April 16, 2016

Debbie Wasserman Schultz has $840k cash on hand in her first re-election battle

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, who is facing her first re-election primary challenge, had about $840,000 cash on hand at the end of the first quarter.

The Democratic National Committee chair remains ahead of Tim Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor from Hollywood. But Canova had an impressive haul as a first-time candidate during his first quarter and had $461,000 cash on hand.

Wasserman Schultz raised about $1.1 million in 2015 and about $621,000 during the first quarter of 2016, according to the report she filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission. The bulk of her expenses were on consulting, fundraising, digital mail and media and travel. She paid her finance chair Courtney Whitney about $22,000, fundraising consultant Jason O'Malley $15,000 and BTS Strategies about $15,000. 

Canova raised about $559,000 during the quarter. Canova's largest expense included about $23,000 paid to Revolution Messaging (same firm being used by Bernie Sanders) for digital media and about $11,000 to Deborah Dion who is his spokeswoman. Many of his other expenses were for staff, credit card processing and office supplies. He appears to be trying to spend carefully: food for volunteers was purchased at Publix, Subway and BJs.

Wasserman Schultz and Canova are competing in Congressional District 23 which runs from western Broward to Miami Beach.


April 13, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott to speak at RNC meeting in Broward


Gov. Rick Scott will speak at the Republican National Committee in Broward County next week.

The RNC will hold it's spring meeting at the swanky oceanside Diplomat Resort and Spa in Hollywood starting Wednesday. The RNC has not yet released a schedule of events but several Florida politicians are expected to attend the event including Republican Party of Florida chairman State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia. Scott's political consultant Melissa Sellers confirmed that Scott will speak. 

The RNC committees could discuss rules related to the July presidential convention in Cleveland -- the first potentially brokered convention in decades. 

Republicans will be meeting in the county with the highest number of registered Democratic voters in the state: Broward has about 560,000 registered Democrats.

April 12, 2016

Debbie Wasserman Schultz says opponent Tim Canova won't change her campaign strategy

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, was making the rounds in her South Florida district today -- including an event for Equal Pay Day -- when we caught up with her about her primary opponent.

For the first time since winning her seat since 2004, Wasserman Schultz faces a primary opponent -- and he has been drawing national attention.

Tim Canova, a Nova Southeastern Law professor from Hollywood, said he raised $557,000 during his first quarter of 2016. Wasserman Schultz, who is also the Democratic National Committee chair, raised $1.1 million through 2015 and about $614,000 so far in 2016. Campaign finance reports are due to the Federal Election Commission Friday so the totals are based on comments by the campaigns. (Gyrocopter pilot Doug Hughes, also a Democrat, ended his bid for the Broward/Miami-Dade seat.)

Canova has modeled his campaign themes from Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and has focused on issues such as campaign finance reform and income inequality. He has also attacked Wasserman Schultz for her position on payday loans.

Canova faces an uphill battle against Wasserman Schultz who has long roots in the district dating back to the 1990s when she served in the state Legislature. President Barack Obama endorsed her re-election in March.

Here is a partial transcript of our conversation with Wasserman Schultz about her primary race:

Q: How does it feel to have your first primary opponent for re-election?

A: “It’s no different than any other election I have. I have been on the ballot virtually every time. I do the same thing no matter whether I have primary opposition, general election opposition which is all through the year I try to make sure that I am out there in the community talking to my constituents about the job I am doing and answering their questions and trying to be the best representative that I can be. Then hopefully every two years when I ask for their support then I earn it again.”

Q: So you don’t have to do anything different this time because you have a primary opponent?

A: “When you are working hard and you're representing your district and you are out there and talking to people, ideally if you are doing the job that a representative should do you shouldn’t have to change up anything. I work hard all year, I try to make sure that I’m out there in the community. People know what I am doing -- I represented the people for a really long time.”

Q: This time will you have to do TV ads? You didn’t have to do that against Joe Kaufman (her Republican opponent in 2014)

“In different campaigns there’s different approaches. Certainly I won’t be talking about any campaign strategy to a member of the press but we are going to get our message out in a variety of ways as we always do.”

Q: Why do think (Canova) has drawn so much attention?

A:  “I really don’t know. I am focused as I usually do on my own campaign, doing the best job I can to represent my constituents and that’s my first responsibility is to do my job in Congress, to help elect a Democratic president and to make sure that in running for re-election people know the work I have done on their behalf. I’m not remotely paying attention to what my opponent does.”

Q: Is it going to pull you off your duties, reduce your time you can spend DNC and presidential matters?

“I have been DNC chair five years and I’ve had an election every time. I’ve balanced the work between covering my own responsibilities in Congress, and running for re-election and doing my job at the DNC. This will be no different.”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz bashes GOP over gender pay gap

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, used a Pembroke Pines beauty academy as a backdrop Tuesday to bash Congressional Republicans for holding up legislation that she says would address the gender pay gap.

The bill, Paycheck Fairness Act, would require employers to prove that any difference in pay is unrelated to gender and prevent employees from being fired for sharing salary information, among other things.

“On average women make 79 cents per every dollar that men make doing the same job,” said Wasserman Schultz, who is the chair of the Democratic National Committee. That adds up to about $430,000 over their career, she said.

The disparity is especially bad in Wasserman Schultz’s Broward/Miami Dade district. It has the largest pay gap in the state: 75 cents, according to the American Association of University Women. Statewide it is 85 cents.

Wasserman Schultz’s comments came on “Equal Pay Day” -- a nationwide event to publicize the gender pay gap.

But just how much of what is said about the gender pay gap is accurate?

The gender pay gap is real, but Democrats sometimes flub the wording in their statements about the 79-cent gap or a similar figure, as PolitiFact has explained. We will use President Barack Obama as an example of how the pay gap can be explained wrongly or accurately.

President Barack Obama said in 2012, “Women (are) paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.” That rated Mostly False.

But in his 2014 State of the Union address, Obama said women “still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.” That rated Mostly True.

The key difference is the notion that men and women are doing the same work.

The 77-cent figure, which is now around 79 cents, does not apply to men and women who hold the same job. Instead it refers to all women’s earnings compared to all men’s earnings, regardless of their occupations. And the 77-cent figure doesn’t take into account other factors such as the fact that men have typically held their jobs longer than women in the same position.

If you look at men and women working in the same professions, the pay gap is much smaller -- though it doesn’t disappear entirely. For computer programmers, for instance, women earn 95 cents for every dollar a man earns, PolitiFact wrote in 2012.

The Republican National Committee Co-Chair Sharon Day of Fort Lauderdale released a statement about Equal Pay Day:

“Women are an integral part of our economy and deserve equal pay for equal work. Republicans believe we must focus on real solutions geared toward job creation and opportunity for women.”

Day also noted that women in Hillary Clinton’s Senate office and women in Obama’s White House were paid less than men.

That can be misleading, too.

Salary data for White House employees show a gap in average pay for men and women, but when job titles are similar, the pay tends to be the same.

In 2015, the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website, published its analysis of salaries among Clinton’s Senate staffers from 2002-08. The website said it showed female staffers were paid 72 cents for every dollar earned by a man.

But that excluded certain information including employees who didn’t work a full year or Senate staffers who took leaves to work on the political side.

Clinton’s campaign provided data for all staffers whether they worked a full year or not and it showed an equal media salary of $40,000 when excluding Clinton’s pay.

April 08, 2016

Broward, Palm Beach choose GOP presidential delegates Saturday

Broward and Palm Beach counties choose their 2016 GOP presidential delegates Saturday while Miami-Dade chooses delegates April 16th. Here is a look at what is at stake this year from William March at the Tampa Bay Times and Amy Sherman at the Miami Herald:

Alan Hays, a Republican state senator from Umatilla, has never been interested in national political conventions, dismissing them as “just a formality.” He didn’t even bother to drive to Tampa for his party’s 2012 convention.

But this year is different. Hays, state co-chairman for Ted Cruz, is considering applying for one of Florida’s 99 delegate slots for the July convention in Cleveland. “If it does go beyond the third ballot, I want to be there to vote for Cruz,” Hays said.

Turmoil in the primary and the increasing chance of a contested convention are sparking unusual interest in what is typically a little-noticed exercise in political log-rolling and rewarding party faithful: choosing the state’s convention delegates. Instead of just being props in a ceremonial coronation of a party’s pre-ordained presidential nominee, delegates this year may actually make a history-changing decision.

Here’s the bad news, however, for those itching to participate: If you’re not a long-time, committed party activist, you can probably forget it. Even Hays’ fellow Cruz co-chairman, state Rep. Neil Combee of Polk City, applied and got turned down.

Keep reading our story -- including about delegate selection in South Florida -- here.


April 06, 2016

After 148 years, cohabitation legal again in Florida


Congratulations, all you unmarried lovers in Florida who are shacking up together. You are no longer breaking the law.

Among the 20 new laws that Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed Wednesday is a bill that immediately repeals Florida’s 148-year-old ban on cohabitation.

The previous law, enacted in 1868, made it a second-degree misdemeanor — punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine — for a man and a woman to “lewdly and lasciviously associate” and live together before marriage.

Florida had been one of only three states to still criminalize cohabitation. Now only Michigan and Mississippi make it illegal.

Lawmakers have for years bemoaned the outdated law and attempted to take it off the books.

Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, and Democratic Reps. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, of Tallahassee, and Richard Stark, of Weston, led the charge this year. During the 2016 session, they were finally successful in passing the repeal measure (SB 498) out of both chambers in early March, with supporters calling the law “antiquated” and unnecessary.

Continue reading "After 148 years, cohabitation legal again in Florida" »

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.