July 20, 2018

At Democratic debate for Ros-Lehtinen seat, it was ‘Yes’, ‘No’ and ‘It’s Complicated’

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via _@jacobsweet

At some debates, it’s hard to tell one candidate from another. This was one of them.

“We all have similar platforms, but we approach problems differently,” said Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, one of the five Democratic candidates who debated each other Thursday night in the race for Florida’s 27th Congressional District, a seat now held by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Republican who is retiring.

While some expected frequent attacks to be levied against frontrunner Donna Shalala, the former University of Miami president, attacks among the candidates were infrequent throughout the night.

The most substantial challenges throughout the evening came from state Rep. David Richardson, who represents Miami Beach and Little Havana. His critiques were leveled at Shalala.

At one point during a series of questions about immigration, he said Shalala had contributed to the “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” Policy, a 1995 revision of the Cuban Adjustment Act, while she was U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton. Michael Putney, the moderator for the debate, said Shalala had not contributed to the policy.

Hours later, Richardson challenged Shalala to submit her financial disclosure statements — forms the public can use to evaluate potential conflicts of interest. Richardson noted that she has delayed sending the two documents two times. He emphasized that she may take an extra extension of 30 days to turn in the forms, the latest time that she would be allowed to turn them in.

Shalala fought back, saying Richardson had also taken two extensions in sending in the documents, which he acknowledged to be true.

Of the five candidates, only three had significant visible representation at the debate: Shalala, Richardson and Matt Haggman, a former reporter for the Miami Herald and most recently, the Knight Foundation program director for Miami. Of the five candidates, only those three left campaign materials on the church pews. Rosen Gonzalez. a Miami Beach commissioner, and Michael A. Hepburn, a former University of Miami academic adviser, had fewer visible pockets of support.

Read more here.

July 16, 2018

Florida lawmakers blast Trump for not calling out Putin

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via @learyreports

Florida lawmakers on Monday blasted President Trump over taking Vladimir Putin's word that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election, a conclusion that stands in dramatic contrast to widely held views among the intelligence community and on Capitol Hill.

"I don't see any reason why" Russia would do that, Trump said in Helsinki.

"What the president said today is not accurate," Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said during an Atlantic Council event.

Florida Democrats were the first to react and in sharper terms.

"The president's refusal to acknowledge that Putin interfered in our elections should alarm us all," Sen. Bill Nelson tweeted. "Putin is a threat to our democracy and our upcoming election, that's a fact. The president's unwillingness to stand up to him and defend our nation is unacceptable and embarrassing."

"Today @RealDonaldTrump became an illegitimate president when he showed the world that his loyalty lies more with than the people of the United States," Miami Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson tweeted. 

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio did not directly criticize Trump but did say "Foreign policy must be based on reality, not hyperbole or wishful thinking."

Rubio was more specific during an Atlantic Council event.

"What the president said today is not accurate," the Florida Republican said, adding that "all I can speculate" is that Trump was trying to be nice to Putin to establish a better working relationship.

"The flaw is that Vladimir Putin is not interested in a better working relationship," Rubio said.

Miami Republicans Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen directly criticized Trump. 

"The President's comments in Helsinki were deeply alarming," Curbelo said in a statement. "Russia's meddling in the 2016 election is fact – and the recent indictment from Director Mueller and the evidence it outlines proves that. It is unacceptable that an American President not only stood there and said nothing while Vladmir Putin spewed fiction at that press conference, but also questioned the hard work and findings of American intelligence and law enforcement investigators. The U.S. relationship with Russia has deteriorated to its current state because of Russia's criminal interference in our elections, lack of respect for human rights, and invasive and militant actions against its neighbors and our allies around the world. Blaming it on anything else, is unacceptable."

"No, @POTUS. Mueller investigation on election manipulation by is not 'a disaster for our country,'" Ros-Lehtinen tweeted. "It is law enforcement doing work our country needs it to do. What has 'kept us apart' is failure to condemn Russia, lack of any sign that you’ll stop it from happening again." 

Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart avoided directly criticizing Trump in his statement. 

"As our own intelligence experts and the House Intelligence Committee have asserted, Russia interfered in the United States' 2016 election just as it meddles in the elections of its neighbors," Diaz-Balart said in a statement. "Throughout the world, Russia is often on the opposite side of U.S. interests in crucial areas such as Ukraine, Syria, and Iran. Under Putin's charge, Russia has become increasingly undemocratic, expelling pro-democracy NGOs from its territory, suppressing independent media, ignoring human rights, and manifesting a perilous environment for journalists. We must remember that Russia is not an ally of the United States, and that those responsible for attacks on our democratic institutions must be held accountable."

Shady oligarch’s firm paid Debbie Mucarsel-Powell's husband $700,000

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via The Daily Beast

The Daily Beast reports that the husband of Debbie Mucarsel-Powell has myriad connections to a shady Ukrainian oligarch. Read more below: 

Last fall, something funny happened in Washington: A pair of American lobbyists put on a fake congressional hearing in the basement of the Capitol, accusing a former Ukrainian central banker of odious corruption. A Ukrainian TV station broadcast the event there, claiming it was evidence that the United States Congress was investigating the accusations (they weren’t). The apparent sponsor of the hearing was a Ukrainian oligarch named Ihor Kolomoisky, whose bank was nationalized by the banker. Kolomoisky, who sicced his own private army on the Russians after they invaded eastern Ukraine, has been accused of sponsoring contract killings.

Now, there’s another apparent connection between the Kolomoisky and American politics. A number of businesses linked to the oligarch have hired the attorney Robert Powell, the husband of Democratic House of Representatives candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Just one of those firms paid Powell at least $700,000 over two years, according to public records. Mucarsel-Powell is challenging Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in one of the most closely-watched congressional races in the country. 

Melvin Félix—a spokesperson for Mucarsel-Powell, who is challenging Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo for his seat in South Florida—said any criticism of her based on this reporting is absurd.

“Debbie is running for Congress because she believes change is urgently needed in South Florida,” he said. “She has spent her career expanding access to quality health care in our community, giving low-income students the opportunity to go to college and protecting our coast. The absurdity of Debbie being attacked over an indirect shareholder to her husband’s former employer, a job he no longer even holds, is exactly why people are tired of politics.”

Read more here

July 11, 2018

Curbelo rakes in $785,000 in latest fundraising quarter

Curbelo

@alextdaugherty

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo has ramped up his fundraising as he tries to keep his Miami-to-Key West seat in GOP hands come November. 

The two-term congressman raised approximately $785,000 in the latest fundraising quarter from April 1 to June 30, and has $2.6 million on hand to spend about four months out from Election Day. Curbelo's campaign said the quarterly haul is a record amount and he has about $500,000 more to spend than he did at this point in the 2016 election cycle, when he eventually defeated former Rep. Joe Garcia.

"Carlos continues to receive strong support from Americans across the political spectrum — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents in South Florida and around the country — that believe his bipartisan approach is what we need to get things done in Washington," campaign manager Chris Miles said in a statement. "Carlos continues to successfully keep South Florida priorities at the forefront of the national agenda, and his work on bipartisan solutions to issues like jobs and the economy, immigration reform, disaster relief, trade, infrastructure, gun safety, and the environment is essential to healing our country’s toxic politics. He’s grateful for the growing support and looks forward to continuing his fight against the extremists in both parties that continue poisoning our nation’s politics for personal gain."

Curbelo faces a challenge from Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in a district that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 16 percentage points, the largest margin of victory for Clinton in a congressional district held by a Republican running for reelection in 2018. Mucarsel-Powell's campaign has not released their fundraising haul in the latest quarter yet, which must be submitted to the Federal Election Commission by Sunday. 

Last quarter, Mucarsel-Powell nearly matched Curbelo in fundraising, though the incumbent still maintained an advantage in cash on hand. A host of Democratic challengers around the country have managed to outraise sitting GOP lawmakers in recent months, though Curbelo has consistently ranked among his party's top money raisers while in Congress. 

Outside groups will likely spend millions in Curbelo's district as they did in 2014 and 2016, though funds raised directly by candidates go further when it comes to securing advertising rates and building a ground operation ahead of Election Day. 

July 05, 2018

Trump sanctions top Nicaraguan officials for attacks on demonstrators

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@francoordonez

The Trump administration slapped sanctions Thursday on three top Nicaraguan officials - including an in-law of President Daniel Ortega — accusing them of human rights abuses, corruption and ordering attacks on peaceful protesters.

The sanctions come as Washington turns up the heat on Nicaragua, where more than 200 people have died in two months of anti-government protests.

"The United States will not stand by idly in the face of the abuses taking place in Nicaragua," a senior administration official said. "Rather we will expose and hold accountable those responsible for the Nicaraguan government’s ongoing violence and intimidation campaign against its people."

The U.S. Treasury Department is targeting three top officials for human rights abuses under the U.S. Global Magnitsky Act, which allows the executive branch to impose visa bans and targeted sanctions on individuals anywhere in the world responsible for committing human rights violations or engaging in corrupt activity.

The officials include Francisco Lopez, head of the private company ALBANISA, a joint venture between the Venezuelan state-owned oil company, PDVSA, and its Nicaraguan counterpart. They targeted Francisco Diaz, who leads the National Police and, critics charge, orchestrated the repression and killing of Nicaraguans. Diaz's daughter is married to Ortega's son.

They also targeted Fidel Antonio Moreno Briones, who the Trump administration said has directed attacks against demonstrators for years and is seen as the main link between the municipal government and the Sandinista National Liberation Front.

The sanctions means that that the targeted people don't have access to any property they have within U.S. Also, U.S. businesses or American individuals are prohibited from engaging in transactions with the sanctioned individuals.

"Under Francisco Javier Diaz Madriz’s command, Nicaragua's National Police has engaged in serious human rights abuse against the people of Nicaragua," Heather Nauert, the State Department spokeswoman said. "Fidel Antonio Moreno Briones has directed acts of violence committed by the Sandinista Youth and pro-government armed groups which have been implicated in numerous human rights abuses related to the ongoing protests against the Nicaraguan government. Jose Francisco Lopez Centeno is the vice president of ALBANISA, the president of Petronic, and the treasurer of the ruling FSLN party and has been accused of leveraging his position to his and his family’s benefit by using companies they own to win government contracts."

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fl., and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fl., quickly welcomed the sanctions against the Ortega regime.

"Time is running out for Ortega to address the current crisis by holding early, free & fair elections," Rubio tweeted.

"As so many Nicaraguans exercise their rights to free speech and assembly, the violence in Nicaragua continues unabated with almost 300 people killed at the hands of the Ortega regime," said Ros-Lehtinen, who has introduced a resolution urging the Trump administration to impose more sanctions. "Though the State Department has rightfully imposed visa restrictions to some of Ortega's puppets, this resolution empowers the administration to go further to identify and sanction those who have engaged in acts of oppression in accordance with our laws."

Read more here.

July 03, 2018

Internal Bruno Barreiro poll shows him down 14 points to Maria Elvira Salazar

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@alextdaugherty

Former Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barreiro faces an uphill climb in the Republican primary to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, according to internal polling by his campaign. 

A poll conducted by Magellan Strategies on behalf of Barreiro shows him trailing Miami broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar by 14 percentage points. Salazar, who raised the most money in the field in recent months, received the support of 24 percent of likely GOP primary voters while Barreiro received 10 percent. No other Republican running received more than 1 percent support, and 64 percent of voters are undecided. 

Barreiro's poll unsurprisingly has him in a better position than an internal poll recently conducted by Salazar that shows her up 22 percentage points over Barreiro, though he trails by double digits in both. Salazar is also more well-known among voters than Barreiro, though a majority of voters either haven't heard of either or do not have a strong positive or negative opinion about either of them.  

The poll, which was conducted via interviews with 401 likely voters from June 11-12, has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points. 

Magellan's poll also asked GOP voters about the most important issues that need to be addressed by President Donald Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress. Reducing the cost of healthcare ranked as the most important issue in a district with thousands of Obamacare recipients while addressing illegal immigration, an issue that the president could use as a wedge to motivate conservative voters in the midterms, ranked second. 

Whoever wins the Republican primary will face an uphill battle to keep Ros-Lehtinen's seat in GOP hands. Trump lost the district, which includes most of Miami Beach, downtown Miami and coastal South Dade, by more than 19 percentage points, the largest margin of victory for Clinton in the country in a GOP-held congressional district. Most of the national election prognosticators rate Ros-Lehtinen's seat as "lean Democratic." 

Barreiro's wife Zoraida lost a snap election for Bruno's old Miami-Dade commission seat last month, and Barriero donated $95,000 to his wife from his congressional campaign account for her unsuccessful race. 

May 31, 2018

Miami congressional candidate says chemical attacks in Syria were staged

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@alextdaugherty

U..S. Sen. Marco Rubio once called Vladimir Putin a gangster, but a Miami congressional candidate has a very different word to describe the Russian president.

Hero.

Souraya Faas, a Republican who has filed to run against Rep. Carlos Curbelo in the August primary, says Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad are "heroes" for fighting terrorism in Syria. She says chemical attacks in 2017 and 2018 that the U.S. government and the UN said were orchestrated by Assad's government never happened.

"All those attacks are staged by the White Helmets," Faas said in an interview, referring to a group of 3,000 volunteer rescuers who have saved thousands of lives since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. There is no evidence to suggest that the White Helmets faked chemical attacks in Syria. Pictures purporting to confirm Faas' argument on the internet are in fact from the set of a Syrian film.

Faas was so upset with the U.S response to the chemical attacks that the lifelong Republican called on Trump to resign.

U.N. ambassador "Nikki Haley is the worst thing that has happened to the United States, the worst thing that Trump did was appoint her," Faas said. "Trump was spot on with fake news until he started believing the fake news himself."

And Faas is a frequent guest on Russian state-sponsored television. She penned a recent op-ed for Russian televsion titled "Divide & conquer: America's blueprint for 'world peace' simply a roadmap for disaster," and praised Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, an opponent of U.S. military involvement in Syria and the first sitting U.S. lawmaker to meet with Assad since the start of the Syrian conflict.

Read more here.

May 22, 2018

Democrats reserve $1.9 million in Miami TV airtime ahead of 2018 election

Debate 27

@alextdaugherty

A Washington-based organization that seeks to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives is locking in its TV airtime for the fall. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced Tuesday that it reserved $1.9 million in the Miami market ahead of Election Day 2018. Campaign committees and other political organizations typically reserve airtime in advance to receive cheaper advertising rates. The Miami reservation, part of a $12.6 million nationwide ad buy was first reported by Inside Elections.

It's not clear yet which Democrats stand to benefit from the outside television presence. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Mary Barzee Flores will likely be the Democratic nominees challenging incumbent Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart, while five Democrats are seeking to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for an open seat that is expected to be a pickup opportunity for Democrats in November. 

None of the Broward County-based seats, currently represented by Democrats Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alcee Hastings and Ted Deutch are expected to be competitive races for Republicans. 

The GOP equivalent of the DCCC, the National Republican Congressional Committee, previously announced a $3.2 million ad reservation in the Miami media market in March as part of a $46.3 million ad buy nationwide. Running TV ads in Miami is an expensive proposition and most congressional campaigns must run English and Spanish language ads. 

The NRCC does not get involved in Republican primaries, but their money will likely be spent to support Curbelo, Diaz-Balart and whoever emerges from a nine-way GOP primary in Ros-Lehtinen's seat. 

A Super PAC called the House Majority PAC that also seeks to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives also announced a $1.1 TV ad reservation in March.

May 09, 2018

Parkland families urge House to pass bill that lets law enforcement confiscate guns

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@alextdaugherty

The parents and families of victims killed in the Parkland shooting are urging the House of Representatives to pass a law that gives law enforcement the ability to seize firearms, at least temporarily, from individuals who could be a threat to themselves and others. 

The group of families, who have already secured passage of similar legislation in the Florida Legislature and spurred a bill sponsored by Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson in the U.S. Senate, are trying to get a nationwide law passed in Congress. 

The House proposal is called the "Jake Laird Act" in honor of an Indiana police officer who was killed in 2004 after responding to a call of a man walking in a neighborhood street with a rifle. Indiana Rep. Susan Brooks and Florida Rep. Ted Detuch, who represents Parkland in Congress, announced a federal version of Indiana's existing "red flag" law on Wednesday. 

"We based it on that because there's a track record of it working," Deutch said. "It passed into law in a Republican state signed into law by a Republican governor, it's clearly bipartisan, its worked and its helped to save lives in Indiana." 

"We must be the last families to suffer the loss of a loved one due to a mass shooting at school," the families wrote in a letter to members of Congress. "We demand more action to keep our schools safe, and legislation like the Jake Laird Act is a critical piece of the puzzle." 

May 04, 2018

The field for three competitive Miami-Dade congressional races is now official

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

@alextdaugherty

Candidates for federal office in Florida had until noon Friday to make their bids official, and all four incumbents running for Congress in Miami-Dade districts will face opposition in November. 

Two of the incumbents, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Miami Gardens Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson will face primary challenges, though they will be overwhelming favorites to win the August primary election. Wilson will be heavily favored to keep her seat in a deep blue district against a candidate who has also filed to run for U.S. Senate in Florida and Congress in California. While Curbelo's primary will likely be non-competitive, he likely faces a competitive general election challenge from Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell

Two Democrats who considered challenging Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart dropped out after former judge Mary Barzee Flores switched races yesterday. Diaz-Balart and Barzee Flores will not have primary challengers. 

And Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz, the fourth incumbent running for reelection in Miami-Dade, won't face a Democratic primary like she did in 2016. Tim Canova is running again after raising millions but falling well short of knocking off the former DNC chair, but this time he's running as an independent. There will also be a Republican primary in Wasserman Schultz's Democratic-leaning district. 

The largest primary field on both sides is the race to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The district is considered a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats and four of them, former University of Miami president Donna Shalala, state Rep. David Richardson, former Knight Foundation Director Matt Haggman and Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez have all raised over $100,000. TV journalist Maria Elvira Salazar and former Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barreiro have raised the most money on the Republican side. The race to replace Ros-Lehtinen is the most crowded in Florida as 9 Republicans, 5 Democrats and 1 no party candidate have filed paperwork to run. 

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott both qualified to run for Nelson's Senate seat, as expected. Neither faces a competitive primary. 

Full list of Miami-Dade congressional candidates below: 

District 27 (Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is retiring): 

Elizabeth Adadi (R)

Bruno Barreiro (R)

Angie Chirino (R)

Kristen Rosen Gonzalez (D)

Matt Haggman (D)

Mayra Joli (NPA) 

Stephen Marks (R)

Michael Ohevzion (R)

Maria Peiro (R)

David Richardson (D)

Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera (R)

Maria Elvira Salazar (R)

Donna Shalala (D)

Gina Sosa (R)

District 26 (incumbent Rep. Carlos Curbelo is running for reelection) 

Carlos Curbelo (R)

Souraya Faas (R)

Demetries Andrew Grimes (D)

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D) 

District 25 (incumbent Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is running for reelection) 

Mario Diaz-Balart (R)

Mary Barzee Flores (D)

District 24 (incumbent Rep. Frederica Wilson is running for reelection) 

Frederica Wilson (D)

Ricardo De La Fuente (D)

District 23 (incumbent Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is running for reelection) 

Tim Canova (NPA)

Don Endriss (NPA) 

Joseph Kaufman (R)

Carlos Reyes (R)

Carla Spalding (R)

Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D)