September 22, 2015

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes files for re-election

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes filed for re-election Monday and will face other Democratic challengers.

Snipes, a Lauderdale Lakes resident, told the Miami Herald in April that she planned to run in 2016 but that wasn’t official until she submitted the paperwork which allows her to start fundraising.

In 2003, Gov. Jeb Bush removed Miriam Oliphant from office after she botched the 2002 primary. Bush appointed Snipes who then went on win her next three elections easily.

Snipes will face Hollywood political consultant and Democrat David Brown who lost a race for the supervisor’s position in 2000. He has raised about $15,000.Two other Democrats filed to run in July but have raised no money: Rubin Young and Willie Floyd Roberson. (No Republicans have filed to run in the left-leaning county.)

Snipes has had a contentious relationship with the Broward County Commissioners who fund her office. Voters can expect Brown to criticize Snipes for some of those problems she has had with commissioners including criticism she faced after her contract attorney, Burnadette Norris-Weeks, donated money to a county commission candidate who ultimately lost.

September 09, 2015

Sen. Chris Smith to run for Broward County Commission

State Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, will take on Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness in what will be the most competitive race for a seat on the nine-member board.

Smith, who faces term limits next year, filed his paperwork to run this week. He faces the unusual challenge of running against someone with a similar name on the ballot.

Christopher Lavon Smith -- the senator -- will face Robert D. “Chris” Smith in the Democratic primary along with candidates Milagro Canizares and McKinley Williams. The black majority district is overwhelmingly Democratic -- no Republicans have filed.

“Last time I beat a Chris Smith,” said senator Smith referring to his 2012 victory over Christopher Chris Smithmyer. “I’ve beaten Chris Smiths before.”

As longtime elected officials in Broward, both Holness and Smith are well-known in the district and will be able to rake in a lot of donations from those who do business with the county.

Holness has raised about $125,000 while the other candidates have not listed any donations so far.

Holness, a former Lauderhill city commissioner who now lives in Plantation, won his county seat in 2010 after Commissioner Joe Eggelletion was convicted of corruption. (Remember the money in the golf bag?) Holness was the first Jamaican-born person elected to the county commission and is a real estate agent and mortgage broker.

Smith, a lawyer, served in the state house for eight years and now faces term limits in the senate next year.

Many former state legislators have won seats on the Broward County Commission. Next year, former state senators Nan Rich and Steve Geller -- both Democrats -- are also running for separate seats.

District 9 spans parts of several cities including Fort Lauderdale, Plantation, Sunrise, Lauderhill, Lauderdale Lakes, Tamarac, Oakland Park and North Lauderdale.

September 02, 2015

Protesters expected at Joe Biden meeting about Iran at Davie JCC

Activists protesting the Iran deal are expected outside a meeting between Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, and Jewish leaders in Broward Thursday morning.

Wasserman Schultz, who is also the Democratic National Committee chair, helped arrange the meeting which will take place at the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie. She is undecided about how she will vote on the Iran deal later this month.

Only a portion of the event will be open to the press -- likely statements by Biden and Wasserman Schultz and it’s unclear if they will take questions.

The protest is being led by Americans United Against the Deal, a group of activists who oppose the deal.

On Wednesday, Biden will give a speech about higher education at Miami Dade College and attend a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee at the home of Stephen Bittel in Coconut Grove.

September 01, 2015

Will Senator Eleanor Sobel run for Hollywood mayor?

Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober recently announced that he won’t seek re-election next year, fueling speculation that potential candidates include Democratic state Sen. Eleanor Sobel.

Sobel says she will delay a decision about whether to run until March.

(Hat tip to for posting Bober’s letter and the gossip about Sobel.)

Sobel would be a strong candidate for mayor because of her long ties to the city where she lives and once served as a city commissioner. Sobel is well-known among voters because she also served in the state House, Broward school board and now the senate.

But Sobel is no shoe-in for the Nov. 8, 2016 election.

City Commissioner Patty Asseff, a realtor, told Naked Politics that she will run for the open seat. Technically the race is non-partisan but it will end up with some partisan undertones if Asseff runs against Sobel. Asseff's chancs can't be dismissed in this left-leaning city because she has support in her district after winning it twice in a row and has been outspoken about preparing her city for climate change which could draw her some Democratic voters.  

In a press release, Sobel was vague about her future political intentions:

“I have been receiving a number of inquiries about this seat.  Given my love for Hollywood, my years of service to this community and the fact that I am term-limited from the State Senate, I certainly understand the inquiries. However, given my work as a Chair of a vital Senate committee and the critical nature of the upcoming special session, I am forestalling any decision until after the legislative session is completed in March.”

Continue reading "Will Senator Eleanor Sobel run for Hollywood mayor?" »

August 20, 2015

House prepares to reject Senate congressional district changes


The Florida House is preparing to reject the Florida Senate’s plan to create an East Hillsborough County-based Congressional district championed by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon. Instead the House is pushing a new plan that makes changes to South Florida, particularly in and around Sunrise.

House redistricting leader Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, submitted a new amendment to a base plan the two chambers are working on that strips Lee’s proposal to most of eastern and southern Hillsborough into the 15th Congressional district, now represented by U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland.

Instead Oliva’s plan returns the map to the original plan, which would shift 150,000 southern Hillsborough residents into the 17th District, represented now by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota. That in turn would force Sarasota County to be split into two Congressional districts for the first time in decades. The southern half of Sarasota County would be represented by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, a Republican who lives in Okeechobee County.

But Oliva's plan has additional changes, particularly for South Florida.

Continue reading "House prepares to reject Senate congressional district changes" »

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.

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

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.

Continue reading "Broward's battle cry: Keep it vertical in redistricting " »

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.