May 22, 2018

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

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@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)

One year ago Carlos Curbelo tried to repeal Obamacare. Democrats aren't forgetting

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@alextdaugherty @newsbysmiley

On the House floor one year ago, Democrats were jubilant in defeat.

Republicans had just passed a bill to repeal major portions of Obamacare without any Democratic support, and the minority party was convinced the vote would send them into the majority by January 2019.

"Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, hey, goodbye,” Democrats sang, repeating a juvenile political spectacle first used by Republicans in 1993 when Democrats passed a Bill Clinton-sponsored tax bill.

Despite the theatrics, the Republicans' political prognostications in 1993 were right. They gained 54 seats and control of Congress.

Now, Democrats are trying to use healthcare to engineer a similar wave, and Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo's Miami-to-Key-West district is ground zero for their efforts. Curbelo won reelection in 2016 by 12 percentage points despite representing a Democratic-leaning district that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 16 percentage points, and his seat is a top priority for Democrats as they seek to win 24 seats to gain control of the House after the November elections.

On the one year anniversary of the House vote to pass the American Health Care Act, known as the AHCA, Democrats are spending millions to remind voters in districts like Curbelo's that their representative voted to essentially repeal Obamacare, the sweeping healthcare law passed solely by Democrats in 2009. Democrats are so confident that Curbelo's healthcare record will be his political undoing that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi traveled to South Miami-Dade on Thursday to appear with his Democratic opponent and trash his record.

"Today we’re talking about the one-year anniversary of a very destructive bill that the congressman from this area, Mr. Curbelo, voted for to the detriment of people in this district,” Pelosi said, adding that Curbelo's support for the GOP tax bill that became law late last year further eroded affordable healthcare by removing penalties for the individual mandate. “What they couldn’t achieve in the president’s [healthcare] bill, they tried to do some of in the tax bill. So elections have consequences. Legislation affects peoples’ lives. We’re just trying to show the connection."

Curbelo welcomes the attention on healthcare, and says his position on Obamacare hasn't changed since he first ran for Congress in 2013.

"We need to keep the good in the law. That means protections for those with preexisting conditions, doesn’t discriminate against women, and allow young people to stay on their parent's plans until they are established and can purchase their own health insurance," Curbelo said. "And we need to replace the bad with something that works better. A year later I still get some complaints in my office about" Obamacare.

Read more here.

May 02, 2018

Republicans who want Mueller protected to run Fox News ad with RNC in Miami

Mueller
 
@alextdaugherty
 
A Republican group that wants special counsel Robert Mueller to finish his investigation into connections between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and the Russian government unimpeded his hitting the airwaves in Miami on Thursday and Friday as the Republican Party gathers at Trump's golf resort in Doral. 
 
The group, Republicans for the Rule of Law, will air two spots on Fox News later this week as multiple prominent Republicans have called on Mueller to be fired. The first spot describes Mueller's pro-Republican record and the second features a speech by President Ronald Reagan. 
 
A bill to protect Mueller's investigation passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with some Republican support, though it isn't likely to pass the Senate and House. Sen. Marco Rubio has also continued to support Mueller's investigation while other Florida Republicans like gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and Rep. Matt Gaetz have cast doubt on Mueller's investigation. 
 
The group backing the ad includes Bill Kristol, a former chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle and prominent Never Trump Republican.  
 
"Here’s what I’d say to the president: There’s no cause to fire anyone at Justice. Spend your time weakening America’s enemies abroad, not undermining the rule of law at home," Kristol told the Washington Post
 
Watch the ads below: 




April 25, 2018

Curbelo, Ros-Lehtinen rank among the most bipartisan members of Congress

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@alextdaugherty

When French President Emmanuel Macron stressed the importance of climate change during a joint address to Congress on Wednesday, three Republicans stood up and joined Democrats to applaud him. 

The trio, Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, along with Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, also happen to be the three most bipartisan House Republicans, according to new rankings complied by Georgetown University. 

Ros-Lehtinen, who has signed on to the DREAM Act, was ranked as the most bipartisan House Republican while Curbelo, who introduced a bill to ban bump stocks, ranked third out of 236 House Republicans. The rankings are based on the number of bills introduced in 2017 by an individual lawmaker that receive support from lawmakers of the opposing party and by signing onto bills introduced by a lawmaker from the other party. 

"The Index rewards those who prioritize governance over posturing and aims to encourage members of Congress to seek areas of consensus as opposed to simply using legislation to delineate differences," Georgetown University's Lugar Center says on its website. The center uses metrics to award more weight to bills that attract substantial bipartisan support, and does not include ceremonial bills like naming post offices that typically receive support from both parties. 

Curbelo is up for reelection in a Miami-to-Key West district that is the most Democratic-leaning in the country currently represented by a Republican running for reelection, and is campaigning in part on a record of working with Democrats on certain issues like climate change. He's distanced himself from President Donald Trump, who lost his district by 16 percentage points, on a number of issues, though he did accompany the president on a recent visit to Key West and helped write the GOP tax bill that became law late last year. 

Ros-Lehtinen, a frequent critic of Trump, is retiring this year. Democrats are favored to flip her seat in November. 

Both Curbelo's and Ros-Lehtinen's rankings from 2017 were up compared to rankings issued after the 114th Congress. Ros-Lehtinen ranked fifth among House Republicans while Curbelo ranked 7th. Former Florida Rep. Gwen Graham, now running for governor in a contested Democratic primary, also ranked among the top 10 most bipartisan lawmakers before leaving Congress. 

In the Senate, Republican Marco Rubio ranks 10th among 100 senators while Democrat Bill Nelson ranks 36th. 

Here's the bipartisan rankings for Miami-Dade's congressional delegation: 

-Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehinen (R) 2nd out of 435 members 

-Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R) 4th

-Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz (D) 160th 

-Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) 225th 

-Rep. Frederica Wilson (D) 412th 

April 16, 2018

A second Republican emerges in the race to replace Ros-Lehtinen

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@alextdaugherty

Miami broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar looks like she could force a competitive Republican primary in the race to replacing retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Former Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barreiro was largely running a one-man money race among Republicans since he entered the primary shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement, but Salazar bested his fundraising numbers in her first fundraising quarter since she officially jumped into the race in March. 

Salazar raised $303,115 from January 1 to March 31 and she has $287,612 left to spend, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Barreiro raised $264,778, his best haul since entering the race shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement last year. He maintains a cash on hand advantage over his new rival, with $420,978 left to spend. 

The pair have separated themselves from the rest of the Republican pack, though newcomers Stephen Marks and Michael Ohevzion have six figures left to spend. Marks loaned himself $200,000 while Ohevzion loaned himself $100,000 and directly contributed $35,000 to his own campaign. Angie Chirino, the daughter of Miami singer and songwriter Willy Chirino, hasn't had her fundraising totals processed yet by the FEC. 

Republicans are not favored to keep Ros-Lehtinen's seat in 2018, as the district voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by more than 19 percentage points. Multiple election prognosticators rate Ros-Lehtinen's district as "lean Democratic" and former University of Miami president Donna Shalala headlines a Democratic field that narrowed in the past week after two contenders dropped out after choosing to keep their current elected offices over making a run for Congress.

State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez's departure leaves Democrats without a Hispanic candidate in a majority Hispanic district. State Rep. David Richardson, former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman, former circuit court judge Mary Barzee Flores and Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez are among the remaining Democrats seeking Ros-Lehtinen's seat. 

 

April 13, 2018

The GOP’s biggest LGBT advocate is retiring. Here’s how the party plans to move ahead.

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@alextdaugherty

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuba libre in hand, was busy waxing nostalgic with former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart about their efforts to undermine Fidel Castro when the animated discussion was interrupted by Caitlyn Jenner.

The world’s most recognizable advocate for transgender causes wanted to hug the retiring Miami lawmaker with a history of bucking and pushing the Republican Party on LGBT issues.

“Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a person of many firsts, and if you know anything about me I love firsts,” Jenner said at a recent gala honoring Ros-Lehtinen’s career. “The first Latina elected to Congress, the first woman elected to Congress from Florida, the first Republican in the House to support marriage equality, and she did it in a very big way.”

Jenner, also a Republican, and Ros-Lehtinen are at odds with the majority of Republican lawmakers. President Donald Trump has announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military via tweet and multiple state legislatures have considered legislation that would restrict access to restrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-segregated facilities on the basis of sex assigned at birth.

“Fighting for gay rights, transgender rights is such an important part of my DNA and what I do,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

Ros-Lehtinen introduced legislation in 2015 that would prohibit schools from discriminating against students based on sexual orientation or gender identity. She also signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief in a Supreme Court case seeking to protect access to public accommodations for transgender students. And Ros-Lehtinen’s son, Rodrigo, is the first openly transgender child of a sitting member of Congress.

“The most important job Ileana’s had... is being a mom,” Jenner said. “For the trans community we have many, many issues. The suicide rate for young trans youth is nine times higher than the general public, we have homelessness, we have young trans people being kicked out of their homes all across this country. Transgendered kids … may be bullied in school, they may be a little different, but when they go home, [if] they go to a safe place and a loving family, that is by far the most important thing we can do for our kids. So Ileana, I want to thank you for that.”

But Ros-Lehtinen, the only Republican in Congress with a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBT rights organization, won’t be in office next year.

Her retirement and a potential wave election for Democrats in 2018 could make pro-LGBT Republicans a rare breed in the next Congress. Four of the eight Senate Republicans endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans, a pro-LGBT group, could be gone next year, and nine of the 11 House Republicans endorsed by the group are retiring or face tough reelection campaigns.

Ros-Lehtinen was honored by Jenner at the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute's annual gala. The institute recognized Ros-Lehtinen with its Leadership in Public Service Award and Leadership in International Relations Award, and it renamed the latter award after Ros-Lehtinen in her honor.

Read more here.

April 12, 2018

Parkland's congressman wants federal probe into Russian-linked gunmaker

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via @learyreports

Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents Parkland in Congress, is asking the Treasury to investigate whether a Florida-based gun maker with Russian ties has violated sanctions.

"Kalashnikov USA is a firearms manufacturer and seller located in my congressional district," the Boca Raton Democrat wrote in a letter to a Treasury official. "Recent media reports have raised questions as to whether Kalashnikov USA, or its parent company RWC Group LLC, may have violated federal sanctions law through illicit business relations with the Russian-owned Kalashnikov Concern JSC ("Kalashnikov Russia").

"According to a statement released by Kalashnikov USA, it relocated to South Florida in 2015. Reports indicate that Kalashnikov USA may have been offered tax incentives as part of Florida Governor Rick Scott's push to lure weapons manufacturers to Florida. According to Kalashnikov USA's own 2015 application for $162,000 in tax incentives, which was approved by Governor Scott's administration, the company planned to assemble its weapons with parts and components imported from Kalashnikov Russia's factory located in Russia.

"As you know, Kalashnikov Russia was sanctioned in 2014 as part of the U.S. response to Vladimir Putin's illegal actions in Ukraine. Given reports of Russia's attempts to illegally fund the National Rifle Association, connections between a US weapons manufacturer and a sanctioned Russian company are even more alarming."

Democrats, including Sen. Bill Nelson, have been angling to make this an issue against Scott, whose administration acknowledges the incentives but says none was given because the contract was terminated.

April 05, 2018

Gun-related town halls are a partisan affair in South Florida (updated)

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@alextdaugherty

A national group that promotes face-to-face interactions between lawmakers and constituents is working with the March for Our Lives organizers to host town hall events on preventing gun violence during the current congressional recess, and no South Florida Republicans are planning to attend. 

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, who represents Parkland, held a town hall earlier this week, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, will hold a town hall on Saturday in Pembroke Pines, while Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, will host a town hall tonight in Miami Gardens. 

The three Republicans from Miami-Dade County, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, do not have any town hall events scheduled during the recess. 

A March for Our Lives-affiliated event is being held in Curbelo's district tonight, though Curbelo's office said he was not invited to the event at John A. Ferguson High School. While pro-gun control student activists from Parkland have demanded town hall events during this congressional recess, Ros-Lehtinen, Diaz-Balart and Curbelo have not held any in-person town hall events since the beginning of 2017, according to the Town Hall Project. Curbelo and Diaz-Balart both hold office hours with staff at various locations throughout their districts. 

Curbelo's seat is a target for Democrats in 2018 while Ros-Lehtinen is retiring and Diaz-Balart does not have a serious Democratic challenger. 

Neither of Florida's two senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, have held an in-person town hall since the beginning of 2017, according to the Town Hall Project.  

UPDATE (4/6/18): A student organizer with pro gun-control group Students Demand Action said Curbelo was invited to the town hall event in his district, but he declined citing a scheduling conflict. 

William Breslin, who lives outside of Curbelo's district, said he called Curbelo's official office three times before receiving a response that Curbelo could not attend. Breslin then invited Curbelo's Democratic opponents after the congressman declined the invitation, he said. 

Information on upcoming town halls: 

Town hall with Frederica Wilson and state Rep. Shevrin Jones: 

Thursday, April 5 6:30pm

Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex Auditorium

3000 NW 199th St. 

Miami Gardens, FL 33056 

Town hall with Debbie Wasserman Schultz: 

Saturday, April 7 2pm 

301 NW 103rd Avenue

Pembroke Pines, FL 33026 

Town Hall for Our Lives West Miami-Dade

Thursday, April 5 7pm

John A. Ferguson High School 

15900 SW 56th St. 

Miami, FL 33185