October 23, 2015

Dan Webster increases heat to keep his seat, files to intervene in court case

Dan WebsterArguing that the "extraordinary" circumstances surrounding the state's congressional redistricting challenge could leave him without a district, U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Orlando, on Friday filed to intervene in the case before the Florida Supreme Court, arguing that violates the constitution.

"The Congressional District of a sitting United States Congressman is being transmuted into a majority minority district in which he stands no chance of re-election, and he has, to date, not been permitted “a seat,'' Webster argues in a motion filed by his attorney Jim WilkesDownload Filed_10-22-2015_Motion_to_Intervene

Webster offers up a new argument: that by significantly revising his district, it violates the provisions of the Fair Districts amendments by "disfavoring" an incumbent. 

Webster tried and failed to make the same argument and intervene in the case before the trial court but Circuit Court Terry Lewis rejected it. His new motion recognizes that allowing someone to intervene in the case at the Supreme Court level is generally not authorized but the circumstances are unique.

He said the court ruled the current district violates the constitution's anti-gerrymandering provisions in its July 9 ruling, but did not offer any directions for how to redraw it. As a result, the newly proposed map "is a radical departure from the history of the district" and it becomes a minority-majority district. 

"The Proposed Remedial Plans are specifically intended to disfavor Congressman Webster as the incumbent in District 10,'' the motion argues.

The court is scheduled to hear arguments on Nov. 10. 

October 20, 2015

Miami Republicans in Congress back Paul Ryan for speaker


Miami's three Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives agree on their pick for speaker.

Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, either directly or through their spokespeople, told the Miami Herald late Tuesday that they intend to back Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House budget chief.

Ryan told the GOP caucus earlier Tuesday that he would run to lead the House under certain conditions. One of them is garnering the support of the fractious Republican groups that have been unable to settle on a successor for Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who is stepping down.

The relatively moderate Miami Republicans back Ryan over a fellow Floridian, Rep. Dan Webster, who for now is continuing his long-shot bid for speaker as a more conservative alternative.

As he runs for Congress, a look back at Charlie Crist's Truth-O-Meter record and flips

It’s official: Former Gov. Charlie Crist will run for Congress in a St. Petersburg seat in what’s expected to become a Democratic-leaning district.

"Public service is in my heart," Crist said at a recreation center surrounded by several dozen supporters at his Oct. 20 announcement.

Crist will run in the 13th congressional district, a seat being redrawn amid a contentious redistricting battle. Since it appears that the district will end up being more friendly to a Democrat, the seat’s current holder -- David Jolly -- announced in July that he will run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio instead.

In the Democratic primary, Crist is facing Eric Lynn, a former Obama administration official who has raised about $550,000. Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, a Republican, is also considering a bid.

Crist was governor from 2007 to 2011, following years as a state senator, education commissioner and attorney general. He lost a bid for the U.S. Senate in 1998.

In 2010, as he was struggling in his second U.S. Senate bid and running against Rubio, Crist left the Republican Party and became an independent; he went on to lose the general election. Then, he switched parties again for the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, registering as a Democrat in what proved to be an unsuccessful bid to unseat GOP Gov. Rick Scott.

Here is our story about Crist from PolitiFact Florida.

October 18, 2015

Miami-Dade clerk of courts asks South Florida members of Congress to create climate-change fund


Forget that one of Florida's two U.S. senators is running for president and hardly making climate change a priority.

A countywide elected official in Miami-Dade County is asking Republican Marco Rubio and every other South Florida member of Congress -- plus Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson -- to put federal money into the region's efforts to adapt to global warming.

Clerk of Courts Harvey Ruvin wrote a letter last week to Nelson, Rubio and House members from Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties urging the creating of a "Federal Resiliency Superfund" to back "adaptive solutions for the non-debatable, potentially devastating eventuality of Sea Level Rise."

Ruvin, a Democrat in a nonpartisan post and perhaps the longest-serving local politician (he began his political career in 1968 and has been clerk since 1992), led the county's sea-level rise task force. The group produced a report full of recommendations -- including the establishment of an expensive capital plan.

"Our Mayor, Carlos Gimenez, has begun the effort by assembling an impressive team to tackle this trailblazing effort," Ruvin wrote to members of Congress. "A multi-level, intergovernmental funding partnership could ensure success: The need and the opportunity is now.

"I believe that your leadership and positive response will one day be a badge of honor that you and others will look back upon with pride and extraordinary accomplishment."

Read the full text of Ruvin's letter below:

Continue reading "Miami-Dade clerk of courts asks South Florida members of Congress to create climate-change fund" »

October 14, 2015

Frederica Wilson urges court to reject 'packed' congressional district

Making a last-ditch appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson asked the court in an "open letter" on Wednesday to reject a proposed map drawn by the challengers in the Florida redistricting fight because it is "needlessly compact" and removes the Port of Miami from her district.

Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, a former state senator who created the "Florida's Ports Caucus" to "coordinate federal action in support of Florida's harbors and waterways" argues that she prefers an alternate option that keeps the port in her district.

Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis last week recommended a map drawn by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause best meet the criteria of the Fair Districts amendments to the Florida constitution. The Florida Supreme Court, which must approve the final map, set a Nov. 2 hearing to hear arguments about the recommendation. Wilson argues that two other maps offered by the challengers are better options for her district. 

Here's Wilson's letter:

Continue reading "Frederica Wilson urges court to reject 'packed' congressional district" »

Rep. Ron DeSantis: 'Guaranteed' GOP seats in Congress 'shortsighted'


Republicans have been “shortsighted” to draw congressional districts that have large populations of GOP voters and are easier for the party win.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Republican candidate for the Senate, said Wednesday that his party has created long-term problems for itself by working with black Democrats in redistricting, making maps that benefit both groups.

“It guarantees certain Republican seats,” he said. “That’s been a little shortsighted for Republican voters.”

There are short-term gains — namely, winning a particular election or maintaining a majority — but it makes GOP congressional hopefuls less likely to interact with large swaths of the voters in the state.

For his part, DeSantis was reelected to his northeast Florida seat in 2014 with 62.5 percent of the vote.

But he says that Republican candidates especially need to get out in the community and interact with diverse groups.

“I think a lot of people say, ‘Don’t show up here, don’t show up there, because you’re going to lose those votes,’” DeSantis said. “You can get elected to Congress without ever talking to black voters at all, and I think that’s bad for the party.”

This hits at the heart of one of the biggest challenges in redrawing congressional districts, a process that is currently before the Supreme Court, which will hear a case over the maps on Nov. 2: Drawing certain majority-minority districts and keeping partisanship out of the process.

More competitive districts means that Republicans and Democrats could lose certain guaranteed seats.

Those losses could be worth it in the long run, said DeSantis, especially as the state’s demographics continue to shift.

“It may make some of the immediate elections a little more difficult,” he said. “But I think you start developing the conversation and start articulating your principles."

Led by Miami Republican, Florida lawmakers file congressional bill to protect Venezuelan 'refugees'

Curbelo2 refugee lnew cmg

via @BrendaMedinar

A bill to grant permanent residence to some Venezuelan refugees would have limited reach and does not resemble the Cuban Adjustment Act, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo said Tuesday.

“It’s not an adjustment act, it’s a law to protect refugees,” Curbelo, surrounded by Miami-Dade Venezuelan leaders and activists, said at a Miami news conference. “It’s a much more modest retroactive law that would not open the door to automatic asylum.”

Curbelo is one of the main sponsors promoting reforms that could help to “halt the abuse” of the Cuban Adjustment Act, which allows Cubans who arrive on U.S. soil to apply for permanent residence after a year and a day.

His new bill, named the Venezuelan Refugee Assistance Act, would encompass refugees who arrived before Jan. 1, 2013, who don’t have a police record and who have not participated in repressive acts.

The protection would include Venezuelans whose deportation order is approved and who have not committed a crime. If the bill passes, those who qualify would have until Jan. 1, 2019, to apply.

Curbelo said he is hopeful the bill would succeed, partly because two Democratic members of Congress from Florida — Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Alan Grayson — have endorsed it, along with Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

More here.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, El Nuevo Herald

October 12, 2015

October 09, 2015

Judge rejects House and Senate maps, recommends plaintiffs' plan for South Florida

CP1Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis on Friday rejected the Florida Legislature's third attempt at redrawing its congressional districts and recommended a map proposed by the challengers to the Florida Supreme Court for its final review.

Lewis adopted the bulk of the map approved by lawmakers in the northern and central portions of the state but specifically rejected the proposed boundaries for seven districts, including District 26 in Miami-Dade, now held by Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo, potentially unseating at least three incumbents congressional candidates and opening the door for others.  Download Romo.Order Recommending Adoption of Remedial Map

The challengers, a coalition of League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida and a group of Democrat-leaning individuals, agreed with Legislature's configuration of 20 of the 27 districts proposed in a staff-drawn base map but asked the court to adopt their changes to the remaining districts. Lewis agreed.

"The Legislature has thus not met its burden of justifying the proposed versions of Districts 20 through 27,'' he wrote in a 19-page ruling. He said that a map drawn by the challengers "best complies with the directions" set out by the Florida Supreme Court in July and "I therefore recommend its adoption." 

The recommendation will next go to the Florida Supreme Court will must review the maps, including the court testimony and record, and decide what will be the final boundaries for the 2016 election cycle.

Continue reading "Judge rejects House and Senate maps, recommends plaintiffs' plan for South Florida" »

October 08, 2015

Dan Webster's district may be in trouble but his campaign for speaker just got a booster shot

Webster@MaryEllenKlas @lesleyclark

Florida Congressman Dan Webster’s quixotic push to become speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives received an unexpected boost Thursday when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy stunned the political world and abruptly withdrew from the race to replace John Boehner.

“It’s been a whirlwind day,” said Webster, a Winter Garden Republican, told the Miami Herald Thursday after spending the afternoon doing media interviews and making phone calls to colleagues detailing his pitch for reforming the process.

The former speaker of the Florida House received his first surge of support Wednesday when members of the House Freedom Caucus — a group of about 40 conservative Republicans — announced that they planned to vote for the Florida lawmaker, saying a McCarthy speakership would be an extension of Boehner’s.

Webster, 66, said that he does not consider himself the new favorite, but he does see McCarthy’s decision to drop out as a testament to the fact that the rank-and-file membership want a change. Central to his pitch is his record of reform in the Florida House, after Florida Democrats narrowly lost their majority in 1996 and he became speaker with a 61-59 majority.

“Everyone knows this is a top-down process, and my plan is to flatten the pyramid of power so every member has an opportunity to be successful,” he said.

The departure of McCarthy, R-California, an embattled, but clear favorite to win the nomination, left the race with no readily apparent successor, though House leaders were said to be approaching Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Ryan said through a spokesman that he did not want the job.

Members had expected to choose McCarthy as their nominee for speaker and he then would have stood for a vote before the full 435-member House on Oct. 29. But the vote was postponed after McCarthy told colleagues Thursday he believed his party was “deeply divided and needs to unite behind one leader.”

Both Webster and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, are considered dark horse candidates. And Webster, who was elected in 2010 in the Tea Party wave, is at a fundamental disadvantage.

The protracted legal fight over Florida’s congressional districts is likely to dismantle Webster’s Orlando-based district. Each of the maps a Tallahassee circuit court judge must choose from is drawn in a way that favors a Hispanic Democrat. Webster appeared before a legislative committee in August and admitted he could not be elected to it.

Webster dismissed the impact of his uncertain district is having on his speakership prospects.

“There are still lawsuits and a three-judge federal panel that have to weigh in on this,” he said. “It’s a long way from home. It’s not hurting my chances.”

More here.

Continue reading "Dan Webster's district may be in trouble but his campaign for speaker just got a booster shot" »