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82 posts from October 2018

October 18, 2018

Miami-Dade woos Democrats with Emilio Estefan’s food, mojitos and gay men’s chorus



Local officials rolled out the red carpet for Democrats on Thursday as party representatives toured Miami-Dade to evaluate the county’s bid to host the 2020 national convention — what could be the region’s first major political convention in nearly 50 years.

There was a serenade from the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida at the newly renovated Miami Beach Convention Center, a golden statue of a lifeguard chair with a lifesaver reading “DNC 2020” and lunch with Emilio Estefan at the music producer’s Design District restaurant, Estefan Kitchen. The night before, the delegation visited Wynwood Walls, an outdoor street art museum, and dined on Peruvian food.

Then, on Thursday afternoon, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and a group of city and county commissioners officially welcomed the Democratic National Committee’s site survey team. At a press event in front of the Design District’s Fly’s Eye Dome, a giant art installation circled by palm trees, the officials stressed South Florida’s diversity and experience hosting major events.

More here

First debate between Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum this Sunday in Tampa


Finally, this weekend brings Floridians' first opportunity to see the two candidates for governor, Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum, go head-to-head in a debate.

The details: it's happening in Tampa at 8 p.m., in the local PBS studio. Voters can watch the debate, likely moderated by Jake Tapper, on CNN.

Previously, there had been three debates scheduled between the candidates. A Telemundo debate in Orlando was supposed to take place on Tuesday, Oct. 16, but Gillum cancelled, saying he needed to focus on recovery efforts post-Hurricane Michael until Thursday.

After Sunday, that just leaves the Oct. 24 debate in Davie, hosted by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association. That one will be broadcast on live local stations across the state.

October 17, 2018

Watch Donna Shalala sing 'Guantanamera'

Pelosi touts gun control in Broward visit with Parkland parents

Nancy pelosi

@martindvassolo @alextdaugherty

Democrats may be wary of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in other parts of the country, but she’s welcome in South Florida.

With the midterm elections just weeks away, Parkland students and parents convened Wednesday with Pelosi in Coral Springs to game plan for November. The round table discussion focused on gun control, moderated by U.S. Rep Ted Deutch, was equal parts emotional venting and strategizing.

Pelosi called the activists and parents a “blessing to our country,” and said because of the energy coming out of Parkland, the issue of gun control would top the Democratic Party’s agenda in the House of Representatives if they take control.

“I admire you so much,” she said. “You have the purpose, the generosity of spirit. You have the marchers — you have people who will go out there to make a difference — and you just have a relentless, persistent, dissatisfied approach.”

More here.

South Florida Democrats are betting that healthcare is their winning issue

Budget Health Care


Miami-Dade County is home to the largest concentration of Obamacare recipients in the country, and Democrats are spending millions on TV ads, certain that healthcare is the No. 1 issue voters care about this year.

Congress’ attempt to repeal Obamacare during the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency was one of the highest-profile votes that incumbent Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart had to take. They both voted to repeal Obamacare in two majority-Latino districts that have nearly 200,000 Obamacare recipients between them.

Now Democrats are convinced that reminding voters of their representatives’ attempts to repeal Obamacare is the way to flip as many as three GOP-held seats in November, along with keeping incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in office.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is spending nearly $1 million a week on ads related to healthcare in her race against Curbelo.

Donna Shalala has touted her experience running the Department of Health and Human Services under former President Bill Clinton and tried to paint her Republican opponent Maria Elvira Salazar as a “cheerleader of Trump” and his policy preferences like repealing Obamacare. Salazar has said she would have voted against the Obamacare repeal bill with Democrats, but expressed support for allowing health insurance to be sold across state lines, an idea that Shalala said was silly.

And Mary Barzee Flores, a Democrat running against Diaz-Balart, focused on healthcare in her first television ad, noting that her father passed away when she was young.

Read more here.

Mario Diaz-Balart is banned from Venezuela, but his wife promoted travel there

Copy of ENG Mario21 cuba new hmg


Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart dislikes Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro so much that he framed the notice banning the congressman from the country, hung it in his office and bragged about it on social media.

But the Miami Republican’s wife promoted travel to Venezuela two years ago. In 2016, a year after the ban on Diaz-Balart was announced by Maduro, Tia Diaz-Balart posted a list of “best places to visit in Venezuela” on the website for Ladat Travel, a company founded by the congressman’s wife to create “custom-tailored dream vacations” for clients and groups. The posts mostly describe tourist attractions like Venezuela’s Angel Falls, the world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall. Tia Diaz-Balart’s LinkedIn page says she founded the company in August 2014 and worked there until September 2017, and the company’s associated LLC shows up in Diaz-Balart’s 2014 federal financial disclosure.

When asked by the Miami Herald, Diaz-Balart’s campaign said Mario and Tia Diaz-Balart never made any money off tourists traveling to Venezuela or anywhere else because the business venture never got off the ground.

“She never made any money off of any tour or travel anywhere,” Diaz-Balart campaign representative Cesar Gonzalez said. “It was kind of like this idea that she had of starting this travel agency. It never took off.”

More here.

She doesn’t want it known, but Maria Elvira Salazar favors Trump talks with Castro


Via @FabiolSantiago

During her videotaped interview with the Miami Herald’s Editorial Board, in which members of the newsroom like me participated, I asked Republican congressional candidate Maria Elvira Salazar about her position on President Donald Trump’s Cuba policy.

Salazar said she liked that Trump “has changed the rules of the game” and now when people like Madonna want to go to Cuba to celebrate their birthdays, they have to stay in a Cuban home instead of a hotel owned by the Cuban military and buy cigars not from government stores but from the people.

Trump should “do even more,” she said, “and fulfill what he’s promised.”

Should Trump start conversations with Miguel Díaz-Canel, Cuba’s newly appointed president, I asked her?

“He shouldn’t talk to Diaz-Canel because he doesn’t reflect anything. We know it was a transfer of title, not a transfer of power.”

After the Q&A, I approached Salazar for a follow-up and she insisted that there was no point in talking to Diaz-Canel “the puppet” when the man in charge was still Communist Party leader Raúl Castro.

Should Trump then talk to Raúl Castro? I asked — and she immediately and unequivocally answered that yes, he should.

“Trump should talk to Raúl Castro. He calls the shots.”

But as soon as she said that, and I made a gesture to write it in my notebook, Salazar, who has been endorsed by the hardline Bay of Pigs veterans group, called out: “That’s off the record!”

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The Shalala conundrum: wooing Hispanic voters when you don’t speak the language


Donna Shalala has a conundrum.

In her bid to flip a Miami congressional seat once thought an easy pickup for Democrats, she’s struggling with Hispanic voters. But to woo a majority of the district, she must venture onto Spanish-language television and debate a former Spanish-language broadcast journalist who couldn’t be more at home in a studio.

For the second time in four days, Shalala and Republican Maria Elvira Salazar were beamed Tuesday into the living rooms of Florida’s 27th congressional district. With independent candidate Mayra Joli standing between them, they sparred for an hour from Univision 23’s Doral studios while making their case to serve as the successor to retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

And once again, Shalala was on Salazar’s home turf, listening to her opponent’s interpreted comments through an earpiece and speaking to viewers through a translator. “I’m here for this debate in Spanish, although my Spanish is not very good,” she said.

Before either had even introduced themselves, Salazar put Shalala on the defensive, immediately ripping into the former University of Miami president during her opening comments over the Democrat’s announced appearance Wednesday with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and California Congresswoman Barbara Lee — who reportedly said when Fidel Castro died that “we need to stop and pause and mourn his loss.”

“It seems to me that Mrs. Shalala should reconsider and cancel that press conference,” said Salazar, who is a Republican Cuban-American. “That is an offense and a lack of sensitivity to prisoners, to those shot, to the exiles who live here in the city of Miami.”

Shalala, who had not yet uttered a word, said she didn’t know what Salazar was talking about — even though the press conference was scheduled at her own campaign headquarters. Shalala’s campaign said later that the candidate was thrown off by a muddled translation in her earpiece.

“I definitely don’t know anything about that press conference,” said Shalala. “But I absolutely oppose the Cuban government.

It was a rough start for a campaign that says it does not yet have a date set for an English-language debate as the two campaigns fight over dates. The night also ended strangely, with Joli accusing Salazar of being funded by the Illuminati and Shalala by the Clintons.

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October 16, 2018

Rick Scott to Verizon: Give me a plan to restore service, and waive customers' bills

Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Wes Maul looks at Gov. Rick Scott during a hurricane briefing at the state emergency operations center Tuesday. (Miami Herald)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued another rebuke of Verizon today, telling the cell provider in a terse press release that he expects the company to give him a plan today to restore service to the areas hit by Hurricane Michael, and that all cell providers should waive bills for October.

The press release was addressed to all cell phone providers, but it singled out Verizon, which has struggled to restore service in Bay County, where Michael made landfall.

Over the last 48 hours, both Scott and CFO Jimmy Patronis have criticized Verizon's slow recovery, and on Monday, Scott met with the company's senior vice president and chief network officer, Nicki Palmer.

"Verizon recently said in a press release that 98 percent of Florida has service," the governor's office press release said. "This statement, which includes customers in Florida that were hundreds of miles away from impacted areas, does not help Florida’s law enforcement in Bay County and families communicate with loved ones in Panama City and does not help those needing medicine call their pharmacy in Lynn Haven."

Scott then laid out his expectations for all cell phone and internet providers:

  • Customers in the impacted counties should be allowed to switch providers without penalty. Some cell phone contracts still penalize customers for switching before their two-year contract is up.
  • Bills for customers in affected counties should have their October bills waived.
  • "Telecommunications companies should be open and transparent with Floridians and do so with a clearly communicated plan to quickly restore service."

"Families understand that the telecommunications industry, like the power companies and other services, experienced catastrophic damage to vital infrastructure," Scott said in the press release, "but that does not change our expectation that each telecommunications company will be open and communicate a clear plan on how they intend to quickly restore service while treating families fairly."

The press release added that "The Governor expects that a plan for full telecommunications restoration will be communicated today."

Verizon has said it's suffered "unprecedented damage" to its network in Bay County.

The return of cell service has been critical to telling people where to find supplies after the storm, Scott has said. In Mexico Beach, people have been forced to stand on bridges to get any sort of cell signal.

Independent poll shows Carlos Curbelo with a slim lead over Debbie Mucarsel-Powell



An independent poll shows Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo with a 1 point lead over Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell—and a contingent of undecided voters large enough to decide the election.

A poll conducted by Mason Dixon Strategies and Telemundo 51 from October 3 to October 9 with 625 registered voters who said they were likely to vote showed a race that is essentially a toss-up for Curbelo’s Miami to Key West congressional seat that President Donald Trump lost more than 16 percentage points two years ago. Curbelo captures 46 percent support while Mucarsel-Powell takes 45 percent. Nine percent of voters are undecided as both campaigns spend millions on TV advertising.

Curbelo once had a lead in the race but Mucarsel-Powell has closed the gap in recent weeks through increased TV spending. Curbelo is better known than Mucarsel-Powell according to the poll and has a higher favorability rating, though Mucarsel-Powell has a lower unfavorable rating than Curbelo. The poll’s margin of error is 4 percentage points, meaning the race is essentially a tie.

More here.