April 06, 2016

Ex Broward County Mayor Ken Keechl will run for George Moraitis' seat in state House

Former Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl, a Democrat, announced today that he will run for a eastern Broward house seat currently held by Republican George Moraitis.

Keechl served one term on the county commission -- including a year as mayor, a position chosen by his colleagues. Amid questions about his campaign spending, he was ousted by Republican Chip LaMarca in 2010. Keechl lost a bid for a separate county commission seat in 2012 and then lost a rematch to LaMarca in 2014.

Both Keechl and Moraitis are lawyers in live in Fort Lauderdale. Douglas Oberman, a Democrat, has also filed in District 93. Moraitis, who was first elected in 2010 and has easily won re-elections, has raised about $90,000 so far.

House District 93 is one of the rare competitive districts in left-leaning Broward. It has slightly more registered Republican (41,186) than Democratic (39,482) voters and has 30,485 independents.

From Keechl's press release:

"My opponent has spent the last six years in Tallahassee voting for every piece of anti-woman and anti-LGBT legislation to cross his desk, to allow the dangerous practice of fracking, and to cut education funding by $1.3 billion, all the while denying the looming threat of climate change to our community. When I’m in Tallahassee, I will fight for the rights of every Floridian no matter who they love, their gender, or their ethnicity, to find responsible solutions to combat the threat of climate change and to ban fracking, and to provide our public schools with the resources our students and teachers need to give every child the excellent education they deserve. It’s time to take the power back from the special interests and put the people in charge in again.”

From Moraitis: "While I appreciate his prior service as a county commissioner, Ken Keechl has lost his last two elections and it is interesting that he did not mention a word about Florida’s economy, creating jobs, or supporting Port Everglades in his campaign announcement.  I will also note that we recently passed a state budget that invests a historical record amount in our public schools in addition to nearly 200 million dollars in Everglades restoration to improve our environment."

April 04, 2016

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz bashed on billboards over payday loans


U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's position on payday loans is the subject of an attack on billboards in her Broward/Miami Dade congressional district.

The liberal group Allied Progress posted two billboards in the district today -- on the turnpike and Interstate 75 -- and they will remain up May 1.

President Barack Obama took a step toward regulating the industry when he signed a bill in 2010 that included the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The bureau released a draft outline of payday rules last year and is expected to release a more complete proposal over the next several months. 

Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, is the co-sponsor of a bill authored by U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, a Florida Republican, that would give preference to Florida's payday law rather than giving the power to the federal government. Half of the 24 cosponsors are from Florida and nine are Democrats. A spokesman for the group says it will launch similar attacks against others who have supported the bill which hasn't had a hearing yet.

Many consumer advocates have urged Congress to defeat the law and argue that Florida's law has failed to protect the poor who remain on a debt cycle when they take out payday loans.

Allied Progress launched a TV attack against Wasserman Schultz -- who is also the Democratic National Committee chair -- for her position on payday loans during the Florida presidential primary. Her Democratic opponent Tim Canova has echoed the attacks.

Wasserman Schultz has taken $68,000 from payday lenders, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Her spokesman Sean Bartlett has defended her record on payday loans and says she wants Florida's law to take precedence. 

Turn to PolitiFact Florida for more details about the payday loan bill.



March 12, 2016

Why Broward GOP voters are choosing Donald Trump, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz

Broward GOP voters are fired up over Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Here is a snapshot of what some voters said from just one hour at an early voting site: the Coral Ridge Mall in Fort Lauderdale.

The Tea Party of Fort Lauderdale has held a rally by the Coral Ridge mall on Saturday afternoons for seven years. The event on Saturday drew a handful of activists -- but loads of honking on U.S. 1 in response to a sign saying “Honk No Trump Con-Man” and “Dump the Trump.”

Longtime tea party organizer Edward Bender held a sign saying “I’d rather have a ‘Canadian’ than a con-man” -- a show of support for Cruz who was born in Canada to an American mother and is a natural born citizen.


Cruz “has the understanding of the Constitution that none of the other candidates have,” said Bender, of Coconut Creek, who plans to vote Tuesday.

Bender considers Trump a “con man” for his business dealings including the lawsuits against Trump University.

“We don’t need a businessman for America -- you can’t go to Washington D.C. and fire Congress,” Bender said.

Phil Grant of Fort Lauderdale voted for Trump Saturday.

“While I don’t support all of his views I support much of it,” he said. “While I don’t believe he necessarily has 100 percent of the answers I believe he is a leader. .... Some of his language isn’t appropriate but he does seemed to have toned it down.”

Grant is drawn to Trump’s leadership.

“He’s got a ‘pair’ if you know what I mean,” he said. “He’s not going to take crap from any side.”

Grant, a registered Republican, said he is upset with the Republican National Committee because he believes it is “trying to sabotage Trump.”

Grant is a former stockbroker who now runs a small business that helps people transport pets to other countries.

“We need to be more supportive for creating jobs and wealth in this country and Donald can do it,” he said, and then echoed Trump's motto. “I truly believe he does want to make America great again.”

Debbie Bujalski says she will probably vote for Rubio on Tuesday.

“He has fresh ideas,” said the 52-year-old Pompano Beach lawyer and teacher. “He is a young guy -- I am willing to give him a shot. Donald Trump is not impressive at all. He is much too quick to condemn as opposed to finding solutions. Give us solutions other than building the wall.”

Loretta Duval, a registered Democrat in Fort Lauderdale outside the mall Saturday, said she voted for Hillary Clinton by absentee. But she plans to vote for Trump in the general election.

“He tells it like it is,” she said.

Her brother, Paul Myles, is also a Fort Lauderdale Democrat who also plans to vote for Trump in the general election. The 63-year-old is a retired prosecutor from Ohio.

“Everybody else has the same rhetoric,” Myles said. “I don’t necessarily agree with all his positions but at least he brings up topics that need discussing. Trump might not get anything done but at least he brings up a dialogue.”

Broward has about 240,000 registered Republican voters -- so far about 45,000 have voted by absentee or at early voting sites. Early voting ends in Broward Sunday and the election is on Tuesday.

The Broward GOP holds it’s annual fundraising dinner tonight where surrogates are expected to speak for Trump (former candidate Ben Carson) and Rubio (South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott).

Trump will hold a rallies in Boca Raton Sunday and Doral Monday.

Donald Trump will be introduced by former Broward GOP chair at Boca Raton rally

Donald Trump will be endorsed by the former Broward GOP chair at his rally in Boca Raton Sunday night.

Richard DeNapoli said he will introduce Trump and the additional speakers. The lineup for speakers hasn’t been finalized yet but DeNapoli said he has heard one speaker is Laura Wilkerson of Texas, whose son was killed by an illegal immigrant in 2010.

DeNapoli said he initially supported Jeb Bush for president. But when Bush dropped out after the South Carolina primary, “I officially endorsed and signed up for Donald Trump.”

DeNapoli serves as Trump’s volunteer Fort Lauderdale area director and is on his statewide leadership team. He finished his volunteer post as Broward GOP chair in 2012 when he took a job on the west coast of Florida but still has a home in Hollywood.

Trump will hold a rally at the 6,000-capacity Sunset Cove Amphitheater in a Palm Beach County park in Boca Raton at 6 p.m. Sunday. He will hold a rally at Trump National Doral Monday.

The Trump campaign will pay Palm Beach County $3,500 to rent out the facility, county parks and recreation director Eric Call said.

Law enforcement officials from the Secret Service and Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office met Friday with the Trump campaign to discuss security.

"In their words, they've got it completely covered in the event that anything happens," Call said.

Trump cancelled a Chicago rally Friday after protesters packed the site where he was to speak.

March 11, 2016

Marco Rubio and Donald Trump appear unlikely to attend Broward GOP dinner days before March 15 primary


Can the Broward GOP get some presidential candidate love before the March 15 primary?

Doesn’t look promising.

Sorting out who will speak has been a mighty challenge for Bob Sutton, chair of the Broward Republican Executive Committee. He's had to manage the various issues from competing campaigns.

Jeb Bush was initially scheduled as the keynote speaker but cancelled after dropping out of the race.

Sutton said he has no confirmation from Marco Rubio or Donald TrumpRubio’s schedule for Saturday is jam-packed ending with a rally in Pensacola at 7 p.m. Trump’s last event is a rally in Cleveland at 2 p.m., according to his schedule.

Both Rubio and Trump have high-profile surrogates who will speak: former presidential candidate Ben Carson who endorsed Trump Friday and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina who endorsed Rubio.

Sutton said about a day after he announced Scott as the keynote, the Trump campaign asked him to name New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as the keynote speaker. Sutton says he told the campaign that Christie could speak but not as the keynote.

“I said we’ve already announced who the keynote speaker is,” Sutton said. “I have a sitting senator that is confirmed as our keynote speaker. I wasn’t going to dump him.”

(The Trump campaign request was previously reported by Beth Reinhard, former politics reporter for the Miami Herald who now works at the Wall Street Journal.)

Campaign spokespersons for Rubio and Trump didn’t respond to emails from the Miami Herald about the event in recent days. The other two remaining GOP candidates, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, are not expected to attend.

Nearly all of the 360 guests at the Broward fundraising dinner have likely already voted or have made up their minds, but candidates often speak at Lincoln Day dinners for the free media exposure. Sutton said he’s had inquiries from reporters in the U.S., Paris and the U.K.

Other speakers include U.S. Senate candidates Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Todd Wilcox.

Left-leaning Broward County has 240,000 registered Republicans -- the third largest in the state behind Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties.

“If we can get a 30% turnout it will make a big difference,” Sutton said.

The event will be held at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina.

Presidential candidates have not held any major public events in Broward this cycle although Carson signed books at a Barnes and Noble in Fort Lauderdale. (Bush spoke at the Broward Workshop in 2014 about a year before he officially jumped into the race.)

About 41,000 Broward Republicans have voted so far, state records showed Friday.


March 09, 2016

Debbie Wasserman Schultz bashes Marco Rubio before Democratic debate

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz defended Democratic turnout and bashed the GOP presidential field shortly before the debate started between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Miami.

The Democratic National Committee chair from Broward County said that so far Republican turnout has been about 55 percent compared to 45 percent for the Democrats in Florida. The state’s primary is March 15 but voting by mail and at early voting sites started in February.

The higher GOP turnout isn’t a surprise since the Republican primary has had more candidates, she said.

“Ours hasn’t been a freak show,” she said, shortly before the debate at Miami Dade College.

Wasserman Schultz called out U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio who has been trailing Donald Trump in the polls.

“Marco Rubio should be doing so much better here...,” she said.

Asked about President Barack Obama’s upcoming trip to Cuba this month, Wasserman Schultz said she will not join Obama on the trip and has no desire to visit the island.

“Not until they make more human rights progress,” she said.

In Florida, the Democratic Party sees an opening with the Cuban-American vote which seen for years as a reliable GOP voting bloc but Obama made some headway with them in 2012.

The Democratic Party will try to appeal to Cuban-American voters with messages about jobs, education and health care, she said.

“Four and a half million Hispanics in this country have gotten health care that didn’t have it before,” she said.

At some point after the Miami debate, representatives for the DNC and the campaigns are expected to reach an agreement on the date and locations of the next debates. One debate is expected to be held in April and one in California in May.

March 05, 2016

Senator Tim Scott to headline Broward GOP dinner

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who has endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio, will keynote the Broward GOP dinner three days before the March 15 primary.

Scott will speak at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina March 12. 

His personal story -- about being an African-American raised by a single mother and then climbing the political ladder -- has appealed to Republican Party leaders as they try to diversify the party. However, nationally and in Florida the vast majority of African-American voters are Democrats.

Republican presidential candidates have not released their schedule for the weekend before the primary so it's unclear if any will attend the event. But it's a likely spot for a presidential candidate to appear because it's a chance for free publicity before election day in a county with about 240,000 registered Republican voters -- behind only Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties.

Other speakers include CFO Jeff Atwater, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, State Rep. George Moraitis, Republican Party of Florida chairman Blaise Ingoglia, Republican National Committee Co-Chair Sharon Day, and National committeeman Peter Feaman.

The Lincoln Day dinner is the largest fundraiser of the year for the Broward Republican Executive Committee. For more information go to www.browardlincolnday.com



March 03, 2016

Anti-Donald Trump ad references developer of failed Fort Lauderdale tower


Republicans desperately trying to stop Donald Trump from winning the presidential nomination plan a barrage of TV ads against the real-estate mogul in Florida. One of them includes a reference to the developer of Trump International Hotel & Tower Fort Lauderdale, a massive project that collapsed after Trump withdrew his name from the building.

"Donald Trump's business associates: a felon promoted to senior adviser after a stock fraud conviction," the ad by American Future Fund says about Felix SaterSater was part of Bayrock Group LLC, a developer of the Fort Lauderdale tower. 


Here's what the Miami Herald's Michael Sallah wrote about the failed project in 2012:

Continue reading "Anti-Donald Trump ad references developer of failed Fort Lauderdale tower" »

Broward judge to hear case on whether Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are 'natural born citizens'


A case challenging the eligibility of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio to run for president will be heard in Broward County court at 11 a.m. Friday.

The crux of the case: the meaning of the phrase “natural born citizen” and how it applies to the two Republican senators. Rubio was born in Miami in 1971 to Cuban immigrants who became citizens a few years later. Cruz was born in Canada to a Cuban-born father and American mother, who moved to Texas when Cruz was four.

“These two candidates are naturalized U.S. citizens, or at the very least, simply fail to comply with the common law Supreme Court established definition of natural born citizen,” wrote Michael Voeltz in his court complaint.

Voeltz, a Broward Republican and inventory manager at a car dealership who is representing himself, wants the candidates’ names withdrawn from the Florida March 15 primary ballot.

The U.S. Constitution states that a presidential candidate must be a “natural born citizen.” Voeltz argues that the definition of “natural born citizens” refers to those born in the U.S. whose parents are U.S. citizens.

But most legal experts say that the phrase means someone who is a citizen at birth. Also, the Naturalization Act of 1790, passed by Congress three years after the Constitution was written, stated that children born abroad to U.S. citizens were natural born citizens.

“It is undisputed that Senator Rubio was born to immigrant parents in the United States,” states Rubio’s motion to dismiss the complaint, written by lawyer Gabriela Prado of Virginia. “Under the United States Constitution, Senator Rubio is a natural born citizen who is eligible to serve as president of the United States.”

Cruz is represented by David Di Pietro, a well-known Republican lawyer in Broward.

“With respect to the phrase ‘natural born citizen’ the first Congress and British law at the time of the founding are in agreement — a person who is a citizen at birth due to the citizenship of the parent is a natural born citizen,” Di Pietro wrote in his motion to dismiss.

More here.


February 10, 2016

Despite New Hampshire loss, Hillary Clinton supporters see hope in Broward

Hillary Clinton’s campaign opened its first office in South Florida in Democratic-rich Broward County Wednesday night.

Former U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, and former state Sen. Nan Rich of Weston spoke on behalf of Clinton at the opening of her Pompano Beach office.

Clinton supporters expressed optimism about her chances in Florida despite the fact that she just barely beat Bernie Sanders in Iowa and lost by a landslide to him in New Hampshire.

“These are two tiny states that reflect only their own little states,” Klein said, noting that New Hampshire is largely white. “Now we are beginning to campaign into the real states.”

Some Clinton volunteers expressed concern.

“I think she got a real scare,” said Peter Lent, a retired criminal defense attorney from Fort Lauderdale. “I am more worried now than I was six months ago. But I take a long view -- and so does she.”

So far, Clinton has invested far more time in South Florida than Sanders. Both candidates gave speeches at the National Urban League conference in Fort Lauderdale in July, but Clinton also gave a speech in Miami in July as well as at Broward College in Davie in October.

Clinton will hold a public event at the Port of Palm Beach in Riviera Beach at 2 p.m. Monday. She also holds fundraisers in Palm Beach and Miami that day.

The Sanders’ campaign has not announced any events in South Florida leading up to the March 15 primary. Broward has 550,000 registered Democrats -- the highest number in the state -- so the county could play a key role in the primary.

Floridians start voting next week when absentee ballots hit mailboxes. The Broward Supervisor of Elections expects to send 102,000 absentee ballots Tuesday -- the number is 157,000 in Miami-Dade.

Clinton led Sanders 64 to 25 percent in Florida, according to a Real Clear Politics average of polls between Oct. 28 and Jan. 18. But those polls were before the first two states voted.

Clinton and Sanders will face off in a debate in Milwaukee Thursday night.