July 25, 2017

Raquel Regalado officially announces run to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Regalado Congress


Raquel Regalado is officially joining the race to replace longtime Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring from Congress next year. 

The former Miami-Dade school board member and candidate for county mayor in 2016 filed her paperwork to compete in the Republican primary against county commissioner Bruno Barreiro on Tuesday morning. Nancy Watkins, a top Florida GOP political accountant based in Tampa, will serve as campaign treasurer. 

Regalado highlighted Miami's affordable housing woes in her announcement video. 

"I'm running for Congress because we cannot afford to live in South Florida, because before we get to any other issue we need better paying jobs" Regalado said. "We can't afford to buy a home. We can't afford to live here. We can't afford to raise our children here. We're at a critical point, we need educated, reasonable, articulate and thoughtful people in Congress."

The 43-year-old daughter of Miami mayor Tomás Regalado can now start fundraising after Barreiro raised $176,000 in the most recent fundraising quarter. Maria Peiro, who unsuccessfully ran against Ros-Lehtinen in the 2016 Republican primary also announced her intentions to run, but has not filed yet. 

Regalado is a self-described moderate Republican seeking election in a Miami-based district that Hillary Clinton won by nearly 20 percentage points over Donald Trump, making it the most Democratic district in the country currently held by a Republican. Ros-Lehtinen's retirement opens up a seat that national Democrats see as a prime pickup opportunity in 2018.

Regalado has a history of bucking the GOP. In 2010, she campaigned for Democrat Alex Sink for governor over Republican Rick Scott before unsuccessfully challenging Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez, a fellow Republican, for his seat in 2016. She also did not endorse Trump or Clinton in the 2016 election.

A slew of Democrats have announced or are weighing bids for Ros-Lehtinen's seat. 

Correction: A previous version of this most misidentified Regalado's age. She is 43, not 42. 

July 24, 2017

Lawmakers divided over a ban on Venezuelan oil amid fears of a Russian takeover



In advance of a July 30 vote that could strip Venezuelan lawmakers of their constitutional power, Cuban-American politicians are going after Venezuela’s jugular: the largest proven oil reserves in the world.

Over the past few weeks, as the tough talk on Venezuela reaches a fever pitch, South Florida lawmakers are uniformly behind a ban on Venezuelan oil imports to the United States, a drastic step that could deal a critical blow to Venezuela’s slumping oil industry.

The lawmakers seem convinced that the White House will do something drastic, going beyond the long-used tactic of issuing sanctions on individual Venezuelan government officials suspected of money laundering and drug trafficking.

“We will have a swift and firm response from this administration,” Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said last week.

“If this happens on July 30, I am convinced without any doubt that the President of the United States will act swiftly and decisively to ensure that there will be measures taken against individuals and potentially sectors for the unconstitutional overthrow of democracy and the replacement with a Cuban-style regime,” Sen. Marco Rubio said on Wednesday.

Read more: As Venezuela teeters on constitutional crisis, Miami lawmakers warn of a new Cuba

For now, Congress is united in its disgust toward Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, but some lawmakers — even among Republicans — disagree over how far the U.S. should go if Maduro’s constituent assembly comes up for its scheduled vote.

The Cuban Americans favor a ban on Venezuelan oil imports, a far-reaching action that could further cripple an economy already mired in hyperinflation. But some leading foreign-policy voices in Congress, including Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, have doubts.

“I believe there’s a crisis coming in Venezuela, and I think we need to be careful about not making ourselves the focus of that crisis,” Corker said. “Sometimes what we do unifies the chavistas.”

Corker, who is close to Trump, added that he plans to meet with Rubio soon to discuss possible sanctions.

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who ran against Trump as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 running mate, echoes Corker’s concerns. Kaine said he was “pleased” with the Trump administration’s recent actions in Venezuela, but stopped short of endorsing oil sanctions.

“Before agreeing to sanctions on an industry sector, I would want to hear from the Administration how that would impact the Venezuelan people. Sanctions should be designed to punish and deter bad actors and minimize impact on suffering people,” Kaine, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement provided to the Miami Herald.

Venezuela exported 291 million barrels of oil and oil products to the United States in 2016. The United States buys nearly half of Venezuela’s oil, and oil revenues account for 95 percent of Venezuela’s export earnings, according to OPEC.

In contrast, Venezuelan oil accounts for just eight percent of U.S oil imports, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Lawmakers are also worried about the potential for a Russian takeover of U.S.-based oil refiner Citgo, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., known as PDVSA.

A Russian state-owned oil company called Rosneft acquired a 49.9 percent stake in Citgo as collateral for a $1.5 billion loan signed in November 2016. If the Venezuelan government needs additional cash, they could hand over their oil assets, including the Houston-based Citgo, to the Russians.

“There’s already been one default on a loan from Russia to Venezuela,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J, a Cuban-American lawmaker who supports tough sanctions against Venezuela. “If in fact that default or any others is used by Rosneft to get the majority of shareholding of PDVSA, which owns Citgo and all of its infrastructure in the United States, we could have a extensive energy infrastructure here in the United States owned by the Russian government. I think we can all agree that the last thing we need to do is open the doors of our critical infrastructure to Russian interference.”

Read more here. 

July 21, 2017

Rubio isn't backing new Dream Act for now

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan plan to protect Dreamers from deportation was released Thursday but lacks an influential supporter: Sen. Marco Rubio.

“I’m not prepared to sign on to that legislation right now because I think there might be a better approach,” Rubio told the Tampa Bay Times.

The revised Dream Act released by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., would protect some 800,000 immigrants brought to the country illegally by their parents. It would provide a path to citizenship.

So-called Dreamers have been shielded from deportation under an Obama-era program known as DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. But lawsuits have challenged the program and the Trump administration has sent mixed signals.

“I think DACA is unconstitutional and ideally would be replaced by a law that addresses this issue in a way that takes into account the reality of the situation that we face,” Rubio said Wednesday.

Yet the former Gang of 8 member said he wants to prevent against “unintended consequences.”

“The concern with these laws is they are manipulated by networks, particularly in Central America, as they have been in the past when DACA was first signed where they were lying to people and saying to them that America has this new law that allows children to come. It was one of the drivers of the migratory crisis we faced (in 2014). We don’t want to see a repeat of that effort. “

Rubio said legislation would have to provide “appropriate resources,” which he defined as working with Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to publicize what the law would do and not do. “We don’t want to somehow have this misconstrued by trafficking networks to encourage people to take a dangerous journey to the United States,” he said.

A request for additional information from Rubio’s office was not answered.

Rubio in 2012 was working on his own legislation affecting Dreamers but never produced a bill as conservative criticism mounted. Then President Obama stepped in with DACA.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

July 19, 2017

Rubio gets Capitol security detail

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Marco Rubio was seen Wednesday with a security detail, though the reason is unknown.

Rubio's office referred questions to the Capitol Police. A police spokeswoman said, "We do not comment on how we carry out our protective responsibilities for Congress."

The detail was noticed by an Associated Press reporter.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Protesters to Rubio: Healthcare ‘not just for the rich’

via @sydneyp1234

The Republican replacement bill for Obamacare seems dead, at least for now. Even so, protesters showed up Tuesday outside the Doral office of Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been firmly in the party’s repeal-and-replace camp.

Despite the apparent victory for the Affordable Care Act supporters, many in the group of about 40 people said they remain concerned about the uncertainty of the ACA’s future — particularly the protections for people with preexisting conditions.

Rose Williams, a 59-year-old mother, said she has lupus, and that her 25-year-old son has cerebral palsy and coverage for both illnesses would have potentially skyrocketed under GOP plans.

She and her son are currently insured under the ACA, she said, because her husband’s employer does not offer family insurance. Even with the ACA, she said, the costs are already “sky-high.” Her deductible is $14,000, which does not include prescriptions — but at least she and her son are assured coverage.

Healthcare “is not just for the rich,” said Williams, who drove 40 minutes from Fort Lauderdale while her son was at work. “We’re the people. Their job is to represent us. That’s supposed to be a democracy, right?”

More here.

July 18, 2017

Rubio signals threat of U.S. ban on Venezuela oil imports is real

Venezuela Crisis
@jimwyss @PatriciaMazzei @alextdaugherty

Venezuelan lawmakers warned Tuesday the country could be headed for a “catastrophic” meltdown if the United States limits or blocks its crude exports amid an escalating struggle over the fate of the socialist administration.

The fears come as the White House confirmed it’s considering a range of political sanctions against the South American nation if it goes ahead with plans to rewrite the constitution, including a ban on oil imports.

“All options are on the table,” a senior White House official said. “We understand that we are dealing with options that sometimes have consequences — of course, in Venezuela, but also in the United States.”

Since taking office, President Donald Trump has slapped high-ranking officials in the country with sanctions, but in recent weeks there has been increased Capitol Hill chatter about hitting Venezuela’s critical oil industry. 

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican working closely with the White House on Venezuela policy, said ending Venezuelan oil imports — once considered unthinkable — would directly target the government of President Nicolás Maduro.

“I don’t believe the Venezuelan people are enjoying the benefits of a declining oil industry,” Rubio told the Miami Herald. “It’s going entirely to enrich those who are tied to it, and to pay for debt obligations.”

If that happened it would decimate the country’s economy and send the nation into a tail-spin, said opposition congressman Angel Alvarado, who is a member of the legislative economic commission.

“The consequences for Venezuela would be catastrophic,” he said. “It would be a collapse without precedent.”

More here.

Photo credit: Ariana Cubillos, Associated Press

Is Miami's next Democratic congressional candidate preparing to announce?


Matt Haggman has resigned from his prominent role in Miami's Knight Foundation. Will his next move be a run for Congress?

Haggman, Knight's program director since 2011, wouldn't say Tuesday after the foundation announced his departure, which is effective Friday.

"Stay tuned," he told the Miami Herald.

But his name has been mentioned for a few months as a potential Democratic contender for retiring Republican Rep. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's seat -- or even as a possible challenger to Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo. Haggman, a Coconut Grove resident, lives in Ros-Lehtinen's 27th district, which leans more Democratic than Curbelo's neighboring 26th district.

"It's something I've been actively thinking about for a while now," Haggman said in April about maybe running for Ros-Lehtinen's seat.

The Democratic field in FL-27 is already crowded with hopefuls, including state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, state Rep. David Richardson and Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez. Curbelo has yet to draw an opponent.

Before joining the Knight Foundation, Haggman was a Herald reporter, covering real estate and Miami-Dade County Hall.

Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald 

What it takes to stay in Congress: Curbelo raising $54,000 per week

07182017_112142_de91bh1uqaamt-d_8colvia @learyreports

Issue One, a nonprofit political reform group, breaks down second quarter fundraising with some vivid results: A typical House member in a competitive race raised roughly $27,000 per week.

At the top of the list is Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami: $54,000 per week, or nearly $7,800 per day. 

Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Winter Park, raised more than $31,000 per week, or $4,500 daily.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: 2nd quarter fundraising, compiled by Issue One via Twitter

July 10, 2017

Former Doral council member may run for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's seat



Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, a former Doral city council member and Republican, said she is seriously considering a bid for U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's seat in 2018.

Rodriguez Aguilera was a council member from 2012 to 2014 when she lost to former councilman Pete Cabrera. She previously worked as the city's economic development director.

Rodriguez Aguilera owns Bettinara Enterprises, a company that assists people in understanding how government works. She also created a women's leadership certificate program which she teaches at Miami Dade College.

Democrats view Ros-Lehtinen's retirement as a chance to pick up a left leaning seat. Ros-Lehtinen, who did not vote for President Donald Trump, has often disagreed with her own party including her vote against the GOP health care plan.

Rodriguez Aguilera said she voted for Trump.

"I am a Republican -- I had to look at the choices," she said. "I voted for who I believed at that point was the person that I needed to vote for but I would like to consider the issues and problems that the community has. Money and economic development do not have a Republican or Democratic stamp on it."

Asked about the GOP health care plan that narrowly passed the House in May, Rodriguez Aguilera said she is still "studying the different options." 

Other Republicans who have said they are running including former School Board Member Raquel Regalado and Miami Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro. Maria Peiro, who ran against Ros-Lehtinen in the 2016 primary, is also running.

On the Democratic side, the candidates include state Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach, state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn and Mark Anthony Person.




July 03, 2017

Tim Canova reports he raised $32,000 in first two weeks



Tim Canova's campaign reported that he raised about $32,000 during the last two weeks of June after he kicked off his rematch against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston.

Canova raised $31,928 through 1,323 in small donations with an average donation of $24, according to his campaign. Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor who lives in Hollywood, has made campaign finance reform a key platform of his campaign and pledged not to take donations from corporate interests or political action committees. During his failed 2016 bid against Wasserman Schultz, he criticized her for taking money from Wall Street banks.

Wasserman Schultz raised about $269,000 through March and hasn't yet announced what she raised through June. She represents the left-leaning Congressional District 23 which stretches from Weston to northern Miami-Dade County.

The first fundraising period for Canova is so short that it doesn't provide much of an indication of his fundraising prospects this cycle. In 2016, Canova hit the $1 million mark about four months into his first campaign for elected office.

Campaigns must submit fundraising reports to the Federal Election Commission by July 15.