June 16, 2016

Annette Taddeo files to run for Congress in Miami

Annette Taddeo filed the paperwork today to qualify for Congressional District 26 in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties her campaign announced today.

Taddeo will face former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia who lost reelection to Carlos Curbelo, a Republican, in 2014. It's possible that Curbelo will face a primary challenger too.

Taddeo paid the $10,440 fee to qualify.

In May, internal polls on the Democratic side showed Garcia in the lead but a sizable chunk of the voters were undecided in the swing district. Taddeo overhauled her campaign staff last month -- her new spokesman Omer Farooque started today. Taddeo has the backing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Emily's List.

The five-day qualifying period starts Monday. The primary is Aug. 30th but voters will start casting ballots by absentee in July.

This post has been updated to reflect that Taddeo qualified by paying the fee.


June 15, 2016

More police collaboration could have meant 'different outcome' in Orlando, Rep. Murphy says


Joining the bevy of Florida politicians making the rounds on cable news this week, Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy got nine minutes of airtime with CNN's Wolf Blitzer Wednesday evening to talk about the Orlando shooting investigation, as well as his bid for U.S. Senate.

Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, represents the district where the Orlando shooter Omar Mateen lived. Murphy is also a member of the House Intelligence Committee, which has been briefed on Sunday's attack and the ongoing investigation into it.

"Every day, (the committee is) learning more and more about this," Murphy said.

"In this era of lone-wolf attacks," Murphy said the Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub -- which left 50 dead (including Mateen) and 53 injured -- highlights the need for better collaboration and coordination between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

"I believe there's stuff out there that local law enforcement might have had that, if combined with what the federal government had and the FBI during these investigations -- we might have had a different outcome," Murphy said. "The investigation is going to let us know what happened, and I don't want to point a finger yet -- but it is more important than ever that law enforcement work together."

He added: "It seems that all the pieces weren't connected in this situation. ... But there seems to be enough pieces of information here that perhaps (Mateen) should have been monitored, perhaps we should have kept an eye on him a little bit closer."

Blitzer probed Murphy for more details on the pending investigation, including the potential for Mateen's wife, Noor, to be charged as an accomplice and whether he thought she should be.

There was a lot Murphy said he "couldn't speak to" because of the investigation, but he did say: "It sure seems that she had enough information at this point that she should have certainly said something and (she) awfully seems like an accomplice to me."

On whether authorities will release the 911 tapes from Sunday morning -- which a coalition of media, including the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times, is urging law enforcement to do under Florida’s Sunshine Law -- Murphy said: “At a certain point, most of those things usually do come out but I haven’t heard one way or the other. … We’ve heard just high-level information about them, nothing more actually.”

Florida lawmakers weigh in on Zika

WASHINGTON – The director of the CDC painted a grim picture about the Zika virus during a briefing for Florida lawmakers this morning and said it’s likely there is already a non-travel related case in the state.

“This is a much harder to kill mosquito than normal. This is the cockroach of mosquitoes. It lives indoors and outdoors, bites both day and night, and bites four or five at a time. It’s very difficult to control,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We must act quickly to stop the spread of Zika,” said Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, co-chair of the delegation. “Today we heard from a variety of experts about the grave threat Floridians face. I’m confident our delegation will be instrumental in encouraging Congress to put aside partisanship and give disease-fighters the resources they need to protect women and newborns.”

But there were flashes of partisan differences.

Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, pointedly told Frieden that he had adequate resources in the fight. “You keep coming back here asking for money. You’ve got money,” Mica said, suggesting there were not an overwhelming number of Zika cases in the U.S.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, sarcastically asked Frieden if he had a “money tree growing in the courtyard of the CDC."

"No," he replied.

Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, accused Republicans of downplaying the threat and said President Obama’s full $1.9 funding request should have been approved already. “The Congress has been completely derelict,” she said.

Overall, the meeting was cordial and a sizable, bipartisan group showed up, including Sen. Marco Rubio who supports full funding.

"It's probably just a matter of time before, unfortunately, we are faced with an epidemic," said Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Tallahassee.

- Alex Leary, Tampa Bay Times

June 12, 2016

South Florida Congressional delegation on Orlando shooting

Here are the statements from members of the South Florida Congressional delegation about the shooting in the Orlando nightclub which left 50 dead:

Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami:

"The investigation is just beginning, but early reports suggest that it was an act of terrorism apparently inspired by radical Islam. I thank our brave law enforcement officers and first responders for their efforts. This is a horrific reminder that all Americans are vulnerable to this threat, and that we must come together behind the struggle to contain and defeat terrorist organizations on their own turf. This tragedy is particularly painful because it takes place during LGBT Pride Month. My thoughts and prayers are with the family members of the victims and with many of my constituents who are celebrating Pride Weekend in the Florida Keys." 

Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach:

“I am so sad for the Orlando shooting victims and their families. We must all stand together against hatred and violence.”

Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach:

“Words cannot express the sadness and sorrow that I feel for the families and friends who lost loved ones in the horrific shooting at Pulse Nightclub.  This tragic act of violence is utterly devastating, and a direct attack on the LGBTQ community as our nation celebrates LGBT Pride Month. While many details are still yet unknown, I stand shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity with the LGBTQ community and all the people of Orlando.  These senseless acts of violence can never be understood, but we must find strength in knowing that justice will ultimately prevail. I offer my deepest sympathies during this dark hour and stand united in prayer with our nation at this most difficult time.”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston:

“This horrific, senseless and heart-wrenching tragedy is an act of evil that defies words. At least fifty people were killed as they went out to enjoy their Saturday night, and instead their families and friends are now mourning their loss. I am sending my thoughts and deepest condolences to their families and friends, and the entire Orlando community. I am deeply grateful for our law enforcement, first responders and health care professionals who were on the scene and are continuing their important investigative and lifesaving work. This tragedy is now the single deadliest mass shooting in American history and in this time of need, I encourage anyone in the Orlando area who is interested in donating blood to visit oneblood.org/donate-now/.

Continue reading "South Florida Congressional delegation on Orlando shooting" »

June 10, 2016

Florida members who voted against Puerto Rico debt deal

WASHINGTON - The House on Thursday passed a rescue package for Puerto Rico by a wide bipartisan vote. But a number of Florida members voted against the deal.

Republicans: Gus Bilirakis, Curt Clawson, Ron DeSantis, John Mica, Jeff Miller, Tom Rooney and Ted Yoho.

Democrats: Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

From the AP:

The legislation would allow the seven-member control board to oversee negotiations with creditors and the courts over reducing some debt. It does not provide any taxpayer funds to reduce that debt.

It would also require the territory to create a fiscal plan. Among other requirements, the plan would have to provide "adequate" funds for public pensions, which the government has underfunded by more than $40 billion.

- Alex Leary, Tampa Bay Times

June 08, 2016

After shake-up, Annette Taddeo hires new finance director


Congressional candidate Annette Taddeo has hired a new finance chief following a big campaign shake-up in which she fired her campaign manager, finance director and communications director.

The new finance director is Erin Jarbo, according to Taddeo's new campaign manager, James Stretch. Jarbo last worked in the same job for Jamie Raskin, a Maryland state senator who won a Democratic congressional primary in April.

A new communications director hasn't been hired yet, but Taddeo said it will be Gricel Gonzalez, a former local Univision reporter who handled Spanish-language media for Taddeo in 2014, when she was Charlie Crist's running mate for Florida governor.

Joe Garcia likens Donald Trump to Hugo Chávez


Miami Democrat Joe Garcia warned voters that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump could be as dangerous to the U.S. as the late President Hugo Chávez was for Venezuela.

Garcia told Miami-based El Venezolano TV, a small local publication, that "Trump is a reality, folks."

"If there's anyone who knows the importance of the vote it's Venezuelans, who have experienced the tragedy of seeing a demagogue get into power," Garcia said. "For Venezuelans, this isn't theoretical... They don't see this as right and left. They see very clear similarities" to Chávez, he implied.

Garcia, a former congressman, urged voters in Florida's 26th district, which stretches from Westchester to Key West, to volunteer for or donate to political campaigns for candidates (left unsaid: like himself) who denounce Trump.

"We've lived through what it's like to lose a democracy," said Garcia, whose parents were born in Cuba. "We should all participate, because democracy has results."

It's not surprising for a Democrat in a district with a large number of Venezuelan immigrants to deride Trump as Chávez-like. But it is unusual to hear U.S. politicians compare any popularly elected (or in this case, soon-to-be nominated) U.S. leaders to authoritarian rules from other countries.

Before Trump, Garcia said he would have "bet his life" that Republicans nominated former Gov. Jeb Bush. He disagreed with Bush when he was governor, Garcia said, but "he always kept his eye on the Hispanic community."

Garcia is coming off a strong couple of weeks. Polls -- including from his primary rival's campaign -- showed him leading opponent Annette Taddeo. Taddeo fired her top campaign staff shortly after that. 


June 07, 2016

Unanimous House support for Holocaust bill authored by South Florida reps


Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Boca Raton Rep. Ted Deutch want Germany to provide more financial resources to Holocaust survivors, who are elderly and in some cases, according to the members of Congress, struggling to get by.

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution sponsored by the two South Floridians calling on Germany to do more. Both Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, and Deutch, a Democrat, spoke on the bill's behalf on the House floor.

"These survivors are passing away" without the care they need, Ros-Lehtinen said.

Deutch talked of "infirm, isolated and poor Nazi victims" facing caps for the number of hours a day they can get home care as an example of what some cash-strapped survivors face.

The measure is largely symbolic, but important to Jewish constituents for both members of Congress in South Florida. It received a vote of 363-0.

"Germany has long acknowledged its obligations to Holocaust survivors, and though it has taken steps to address the needs of survivors, the assistance has been inadequate and often caught up in time consuming bureaucracy," Ros-Lehtinen told the Miami Herald in a statement. "Survivors endured unspeakable horrors and atrocities, yet they continue to suffer lingering injustices. They deserve to live out the remainder of their days in dignity and comfort."

The resolution now heads to the U.S. Senate, where it's sponsored by Florida Democrat Bill Nelson and Maine Republican Susan Collins.


June 06, 2016

Rubio pens op-ed on trip to Honduras

From The Miami Herald's op-ed page, by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida:

Not long ago, Honduras was a country in crisis and had the dubious distinction of having the highest murder rate per capita in the world. At over 86 homicides per 100,000 citizens, this lawless violence was unsustainable and tearing the country apart.

Adding to Honduras’ instability over the past decade have been a constitutional crisis that led to its president’s ouster, the drumbeat of illicit trafficking, gang extortion of innocent civilians and senseless violence continued.

However, after spending time last week in Honduras, I am encouraged by promising signs that the country's trajectory is on the right path, with violence still too high but down significantly, and the United States having a real partner in the Honduran government and people.

For the United States, our interests in Honduras are clear: to see a safe and prosperous Honduras with a thriving economy based on manufacturing, tourism and agriculture. Ensuring that the U.S. government's Alliance for Prosperity is well funded, and that those funds are properly apportioned to enhance security, incentivize programs that help reduce the levels of corruption, and provide economic opportunities that combat poverty must be a priority for Congress and the administration this year. A special focus on Central America is warranted considering our national interests in this hemisphere.

More here.

Mason-Dixon poll: Half of Florida voters want Marco Rubio to run for Senate again


Nearly half of Florida voters want U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to seek re-election, according to a new poll that finds a messy Republican primary field to replace him if he doesn't.

The survey by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research found 49 percent of respondents -- including 77 percent of Republicans -- think Rubio should run for a second term.

"If he decides to do so, he would clearly be the strongest candidate, as none of the current contenders appears to have caught fire with state voters," pollster J. Brad Coker said in a statement.

More than 40 percent of voters are undecided in the Democratic and Republican primaries. On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter leads U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando by 31-23 percent, with first-time candidate Pam Keith at 3 percent.

On the Republican side, five candidates remain mostly unknown. Sarasota developer Carlos Beruff is ahead with 17 percent, followed by U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores with 13 percent, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach with 10 percent, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami with 9 percent and Orlando defense contractor Todd Wilcox with 2 percent.

The poll's error margin is plus-or-minus 5 percentage points. Mason-Dixon surveyed 625 registered voters from May 31-June 2, over-sampling 400 likely Democratic voters and 400 likely Republican voters for the Senate-race questions.

Rubio chose not to run for re-election in order to run for president. But he's no longer vying for the White House, and he's got no clear successor. Candidates can qualify for the race through June 24.