April 11, 2018

Curbelo narrowly beats Dem challenger in fundraising but maintains cash advantage

Curbelo (1)

@alextdaugherty

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo raised $560,000 in the latest fundraising quarter, essentially matching Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell's $500,000 haul

But Curbelo still maintains a healthy advantage in cash on hand. His campaign said Wednesday he has $2.1 million to spend, a record for the campaign. Mucarsel-Powell's campaign said they have about $700,000 cash on hand. 

"Carlos continues to draw major support from Republicans, Independents, and Democrats from South Florida and throughout the country - people who believe in his bipartisan approach to leadership," Curbelo spokesperson Chris Miles said in an email. "The American people are done with extremists in both parties who are committed to obstruction and to further poisoning our country's politics for personal gain. Carlos will never stop working to find bipartisan solutions on issues like jobs and the economy, immigration, infrastructure, gun safety, and the environment notwithstanding the petty attacks of self-serving politicians in both parties."

But House Speaker Paul Ryan's retirement announcement on Wednesday could affect Curbelo's fundraising. Ryan traveled to South Florida weeks before the 2016 election to raise cash for his political ally and Ryan's lame-duck status will likely make it harder for Curbelo and other Republican incumbents to benefit financially from the 2012 vice presidential candidate.  

Curbelo represents the most Democratic-leaning House district in the country currently held by a Republican running for reelection, though he bested President Donald Trump's performance in the district by about 28 percentage points in 2016. 

April 09, 2018

Gov. Scott announces Senate run, says 'this concept of career politicians has got to stop'

 

Annescott
Rick Scott and Anne Scott. [AP]

Gov. Rick Scott announced his long-expected run for the U.S. Senate today in an Orlando rally, setting the stage for a contentious and expensive battle against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

"Today, with my wife by my side, I’m announcing I’m running for U.S. Senate for the great state of Florida," Scott said in a sweaty construction company warehouse in Orlando, surrounded by wooden pallets and supporters fanning themselves with his campaign signs.

He kicked off his campaign by taking direct aim at Nelson, who was first elected to Senate in 2001, by calling for term limits for members of Congress.

"We shouldn’t be sending the same type of people to Washington," he said. "This concept of career politicians has got to stop."

Nelson, in response, sought to project confidence Monday.

"I've always run every race like there's no tomorrow – regardless of my opponent," Nelson said in a statement. "While it's clear that Rick Scott will say or do anything to get elected, I've always believed that if you just do the right thing, the politics will take care of itself."

The race between the two-term governor and three-term senator promises to be a test of the popularity of President Donald Trump. Scott was an early and consistent supporter of the president, which Nelson is expected to exploit.

Scott did not mention Trump, but he picked up Trump's message, promising to "fix" Washington and denouncing the "tired old thinking" in the nation's capital.

"We gotta stop sending talkers to Washington. Let's send some doers to Washington," he said.

"Drain the swamp!" someone in the audience yelled.

The race between Scott and Nelson is one of the most expensive and closely watched in the nation, and it's likely to be close.

Scott, a 65-year-old disgraced former health care executive, used his millions to eke out narrow wins in both races for governor in 2010 and 2014. He frequently generated controversy during his governorship, and he's never been considered an especially beloved or charismatic figure on the campaign trail.

But his opponent, whom Floridians have been voting for since the 1970s, is a moderate Democrat with few distinctions during his 17 years in the Senate. The 75-year-old is Florida's only Democrat currently elected to statewide office.

Scott on Monday made a clear play for a constituency he thinks can help him win: Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria. He was introduced at the rally by the territory's lieutenant governor, Luis G. Rivera-Marin, and Scott closed his speech in Spanish.

Scott came out of nowhere in 2010 to win his first elected office. He was known primarily as the health care executive who oversaw massive health care fraud. His company, Columbia/HCA, paid a record $1.7 billion in fines and pleaded guilty to 14 felonies.

But he found success running on an obsessive jobs platform at the height of the Great Recession. That message was apparently so successful that Scott repeated it verbatim Monday, in both slogan - "Let's get to work" - and style - U.S. Navy baseball hat and blue dress shirt with rolled-up sleeves.

Scott tried to cast himself as an outsider who reformed Tallahassee politics.

"I didn’t fit into Tallahassee because I didn’t play the insider games," he said. "And guess what? I’m not going to fit into Washington, either."

Scott will be in Fort Myers at Sun Harvest Citrus for a second rally at 2:30 p.m. today, and he's expected to be in Hialeah for another rally Tuesday afternoon.

April 05, 2018

Gun-related town halls are a partisan affair in South Florida (updated)

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@alextdaugherty

A national group that promotes face-to-face interactions between lawmakers and constituents is working with the March for Our Lives organizers to host town hall events on preventing gun violence during the current congressional recess, and no South Florida Republicans are planning to attend. 

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, who represents Parkland, held a town hall earlier this week, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, will hold a town hall on Saturday in Pembroke Pines, while Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, will host a town hall tonight in Miami Gardens. 

The three Republicans from Miami-Dade County, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, do not have any town hall events scheduled during the recess. 

A March for Our Lives-affiliated event is being held in Curbelo's district tonight, though Curbelo's office said he was not invited to the event at John A. Ferguson High School. While pro-gun control student activists from Parkland have demanded town hall events during this congressional recess, Ros-Lehtinen, Diaz-Balart and Curbelo have not held any in-person town hall events since the beginning of 2017, according to the Town Hall Project. Curbelo and Diaz-Balart both hold office hours with staff at various locations throughout their districts. 

Curbelo's seat is a target for Democrats in 2018 while Ros-Lehtinen is retiring and Diaz-Balart does not have a serious Democratic challenger. 

Neither of Florida's two senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, have held an in-person town hall since the beginning of 2017, according to the Town Hall Project.  

UPDATE (4/6/18): A student organizer with pro gun-control group Students Demand Action said Curbelo was invited to the town hall event in his district, but he declined citing a scheduling conflict. 

William Breslin, who lives outside of Curbelo's district, said he called Curbelo's official office three times before receiving a response that Curbelo could not attend. Breslin then invited Curbelo's Democratic opponents after the congressman declined the invitation, he said. 

Information on upcoming town halls: 

Town hall with Frederica Wilson and state Rep. Shevrin Jones: 

Thursday, April 5 6:30pm

Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex Auditorium

3000 NW 199th St. 

Miami Gardens, FL 33056 

Town hall with Debbie Wasserman Schultz: 

Saturday, April 7 2pm 

301 NW 103rd Avenue

Pembroke Pines, FL 33026 

Town Hall for Our Lives West Miami-Dade

Thursday, April 5 7pm

John A. Ferguson High School 

15900 SW 56th St. 

Miami, FL 33185

April 03, 2018

Blue Dog Democrats group accepted NRA money. Now they’re giving it back.

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@alextdaugherty

A political fundraising group that seeks to elect moderate Democrats to the House of Representatives is giving back a donation from the National Rifle Association after the Miami Herald questioned the transaction.

The Blue Dog PAC, which has doled out campaign cash to Florida Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Charlie Crist during the 2018 election cycle, said Tuesday it would return a $4,950 contribution from the National Rifle Association’s political arm in July 2017. The PAC will also not cash a $5,000 check from the National Rifle Association given to the Blue Dogs in January 2018, about two weeks before the nation’s deadliest high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Murphy and Crist, who were both in favor of gun-control measures like a ban on assault-style weapons before the Parkland shooting, said they were not aware that the Blue Dogs’ PAC received NRA money during the 2018 election cycle. Murphy and Crist have both received $7,000 in direct campaign contributions from the Blue Dog PAC this election cycle, making it possible that their campaigns received NRA money.

“I am disappointed to learn that the Blue Dogs’ political arm accepted a contribution from the NRA, and I strongly urge them to return the contribution,” Murphy said in an email. “I am proud of the ‘F’ rating I've earned from the NRA. In recent weeks, we have seen historic progress and a major shift in the national conversation about how to prevent senseless gun violence, yet the NRA has continued to put the interests of corporate gun manufacturers above keeping our schools and communities safe.”

Crist echoed Murphy’s call for the PAC to return the NRA money.

“In keeping with the Blue Dog PAC's decision not to accept NRA money, it would be prudent and correct that they return any contributions received this cycle,” Crist said in an email.

Two hours after the Miami Herald asked the Blue Dog PAC to explain why they accepted political contributions from the NRA, an organization that some of its members have publicly denounced, the Blue Dog PAC said it would return the money.

The NRA’s political activity has come under increased scrutiny after the Parkland shooting on Valentine’s Day. Pro-gun control student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have hammered Republicans like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for accepting contributions from the NRA, and organized marches around the world with the intent of changing the nation’s gun laws to include policies like universal background checks and a ban on assault-style weapons.

Read more here.

Democratic polling shows a tight race for Carlos Curbelo

Carlos Curbelo 3 (1)

@alextdaugherty @newsbysmiley

New polling from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee shows that Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo could face a serious challenge for his seat in November. 

The DCCC, a Washington-based organization that seeks to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives, released polling that shows Curbelo with a five percentage point lead over likely Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. The polling also shows Curbelo losing to a generic Democrat by two percentage points. 

The poll's results, which shows Curbelo up 45 points to 40 points over Mucarsel-Powell, are based on a survey of 418 likely 2018 general election voters in Florida's 26th Congressional District and was conducted by the DCCC from March 17th to 22nd. Respondents’ information came from the voter file and the poll was conducted through all live calls, on cells and landlines, with a bilingual option. The poll's margin of error is +/- 4.9%. 

"Month-by-month, week-by-week, primaries will produce battle-tested and uniquely qualified Democratic candidates," the DCCC said in a press release. "And vulnerable House Republicans will be forced to face reality: According to a sample of newly released polling data from a wide variety of districts, Democrats are poised to take back the House."

Curbelo, who has been a target for national Democrats since winning office in 2014, will be a tough opponent despite representing a Miami-to-Key West district that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 16.3 percentage points in 2016. He won reelection in 2016 over Democrat Joe Garcia by 12 percentage points, and leads Mucarsel-Powell in fundraising by a significant amount. 

Curbelo's district performed an average of 6 percentage points more Democratic than the nation did as a whole between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, so Curbelo is polling ahead of the Democratic average in the district according to the DCCC's own polling. 

April 02, 2018

Tim Canova drops Democratic bid to unseat Debbie Wasserman Schultz, will run as independent

Canova

@alextdaugherty

Tim Canova, a liberal Nova Southeastern University law professor who raised millions in an unsuccessful Democratic primary bid against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in 2016, announced Monday that he will drop out of the Democratic primary for Wasserman Schultz's Broward-based district and instead run as an independent. 

"Even as independents, we are the real Democrats in this race," Canova said at a press conference outside Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes' office. "Even as we run as independents, I will run as a better Democrat. I did not leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left us." 

Canova, whose 2016 bid received national attention after Sen. Bernie Sanders backed him over Wasserman Schultz, eventually lost the Democratic primary by 14 percentage points. Canova's decision to run as an independent gives Wasserman Schultz a clear path to the Democratic nomination in 2018.

Republicans Joe Kaufman and Carlos Reyes have also filed to run in Florida's 23rd Congressional District, which encompasses portions of Broward County and northeastern Miami-Dade County. 

March 30, 2018

After voting for Parkland bill, state representative says he wants to remove gun control measures

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@elizabethrkoh

Just weeks after state legislators passed a sweeping package of school safety and gun control changes following the Parkland shooting, a state representative who voted for the bill says he wants to remove its gun control provisions should he be re-elected.

In a town hall hosted by Florida Today Wednesday, Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, said he plans to file bills to remove some of the gun control provisions from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Act — including a three-day waiting period, higher minimum age to buy firearms from a dealer and a ban on the sale and possession of bump stocks.

Fine said at the town hall that he supported the bill’s increased money for mental health services and school safety, as well as a guardian program that would allow staff in schools to be armed, given required training. But he said legislators “did three things as part of this that wouldn’t have stopped the Parkland shooting and I don’t think accomplish much of anything,” according to Florida Today. “I don’t think those things solve anything and, frankly to me, they were silly.”

The move is a shift in tone for Fine, who had called some of the gun provisions “minor, minor things” before voting for the Parkland bill and called on his colleagues to not let “perfect be the enemy of the good.”

The gun control measures were among the most contentious parts of an already contentious bill, particularly in Florida, where state lawmakers have voted to increase access to guns and has some of the most firearm-friendly laws in the country.

Legislative leaders had narrowly navigated polarized factions to pass the Parkland package in both chambers and make it the first legislation signed by Gov. Rick Scott near the end of the session. Even so, SB 7026 passed by a slim 20-18 margin in the Senate and a 67-50 margin in the House, where 19 Republicans (the majority of whom are not term-limited and up for re-election) voted no. Ten Democrats, largely from Broward County, voted yes.

Fine had expressed concerns after the Parkland shooting about the proposed gun control measures, telling CNN in February that “I’m not a big fan of taking away folks’ Second Amendment rights. I think we need to look at the issues and see where we can play around the edges.”

But shortly before the bill was passed by the House, Fine called on his Republican colleagues to put those gun control provisions in the context of the larger bill.  State lawmakers had debated for nearly a week on the legislation, which also included a controversial school guardian program that would allow staff in schools to be armed in addition to the gun control proposals. The latter had drawn particular ire from the House’s more conservative lawmakers, some of whom eventually voted against the bill.

Fine, a Brevard County Republican, said some of those provisions — the waiting period for buying long firearms and raising the age limit on purchasing guns to 21 — were “minor” and defended his decision to support the bill anyway. He minimized the impact of the higher age limit and compared the waiting period to the “three days to order something from Amazon Prime,” he added. “What is the harm in waiting three days if you want to go and get a rifle?”

“The notion that these two minor, minor things — waiting 72 hours just like you do when you order something on the Internet and having to get a rifle from your father if you want to go hunting or your mother if you need to protect yourself — those two things would make perfect the enemy of the good,” he added.

Almost immediately after Scott signed the bill, the National Rifle Association filed a federal lawsuit to block raising the age limit to buy guns as a violation of the Second Amendment.

“This bill punishes law-abiding gun owners for the criminal acts of a deranged individual,” said Chris Cox of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action at the time. “The gun control provisions in this law wrongly blame millions of Floridians who safely and responsibly exercise their right to self-defense.”

On Wednesday, Fine said he disagreed the measures violate the constitutional right to bear arms but called the measures “a bad idea.”

Fine’s comments drew quick outcry from Parkland shooting survivors, including Jaclyn Corin, one of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students who has led the #NeverAgain movement.

“He voted for the bill when it went through the House, and is simply terrified of the backlash the NRA has given the State of Florida,” she wrote Friday morning on Twitter, adding the hashtag #VoteHimOut.

Fine did not respond to requests for comment Friday. A freshman legislator who is running for re-election in his district, he told Florida Today that he expects a dozen Republicans who both voted against the bill and are running for re-election would support his efforts to pull back the gun control provisions.

March 28, 2018

Primary debate dates announced for Republican and Democratic hopefuls for governor

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It's not yet certain who will be on the stage, but Republican and Democratic hopefuls for governor can now expect to debate their primary opponents under television lights just weeks before party voters choose who will be on their ballots in the general election.

The Children's Movement of Florida and the Florida Press Association announced Wednesday they will hold televised Republican and Democratic primary debates for the 2018 governor's race on Aug. 1 and 2, less than a month before the Aug. 28 primary.

Both debates will be produced by South Florida CBS station WFOR/Channel 4 and will be held at the University of Miami's Maurice Gusman Concert Hall in front of a live studio audience of 600, the groups said. The debates will air from 7 to 8 p.m. Eastern on the state's 10 major media markets, from Miami to Pensacola.

Qualifying criteria for the debates have not yet been released, but former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum have jockeyed in the polls to lead the primary race for the Democratic nomination. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Congressman Ron DeSantis are grappling for the top slot on the Republican side, though House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has not declared his candidacy, is mulling a run as well.

Photo: Philip Levine, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, speaking in Tallahassee Tuesday.

March 15, 2018

A Democratic wave may be coming in November. Miami Democrats may not be ready.

Mario Diaz-Balart

@alextdaugherty

Are Miami Democrats snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?

It’s been nearly 17 months after the 2016 election and a day after Republicans appear to have lost a Pennsylvania U.S. House seat in a district Donald Trump won by 20 percentage points — and Democrats have yet to put up a serious challenger for a Miami-area seat Trump won by less than two percentage points.

Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s only Democratic opponent doesn’t have enough money on hand to host one catered fundraising dinner. And yet, a few miles away, seven Democratic candidates are raising serious cash in an effort to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Diaz-Balart’s Hialeah-based seat was, and still is, the most Republican-leaning congressional seat in Miami-Dade County. But a Democratic wave in 2018 could put Diaz-Balart’s seat in play if the party can find a credible candidate, making it possible for Democrats to win all three Republican-held seats in South Florida.

“It is more challenging because we haven’t had a strong challenger since 2007,” said Miami-Dade Democratic Party chairman Juan Cuba. “If any community leaders are thinking about running... this is going to be the year to do it.”

There are 10 other Republican-held districts around the country Republican-leaning as Diaz-Balart’s district. Nine of those 10 districts have at least one — and in one case as many as seven — Democrats running who have raised at least $100,000 so far.

Members of Congress don’t have to live in their district, which means anyone who lives in Florida can challenge Diaz-Balart. Cuba said one reason why so many Democrats are staying to run in Ros-Lehtinen’s district is because they live there, making it harder to mount a credible candidacy in places like Hialeah and Doral within Diaz-Balart’s district.

Ian Russell, who served as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s political director during the 2016 cycle, said the lack of a credible candidate to challenge Diaz-Balart at this point in the election cycle is a hole in the national map, though there is still time to mount a credible challenge thanks to Florida’s late filing deadlines and primary elections. He noted that current Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Orlando, announced her bid against former Republican Rep. John Mica at the last second in 2016, and ultimately won the race.

“At the DCCC we got Stephanie Murphy to file on the day of the filing deadline,” Russell said. “I’m sure the DCCC and Democratic groups are recruiting somebody strong [in Diaz-Balart’s district] if not it’s a massive missed opportunity.”

Read more here.

March 13, 2018

Would Carlos Curbelo want Donald Trump to campaign with him?

Curbelo

@alextdaugherty

It's not surprising that Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo has tried to distance himself from President Donald Trump as he runs for reelection. 

After all, Trump lost to Hillary Clinton by 16.3 percentage points in Curbelo's Miami-to-Key West district.  

But Curbelo's campaign said they would be open to Trump campaigning in the district when asked by Axios on Tuesday. 

"While Carlos has never invited public figures to campaign with him, he has welcomed those who have offered," Curbelo spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez said to Axios. "He has also joined Presidents Obama and Trump in South Florida to stand with them on issues in which ‎he agrees with them ... Anyone who wants to support Carlos' efforts and endorse his bipartisan approach to public service is welcome to do so." 

Trump jumped on the campaign trail this past weekend in Southwestern Pennsylvania to stump for a Republican running in a special congressional election. In a speech that lasted over an hour, Trump insulted the intelligence of Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters, along referring to Meet the Press host and South Florida native Chuck Todd as a "sleeping son of a bitch." 

Curbelo faces a likely challenge from Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in November. 

Update: Curbelo's campaign sent an additional statement after the Miami Herald asked about whether or not he would campaign with Trump. 

"Supporters buy into Carlos and his bipartisan, civil approach to public service, not the other way around," Rodriguez said in an email. "Anyone who wants to support Carlos is welcome to do so. While Carlos and the President have major differences in both style and substance, if the President is willing to get behind Carlos' style of leadership and the policies he supports, that would be a positive development for our country's toxic politics. However, as stated previously, Carlos is not seeking the support or endorsement of any other politicians. He is exclusively focused on earning the support and respect of the people of South Florida." 

This post removed a paragraph after Axios amended their story.