June 24, 2016

Broward Democratic Chair Mitch Ceasar won't run again


Flashback to 1996 in Florida politics: The Republicans gained control of their second chamber in the Legislature, the Broward Democratic Party chairman had gone to jail, and Democrats in the left-leaning county lamented that one of their most frequent get-togethers was at funerals.

The new county party chair, Mitch Ceasar, took charge of the group of activists that December and asked for what appeared to be impossible: silence.

“Quiet! Quiet!” Ceasar said, holding a microphone in one hand and a bagel in the other. “We're on a roll here — or a bagel.”

The Mitch Ceasar era in Broward County Democratic politics is nearing an end, now that he announced that he will not seek re-election to a position he had won five times. Ceasar said that it was time to pass the baton on to new leaders.

“I felt 20 years was a great opportunity, a great experience,” Ceasar said Friday. “Often frustrating but still something I loved to do.”

His decision wasn’t a surprise because Ceasar had temporarily stepped aside from his party leadership role last year to run for Broward clerk of csourts. Friday was the last day to qualify to run as a precinct committeeman, something Ceasar would have had to do to run for chair.

After the Aug. 30th clerk of courts primary, whether he wins or loses, Ceasar said he will return as chair of the Broward Democrats until his term expires in December.

Keep reading here.

June 17, 2016

What we don't know about the Debbie Wasserman Schultz vs Tim Canova primary

Both U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her primary challenger Tim Canova will be at the Florida Leadership Blue Gala Saturday in Hollywood.

Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chair, will speak at the event where New Jersey Senator Cory Booker is the keynote speaker. The event is a chance for Canova, a Hollywood resident and Nova Southeastern University law professor, to spread his message among party activists.

This is the first time Wasserman Schultz of Weston has faced a primary challenge since she first won the seat since 2004. They are competing in a liberal district that largely lies in Broward and dips into northern Miami-Dade County.

Here are four key things we don’t know about the Debbie Wasserman Schultz vs Tim Canova primary:

1. What the polls show

There have been no public polls or internal polls released so far. A poll in the district would answer questions about Canova’s name recognition and if Wasserman Schultz is vulnerable on any particular issues -- such as her position in favor of the Iran deal -- or with any segment of the Democratic primary electorate.

2. How much local voters care about Wasserman Schultz’s woes as DNC chair

The main thing that Wasserman Schultz has taken hits for in the media for months is her leadership of the Democratic National Committee. Bernie Sanders and his supporters have slammed her for months, calling for her ouster and accusing her of favoring Hillary Clinton, which she denies. But district voters may care more about her positions on issues such as favoring abortion and gay rights, equal pay for women and her record fighting Republicans than they do about her party leadership. Plus, her district voted for Clinton over Sanders 68-31 percent in the March 15th primary so the criticism by the Sanders’ folks may not mean much.

3. What Wasserman Schultz’s stance on medical marijuana will mean for the race

Wasserman Schultz opposed the medical marijuana amendment in 2014 which was supported by 58 percent of Florida voters, two points shy of the threshold to amend the state constitution. Her opposition angered Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan who funded the amendment last time and again for this year. Morgan has threatened to form a PAC in an effort to defeat Wasserman Schultz but he told the Herald he is waiting for a poll to emerge before making a decision about investing in the race (see no. 1 above). Wasserman Schultz has said she is “evaluating” the 2016 amendment but she could avoid taking a stance until after the Aug. 30th primary since the amendment is on the November ballot. Although many Broward voters disagree with her opposition to the 2014 amendment, will they punish her for that?

4. How many of Canova’s donors live in the district

Canova’s $2 million fundraising haul between January and mid-June is impressive for a first-time candidate. A good portion of that was fueled by Sanders saying on national TV in May that he is backing Canova. But it’s unclear how much of that money comes from voters who live in the district. A Center for Responsive Politics analysis of Canova’s donations through March -- so based on about one-quarter of his haul now -- showed that the majority of his donations over $200 came from outside of Florida. But the vast majority of his donations come from small donations and campaigns don’t have to report where those donors live. There’s nothing wrong or unusual about out of district donations and money is money when it comes to funding ads on TV, print, radio and mailers. But it means we don’t know how many of these donors can vote for Canova Aug. 30.

June 16, 2016

Tim Canova raises $2 million in race against Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Broward Congressional race

Tim Canova has raised more than $2 million in his Democratic primary battle against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston.

He has raised $2,054,332.57 since he launched his campaign in January. Canova's campaign said that he raised money from 58,421 individual donors and the average contribution was $17.16.

His campaign did not release information on what percentage of those donations have come from outside of Florida. An analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics of his donations above $200 through March found that the majority were from out of state, however that provides an incomplete picture because most of his donations are below that threshold and therefore the campaign doesn't have to report where the donors live.

Wasserman Schultz raised $1.8 million through March and hasn't announced an update on her fundraising. She has been endorsed by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden was going to host a fundraiser for her last weekend but it was cancelled due to the Orlando shooting massacre.

Canova and Wasserman Schultz are competing in the left-leaning District 23 which mostly lies in Broward County and includes part of northern Miami-Dade. The primary is Aug. 30.

Canova, a Hollywood resident, said in a press release: “People all over Florida and all over our district are supporting our campaign for change. They have had enough of a political system that is awash in corporate money and corporate influence. We all have an interest in a decent jobs market, affordable prescription drug prices and health care, educational opportunities, and safe and healthy communities.  Wasserman Schultz’s corporate donors are often standing in the way of progress for all.” 

Canova, a first-time candidate and Nova Southeastern University law professor, got a big boost to his fundraising when Bernie Sanders announced in May that he is supporting Canova. Sanders named Canova to a committee about financial reform in 2011. Sanders has been critical of Wasserman Schultz's leadership of the Democratic National Committee where he says she has favored Hillary Clinton, a charge she has denied. Sanders wants Wasserman Schultz ousted from the DNC. 

The Clinton campaign installed a general election chief of staff of the DNC Thursday: Brandon Davis, who was formerly the political director of the Service Employees International Union. It's common practice for the presumptive party nominee to take the reins at the DNC. Wasserman Schultz welcomed Davis at party headquarters Thursday morning, CNN reported.

This post has been updated to correct the title of Davis.


June 09, 2016

White House asked about Debbie Wasserman Schultz today

In a White House briefing today, spokesman Josh Earnest faced a question about President Barack Obama's position on U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's leadership of the Democratic National Committee.

QUESTION: Does the president have confidence in Debbie Wasserman Schultz to maintain her position through the end of this cycle?
EARNEST: Well, James, the president was in south Florida at the end of last week, and he talked about her service as the chair of the Democratic National Committee. But  the president appointed her to be the chair of the DNC during his first term, which means that part of her legacy at the DNC is having built a Democratic campaign apparatus that succeeded in reelecting the first African-American president of the United States. President Obama is, of course, the first president since Eisenhower to be elected and reelected with more than 50 percent of the vote. And certainly the DNC, and the structure that was built and financed through Debbie Wasserman Schultz's efforts can take some credit for that, she should. So, the president made clear that Debbie Wasserman Schultz has always had his back and he's always going to have hers. And the president announced his support for her reelection campaign, and he certainly is appreciative of all the important work that she has done at the DNC.

Obama praised Wasserman Schultz at a DNC fundraiser in Miami earlier this month. Vice President Joe Biden comes to Coconut Grove this weekend to fundraiser for her.

Wasserman Schultz is facing Democratic opponent Tim Canova, a first-time candidate and Nova Southeastern University law professor who has raised nearly $2 million. He has focused on online, small-dollar donations similar to his biggest-name supporter: Bernie Sanders.

June 08, 2016

Debbie Wasserman Schultz gets Broward firefighters endorsement

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, has been endorsed by the Broward County Council of Professional Firefighters.

Wasserman Schultz is running in a primary against first-time candidate Tim Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor. Canova was endorsed today by the Pipefitters union. They are competing in a Broward/Miami-Dade Congressional District 23.

Vice President Joe Biden will fundraise for Wasserman Schultz this weekend in Coconut Grove.


Broward congressional candidate Tim Canova gets additional labor endorsement

Tim Canova will be endorsed by the Piperfitters Union Local 725 today at noon at his Hollywood headquarters.

Canova's previous labor endorsements include the Communication Workers of America and National Nurses United.

Canova is running in a Democratic primary against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston. Most of left-leaning Congressional District 23 is in Broward while a slice of it is in northern Miami-Dade.

The race has drawn considerable national attention. Both candidates have big names on their side: Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chair, has been endorsed by President Barack Obama while Canova was endorsed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Canova has raised close to $2 million. Wasserman Schultz raised $1.8 million through March but hasn't provided a more recent update yet. Campaign finance reports are next due July 15.

Check out Wasserman Schultz's Truth-O-Meter record from PolitiFact Florida and Canova's Truth-O-Meter record.


June 06, 2016

Former Broward County Commissioner Marcia Beach was advocate for disabled

At the height of her political powers, then-Broward County Commissioner Marcia Beach stunned the county’s government leadership: She quit.

It was October 1985. As chairwoman of the commission four years earlier, Beach had steered Broward through a withering tax revolt and recall effort. Now, her reelection seemed assured.

But Beach had just begun law school — a decision she made to ensure she earned enough to protect her teenage daughter, Shannon, who had been born with a devastating disability. And, at 40, Beach had been unable to juggle the demands of law school and public life.

It was the kind of decision Beach would make again and again: Shannon came first, as did the millions of Floridians who were like her. Beach died Saturday in Lakeland.

Keep reading Carol Marbin Miller's story here.

May 31, 2016

Alan Koslow co-defendant released on $50,000 bond

Susan Mohr, the co-defendant in the money laundering case with lobbyist Alan Koslow, surrended in federal court today in Fort Lauderdale.

Mohr was released on a $50,000 bond, said her attorney Michael B. Cohen.

Koslow is set to surrender on Thursday. Koslow and Mohr were charged with one count of money laundering last week stemming from an FBI sting that ended in 2013. A key question remains unanswered: why would it take federal prosecutors three years to file the charges in what wasn't a very complicated case? In past corruption cases, those facing charges have helped federal law enforcement nab others. Also unclear is how Koslow and Mohr know each other.

Read here for a refresher about the case.

May 27, 2016

Congressional Black Caucus endorses Debbie Wasserman Schultz

The political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus has endorsed U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz who is running against first-time candidate Tim Canova for a Broward/Miami-Dade seat.

From a press release:

"Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been a consistent and reliable leader and voice on issues of importance to African Americans and all Americans. As a Member of Congress, she has supported the Congressional Black Caucus’ agenda on issues such as voting rights, HBCU funding, fair sentencing guidelines, affordable housing, creating opportunities for minority-owned businesses, and lifting the people out of poverty and into the middle class to name a few. As leader of the Democratic National Committee, she has “walked the walk” with an unprecedented number of senior level African American appointments and policies that have provided historical opportunities for African American policy makers, operatives, activists and businesses. Under her leadership, both the 2012 and 2016 Democratic National Conventions have set diversity goals that meet and exceed levels of past minority participation. Her commitment to diversity is unwavering and the advances under her leadership are unquestioned."

It's not a surprise that Wasserman Schultz's colleagues in the House endorsed her -- she is the Democratic National Committee chair and has served in Congress since first winning her seat in 2004. But the endorsement gives her some good publicity during a week when there were news reports about whether some Democrats -- most notably Bernie Sanders who is backing Canova -- are hoping she is replaced as DNC chair.

But it seems unlikely Democrats would want to give that type of ammunition to Republicans this close to an election. Also in her favor: President Barack Obama won Florida both times while Wasserman Schultz was the chair, and he has endorsed her in her Congressional race. Plus Vice President Joe Biden is coming to Coconut Grove to fundraise for her in June. 

Canova announced earlier today that he was endorsed by the Democracy for America PAC, the group started by Howard Dean.

About 13 percent of the district's voting age population is black in Congressional District 23 which spans from Weston to northern Miami-Dade. South Florida members who are in the Congressional Black Caucus include Frederica Wilson and Alcee Hastings.

Broward Democrats hire deputy political director

The Broward Democratic Party hired David Metellus to serve as deputy political director and get out the vote coordinator.

Metellus has previously worked for U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- who is in a primary battle against Tim Canova -- and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch. Metellus is a native of Coconut Creek.

Particularly in presidential years the campaigns have their own turnout operations and don't rely on county party groups. But the county's Democrats have a poor record of turning out in non-presidential cycles -- see Republican Gov. Rick Scott's victories in 2010 and 2014 -- and in primaries.

The Florida Democratic Party also has 12 field staff working out of the county party's headquarters in Plantation and an office in Pompano Beach.