July 12, 2016

Carlos Beruff to attend RNC, unlike Senate rival Marco Rubio

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio won't be traveling to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention -- but his GOP primary rival will.

Carlos Beruff plans to attend the convention, his campaign confirmed to the Miami Herald on Tuesday.

"Unlike Marco Rubio, Carlos wholeheartedly supports Donald Trump and will do whatever he can to help him beat Hillary Clinton in November," Beruff spokesman Chris Hartline said a statement.

Though Rubio has said he supports Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, the senator has also taken pains to note that he disagrees with him on many issues. Four years ago, Rubio introduced nominee Mitt Romney on the convention floor in Tampa.

Rubio's staying in Florida this time around to campaign for re-election, according to his campaign.

Florida GOP members of Congress make it official: They're backing Rubio

@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio's got a majority of Florida's Republican congressional delegation behind him for his re-election bid, according to a new batch of formal endorsements released by his campaign.

Four representatives -- Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, Jeff Miller of Chumuckla and Daniel Webster of Winter Garden -- gave Rubio their support. So did former Rep. Steve Southerland of Panama City.

In all, that means Rubio's received the official backing of 10 of 17 sitting Republicans in the U.S. House. He faces a challenge from Sarasota developer Carlos Beruff.

"I commend Senator Rubio on his decision to run for re-election. In these challenging times, Senator Rubio's experience and deep knowledge on issues of foreign policy and national security are desperately needed," Diaz-Balart said in a statement. "I am confident he will continue serving our state with honor and integrity."

Miami's two other Republican reps, Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, tweeted their support of Rubio shortly after he announced he'd seek re-election.

Bilirakis, Diaz-Balart, Miller and Webster -- as well as Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen -- had all initially backed Jeb Bush for president, before Bush dropped out. Most of them later switched allegiances to Rubio. In April, after Rubio's candidacy had ended, Miller endorsed Trump. He campaigned for him Monday in Virginia.

The other Florida representatives who have endorsed Rubio for Senate are Ander Crenshaw of Jacksonville, John Mica of Orlando, Tom Rooney of Okeechobee and Dennis Ross of Lakeland.

Here are the full new endorsement statements:

Continue reading "Florida GOP members of Congress make it official: They're backing Rubio" »

July 11, 2016

There's a sit-in at Rubio's Orlando office over gun control

via @learyreports

Demonstrators are staging a sit-in at Sen. Marco Rubio's Orlando office, demanding the Republican back "common sense" gun control measures.

The protest, according to social media, is beign called #SitInForThe49, a reference to those killed in the Orlando nighclub massacre. It began about 10 a.m. and will continue through 11 a.m. Wednesday, according to Max Steele of the Florida Democratic Party. "Orlando residents have begun a 49 hour sit-in at Marco Rubio’s office to demand an end to the Senator’s opposition to commonsense gun safety measures backed by more than 8 in 10 Floridians," he wrote in an email to reporters.

We've asked Rubio's office for comment.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Florida congressman to stump with Trump

via @learyreports

U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller will lend some credibility to Donald Trump today as the candidate outlines a policy for veterans in Virginia.

Miller, chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, is scheduled to speak at the event in Hampton Roads. Trump will outline 10-point plan to improve veterans' care, including giving access to private doctors.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Tim Canova hits Debbie Wasserman Schultz in first TV ads

Tim Canova launched his first TV ads against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, on July 11th.

The ads will air on cable on MSNBC, CNN and BET. Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor from Hollywood, is running against Wasserman Schultz in a Broward/Miami-Dade district in the Aug. 30 primary.

One ad "America" introduces Canova to voters.

"As a professor, I've dedicated my life to educating people about the law, about Wall Street's excesses and corporate greed....And the same career politicians get reelected, then we wonder why Washington is broken."

Those "same career politicians" appear in brief clips in the ad including Wasserman Schultz followed by a string of Republicans including Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Wasserman Schultz hasn't had ads on TV yet. As for whether she will debate Canova, her campaign spokesman Ryan Banfill told the Miami Herald: 

"The Congresswoman is actively engaged in the debates that are important to people in her district which are the gun violence issue and the Zika funding issue in Congress. The debate over the future direction of the country and importance of defeating Donald Trump and those issues are her primary focus."

 

The second ad he calls "DebbieDodgesDebate" bashes Wasserman Schultz for not committing to debate Canova. The ad includes multiple clips of her being asked if she would debate her opponent.

 

July 10, 2016

Immigration activists, backed by labor, hit Carlos Curbelo over leadership PAC

1b@PatriciaMazzei

Two allied liberal groups plan to attack U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo over contributions from his leadership PAC to Republican members of Congress who seem to oppose immigration reform.

United Families, a group made of undocumented immigrants, and For Our Future PAC, which is backed by labor unions, will run online banner ads beginning Monday urging voters to sign a symbolic petition asking Curbelo to stop the contributions.

"You are not a true ally," says the petition, addressed to Curbelo as an open letter. One version of the banner ads accuses Curbelo of "lying" and "pandering" to Hispanics.

They plan to deliver the letter to Curbelo's Miami office on Tuesday.

"It's shameful the way special interest groups masquerading as pro-immigrant organizations exploit the immigrant community to make a political profit," Curbelo said in a statement Sunday. "Their conduct is both dishonest and petty. My efforts to build consensus for meaningful immigration reform in Congress will not cease until we get the job done, and that entails working with colleagues with diverse points of view on both sides of the aisle."

Curbelo, a freshman facing a tough re-election race in Florida's swing 26th district, backs immigration reform and said he formed his What a Country PAC to support like-minded Republicans. The Miami Herald reported that some of the members of Congress who have received PAC checks have made statements that suggested they're not interested in a comprehensive immigration bill. One of them mentioned tracking immigrants like Fed-Ex packages.

Curbelo told Miami's Univision affiliate in an interview that aired Sunday that the statement, by Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, was taken out of context because she was referring to tracking immigrants who have committed crimes.

July 08, 2016

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen files bill to study rising seas' effects on coral reefs

@PatriciaMazzei

Here's something noteworthy: A Republican lawmaker has proposed legislation dealing with one of the effects of sea-level rise.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami introduced a bill -- dubbed, yes, the "CORAL Act" -- that would widen the scope of coral-reef research to include "the impacts of ocean acidification, warming seas and invasive species." The law would also allow the federal government to more quickly respond to problems like coral disease and bleaching, and give agencies a more active role in restoring reefs.

The GOP has been reluctant to take on sea-level rise, but the issue is unavoidable for South Florida Republicans with coastal districts, such as Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who signed on to the coral bill. Both face opponents who have stressed climate change as a key issue.

"Having fled the oppressive Castro regime in Cuba with my parents decades ago, I know that South Florida is special because it serves as a place of hope for so many," Ros-Lehtinen said on the House floor Wednesday. "We cannot allow changing ocean conditions to rob us of our livelihoods, of our lifestyle, or of our identity as an optimistic community."

 

'Mistakes were made,' Joe Garcia says of past campaign trouble

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami congressional candidate and former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia can't escape questions about his past campaign troubles. And his Democratic primary rival, Annette Taddeo, appears to be relishing the fight.

"People pay a huge price," Garcia said in a Florida Keys forum Thursday, apparently referring to the jail time served by his former chief of staff. "Clearly, mistakes were made."

Jeffrey Garcia, no relation, went to jail over submitting unlawful absentee-ballot requests in 2012. He also received probation after acknowledging he put up a ringer tea-party candidate in 2010.

Joe Garcia was never charged with any wrongdoing -- and won't be, since the statute of limitations has expired. "We corrected those mistakes when we found them," he said at the forum, according to video obtained by the Miami Herald. "We fired the people, and we moved forward."

But Taddeo reminded forum-goers that an email discovered by federal prosecutors in the 2010 case suggested Joe Garcia might have known about the ringer candidate.

"I have to tell you, I'm someone that actually supported Joe Garcia strongly, because I wanted to get rid of David Rivera," Taddeo said, referring to the Republican ex-congressman Garcia ousted in 2012. Rivera is suspected of orchestrating a ringer candidate of his own that year. 

"To find out that after he's elected he had done the same thing two years prior!" Taddeo said of Garcia.

Attacking Garcia may be Taddeo's only option, given that she has been behind in polls. Her campaign has started mailing fliers to voters -- including one going negative on her opponent.

Garcia, for his part, declared himself the winner of the forum in a statement Friday.

Alan Grayson brings brash personality to U.S. Senate race in Florida

Alangrayson03wmm

via @ByKristenMClark

Few people, if anyone, would describe Democrat Alan Grayson as humble — even himself or those who know him best.

Bold, bombastic, sharply intelligent, genuine even. Yes.

But not humble.

He offered a prime example recently, talking about how he believes he’s one of a rare few of the 535 members of Congress who takes the job seriously and actually gets things done and how he now wants to bring that work ethic to the U.S. Senate next year.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m a professional and I’m surrounded by amateurs” is how the three-term Orlando congressman put it in a recent visit with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board.

“I’m surrounded by people who do nothing, and they have a lot to be humble about. ... I feel like I’ve done a lot of good for a lot of people and I just don’t see a lot of that around me,” Grayson said. “The fact is most people in Congress are posers. If you want me to confess to some humility, I’d say: ‘Humility as compared to them?’ It would seem to me that they’re the ones that have something to answer for, not me.”

Statements like that are routine for the lawyer, former businessman and self-made multi-millionaire who emanates self-confidence and calls himself the “congressman with guts.”

More here.

Photo credit: Walter Michot, Miami Herald staff

Feds charge U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville with fraud

From the Associated Press:

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida and her chief of staff have been charged with multiple fraud and other federal offenses in a grand jury indictment unsealed Friday after a federal investigation into a fraudulent charity with ties to the congresswoman.

Brown, a 69-year-old Democrat, was to appear later Friday in Jacksonville federal court on charges of mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, obstruction and filing of false tax returns. She has represented a Jacksonville-based congressional district since 1993 — one of the first three African-Americans elected to Congress from Florida since Reconstruction — and is seeking re-election in a newly-redrawn district.

The indictment comes after an investigation into the charity One Door for Education Foundation Inc., which federal prosecutors say was purported to give scholarships to poor students but instead filled the coffers of Brown and her associates.

Also charged in the 24-count indictment was Elias “Ronnie” Simmons, 50, of Laurel, Maryland, who has served as Brown’s chief of staff since 1993. It wasn’t immediately clear from court records whether Brown and Simmons had attorneys to represent them.

More here.