June 03, 2016

In Miami, Obama praises Wasserman Schultz


President Barack Obama gave a shout-out in Miami on Friday to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, who faces a contested primary election.

Wasserman Schultz is chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, which hosted Obama for a fundraiser at the Coconut Grove home of attorney Robert Rubenstein. Her opponent, Tim Canova, has been endorsed by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Obama described Wasserman Schultz as "somebody who I don't know how she does it, because she's everywhere all the time, non-stop, and she's a mom and a wife and has been just incredibly supportive of my agenda."

"She's taken tough votes when they're the right thing to do, and she's somebody who I have counted on consistently," Obama said. "She's had my back. I want to make sure we have her back."

The about 90 donors gathered at the dinner gave her a standing ovation.

Obama also gave shout-outs to several other attendees, including former Gov. Charlie Crist, who is now running for Congress in St. Petersbur ("a great friend," Obama said). And he praised a candidate who wasn't there: U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter. Earlier Friday, Obama attended a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser for Murphy on Miami Beach.

"I think he's going to be outstanding in the United States Senate," Obama said.

Photo credit: Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

Republicans pounce on President Obama's Miami fundraisers for DNC, Patrick Murphy


National and state Republicans are casting President Barack Obama's political events in Miami today as the Democratic Party's figurehead intervening in a critical toss-up state.

Obama is in South Florida this evening for a couple Democratic fundraisers: one for U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee -- the arm of the Democratic Party that's tasked with electing candidates to the U.S. Senate -- and another for the Democratic National Committee. (The DNC event was being billed as potentially Obama's last visit to Miami as president.)

Wadi Gaitan, spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida, said in a statement that Obama was attempting "to calm the rising tide of Democratic disunity through speeches and fundraisers."

"Floridians continue to distrust the failed policies that the president and Hillary Clinton are promoting. Voters are ready for a new leader who will turn the page on the last eight years of this broken administration by fighting for real solutions for all Americans," Gaitan said -- without naming the GOP's presidential candidate, Donald Trump.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee -- the GOP version of the DSCC -- said Obama was trying "to bail out Patrick Murphy" by fundraising for him in person.

Murphy is seen as a front-runner in the competitive race to replace Marco Rubio -- a contest that could determine which party has control of the Senate next year. But Murphy had a rocky month in May, largely in part because of reports by the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times that highlighted inconsistencies in the Democratic candidate's résumé.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden endorsed Murphy in March -- an achievement Murphy proudly touts -- and since then, Biden has campaigned and fund-raised for Murphy twice, first in Miami and then in Orlando last month.

So it wasn't out of the realm of possibility that Obama might campaign for him, too, at some point.

The NRSC said Murphy "is not only watching the bottom fall out of his campaign, but is struggling to gain oxygen in a brutal primary fight against liberal hero Alan Grayson." (Murphy, Grayson and Miami labor attorney Pam Keith are competing in the Aug. 30 primary.)

"With Murphy in a tailspin, it’s hardly a surprise that D.C. Democrats are pulling out all the stops to bail out their chosen candidate," the NRSC said in a statement this morning.

Murphy campaign spokesman Joshua Karp told the Herald/Times that "Republicans keep cheer-leading for ethically challenged hedge fund manager Alan Grayson to win the Democratic primary." 

"Meanwhile, Patrick is proud to be endorsed and supported by President Obama, Vice President Biden, and over a hundred other Democratic leaders. That tells Florida Democrats all they need to know," Karp said in a campaign statement.

Some Republicans have, indeed, expressed a desire for Grayson to win the primary -- but that's because it would give their GOP candidate a stronger chance to win the general election (and hold on to the seat for Republicans). Polls of the U.S. Senate race so far have, in general, shown both Murphy and Grayson leading over the five Republican contenders, but with Grayson doing so by a slimmer margin than Murphy.

The five Republicans running in that party primary are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami, Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox and Manatee County home-builder Carlos Beruff.

UPDATE: 3:40 p.m.

Lopez-Cantera's campaign also chimed in about Obama's event for Murphy with a statement this morning, saying in part: "Murphy is bringing in America's most divisive president to fundraise for him today to further try to prop up his flailing Senate bid while he continues to stumble."

Photo credit: President Barack Obama arrives at Cecil Airport on Air Force One with Rep. Patrick Murphy, left, and Rep. Corrine Brown, Feb. 26, 2016, in Jacksonville. Rick Wilson / AP

June 01, 2016

While in Miami, President Obama will also fundraise for Patrick Murphy


Vice President Joe Biden came to Florida twice this spring to help Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign. Now President Barack Obama will be here to help out Murphy, too.

Obama will be in Miami on Friday to help raise money for the Democratic National Committee, and during that visit, he'll also attend a separate event to fund-raise for Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign.

No further details are available about the Murphy event. TCPalm.com first reported on the fundraiser on Tuesday.

The website also said that Obama will travel to the Treasure Coast (in Murphy's congressional district) on Friday evening for a weekend of golf.

Murphy, a two-term congressman from Jupiter, is the Democratic establishment's favored candidate for the Aug. 30 party primary. Murphy faces fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando and Miami labor attorney Pam Keith. (Five contenders are running in the GOP primary that same day.)

Obama and Biden endorsed Murphy in March, and since then, Biden has campaigned and fund-raised for him twice, first in Miami and then in Orlando last month.

Obama's and Biden's involvement in Florida's U.S. Senate race is a reflection of the significance the seat holds for Democrats. The seat, being vacated by Marco Rubio, is among a handful that could switch parties in November and possibly give Democrats a majority in the Senate again.

May 18, 2016

Florida lawmaker wants AG opinion on feds’ transgender bathroom rules; Pam Bondi declines


An outgoing conservative lawmaker in Florida who is running for Nassau County schools superintendent wants state Attorney General Pam Bondi to issue an official opinion on what she believes to be the "constitutional encroach" of the Obama administration's new guidance to public schools over transgender students' bathroom access.

State Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, called the president's new policy a "clear violation" of states' rights under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"It is clear that the Obama administration is once again circumventing the Congress and even its own federal rule-making process to impose new federal rules and laws on Florida’s public schools," Adkins said in a statement this morning.

MORE: Read Rep. Adkins' letter to Bondi

But Bondi’s office isn’t wading into the issue. Deputy Attorney General Kent J. Perez wrote in a response to Adkins on Wednesday afternoon: “We do not issue legal opinions on federal law.”

On Friday, the U.S. departments of Education and Justice sent letters of guidance to all public schools nationwide informing them that they must treat students in ways that match their gender identities -- or risk losing federal money under Title IX, which prohibits discrimination in educational programs based on sex.

Republican leaders in Florida have been reluctant to comment so far on the new guidelines. But Adkins, the outgoing chairwoman of the House K-12 Education Subcommittee, wants a swifter response: For the state to challenge the Obama administration's directive.

Read the full story here.

Published 10:49 a.m.; Updated 4:30 p.m.

May 17, 2016

Carlos Beruff says comment calling Obama 'animal' was taken out of context, not racist

via @adamsmithtimes

So Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff called called President Barack Obama an animal the other day. As in: “Unfortunately, for seven and a half years this animal we call president, because he’s an animal, OK — seven and a half years, has surgically and with thought and very smart, intelligent manner, destroyed this country and dismantled the military under not one, not two, but three secretary of defenses.” 

The Ocala Star-Banner reports that Beruff said his comments were taken out of context:  "...I use strong language and it was meant in the context of the (current) dismantling of the military. I could have called him a bird, plane, anything,” Beruff said.

This, of course, makes complete sense:  “Unfortunately, for seven and a half years this PLANE we call president, because he’s aPLANE, OK — seven and a half years, has surgically and with thought and very smart, intelligent manner, destroyed this country and dismantled the military under not one, not two, but three secretary of defenses.” 

Anyhoo, his critics continue to seize on it.

Continue reading "Carlos Beruff says comment calling Obama 'animal' was taken out of context, not racist" »

President Obama is coming to Miami to raise money for Democrats


President Barack Obama will be in Miami next month to ask wealthy Democratic donors to open their checkbooks to the political party ahead of the November election that will determine Obama's successor.

To lure donors to the June 3 dinner, the Democratic National Committee is billing the event as perhaps Obama's final Miami fundraiser as president.

"This may be the last time President Obama visits Miami as a sitting President, making it a truly special event," reads an invitation obtained by the Miami Herald. The fundraiser was first reported by Saint PetersBlog.

"This is a great opportunity to support the DNC and ultimately stop Donald Trump from reaching the White House in 2016," the invitation says.

 Though it doesn't say so on the invite, the dinner will take place at the Coconut Grove home of attorney Robert Rubenstein.

To attend and get a photo with the president, donors must contribute $10,000 per person. To "co-host" the event -- which usually comes with more access to the president -- they must contribute $33,400 per couple.

Obama headlined a similar fundraiser for the DNC a year ago in Coconut Grove, unofficially kicking off Democrats' presidential fundraising season.

May 15, 2016

White House to award highest honor to South Florida cops

via @ChuckRabin

A Miami-Dade County police officer who stopped a man from setting a gas station on fire and a North Miami officer who shot a man after a wild car chase and shooting spree, will receive the nation’s highest public safety honor at a ceremony at the White House on Monday.

It was October 2013 when Miami-Dade police officer Mario Gutierrez spotted Domique Jean, 51, acting erratically at a Shell Gas station on LeJeune Road near Miami International Airport. As Gutierrez approached, Jean tried to set a gas pump on fire. The two struggled. Gutierrez was stabbed, and Jean was shot dead.

In April 2015, North Miami officer Niel Johnson confronted an armed Frantzy Armand outside an apartment complex in Sans Souci. During the shootout, Aramnd was shot. He survived. But before he was subdued, Armand stole a cop car, got into a shootout with an officer and led police on a wild chase north and then east, while shooting and injuring two unsuspecting car drivers along the way.

On Monday in the East Room of the White House, the two officers will receive the prestigious Medal of Valor from President Barack Obama. It’s the highest national honor awarded to a public safety officer.


May 13, 2016

White House praises Marco Rubio on Zika


From White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest's briefing with reporters Friday:

QUESTION: ... yesterday. And on Zika -- I know you mentioned that the funding is not that -- on the current legislation that's making its way through right now.
Does the president expect to pass these pieces of legislation if they reach his desk? And are you championing about the effort by the Florida Senators Rubio and Nelson to give -- fully fund at $1.9 billion?
EARNEST: Yeah. Well, we certainly welcome the bipartisan support that our Zika proposal has received, including from Senator Rubio.
I think this reflects the degree to which, for all of our policy differences with Senator Rubio, when it comes to looking out for the public health and well being of the American people, there shouldn't be a partisan difference.
And I think Senator Rubio and Senator Nelson both understand the consequences for mothers and babies in Florida, of not doing everything possible to fight Zika.

Continue reading "White House praises Marco Rubio on Zika" »

April 28, 2016

Three Floridians among Obama nominees to federal district bench


President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated U.S. magistrate judges in Jacksonville and Ocala and a prominent Tampa lawyer for federal district court seats, adding their names to a backlog of dozens of judicial picks the Republican-controlled Senate has failed to confirm.

Obama named Magistrate Judge Patricia D. Barksdale of Jacksonville and Tampa white-collar defense attorney William F. Jung to the Middle District of Florida, and he chose Magistrate Judge Philip R. Lammens for the Northern District of Florida.

"There is a judicial emergency in the Middle District of Florida right now," Sen. Bill Nelson said. "Sen. Rubio and I have conferred on these three nominees, and even in this highly partisan environment, I'm hopeful that we can get them approved quickly."

Aides to Rubio confirmed that the two senators had worked together in recommending the Florida nominees to Obama.

Rubio, however, declined to say whether he would push for his Senate Republican colleagues to confirm them. Republicans are refusing to hold hearings or to vote on Obama's nomination last month of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

With 85 federal district seats unfilled nationwide, Florida has three of 28 vacancies deemed "emergency" by the U.S. Judicial Conference, the policy-making body for federal courts overseen by the Supreme Court.

The emergency designation is based on a combination of the length of vacancy and how many cases are pending before a court.

Both seats that Obama moved to fill Thursday for the Middle District of Florida are among the 28 emergency vacancies, with one seat empty since June 30, 2015, and the second seat unfilled since August 1 of last year.

The Middle District of Florida had 9,401 cases in 2015, which is considered a heavy load. It stretches from south of Naples on the Gulf Coast to the Georgia border and includes Jacksonville, Tampa and Orlando.

Obama also nominated five other district judges to seats in Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina and the District of Columbia.

"Throughout their careers, these nominees have displayed unwavering commitment to justice and integrity," Obama said of his eight choices for judicial promotion. "Their records are distinguished and impressive, and I am confident that they will serve the American people well from the United States District Court bench."

The Senate on April 11 unanimously confirmed Waverly Crenshaw Jr., an African-American lawyer from Nashville, Tenn., to a federal district judgeship.

The Senate confirmed just 17 of Obama's judicial nominees last year, the fewest since 1960.

Before becoming a U.S. magistrate judge in 2012, Lammens was a federal prosecutor in Jacksonville, the city's No. 2 attorney and a civil trial lawyer in the torts division of the U.S. Justice Department. He earned his law and undergraduate degrees from the University of Florida.

A U.S. magistrate judge since 2013, Barksdale also previously worked as a federal prosecutor in Jacksonville. She, too, has undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Florida.

Jung is a founding partner of the Jung & Sisco law firm in Ocala, specializing in white-collar criminal defense. He was a federal prosecutor in Miami in the late 1980s and clerked before that for then-Supreme Court Justice William H. Rehnquist. Jung received his law degree from the University of Illinois and his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University





April 09, 2016

Miami’s once-mighty political guard left out of conversation on Cuba



President Barack Obama’s historic trip to Cuba last month marked the culmination of a foreign policy he laid out eight years as ago as a candidate, when he broke with his predecessors and pledged to sit down with unfriendly dictators, because punishing them with silence seemed “ridiculous.”

He did more than just meet with Raúl Castro. Obama, flexing his office’s extensive executive power over international affairs, dismantled almost every piece of the U.S.’s Cold War-era approach to Cuba.

Left out of the conversation: anyone who disagreed, including the eight Cuban Americans — Republican and Democrat — in Congress 57 years after the Cuban revolution. Half of them — one senator and three representatives — hail from Miami, the new city exiles made in Havana’s old image.

For eight years, they’ve had zero input on the issue on which some of them built their political careers. And now they face the prospect of four or eight more years of the same, with a new White House tenant come January. Castro has promised to retire in 2018.

Miami’s Cuban-American political guard risks losing any influence it has left at a time when Cuba could undergo its most sweeping changes.

“There’s no doubt about it,” said Pepe Hernández, president of the Cuban American National Foundation, which supports the Cuba policy Obama unveiled 15 months ago. “Like they say in dominó, they have been shuffled off the table, quite substantially, in the past few years — but especially since Dec. 17, 2014.

“But I don’t think, honestly, they care much.”

They don’t.

“I’m not hurt at all — it frees up my day,” Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said of not talking to Obama. “He’s of no consequence to us.”

But what about the next president?

More here.

Photo credit: Astrid Riecken, MCT