January 09, 2017

Fort Lauderdale airport shooting prompts closed-door Broward County commission meeting

FLL Airportpeoplerunning

@amysherman1

The deadly rampage at the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International airport Friday has prompted the Broward County Commission to hold a closed-door meeting about airport security Tuesday.

The commission will hold the private meeting following the 10 a.m. regular commission meeting at County Hall.

The agenda contains no details such as who will attend the meeting and simply states that the purpose is to "discuss security systems and information related to security systems" at the airport.

Broward Sheriff Scott Israel told the Miami Herald in a text he was unaware of the meeting.

County Attorney Joni Armstrong Coffey said that only Broward County officials and employees will attend.

"Because the statute exempts these meetings entirely from the open meetings requirements, no record is made," she told the Herald in an email. "That is because security sensitive information is confidential and prohibited from disclosure.

Florida law allows for governmental bodies to ban the public and media from meetings under narrow circumstances including to discuss security of public buildings.

The suspected shooter, Esteban Santiago, made his first appearance in federal court Monday. He faces a possible death penalty or life in prison on charges related to fatally shooting five people and injuring six others.

Miami Herald photo by David Santiago

Florida Democratic Party chair candidate Stephen Bittel leads Dwight Bullard in endorsements

Bittelbullard

@amysherman1

Miami-Dade donor Stephen Bittel released a list of about two dozen endorsements in his race for Florida Democratic Party chair -- including four three members of Congress Monday.

That far outpaces the number of endorsements released Monday by his local rival -- former state Sen. Dwight Bullard -- who announced a handful of endorsements.

Bittel, a major donor to Democratic candidates and a Coconut Grove developer, and Bullard will compete in the state party chair election in Orlando Saturday. The other candidates are activist Alan Clendenin -- from Hillsborough County who moved to Bradford to keep his bid alive -- Duval County's Lisa King and Osceola Democratic party chair Leah Carius.

State committeemen and women who represent large Democratic counties get the most powerful voice in the election because their votes are weighted based on the number of registered Democrats in their counties. 

Holding a county party position is a prerequisite to running for state chair. After Bullard lost a state committeeman race to Bittel, he moved to Gadsden County and won a similar position there.

Bittel has been endorsed by three members of Congress who live in Palm Beach County: Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel.

Bittel's list initially included U.S. Rep. Val Demings who represents the Orlando area. After we posted this blog, a spokeswoman for Demings, Caroline Rowland, said Demings did not endorse Bittel or anyone else. Rowland provided a statement from Demings: 

“While Mr. Bittel asked for my support, I told him I had not decided and would not decide until I had the opportunity to look at all of the candidates.”

Bittel's team said it was a "cut and paste error."

One key statewide politician is missing from the official endorsement list: U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the only statewide Democrat in Florida. Nelson has stopped short of officially endorsing Bittel but has praised him. Ultimately the votes are public so Nelson will have to make it clear Saturday which candidate he supports.

Also missing on endorsement lists: U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston who appears to be staying quiet about the race this time after stepping down as national party chair in July. In 2013, Wasserman Schultz urged activists to vote for Allison Tant, the eventual winner who isn't seeking the position again. Bittel has fundraised for Wasserman Schultz in the past.

A spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, David Damron, said she isn't commenting on the chair race and will send a proxy to vote for her.

One group that weighed in earlier in the process has since gone quiet: Our Revolution, the political organization formed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. Our Revolution endorsed Bullard in December for his race in Miami-Dade County but a spokeswoman, Arianna Jones, told the Miami Herald that it is no longer involved in the race for state chair. Jones didn't respond to an email asking why Our Revolution is no longer involved.

Here are the endorsements Bullard and Bittel announced Monday -- all of them get a vote Saturday unless otherwise noted:

Here are Bullard's endorsements:

  • Democratic Black Caucus of Florida
  • Brevard County state committeeman Sanjay Patel
  • Martin County state committeewoman Dawn Abate. 
  • Alachua County Democratic Executive Committee (doesn't get a vote but Bullard won their straw poll)

Here are Bittel's endorsements:

   ·    Chris Reilly, President of Florida College Democrats

·      Catherine Michiels, Lee County Committeeman

·      Michael Bonacolta, Lee County Committeewoman

·      Rhett Bullard, Hamilton County Committeeman

·      Shauna Faries Adams, Hamilton County Committeewoman

·      Lucy Garner: Charlotte County Committeeman

·      Thomas Garner, Charlotte County Committeewoman

·      Thomas Byrd, Bay County Committeeman

·      Patricia Byrd, Bay County Committeewoman

·      Diane Krumel, Escambia County Committeewoman

·      David Dew, Martin County Committeeman and Chair of the Small County Coalition of FL

·      Brad Culverhouse, St. Lucie County Committeeman

·      Cong. Ted Deutch, US Congress

·   ·  Cong. Lois Frankel, US Congress

·      Cong. Alcee Hastings, US Congress

·      Volusia Councilwoman Joyce Cusack, State Executive Committee

·      Joseph Falk, State Executive Committee

·      State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, State Executive Committee

·      Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, State Executive Committee

·      Rep. Janet Cruz, Florida State House Democratic Leader

·      Andy Tobias, State Executive Committee

·      Carlos Odio, State Executive Committee

·     Miami-Dade Democratic Party (Bittel gets a vote as state committeeman)

·      Escambia Democratic Party steering committee (the party itself doesn't get a vote)

 

 

December 30, 2016

Florida Democratic Party chair forum set in Broward

FDPPompanoforum

@amysherman

The drama of the race to lead the Florida Democratic Party will travel to left-leaning Broward when the candidates convene at a forum in Pompano Beach Jan. 11.

Wealthy donor/developer Stephen Bittel, activist Alan Clendenin, former state Sen. Dwight Bullard, Duval County's Lisa King and Osceola Democratic chair Leah Carius have all confirmed they will attend, said Tim Canova, one of the organizers. The forum gives Democratic activists in Broward -- the county with the highest number of registered Democrats -- a chance to hear how the candidates hope to reinvigorate the party after its crushing defeat in November with an eye toward 2018 races for Senate and governor.

But ultimately, the opinion of only two Democrats in Broward matter -- state committeeman Ken Evans and committeewoman Grace Carrington -- who get a powerful vote in the chair election in Orlando Jan. 14th.

Evans said he hasn't decided who he will vote for but said he will base his decision on who Broward Democrats coalesce around. Carrington said in a text to the Miami Herald "I'm not making my decision until 10 minutes before the vote."

Votes are weighted based on the number of registered Democrats in each county which means that Broward and Miami-Dade get a major say in the chair election to replace Allison Tant.

Chair candidates have been racing around the state meeting with Democratic leaders who get a vote and other activists who will try to sway the vote.

One of the key organizers of the Pompano forum is Progress for All, a group headed by former Congressional candidate Canova who lost the Democratic primary to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Canova said he hasn't backed any candidate so far. 

The race for Florida Democratic Party chair has been full of drama. Weeks ago, it appeared that Bittel, a wealthy donor and Coconut Grove developer, was the frontrunner when other key candidates failed to become eligible in their own counties. In Miami-Dade, Bret Berlin won a state committeeman seat and then quickly resigned to make way for Bittel to run for the post, a prerequisite to running statewide. Bittel beat Bullard 250-161.

It appeared that Bullard had given up -- he didn't show up for his own election because he was on a family cruise. But then he revived his bid by moving to Gadsden County, a small rural county in northern Florida, where he won a state committeeman spot Tuesday. 

Bullard was the second candidate to move to keep his candidacy alive: after Clendenin lost in Hillsborough County, he moved into a rented trailer in Bradford County and won a similar post there.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 13, 2016

Broward County auditor Evan Lukic to retire

@amysherman1

Broward County Auditor Evan Lukic announced Monday that he will retire Feb. 3 after working for the county for 29 years.

Lukic was known in County Hall as a consummate professional who put the taxpayers first and picked apart spending decisions by the county.

His reports in recent years have raised criticisms about the management of the Young at Art Museum and financial discrepancies between the companies that operate the Panthers organization as well as poor spending controls internally at the county.

While working on an audit of the county's disbursement system in 2012, Lukic raised alarm bells and told commissioners "this has to be remedied quickly, because you have little or no control now."

In his memo to County Administrator Bertha Henry announcing his retirement, Lukic wrote: "While I look forward with great anticipation to spending more time with my six grandchildren and attending to my hobbies, I feel a sense of loss at the thought of leaving my work family. I thoroughly enjoy and will surely miss the daily interaction with my own staff and so many other dedicated County employees."

 

 

December 12, 2016

Debbie Wasserman Schultz's district director quits for government consultant job

JodiBockDavidson

@amysherman1

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's longtime district director, Jodie Bock Davidson, has taken a new job as a government consultant for Colodny Fass law firm in Sunrise.

The firm lobbies for the Broward School Board, the Florida League of Cities, Disney and several insurance clients in Tallahassee. Davidson said she will be based out of South Florida although Michael Colodny said she will also consult in Tallahassee and Washington D.C.

Davidson has worked for South Florida Democrats for two decades and joined Wasserman Schultz when she was first elected to Congress in 2004. Previously, Davidson served as deputy district director to U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek and was the Florida Political Director for John Kerry for president in 2004. She also worked as a legislative aide to former state representatives Nan Rich and Ken Gottlieb.

Wasserman Schultz said in a statement: “I am deeply grateful to my outgoing District Director, Jodi Bock Davidson. Her service has extended far beyond office walls or district boundaries; she has become a pillar in the South Florida community in her own right and has served as a mentor and advisor to many. She has been an exemplary employee and true friend."

Wasserman Schultz hired Lori Green, a past president of the David Posnack Jewish Community Center, to replace Davidson. Green is a registered nurse and in the past has chaired the JCC Maccabi games and served as co-chair for the Davie/Cooper City American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.

Wasserman Schultz represents a left-leaning Broward/Miami-Dade district. She resigned as Democratic National Committee chair in July.

 

 

December 05, 2016

Broward Republicans re-elect chair

Bob_Sutton

@amysherman1

Broward Republicans re-elected Bob Sutton as chair of their party in a close vote tonight.

Sutton beat Rico Petrocelli 90-85. Petrocelli was a briefly the chair in 2013 and then quit after disagreements with the board.

The task of the Broward Republican Executive Committee is to help elect Republican candidates to local, state and federal offices. Broward Republicans have represented a shrinking share of the electorate amid a rise in independent voters.

Broward now has about 600,000 Democrats, 258,000 Republicans and 330,000 independents.

Although Republicans are outnumbered in Broward, they can make a difference in statewide races since in sheer numbers they are only surpassed by a few counties. 

 

Broward GOP to elect chair tonight

Bob_Sutton

@amysherman1

Broward Republican activists will elect a chair tonight.

Chairman Bob Sutton is seeking re-election and will face Rico Petrocelli, who was briefly the chair in 2013 but then quit citing vague "irreconcilable differences" with the board. Petrocelli, a former Plantation council member, lost a race for Broward Soil and Water Conservation District on Nov. 8th.

Sutton faced criticism in April after he made an oral sex reference to Hillary Clinton.

"I think when Donald Trump debates Hillary Clinton she's going to go down like Monica Lewinsky," he said. Sutton quickly apologized.

Petrocelli said the party needs to be more organized before the 2018 election for governor and U.S. Senate.

"We need to harness the energy of Trump volunteers," he said.

The main challenge for the next chair of the Broward Republican Executive Committee will be to grow the party as it's share of the electorate has been shrinking in the left-leaning county. In recent years, Broward Republicans have become outnumbered by independents. The county has about 600,000 Democrats, 258,000 Republicans and about 330,000 independents.

 

December 03, 2016

Broward Democrats elect new chair

@amysherman1

Broward Democrats elected Cynthia Busch as the new chair Saturday. She replaces Mitch Ceasar who served as chair for about 20 years and didn't run for re-election.

Busch won with 297 votes while Christine Jones got 63 votes. Grace Carrington was elected unopposed as state committeewoman while Ken Evans was re-elected state committeeman with 272 votes while Thad Hamilton got 66 votes.

Carrington and Evans will have a powerful voice in the election of the next Florida Democratic Party chair in January. Committemen and women vote for state party chair according to a formula based on the number of registered Democrats in each county. Broward County has about 600,000 Democrats, the highest in the state.

Miami-Dade Democrats elect their leaders Tuesday.

November 29, 2016

Broward Democrats to elect leaders who will help pick next Florida Democratic Party chair

@amysherman1

Broward Democrats will elect their own leaders Saturday including some who will play a key role in selecting the next Florida Democratic Party chair.

About 600 Democratic activists who represent precincts across the county will gather at the Signature Grand hotel in Davie Saturday afternoon to elect a chair, state committeeman and state committee woman and other representatives.

The state committeeman and committee woman elect the state chair based on a formula that gives weight to the number of registered Democratic voters in each county which means that Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach are the key decision-makers. After Broward Democrats elect the committeeman and woman, these county leaders will get lobbied by the long list of candidates vying for state chair to replace Allison Tant in January.

Broward state committeeman Ken Evans will run to keep his position and faces Thaddeus Hamilton, who lost a race against Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam in 2014. Evans has been endorsed by several politicians including local members of Congress Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch.

Grace Carrington, a Democratic leader in Coral Springs, is running for state committee woman.

Mitch Ceasar, who has been Broward chair for about two decades, isn't seeking re-election. In 2015, he stepped aside while running for Clerk of Courts, handing off the leadership to vice chair Cynthia Busch. (Ceasar briefly returned to the chair post after losing his primary.)

Busch appears to be the favored candidate in the chair race against vice chair Christine Jones

Since Donald Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton, Busch says interest has spiked in volunteering for the county party.

"People are really really angry," she said. "We need to channel that constructively and work toward maintaining what we have and making sure we don't lose ground in this off-year."

Broward has about 600,000 registered Democrats -- the highest contingent in the state but it often lags behind the statewide average in turnout, particularly in years when presidential candidates aren't on the ballot.

Busch doesn't get a vote for state party chair but she says one of the candidates called her so far: Stephen Bittel, a prominent Coconut Grove fundraiser and developer. Bittel told the Miami Herald on Nov. 14th that he "might" be interested in the chair position. He could not be reached Monday or Tuesday.

Bittel isn't a Miami-Dade precinct committeeman, a prerequisite to run for state chair but he has said that the party can figure out a way to make it happen. Miami-Dade Democrats hold their election Dec. 6th.

In Miami-Dade, the current chair Sen. Dwight Bullard of Cutler Bay told the Miami Herald that he will run for vice chair for the county -- that allows him to avoid the competitive six-way race for county chair. Bullard, who lost to Republican State Rep. Frank Artiles Nov. 8, said that he will then run for state chair.

Susannah Randolph, former district director for U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, is also running for state chair. Alan Clendenin, the Tampa activist who lost to Tant told Naked Politics that he will decide no earlier than Dec. 15th about whether to run for state chair. 

 

 

 

 

November 21, 2016

Oscar Braynon, Lauren Book named Florida Senate Democrats' top leaders

SP_407425_KEEL_11_FLGOV

@ByKristenMClark

A longtime legislator from Miami Gardens will lead the Democrats of the Florida Senate for the next two years.

Sen. Oscar Braynon’s ascension to Senate minority leader was made official Monday evening in advance of Tuesday’s organizational session for the 2016-18 Legislature. He’s now in charge of a 15-member Democratic caucus, of which 11 are newly elected senators.

“I’m happy to be taking on that role,” Braynon said. “We’re going to have a bunch of blank slates when it comes to what happens in the Senate. There’s a lot of potential there.”

One of those newcomers is freshman Broward County Sen. Lauren Book, whom the Democratic caucus also unanimously elected as Braynon’s No. 2 in the role of Senate Democratic leader pro tempore.

Book, of Plantation, is a prominent advocate for victims of childhood sexual abuse and the founder and CEO of Aventura-based Lauren’s Kids. She is also the daughter of powerful Tallahassee lobbyist Ron Book, whom she called “her best friend, rock and mentor.”

Although the Republican majority in the Senate will drive the agenda, Braynon said his goal as minority leader is to continue pushing for Democratic priorities, such as equal pay for women and raising the minimum wage, protecting the environment, improving access to health care and strengthening public education.

Read more.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times