August 14, 2015

End of an era in Broward: Mitch Ceasar is no longer Dem chair -- at least for now

Earlier this week Mitch Ceasar temporarily stepped aside from his position as Broward Democratic chair to run for county clerk of courts.

Ceasar, who was first elected chair in 1996, is running for the seat being vacated by Howard Forman who is retiring. By temporarily resigning, Ceasar has ceded his party position at least through the August 2016 primary.

“It’s an extension of my community activities and as a lawyer for 35 years and a practicing lawyer -- one who actually goes to the courthouse -- I have a good perspective,” Ceasar said.

Ceasar has also been a lobbyist in the past although he said he currently doesn’t have any lobbying clients.

While Ceasar, a longtime lawyer from Plantation, is well-known among party activists his race for the clerk position is no slam dunk because he will have to campaign to become known among the general electorate. Ceasar has been elected party chair by the Democratic Executive Committee five times but some of those races have been divisive battles and he doesn’t have the support of all activists. The party group has faced criticism for low voter turnout in non-presidential years.

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Broward's battle cry: Keep it vertical in redistricting

Broward County Mayor Tim Ryan had a simple message for legislators redrawing the map of Florida congressional districts: Keep it vertical. "It's definitely more favorable to be in a vertical position than a horizontal position," Ryan said with a twinkle in his eye Thursday -- and he wasn't joking.

Broward Democrats are livid with the Legislature's base map. They claim that the common interests of coastal cities will be ruined if lawmakers stay on their present course. Political and business leaders are pounding home that message in emails, op-eds and letters to legislative leaders as they try to protect the current district of West Palm Beach Democrat Lois Frankel.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, in an op-ed written for the Sun-Sentinel, blasted the Legislature for not holding more public hearings and said the base map before lawmakers will "obliterate the notion of common cummunity interests." Seiler, a former Democratic House member, emphasized that Broward's western suburbs "have little in common with their coastal counterparts ... The need to address issues like beach renourishment, sustainability, resiliency, flooding and salt-water intrusion are common in all of South Florida's coastal communities." He also said it makes logical sense for the same member of Congress to represent the seaports and airports in Broward and Palm Beach counties, which are near the coast.

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August 13, 2015

Alcee Hastings on Iran: 'I cannot support this deal'

via @learyreports

Another Florida Democrat, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, has come out against the Iran nuclear deal.

“After careful review, I have decided that I cannot support this deal," Hastings said in an op/ed in the Palm Beach Post.

“The goal of the recently concluded negotiations was to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The negotiators worked diligently, but in the end, the JCPOA allows Iran to remain a nuclear threshold state while simultaneously reaping the benefits of relief from international sanctions.

“Under the JCPOA, Iran is limited to approximately 6,100 first-generation IR-1 centrifuges for a period of 10-15 years. However, after this time passes, Iran will again have the ability to pursue its nuclear program with more advanced centrifuges. Iran simply needs to be patient and it will once again have the ability to enrich uranium."

Last week, Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton said he opposed the deal as well.

One to watch: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston. The DNC chairwoman is undecided and facing enormous pressure on both sides.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

August 12, 2015

Broward wants to block Everglades oil drilling with zoning restrictions

via @jenstaletovich

Broward County commissioners who oppose plans to drill for oil in western marshes believe they have found a way to thwart efforts by a Miami family to tap into Everglades crude: local zoning restrictions.

In a meeting Tuesday, county staff members told commissioners the land is zoned for conservation, which prohibits drilling.

“As long as the decision made is not arbitrary and capricious, it should withstand a legal challenge,” said deputy county attorney Maite Azcoitia.

The county’s authority to govern its land, staff said, trumps a deal struck by state water managers decades ago that allowed the state to use the land for water storage while letting the Kanter family hang on to rights to extract oil, gas and minerals. To drill, the family would have to win permission from the county to change the land use and obtain a lengthy list of permits.

“We have nine hurdles that they have to come through,” Commissioner Barbara Sharief said. “It’s much to do about nothing because it’s not going anywhere.”

Miami-based Kanter Real Estate did not respond to repeated requests for comment Tuesday.

But just in case, county commissioners agreed to ask state legislators to tighten the law governing drilling by including a provision that lets counties oppose drilling in the absence of zoning restrictions.

More here.

July 28, 2015

Did a Miami-Dade commissioner spill the beans on Lauren Book's Florida Senate run?


Lauren Book, daughter of mega-lobbyist Ron Book, plans to announce her candidacy for the Florida Senate on Sept. 1.

At least that's according to an invitation Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman sent her friends Tuesday asking them to attend a fundraiser for Book at Il Gabbiano, a posh Italian restaurant in downtown Miami, on Sept. 18.

"As you have probably heard, my very close personal friend, Lauren Book, is planning to launch a campaign for an open Senate seat on September 1, 2015," read Heyman's email, which was obtained by the Miami Herald.

But Book herself has not revealed her plans. She told the Herald that's because she has yet to make up her mind. Book recently got married.

"We are looking at all of our options and have not made a decision of what we're going to do," she said, conceding that she nevertheless has several events on her calendar. "We haven't made any final, final, final decisions yet."

Book, who runs Lauren's Kids, a nonprofit that raises awareness about children victims of sexual abuse, has made no secret of her intention to run for the Broward seat being vacated by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Hollywood Democrat. 

Book created a political action committee, Leadership for Broward, last September. It has collected nearly $640,000; some of her donors, such as the Miami Dolphins and GEO Group, a private prison company, also happen to be her dad's clients.

July 20, 2015

Broward GOP chair quits

The chair of the Broward GOP has resigned after less than a year which continues the cycle of years of frequent turnover.

According to Red Broward, Christine Butler sent an email to the Broward Republican Executive Committee stating that she is getting married and moving to Palm Beach County where she might run for Supervisor of Elections. Her resignation is effective Aug. 31. Butler could not be reached.

As a newcomer in Palm Beach County, Butler will likely face an uphill battle if she decides to challenge Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. A former state legislator who was first elected to the supervisor position in 2008, Bucher will have the advantage of name recognition and being a Democrat in a county with 360,000 registered Democrats and 238,000 registered Republicans. She was also one of the leading critics of the botched attempted by Gov. Rick Scott’s administration to purge the voter rolls of non-citizens.

Butler, an attorney, was elected to her position by party activists in December to replace former Davie mayor Tom Truex who served for about a year before deciding not to run again.

The chair of the Broward Republican Executive Committee has the difficult task of trying to make inroads in a left-leaning county amid various GOP factions that range from tea party types to more moderate Republicans.

In recent years, Broward has rarely elected Republicans countywide but the party can have more influence in statewide elections because it has one of the larger contingents of GOP voters in the state.

There are about 240,000 registered GOP voters in Broward while the Democrats have about 550,000 and independents total about 300,000.

Ideally, such groups serve as the foot soldiers and help spread the word about local, state and federal candidates. But Republicans campaigning for president and U.S. Senate will set up their own grassroots operations to reach out to local voters.

Some activists have said that the group has strayed from that mission at times by getting distracted by internal fighting -- for example whether to oust a member who favored same-sex marriage. In 2014, the group’s invited speakers included a conspiracy theorist and a woman parodied on The Daily Show for her opposition to a long-time mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee that wanted to expand.

While the Broward Republicans have struggled to keep a chair in the position for two years, the Broward Democrats have their own internal brawl every four years about whether Mitch Ceasar should remain the chair.

This post has been updated.


July 07, 2015

Zach Zachariah holds Jeb Bush fundraiser in Fort Lauderdale July 31

Former Gov. Jeb Bush will attend a fundraiser for his presidential campaign at cardiologist Zach Zachariah’s Fort Lauderdale home on July 31, the same day he speaks at the National Urban League at the Broward Convention Center. (Hillary Clinton will also speak at the event.)

Ed Pozzuoli, past chairman of the Broward GOP and a director at the Tripp Scott law firm, is a co-host of the fundraiser. Other organizers include former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux and Belinda Keiser, Vice Chancellor of Community Relations and Student Advancement for Keiser University, Jon Hage, CEO of Charter Schools USA, Justin Sayfie, editor of Sayfie Review.

Zachariah is one of Broward’s top GOP fundraisers and has raised millions of dollars for candidates. He was cleared of civil insider stock trading in 2010.

July 02, 2015

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes faces challenger

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, who has faced heat from some county commissioners about her legal counsel, will face a challenge from Democratic consultant David Brown in 2016.

Brown, who filed his paperwork this week to run against Snipes, ran for the position in 2000 and lost a Democratic runoff to Miriam Oliphant who won the general election. In 2003, Gov. Jeb Bush removed Oliphant from office after she botched the 2002 primary. Bush appointed Snipes who then went on win her next three elections.

Snipes, a 72-year-old Lauderdale Lakes Democrat, told the Miami Herald in April that she decided to seek re-election. Today, she told the Herald that she plans to file her paperwork in the next few weeks.

Broward County Commissioner Mark Bogen recently criticized Snipes because her contract attorney, Burnadette Norris-Weeks, donated money to his opponent. (We previously wrote she campaigned for an opponent but she actually gave money to Lisa Aronson.) Snipes said she plans to seek an opinion from the Florida Bar regarding whether Norris-Weeks can campaign.

Brown promised if elected to establish a policy to prevent employees and contract workers from campaigning for candidates who run on the Broward ballot including in local, statewide and national race. He would also ban donations in such races.

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June 30, 2015

Carlos Lopez-Cantera says he met with Chip LaMarca to discuss state business -- not Senate race

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera’s official schedule showed he was meeting with Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca today, fueling speculation that they must be huddling about the Senate race.

As the only Republican on the County Commission and a former chair of the Broward GOP, LaMarca would be one of the few elected officials in the county to help Lopez-Cantera campaign in the left-leaning county. He is expected to announce his Senate race July 15th.

Their meeting prompted the Florida Democratic Party to continue to raise questions about whether Lopez-Cantera is campaigning on the state dime.

But both Lopez-Cantera and LaMarca told the Herald after the meeting that they didn't discuss the Senate race.

LaMarca told the Herald via text that they discussed new companies moving to Broward and “we talked about national politics and the presidential” race.

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Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler explains why he signed same-sex marriage proclamation

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, who voted against a same-sex resolution last year, signed a proclamation Friday celebrating the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Seiler has tried to stay on the sidelines of the same-sex marriage debate.

A married Catholic who has four children, Seiler told the Miami Herald in 2013 that he had no position on the issue of same-sex marriage but supported civil unions and domestic partner benefits for city employees. In June 2014, Seiler voted against a city resolution in support of same sex marriage. The former state representative and Wilton Manors mayor has been mentioned as a potential future statewide candidate but his position on same-sex marriage could put him at odds with other Democrats.

The proclamation, which says it's in recognition of the "Marriage Equality Landmark Decision," was read in part at a rally Friday at the Fort Lauderdale federal courthouse by City Commissioner Dean Trantalis, the city’s first openly gay commissioner. The proclamation states that Fort Lauderdale has the highest concentration of same-sex households in the nation, according to the 2012 Census.

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