February 05, 2015

Alcee Hastings calls Texas 'crazy.' Jon Stewart weighs in.


"We're run by children," comedian Jon Stewart concluded Wednesday night when he gave The Daily Show treatment to a now-infamous exchange starring U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Miramar Democrat.

In case you weren't glued to C-SPAN's Monday night coverage of the House Rules Committee, the fireworks started when Texas Republican Rep. Michael Burgess said President Obama's administration "hid the ball" on the Affordable Care Act. The debate was over states like Texas and Florida choosing not to create their own insurance exchanges under Obamacare.

"Had the administration worked with the governors! Had the governors worked with the administration, we might not be in this position," Hastings responded. "I don't know about in your state, which I think is a crazy state to begin with -– and I mean that just as I said it."

("You're from Florida and you're calling Texas crazy?" Stewart said.)

Hastings was interrupted by the committee chairwoman's gavel. Burgess was insulted.

"The gentleman made a very defamatory statement about my state, and I will not stand here and listen to it," he said.

"Well, fine. Then you don't have to listen," Hastings fired back. "You can leave if you choose. I told you what I think about Texas. I wouldn't live there for all the tea in China. And that's how I feel."

He continued. But then Burgess got the floor back.

Burgess: "I'm used to attacks, invective being tossed my way. That's part and parcel of the territory. But there is no reason at all to impugn the people, the governor, of a state of this country, and I will await the gentleman's apology."

Hastings: "You will wait until hell freezes over for me to say anything in an apology. I would apologize to you if I was directing my comments to you..."

By Tuesday, all 25 members of Texas' congressional delegation had demanded an apology, and issued this statement, according to the Houston Chronicle: "Don't mess with Texas."

The relevant portion in the video below starts at about 4:35.

January 30, 2015

The Hill: Debbie Wasserman Schultz cast House vote on Mario Diaz-Balart's behalf


Voting for another member of Congress is technically a no-no.

But that's what Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat and the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, did this week for Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, according to The Hill.

Diaz-Balart was wrapping up an interview with a reporter when Wasserman Schultz walked by.

“Deb, are you going in?” he asked before handing her his voting card. “Can you…” he said, trailing off as he handed her the card.

Wasserman Schultz, whose day job at the DNC means she's usually acting as the party's attack dog against Republicans, tilted her head quizzically and half-shrugged.

"Yeah, the opposite, the opposite," Diaz-Balart said with a laugh, asking her to vote as him in the opposite way as she was voting during a roll-call vote. 

Wasserman Schultz headed onto the House floor.

“He handed off his voting card to me, yes,” she told The Hill upon her return a minute later.

Members of Congress are collegial -- even across party lines -- and that's been especially true among Wasserman Schultz (in spite of her partisan role) and Cuban-American Republicans. When Democrats lined up to challenge Diaz-Balart, his brother Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in 2008, Wasserman Schultz took heat for sitting the races out, in deference to her colleagues.

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican, told The Hill he would "take care of that matter."

January 15, 2015

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes' attorney says she won't run

Should Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes retire her attorney says she won’t run for the seat.

Snipes, 71, told the Herald on Monday that hasn’t decided whether she will seek re-election in 2016 and has no timeline to make up her mind.

Rumors have been swirling about who will run if Snipes does retire, but some of those individuals have said the rumors are wrong including Snipes’ attorney Burnadette Norris-Weeks.

“No ma’am, I’m not running,” Norris-Weeks told the Herald today. “You can stop calling me about that -- I’m never running. I’ve said it a thousand different ways. I have no intentions of running.”

Political consultant David Brown told the Herald he might run (www.browardbeat.com reported that previously). Brown lost a race for supervisor in 2000 when Miriam Oliphant won. Click here to read about the responses from other rumored contenders including state Sen. Eleanor Sobel.


January 13, 2015

Will Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes retire?

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes isn’t ready to decide whether she will seek re-election in 2016 which means that no other viable candidates are stepping forward yet.

Snipes, 71, said in an interview Monday that she will serve out the remainder of her term but as for running again “I just haven’t made any decision."

Former Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Snipes, a former Broward schools principal and Democrat, as supervisor in 2003 after he suspended supervisor Miriam Oliphant. (Yes, Bush appointed a Democrat but Snipes isn’t particularly partisan -- the benefit for him was that he replaced one African-American woman with another African-American for woman.) Snipes has easily won re-election three times.

Snipes, who said she is focused on upcoming municipal elections through March, said she has no timeline to reach a decision about her political future. Qualifying isn't until 2016.

That leaves Snipes as the county’s only constitutional officer who hasn’t announced her intentions. Broward Sheriff Scott Israel will seek a second term while Clerk of Courts Howard Forman and Property Appraiser Lori Parrish are retiring.

Snipes, a Democrat, has at times had a rocky relationship with the Democratic-dominated county commission about her budget and other matters. Earlier this month the county declared an impasse in negotiations for a new headquarters site, essentially putting the decade-old quest back to square one (hat tip Sun-Sentinel.) She also faced criticism for how she handled scheduling the County Commission District 2 election which ended up in a low-turnout special election as a result of a court battle about write-in candidates.  

The supervisor of elections’ race in 2016 will coincide with the presidential election which means that a Democrat has the strongest chance of winning since there are about twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans in Broward.

Since Snipes has provided no hint which way she is leaning, no other candidates have stepped forward. There have been rumors of a few politicians -- all Democrats -- taking a look at the office:

State Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, who faces term limits in 2016 said “I’m not thinking about running right now.” When asked if she had ruled it out, she said: “I can’t say what the future is going to bring yet. ... I’m saying right now I am officially doing my job as a senator and completing my last two years.”

County Commissioner Stacy Ritter of Parkland said she never considered running and will open a campaign account for her re-election in February. She criticized Snipes during the general election for starting early voting at 7 a.m. on weekends which she tweeted was a “waste of time/$.”

Pembroke Pines City Commissioner Angelo Castillo said “I haven’t even thought about it that seriously.” Castillo, who is the sheriff's director of strategic planning and research, is an advocate of vote by mail.



January 09, 2015

Fort Laud mayor Jack Seiler faces two opponents

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler has taken heat about the city’s limits on outdoor homeless feedings and his stance against same-sex marriage, but he could be headed toward an easy re-election.

Two candidates qualified Friday to challenge Seiler: Earl Rynerson, a businessman and frequent critic of the mayor who lost to Seiler twice before, and Chris Brennan who fought to save a historic tree from a condo development (hat tip Sun-Sentinel).

Seiler has the power of name recognition, ability to easily fundraise and the fact that he has never lost a race in his two decades in office starting on the Wilton Manors council and later in the state Legislature. Seiler was first elected as Fort Lauderdale mayor in 2009 -- if he wins this would be his final three-year term due to term limits. That means Seiler, a Democrat, could stay in elected office until the winter of 2018 when he might run for governor or attorney general.

If a mayoral candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote Feb. 10, he wins the race --  if not the top two vote-getters face off March 10.

Last year, Seiler voted against a symbolic resolution in support of same-sex marriage which put him at odds with many high-profile Democratic politicians in Broward. This week after same-sex weddings started in Florida, Seiler extended his “best wishes” to newlyweds.

Seiler has had to defend the city’s laws that attempted to curb mass feedings of the homeless in downtown Fort Lauderdale, including a battle with 90-year-old Arnold Abbott, chef to the homeless. That fight drew national attention including on The Colbert Report.

However city residents who go to the polls (and that will be a small number) may base their votes on more bread and butter issues such as trash pickup, the quality of parks and other city services.

Commissioners Bruce Roberts and Romney Rogers won re-election unopposed while Dean Trantalis and Robert McKinzie face challengers.


January 06, 2015

Last year Fort Lauderdale mayor Jack Seiler voted against resolution on same sex marriage but now extends 'best wishes' to newlyweds

While many Broward pols celebrated the start of gay marriage this week, one key Democratic politician was quiet: Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler.

A former Wilton Manors mayor and state representative, Seiler is a rare breed for a Broward Democratic politician: he has attempted to sit on the sidelines of the same-sex marriage debate. A married Catholic father, with four children, Seiler told the Miami Herald in 2013 that he had no position on the issue but supported civil unions and domestic partner benefits for city employees. In June, Seiler voted against a city resolution in support of same sex marriage.

The Miami Herald asked Seiler for his position in the wake of same-sex couples now being allowed to wed in Florida.

“The City does not regulate -- and has never regulated -- marriage. In fact, as I repeatedly pointed out, the City does not have, and did not have, any authority over marriage or marriage rights,” Seiler wrote in an email Monday night.  

“Further, as I also stated numerous times, the marriage issue would and should be resolved at the State level (where it is regulated), at the Federal level (where it can be regulated), or in the Courts.  In this instance, the Courts have ruled, and the rulings have been consistently and overwhelmingly in support of same-sex marriage.  As such, the Courts have now resolved the marriage issue.

As a City, we will absolutely and unconditionally treat all marriages as equal, and, where applicable, we will update our codes, ordinances, and laws to implement and enforce marriage equality.  As to any newlyweds, we extend our best wishes for many joyous years of good health, happiness, and love.”

Seiler, who has never lost a race since he first ran in Wilton Manors in the 1990s, has qualified to run for re-election in February. (The city’s qualifying period for mayoral candidates ends Jan. 9th. The city’s website does not show who has qualified but we haven’t heard of anyone planning to challenge Seiler. Technically the race is nonpartisan.)

Seiler is one of a few big-city Democratic mayors who have been mentioned as possible future statewide candidates. Again, his position on marriage puts him at odds in that camp, too.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, also a Catholic Democrat, came out in support of same sex marriage in September, which was somewhat of a change of position.

When President Obama announced his support for gay marriage in 2012, Buckhorn told the Tampa Bay Times “I'm not sure I'm entirely there yet," though he was on that path.

Buckhorn told the Times in September after he announced his new stance that his position as mayor "will put me at odds with some of the teachings of the Catholic Church," but "my faith and my job are two separate things."

On Tuesday, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer hosted a wedding ceremony for 44 couples at City Hall Tuesday.


Raucous midnight marriages make way for quieter Florida same-sex weddings Tuesday

@PatriciaMazzei @AmySherman1 @MarthaBrannigan @kmcgrory

The festive courthouse weddings for same-sex couples began in earnest Tuesday when their marriages became legal across Florida, drawing crowds shortly after midnight and sustained interest throughout the day from gays and lesbians eager to be among the first in the state to wed.

Miami-Dade County got an early start to same-sex marriages Monday afternoon, but other South Florida counties with large gay populations celebrated couples’ unions Tuesday, with all the pomp that could be mustered in cramped bureaucratic spaces. Clerks festooned their bare offices with dainty arches and accepted donated cakes and coffee to welcome jittery brides and grooms.

For some, the occasion was a planned affair involving friends, family and natty wedding attire. Others went to apply for a marriage license dressed in shorts and jeans, now that they could.

“We had been together so long, we hadn’t put a lot of importance in it,” Cory Morton of Oakland Park said of getting married. “It seemed so far-fetched.” 

More here.

South Florida gay couples marry in midnight ceremonies

By David Smiley, Anthony Cave, Steve Rothaus and Michael Vasquez

Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones waited for more than a decade for this moment.

The two Duval Street bartenders stood on the steps of the historic Monroe County Courthouse at 12:18 a.m. Tuesday and, as a crowd of hundreds watched, exchanged rings and then vows during a ceremony led by a police chaplain. And then, while onlookers pelted their black tuxedos with rice, they shared a lingering, tender kiss, their first as spouses.

In a historic and emotional night for South Florida -- one many thought might never come -- the newlyweds from Key West were the first gay couple to marry in Monroe County and among the first in the entire state after Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage was lifted at midnight. The same courthouses would be open again after dawn, but for many gay and lesbian couples, waiting any longer wasn’t an option.

“I’m glad it’s finally legal,” said a teary-eyed Jones, who along with Huntsman successfully sued Monroe County’s clerk of court to demand they be allowed to marry.

Their lawsuit and several others fought and won around the state led to the unprecedented festivities in the early morning hours of Jan. 6, 2015 and the preceding afternoon. In Miami-Dade, the state’s first ever gay couple wed before 2 p.m. Monday during a courthouse ceremony. And some 12 hours later, Huntsman and Jones were married in Key West, and clerks in Palm Beach and Broward counties held mass wedding ceremonies in their courthouses after signing marriage licenses.

Broward Clerk of Courts Howard Forman officiated the first of two mass ceremonies around 2 a.m. in Fort Lauderdale. Dozens of couples participated and the shutter sound of photographs continued nonstop.

“Never forget that love brought you here today,” Forman told them.

More here.

December 01, 2014

Online hacker group Anonymous leads to Fort Lauderdale's website being shut down

The online hacking group Anonymous made threats to the city of Fort Lauderdale, resulting in the city taking down it's website this afternoon.

By 6:18 p.m., the city's website was back up.

The FBI is responding to inquiries from Fort Lauderdale officials regarding the hacking threat.

Anonymous made the threats related to the city’s controversial laws about feeding the homeless outdoors.

“Fellow citizens of the world and Fort Lauderdale,” says the computer generated voice in the video. “We are anonymous. It has come to our attention that Mayor John P. Seiler has become an embarrassment to the good law-abiding citizens of the city of Fort Lauderdale and arresting Arnold Abbott who is 90 and served our country for feeding the homeless. You are a disgrace Mayor John Seiler there we have a list of demands if not met then we shall shut down the main site of Fort Lauderdale.”

The group, calling it's mission OperationLifttheBans, demands that the city lift the ordinances that ban panhandling at busy intersections, sleeping in downtown area and prohibits handing out food unless certain requirements are met. “You have 24 hours or less. ... 24 hours to comply with our demands or the site will be shut down along with other sites belonging to Fort Lauderdale.”

Mayor Seiler told the Miami Herald at about 5 p.m. that he didn't have an estimate regarding when the website will be back up.

“We are upgrading and updating our website to address some threats that were made,” Seiler said.

Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Dean Trantalis said that the city manager sent an email to commissioners at about 6 p.m. that stated: “it appears a group has sought to create a denial of service on our website through our internet service provider. We are working with our provider to restore service at this time.”

City spokesman Matt Little told the Herald that he received an email from IT at 4:04 p.m. that city officials were working on the website.

The city of Fort Lauderdale’s latest attempt to regulate outdoor homeless feedings made international news when police nabbed "Chef Arnold" -- a 90-year-old caught in the act of such a public feeding.

"One of the police officers said, 'Drop that plate right now,' as if I were carrying a weapon," Arnold Abbott said, recalling his early November arrest for the Associated Press.

Miami Heralds federal courts reporter Jay Weaver contributed to this blog.

(This blog post was updated after interviews including with Mayor Seiler and Commissioner Trantalis.)


Broward GOP to elect new chair

The Broward GOP will take the first key step toward setting the course toward the 2016 presidential election when activists elect a new chair Dec. 8.

Former Davie mayor Tom Truex decided not to run again after serving about a year as the chair of the Broward Republican Executive Committee. The next chair will serve for two years.

Though Republicans had statewide victories in November and Broward’s lone Republican county commissioner, Chip LaMarca, held on to his seat that’s a testament to their campaigns -- not BREC. Local activists would like to see their party group play a more prominent role in fundraising and in 2016 campaigns.

In recent years BREC has suffered from frequent turnover of chairs and infighting that represents the span of beliefs in the party, including a tussle over gay marriage. BREC has drawn attention for a couple of speakers from the fringe including a conspiracy theorist and for being parodied on The Daily Show.

It’s tricky to predict who will win a race that involves behind the scenes politicking, but lawyer Christine Butler could have the leg up. Butler is currently the vice chair and head of membership and therefore has read on many of the new members in recent months. Both Butler and another candidate, civil rights lawyer Levi Williams, lost the BREC race in 2013.

Williams, who was born in Jamaica, would be the first black BREC leader if he won. Blacks represent about one quarter of Broward’s voters but the majority are Democrats.

Karin Hoffman, a travel agent and tea party activist, is also running. She helped organize a meeting with tea party leaders across the nation and the Republican National Committee in 2010. Activist Chris Leggatt also plans to run.

About 280 committee men and women are eligible to vote.