February 19, 2015

Broward Democrats' keynote speaker is James Clyburn

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, will be in the keynote speaker for the Broward Democrats’ annual Unity Dinner March 21.

The event held at the Marriott in Coral Springs is the main annual fundraiser for the Broward Democratic Executive Committee. Last year, the group raised about $84,000 that month during a statewide campaign year -- it raised about $43,000 around the time of the dinner in 2013.

Clyburn’s activism started at age 12 when he was elected as chair of his NAACP youth chapter and he later organized sit-ins and marches. Clyburn, first elected in 1993, is a former chair of the Congressional black caucus. (See his Truth-O-Meter record from PolitiFact.)

Broward Democrats are coming off a Republican-sweep year when they saw Democrat Charlie Crist lose to Gov. Rick Scott. But Democratic turnout is higher in presidential years and Broward, with one of the largest contingents of Democratic voters in the state along with Miami-Dade, hopes to play a key role in the presidential and Senate contests next year.

Local and countywide Democratic candidates can also benefit in a presidential year from the larger turnout. Broward will have at least two open countywide seats since both Property Appraiser Lori Parrish and Clerk of Courts Howard Forman are retiring -- Sheriff Scott Israel is running for re-election while Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes hasn’t decided if she will seek re-election.

February 13, 2015

The Alcee Hastings' Truth-O-Meter file: claims about dildos, guns and voting rights

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., recently upped his profile as an outspoken and provocative liberal when he bashed Texas as a "crazy" state.

At a Feb. 2 House Rules Committee hearing, lawmakers were discussing Texas’ decision not to participate in state health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. At one point, Hastings said, "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."

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican, said Hastings’ comment was "defamatory," setting off a battle later parodied on The Daily Show.

Then, on Feb. 5, Hastings gave an interview to CNN in which he cited Texas law to bolster his case that the state is "crazy."

Hastings is a former federal judge who was acquitted by a federal jury of bribery charges in 1983, later impeached by the House of Representatives, and removed from the federal bench in 1989 by the Senate.

Neverthless, he was elected to Congress in 1992 and represents District 20, which includes parts of Broward, Palm Beach and Hendry counties. Hastings, a resident of Miramar, is one of Broward County’s longest serving politicians and plans to seekre-election in 2016.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the rest of our story about our fact-checks of Hastings' recent claims and one he made during the 2012 noncitizen voter purge.

February 06, 2015

Texas and dildos and bears, oh my! Alcee Hastings insists Texas is 'crazy,' also bashes Florida


U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, enjoying more national press coverage than he has in years, has doubled down on his comment from earlier this week calling Texas "crazy."

In a CNN interview, Hastings elaborated on his remark.

"One of their cities has a law that says that women can only have six dildos, and the certain size of things, and if that ain't crazy, I don't know what is," the Miramar Democrat said. It's unclear what "things" Hastings was referring to.

He also cited a supposed Texas law that says people "can't shoot bears out of the second floor of a window," according to CNN's post.

"I love Texans, but I do not like their policy makers who are in the majority," he said. "The simple fact of the matter is, evidently, I touched a nerve deep in the heart of Texas. And I would ask them to tie a yellow rose around it and do like Frozen and 'Let it go.'"

Hastings has ignored the Texas congressional delegation's request for an apology. He seems to be cherishing the spotlight -- even if it meant CNN noted the former federal judge was impeached and removed from office.

The congressman also revealed that, as it turns out, he doesn't really like his home state of Florida, either. Hastings has represented Florida's 20th District since 1992.

"Consider the fact that I'm a native Floridian, and that I dislike it," he told CNN. "Listen, I wouldn't live in a lot of places. Texas happens to be one of them. I have cautioned about living in Florida, and I'm not so they're I'm going to stay there."

With Dem chair Mitch Ceasar out of way, Nan Rich clears field for Broward County race

Former state Sen. Nan Rich said that she met with Broward Democratic Chairman Mitch Ceasar Tuesday and he told her he isn’t going to run against her for County Commission.

“He told me he was not going to run for the seat,” Rich said. “He told me face to face this week.”

That appears to clear the field for Rich, a Democrat from Weston. Rich said she plans to formally file her paperwork in early March to run for the seat in 2016.

The commission seat is open because Commissioner Martin Kiar is running for property appraiser -- the current office holder Lori Parrish is retiring. The commission district spans several cities including Plantation, Sunrise and Weston and much of the district overlaps with Rich’s former state senate district.

Rich is coming off a resounding loss in the Democratic primary for governor to former Gov. Charlie Crist last year -- she only won about 23 percent of the vote in Broward. But Broward’s Democratic voters weren’t really voting against Rich --  they saw the better-financed Crist as their best chance at ousting Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Ceasar had considered running against Rich but he might run for Clerk of Courts instead, according to the Broward Beat blog. (We couldn't reach Ceasar today to confirm his future plans but Rich also said that she heard he might run for Clerk of Courts.) Longtime Clerk of Courts Howard Forman is retiring.

Broward Sheriff Scott Israel is running for re-election. The only other countywide constitutional officer who hasn’t announced her plans is Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes who hasn’t decided whether to seek re-election.


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.