying Gulf Coast district that includes Sarasota and Bradenton. 

Democrats also scored major victories in local elections across the country last week, including the St. Petersburg mayor's race in Florida where incumbent Rick Kriseman held off Republican Rick Baker despite trailing in most polls. Last week's results have put Republicans on edge ahead of a 2018 cycle where the House of Representatives could be up for grabs.

Buchanan's district voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton by 11 percentage points in 2016 though the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a Washington-based organization that seeks to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives, has put Buchanan's district on the organization's target list for the 2018 elections. The DCCC is now targeting 6 Florida seats, including all three Miami-based seats that are held by Republicans.

Buchanan has over $2 million on hand to defend his seat, according to Federal Election Commission records

November 09, 2017

Marco Rubio says Roy Moore should be disqualified from the Senate if allegations are true



Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said Roy Moore should disqualify himself from running for an Alabama Senate seat if an on-the-record account by a woman who said that Moore had sexual contact with her when she was 14 is true. 

The Washington Post reported that Moore had multiple relationships with underage women decades ago, including a relationship with a 14-year-old that began when the young girl's mother let Moore look after her outside a courthouse. 

"Today’s report in The Washington Post raises allegations against Mr. Moore that are deeply disturbing and, if true, disqualifying," Rubio said in a statement.

Moore, a fiery Republican former judge who has said that LGBT individuals are unfit to serve in Congress, is the Republican nominee for attorney general Jeff Sessions' former seat after winning a fierce GOP primary earlier this year. The election between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones is just over a month away, meaning Moore's name will still appear on the ballot even if the Alabama GOP revokes the party's endorsement. 

Rubio never endorsed Moore after he won the Republican nomination, in contrast to some of his Senate Republican colleagues. His campaign had no plans to speak or raise money on Moore's behalf.

Disavowing Moore could lessen the GOP's advantage in the Senate, which currently stands at 52 Republicans and 48 senators who caucus with Democrats. 

Many Republican senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, called on Moore to step aside if the allegations are true. 

Sen. John McCain did not include a qualification about proving truthfulness in his statement. 

"The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying," McCain said. "He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of." 

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said he could not comment on the sexual assault allegations against Moore because he hadn't read the story yet. 

Levine touts fundraising in month before entering Florida governor's race


Philip Levine, the newest entrant into Florida's Democratic race for governor, collected more than $1 million for his political committee in October, according to his campaign.

Levine, a multi-millionaire who formally launched his candidacy last week, raised a little less than $900,000 and donated a little more than $100,000 to his All About Florida committee, his campaign said Thursday, touting his total haul so far: about $5.8 million. 

None of the candidates' monthly financial reports, either for their campaign or committee accounts, have yet to be posted by to the Florida Division of Elections' website, because they're not due until Monday. Levine didn't have a campaign account yet because he wasn't officially in the race.

"In the year ahead -- as more Floridians learn about Philip and his progressive vision for our state -- we believe voters will continue to provide us with the necessary resources to take our message to every corner of the state, from the Panhandle down to the Keys," Christian Ulvert, a Levine senior adviser, said in a statement.

The only other Democratic candidate who has announced his October fundraising, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, said Tuesday that he drew about $80,000. Gillum brought in a new finance director last month after losing his campaign manager and deputy campaign manager. Gillum's fundraising languished over the summer after an FBI investigation into City Hall became public.

"With under one year until Election Day 2018, Mayor Gillum and our entire team around the state are thrilled about our grassroots fundraising momentum," Gillum's campaign said in a statement. "Everyday Floridians are giving us the resources we need to communicate with our voters through the primary and general election next fall, and we're excited for the road ahead."

Gillum, who has said he's not the target of the investigation, took in a single contribution in October, for $2,500, to his Forward Florida committee, according to its website.

Last month, former Tallahassee Rep. Gwen Graham brought in more than $180,000 for her campaign and about $165,000 for her committee, Our Florida, her campaign said Thursday, bringing her total raised thus far to more than $4 million.

"From Pensacola to Key West, Floridians are fed up with Trump-style politics and they are engaged like never before," Graham said in a statement that added she has received contributions from more than 10,000 individuals, a "milestone." "Our campaign is building a coalition of Floridians from every part of this state and every community. That's how we won in 2014 and that's how we're going to turn Florida blue in 2018."

Orlando entrepreneur Chris King's campaign said it raised nearly $152,000 in October. His committee, Rise and Lead, Florida, raked in about $55,000 during the month, for a total of about $2.7 million since launching the campaign. The committee has about $1.6 million cash on hand, the campaign said.

This post has been updated to include Graham's and King's campaign fundraising.

Putnam again leads fundraising in Florida GOP field for governor

via @adamsmithtimes

So much for Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran's daunting fundraising prowess. After a mighty, multi-million dollar start to his opening a political committee to explore running for governor, Corcoran raised less than $500,000 to his Watchdog PAC in September and then less than $370,000 in October.

Republican front-runner Adam Putnam in October pulled in more than $600,000 to his committee, Florida Grown, and more than $1.1 million between his committee and his actual campaign account.

State Sen. Jack Latvala, another candidate for governor, raised about $235,000 in October.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

November 07, 2017

Levine goes bilingual in radio ads on Obamacare


Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine's first ad buy as a 2018 candidate for Florida governor urges listeners to...sign up for health insurance using Obamacare.

It might seem like an unusual way to kick off a gubernatorial campaign. But the radio ads -- a "six-figure" buy funded by Levine's political committee, All About Florida -- help Levine link himself to former President Barack Obama and his signature achievement, a key for Democratic primary voters who in the past lamented that their candidates ran away from the Affordable Care Act.

"President Obama had a vision – that every American have access to affordable health care – and I join with him in urging that every man, woman and child in America be covered," Levine says in the spot. "Visit now and sign up. Every Floridian has until Dec. 15 to act before Donald Trump, or anyone, has a chance to tear down the Affordable Care Act we waited so long for."

President Trump's administration is making no effort to enroll people in the federal coverage. 

The ads, running statewide, also let Levine speak to Hispanic voters. Levine's Spanish is serviceable; he spoke a line in the language during his campaign launch last week, knowing he will have to appeal to Latino Democrats -- many of them in South Florida -- to have a shot at the Governor's Mansion.

UPDATE: Levine's ad drew the scorn of Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, who tweeted a link to this Naked Politics post. Corcoran is a potential 2018 Republican candidate for governor and a longtime Obamacare critic.

That set off a bit of a Twitter war with Levine, who is running against at least three other major candidates in the Democratic primary and can only relish being singled out by a Republican calling him "#LiberalLevine."