June 22, 2017

What Jon Ossoff’s loss means for Democrats trying to win swing seats in Miami

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@alextdaugherty 

Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old centrist Democrat who didn’t live in the Atlanta-area district he was seeking to represent in Congress and whose resume includes stints as a Capitol Hill staffer and documentary film producer, just ran the most expensive campaign ever for a House seat.

He lost.

Now, the focus turns to the 2018 election for Democrats where their best chance at breaking up a Republican-controlled government runs through the House.

“We as Democrats have to come to terms with the fact that we lost again,” said Rep. Seth Moulton, a Massachusetts Democrat gaining buzz for a potential presidential run in 2020. “We’re the party that stands up for working families, the middle class and yet many of them are not voting for us.”

Democrats must flip 24 seats to control the House, and two Miami-Dade seats currently occupied by Republicans are considered near must-wins: the open seat occupied by retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the Miami-to-Key West seat occupied by Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

“I applaud the enthusiasm behind Ossoff’s candidacy, but how many Democrats could we have gotten elected for $30 million?” said Scott Fuhrman, a Miami Democrat who lost to Ros-Lehtinen by 10 percentage points in 2016 even though national Democrats chose not to spend in the race. Fuhrman was planning to run against Ros-Lehtinen again before she announced her retirement and a slew of Democrats jumped in the race. He dropped out in early June.

Local Democrats are quick to warn outsiders like Daily Kos Elections, a liberal blog that kick-started the cash flow to Ossoff, that using messages that resonate with the Democratic base nationally may not be the best idea in Miami, where foreign policy issues in Latin America are of large importance to Democrats, independents and Republicans alike.

“In Miami generally it is very difficult to tie national winds to what goes on in Miami-Dade County because we’re such a unique little island of diversity,” said Ben Pollara, a Democratic consultant who worked on Fuhrman’s campaign and will work in the election to replace Ros-Lehtinen.

Fuhrman put part of the blame on minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Ben Ray Luján, chair of the Democrats’ fundraising organization.

“Moral victories in politics are BS and at the end of the day Democrats needed a win last night and they didn’t get it and people should be held accountable,” Fuhrman said. “For whatever reason people tend to fail up in our organization.”

The nearly $50 million invested into Ossoff’s campaign, along with months of attention from national Democrats and constant media coverage, didn’t pan out.

Read more here. 

Miami-Dade Democrats ask Democratic state attorney to resign

  Kathyfrundlemh
via @jkbjournalist

Miami-Dade Democrats approved a resolution Wednesday night calling for State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle to resign, citing her failure to hold law enforcement officers accountable for criminal wrongdoing and civil rights abuses.

The local party’s criminal justice committee, which drew up the resolution, specifically pointed to the case of Darren Rainey, an inmate who died in a shower at Dade Correctional Institution five years ago this week. It was voted on at the monthly meeting of the party’s executive committee.

The rebuke comes as Fernández Rundle is considering a run for either governor or state attorney general.

Rainey, who suffered from mental illness, was locked in a hot shower by corrections officers, who left him there for 90 minutes. Inmates at the prison contend that guards used the shower to torment unruly inmates with unbearably hot water and steam.

More here.

Photo credit: Matias J. Ocner, for the Miami Herald

Gillum wants state law so women can maintain no-cost birth control if Obamacare is repealed

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@ByKristenMClark

Criticizing President Donald Trump's administration for wanting to "turn back the clock and take essential healthcare away from women" by rolling back parts of Obamacare, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on Thursday will propose protecting women's access to free birth control through a new state law instead.

“As governor, I'm going to stand with women and ensure that neither the government nor their employer stand between a woman and her doctor in making the critical health decisions that affect her life. This is an essential part of providing better quality care and economic security and stability to more Floridians," Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, said in a statement provided to the Herald/Times.

Enacting such a measure would require earning support from Florida's Republican-led Legislature, which would prove challenging -- particularly in the more conservative-minded House.

The proposal is an addition to a health care platform Gillum first unveiled last month in Tallahassee. At the time, he called for state protections to prohibit health insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, charging higher premiums for those conditions and charging higher premiums for women than men.

Such safeguards, along with the no-cost birth control coverage, are currently protected under the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare -- which congressional Republicans are seeking to dismantle and replace with their own plan. (The U.S. House has already passed its version; Senate Republicans are crafting theirs behind closed doors, which has drawn criticism and protests from Democrats.)

RELATED from PolitiFact: "7 questions about the Senate health care bill and transparency"

Meanwhile, three weeks ago, various national media reported that White House officials had drafted a rule to rollback the requirement under Obamacare that forces religious employers to cover birth control in health care plans -- which sparked Gillum to add the issue to his health care policy platform.

Two female doctors from Miami praised Gillum's idea in a statement provided by his campaign.

"Access to contraception is such an important part of a woman's health," said Dr. Annette Pelaez, an obstetrician who works at Miami MDs For Women. "This common-sense proposal would ensure that women in Florida can continue making responsible health decisions motivated by wellness, instead of by cost or coverage."

"There is no doubt that the women our practice sees would be harmed by Trump's proposal to reduce access to contraception," agreed Dr. Roselyn Bonilla, a gynecologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami. "That makes Gillum's proposal all the more important. As a physician, I'm glad that someone is willing to put the medical rights of women first, above politics."

Gillum is among at least three Democratic contenders seeking to replace Republican Gov. Rick Scott after next year's election. The other candidates are former Tallahassee U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Orlando businessman Chris King -- although Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando trial attorney John Morgan could also run.

Among Republicans, the only declared candidate so far is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, but he's likely to face a challenge from House Speaker Richard Corcoran, of Land O'Lakes; Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, of Clearwater; and/or U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, of Ponte Vedra Beach.

Photo credit: 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum speaks at a press conference in Tallahassee in May. Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

June 21, 2017

Corcoran's Watchdog PAC pulls in $608,000 in first month -- including $100k from Norm Braman

Corcoran profile photo AP Steve CannonStraight off a controversial session, House Speaker Richard Corcoran ignited his month-old political committee this week with $608,000 in contributions -- half of it in the form of generous gifts from the political committees of his two top deputies, Reps. Jose Oliva and Carlos Trujillo. But the other generous check to the Watchdog PAC came in the form of a $100,000 contribution from Miami auto magnate Norman Braman.

The contribution of $250,000 from Oliva's political committee and the $100,000 from Trujillo's PAC, are noteworthy, but in the secret world of shape-shifting transfers between political allies in Florida, they are not all that meaningful.

The Braman gift, however, is telling as Corcoran is rumored to be using the PAC to position himself for higher office. Miami's business leaders were in a serious tizzy in late April, when it appeared that Miami Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, the House's lead negotiator on a gambling bill, presented an offer to the Senate that indicated House leadership was prepared to overcome years of resistance and agree to authorize a new gaming facility in Miami-Dade. 

Braman joined Healthcare executive Mike Fernandez, and Miami developer Armando Codina calling legislators enraged that they would move forward with the idea without understanding the impact it could have on the city, local businesses and the city's successful economic boom. In less than a week, talks collapsed and the bill was declared dead. 

Corcoran's report, posted on his Watchdog PAC site, indicates he raised another $183,000 in donations of between $100 and $1,000 before his much publicized fundraisers hosted by Orlando trial attorney John Morgan at the home of another Orlando trial attorney, Zander Clem. Reports show the fundraiser brought in about $17,450, mostly from attorneys, chiropractors and health care types -- likely many looking forward to the expanded application of medical marijuana. Absent from the contribution list was a check from Morgan. Clem gave $2,500 and former Democratic House Rep. Mike Clelland, who works for Morgan, gave $500. 

Another round of checks came in June 20 from mostly attorneys and health care folks raising $56,250. Corcoran's next fundraiser is set for June 28 in Miami, hosted by the speaker's many friends in the Miami delegation. 

Oliva's political committee, Conservative Principles for Florida, had $778,810 on hand after its last report on June 8. The June 6 donation to Corcoran's committee has not yet been recorded on the Division of Elections web site. Trujillo's political committee, Conservative and Principled Leadership for Florida, however, had only about $40,000 on hand on June 8 and reported the contribution to the Watchdog PAC on May 31. 

Photo: Steve Cannon, AP

 

After Georgia loss, Democrats highlight improved generic polls in GOP-held South Florida districts

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@PatriciaMazzei

Two Republican-held congressional districts in South Florida remain among the most attractive for Democrats to flip next year, according to an internal Democratic memo circulated after the party lost a closely watched and incredibly expensive special Georgia election Tuesday night.

Recent Democratic polls in Florida's 26th and 27th districts show Democrats doing better than they were when they surveyed voters in the same districts last October, wrote Ben Ray Luján, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Luján's memo tried to keep Democrats motivated after Jon Ossoff's loss to Republican Karen Handel in the Atlanta suburbs -- a race that cost both sides about $55 million, the most expensive in history. In the memo, Luján listed 30 competitive districts Democrats plan to target to try to win back the House in 2018. They would need to flip 24 GOP-controlled districts to do so.

"The House is in play," Luján wrote for the first time. 

Among them are FL-26 and FL-27, now held by Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. When Democrats polled Ros-Lehtinen's district in October, a generic Democratic candidate outperformed a generic Republican by 7 percentage points. The beloved Ros-Lehtinen, however, is sui generis: She defeated challenger Scott Fuhrman by nearly 10 points.

But Ros-Lehtinen is retiring, and Democrats' more recent polling shows a generic Democrat leading a generic Republican by 18 points.

Similarly, Democrats say they've gained ground in the district held by Curbelo, who is running for reelection. A generic Democrat polled evenly with a generic Republican in his district in October; now, Democrats say they're up by 7 points.

Still, a generic ballot is not the same as testing specific candidates. Curbelo is a sophomore much less entrenched than Ros-Lehtinen, but he appears pretty well-liked in his Westchester-to-Key West district. There's perhaps no bigger sign that he's a tough opponent than the fact that he's yet to draw a big-name Democratic challenger ahead of 2018.

If Democrats continue the strategy they tried in Georgia, they will likely keep trying to run in congressional districts against President Donald Trump. In his memo, Luján included a chart noting Trump's job performance is under water in both Ros-Lehtinen's and Curbelo's district. Some 61 percent of respondents have a negative view of Trump's work so far in Ros-Lehtinen's district, according to the DCCC. That number is 52 percent in Curbelo's district.

Luján, who was in South Florida last month, wrote the DCCC will try to recruit candidates across the country in July.

"Let’s look outside of the traditional mold to keep recruiting local leaders, veterans, business owners, women, job-creators, and health professionals," he wrote. "Let’s take the time to find people who fit their districts, have compelling stories, and work hard to earn support from voters."

Read Luján's memo below.

Continue reading "After Georgia loss, Democrats highlight improved generic polls in GOP-held South Florida districts" »

June 17, 2017

'We are better than this,' Biden tells Florida Democrats

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@PatriciaMazzei @martindvassolo

Still recovering from a crushing November loss, Florida Democrats turned to the 2018 election cycle Saturday with the help of the man who remains their party’s biggest cheerleader: former Vice President Joe Biden.

Without ever mentioning President Donald Trump, Biden rejected the new president’s rhetoric and assured Democrats there is a way for them to recover their political standing.

“The state the nation is today will not be sustained by the American people,” Biden said. “We are better than this.” 

At times funny, at times so serious he was whispering, Biden spoke to Democratic activists in Hollywood for more than 50 minutes, sounding like a potential candidate for president in 2020 — or at least like one the party’s most impassioned messengers for 2018. Biden created a new political action committee, American Possibilities, last month, fueling speculation that he is considering a presidential bid.

Though he discussed making community college free and narrowing the wage gap — the sort of issues that make up Democratic presidential platforms — Biden made no reference to the PAC or 2020, when he will be 77 and Trump will be 74. 

Instead, Biden began by making a case for the reelection of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who will likely face his biggest challenger yet next year in Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Florida Democrats have struggled to win in non-presidential years, when fewer of their voters have shown up to the polls.

“No one, no one, no one has ever questioned his word when he’s given it, and no one, no one that I’ve met in my entire time in the Senate and eight years as vice president doesn’t respect Bill for his moral courage and his physical courage,” Biden said. “Bill, I’ll come back to Florida as many times as you want — to campaign for you or against you, whichever helps more.”

More here.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

Lovefest forum for Democratic gubernatorial candidates features one foe: Trump

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@PatriciaMazzei

Unwilling to attack each other this early in the 2018 campaign for Florida governor, the three Democrats running so far chose different opponent Saturday: President Donald Trump.

“The biggest challenge we have facing the United States is without question Donald Trump,” said former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee. “And quite honestly, he’s the biggest challenge facing the world as well.”

“I agree 100 percent with her responses,” Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum said.

They had been asked about the biggest problems confronting the world, the nation and the state. Orlando entrepreneur Chris King offered the first answer, blaming the Republican president and Congress for trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, pulling out of the Paris climate agreement and cracking down on U.S.-Cuba relations.

“Trump’s taking us backwards again,” King said. “There’s a common theme.” 

The first forum among the Democratic rivals since all three declared their candidacies offered few areas of disagreement. That was by design: “This is not a debate,” said the moderator, former state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald of Sarasota. “These questions are sort of general.”

Instead, each candidate tried to win over activists involved in Leadership Blue, the Florida Democratic Party’s largest annual fundraiser held at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood. The forum was put on by the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, a fact not lost on the candidates, who attempted to cement their progressive bona fides.

More here.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

June 15, 2017

Here's what Canova told media about Wasserman Schultz rematch

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@amysherman1

Tim Canova announced a rematch against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz Thursday at a meeting of the Broward County Democratic progressive caucus.

After his speech, the Nova Southeastern University law professor took a few questions from the Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel about his second campaign, his January Facebook post about DNC staffer Seth Rich who was murdered, and about U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders who endorsed his 2016 bid.

Here is a transcript of part of the interview:

Question: “Last year she was at her most vulnerable ever and you couldn’t beat her six weeks after that [DNC email] scandal...”

Canova: “She was not at her most vulnerable ever. There was a presumption that she was maybe even going to be in a Hillary Clinton White House or cabinet, your premise Amy is a little bit off there. She was not at her most vulnerable at all.”

Question: “She faced the most public criticism and biggest downfall we had ever seen. You couldn’t beat her then...”

Canova: “I had a been candidate for less eight months -- three months before we did a poll that showed me down by something like 60 points. It was a remarkable achievement to come as close as we did.”

Question: “What will you do differently this time?"

Canova: “Announce a lot earlier.”

Question: “In terms of issues? strategy?”

Canova: “I will say this: the reason we came from so far behind was because of the issues in many ways. We knocked on a lot doors, we spoke to voters -- we learned what their issues were and it's not surprising that their issues were our issues. Most people want good jobs, they want economic security, they want health care and education -- that’s what we focused on -- that’s what we keep focusing on.”

Question: “What is it you’re going to do differently besides announcing six months earlier?”

Canova: “I didn’t say I was going to do a lot differently. I said we were going to keep focusing on the issues.”

Question: “[DNC staffer] Seth Rich -- do you still believe he was murdered because of the DNC leaks?”

Canova: “I do believe he was murdered -- yes. I am sure my opponent would also like to know who killed Seth Rich.”

Question: “But do you think he was killed because of the DNC email leaks?”

Canova: “I have no idea ... What I said on Facebook was that folks had suggested it and we should find out what happened. It's that simple.”

Question: “Do you think it has anything to do with the DNC?”

Canova: “I have no idea. I wondered what the DNC under Wasserman Schultz was capable of but I don’t know. That’s not the issues that I am focusing on. I know that’s the issue that Wasserman Schultz would like you to ask me, but that’s not the issue that I spoke about today.”

Question: “Have you talked to Bernie Sanders about your run this time and will he be involved?”

Canova: “No comment.”

Miami Herald 2016 file photo

Tim Canova announces rematch against Wasserman Schultz in Broward

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@amysherman1

Tim Canova announced he will seek a rematch against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz after decisively losing to her August, weeks after she hit a political low point after stepping down as chair of the Democratic National Committee.

“A year ago the eyes of the nation were on this race and the stakes were very high,” Canova said at a Broward Democratic progressive caucus meeting in Plantation Thursday night. “I say the stakes are still very high. We’ve got a president right now and a Congress, Republican dominated, that are pushing the most rabid inhumane radical type of agenda that I could have ever imagined.”

In 2016, Canova tapped into Bernie Sanders’ small donors and anger at the political establishment to raise about $3.8 million in the race for South Florida’s 23rd congressional district. A Nova Southeastern University law professor, Canova ran to the left of Wasserman Schultz by bashing her for taking money from corporate donors and big Sugar.

But Wasserman Schultz, first elected to Congress in 2004, drew support from Democratic heavyweights including President Barack Obama and focused on her long record supporting liberal causes such as abortion and gay rights. In August, she won by about 14 percentage points in the Broward/Miami-Dade district and then easily defeated Republican Joe Kaufman.

The question now is whether Canova’s prime opportunity to unseat Wasserman Schultz has passed.

Keep reading here.

League petitions Supreme Court, warns of 'constitutional crisis' prompted by Rick Scott's 'midnight appointments' to Supreme Court

Florida supreme court.1_12061496_8colThe Florida Supreme Court is being asked to avoid a potential "constitutional crisis" and affirm that Gov. Rick Scott does not have the authority to appoint judges whose term expires on the same day he leaves office in 2019.

The request came in the form of a quo warranto petition filed late Wednesday by the Florida League of Women Voters and Common Cause which argues that governor cannot appoint the successors of three Florida Supreme Court justices who will be retiring on the same day he is out of office because the justice's terms "run through the last second of the evening of Jan. 8, 2019."

Under current law, the governor is not allowed to make an appointment to the Florida Supreme Court, or the state courts of appeal, unless there is a vacancy. Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince are scheduled to retire because they have reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 on Jan. 8, 2019 -- the same day a new govenror will be sworn in the replace Scott. 

Scott, a two-term Republican, said during a December press conference that: "I'll appoint three more justices the morning I finish my term.” But the League warns that if Scott attempts a "midnight appointment" and attempts to choose the successors before the deadline, it will draw lawsuits and set the court system into chaos. 

"The importance of deciding this issue before Gov. Scott attempts to make the subject appointments cannot be overstated,'' wrote the attorneys for the voting rights groups. "Not only would that invite a constitutional crisis, especially if his successor makes different appointments, but it would disrupt the functioning of this court and any district court on which a similar vacancy might arise."

The petition urges the court to decide the matter swiftly to "clarify for the electorate and potential candidates the scope of what is at stake in the 2018 election."

It also asks the court not to send the issue to the lower courts to decide. Although the 2018 election is "over a year away, there is simply not enough time" for the case to wind its way through the court system to reach a resolution, the petition said.

The petition also argued that the high court should accept the case because there may be candidates for their jobs among the judges on the lower courts and "that is a very real conflict of interest that simply does not exist for any member of this court."

The petition cites previous court opinions to conclude "that the outgoing governor does not get to appoint successor justices or judges on the way out of office."

The issue has already came before voters in 2014 -- in the form of a constitutional amendment asking them to give the outgoing governor the appointment authority. But the measure needed approval from 60 percent of voters and only 48 percent approved.

The 2014 amendment was the brainchild of the Florida Legislature and Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, who was then chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.It was supported by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Council of 100 but was opposed by the League of Women Voters.

Lee argued the current law is unclear about whether the incoming or outgoing governor can make the appointment and also warned that a potential legal battle could set off a “constitutional crisis.”

But in the petition, lawyers for the voting groups also note that a resolution to this soon "would also preempt cynical complaints by anyone dissatisfied with the decision that the case was contaminated by political considerations."

Photo by Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times