August 30, 2016

Wasserman Schultz beats Canova in South Florida


U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz staved off her first primary challenge in 24 years, defeating first-time candidate Tim Canova on Tuesday to position herself to hang on to her South Florida seat despite a crush of national opposition to her candidacy.

Wasserman Schultz harnessed the backing of the biggest names in Democratic politics to help her win — President Barack Obama praised her while in Miami, and Vice President Joe Biden and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton campaigned for her in the district. Despite the fact that Canova raised millions of dollars and had an army of progressive volunteers, Wasserman Schultz convinced voters in her district to focus on her advocacy for local causes and her liberal views for decades, and to ignore the Democratic scandal that cost her the post of national party chair.

“This is a community with an incredibly progressive heart that has lifted me up and helped me to be able to shout from the rooftops the idea that you can in America use government as a catalyst to improve people's lives,” she told her supporters at Scuotto’s Pizza & Pasta in Sunrise Tuesday night.

Wasserman Schultz made no mention of Canova and instead bashed Republicans for trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act and urged the crowd to support Clinton.

“We commit right here and now Broward County will carry Hillary Clinton to the White House,” she said.

Wasserman Schultz choked up as she thanked her parents who teaching her the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, the concept of repairing the world and making it a better place.

She led Canova by about 14 percentage points in a district that stretches from Weston to northern Miami-Dade County.

Keep reading here.

Florida lawmakers urge tough steps against Venezuela



Florida's congressional delegation has the biggest presence in a bipartisan letter urging Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to extend sanctions and take other tough steps against the Venezuelan government.

Nine of the 30 lawmakers who signed the letter to Kerry and Lew are from the Sunshine State, among them South Florida Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, plus Democratic Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lois Frankel and Frederica Wilson.

Also on the letter are Republican Reps. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach and John Mica of Winter Park, plus Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of West Boca Raton.

"People are literally starving, suicide rates are rising and the government continues to repress its people," the lawmakers wrote.

Congress in July passed legislation sponsored by Ros-Lehtinen and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Miami, which President Barack Obama signed into law, extending sanctions on human rights abusers in Venezuela.

"However, the are scores of other Venezuelan officials, including within the Supreme Court, federal judiciary, judges in various states, national and state prosecutors, and police and security officers who have reportedly directly engaged in human rights abuses, efforts to undermine democracy and public corruption," the lawmakers wrote to Kerry and Lew.

The 30 House members called on Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro to hold a recall referendum this year, release all political prisoners, follow democratic principles, permit the delivery of emergency food and medicine, and stop government support for drug trafficking.

To read the letter:

August 29, 2016

What you need to know for Tuesday’s primary election


@alextdaugherty and @doug_hanks

Planning to vote in Tuesday’s primary election? We’ve provided answers to a list of frequently asked questions.

Numerous races are on the ballot, notably the election for Miami-Dade County mayor, along with Republican and Democratic primaries for U.S. Senate. Various state legislative, school board, county commission and judicial seats are also up for grabs in Miami-Dade and Broward.

I’m not a registered Republican or Democrat. Should I bother to vote?

For some offices, like U.S. Senate and Congress, only registered members of a specific party may vote. But in Miami-Dade County, all registered voters can cast a ballot for mayor, school board, county commissioner and judge. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election will be held in November for the top two finishers.

In Broward, independents can vote in non-partisan races, including contests for judge, state attorney and school board. Voters in both counties are also voting on a constitutional amendment about solar energy.

So is the mayor’s race in Miami-Dade ending Tuesday or not?

That depends. If one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the race ends. If not, the race heads for a November run-off on Election Day between the top two finishers.

That’s just for the mayor’s race?

No, that’s the rule for all non-partisan primaries, which is how most county-level and city-level races are decided. So school board races, judge races and other local posts could wind up on the November ballot if no winner is declared Tuesday.

What about the races for Miami-Dade County Commission?

Those three races would be eligible for a run-off, except each contest only has two candidates. A run-off is only a possibility with more than two candidates.

August 25, 2016

Tim Canova ad says Debbie Wasserman Schultz flip flopped on fracking, medical marijuana


Tim Canova's new TV ad attacking U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz accuses her of flip flopping on a few issues including fracking.

In an Aug. 14th debate on CBS4, Wasserman Schultz sounded open to fracking in Florida.

Host Jim DeFede asked: "So you are open to fracking as a possibility in Florida?"

She replied: "As long as we have significant regulations."

When the Miami Herald sent her spokesman a list of questions asking what type of regulations she wants, the campaign sent a statement saying she supports a state ban.

"Let me be clear, I am against fracking, especially in Florida," she said in a statement.

The ad also accuses Wasserman Schultz of flip flopping on medical marijuana, payday lending and Trans Pacific Partnership. Here is some background:

Medical marijuana: Wasserman Schultz opposed the 2014 state constitutional amendment but in this race says she is undecided about the similar amendment on Nov. 8th ballot. In May, she voted in favor of a measure to give veterans access to medical marijuana after opposing a similar measure in 2014.

Payday lending: Wasserman Schultz defended Florida's payday law which has been bashed by consumer groups and she pushed back against proposed rules by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In June, she backed away from opposition to the new rules.

Trans Pacific Partnership: She voted to fast track TPP in 2015 but recently told the Sun Sentinel that she is still evaluating it.

Canova and Wasserman Schultz are competing in the Aug. 30th Democratic primary in a district that stretches from Weston to northern Miami-Dade County. The ad is running on cable and broadcast.



August 24, 2016

Bernie Sanders a no-show for Tim Canova

Canova (1)


Bernie Sanders, the politician who elevated first-time candidate Tim Canova to national attention and a rich campaign warchest, doesn’t appear to be coming to South Florida to help out his protégé in his battle against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

At a press conference Wednesday -- a week before the Aug. 30 primary -- at his Hollywood campaign office, Canova pushed back against reporters’ questions about why Sanders hasn’t appeared in the Broward/Miami-Dade district.

“You tell me why he isn’t coming,” said Canova defensively. “I don’t have an answer to that. I am very proud to have his support. Quite frankly we don’t need him here to win this election. Our field operation is growing by the day. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the one who needs to run out and get folks to come in from out of town to help protect her -- to shield her from the voters. I am out there talking to voters every day.”

Wasserman Schultz has recruited many of the party’s top names to campaign for her in the district, including Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, civil rights icon and Georgia Rep. John Lewis and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot at a congressional event in Arizona in 2011. President Barack Obama also praised Wasserman Schultz when he was in South Florida. Obama had tapped her as his Democratic National Committee chair -- a role she stepped down from in July following the WikiLeaks publication of thousands of DNC emails.

For Canova, he has only one big backer: Sanders. In May, Sanders announced on CNN that he was backing Canova and has since sent fundraising emails on his behalf.

The political novice has echoed many of Sanders’ campaign themes, such as demanding campaign-finance reform. Like Sanders, Canova’s fundraising strategy has relied on small-donor donations online while eschewing lavish fundraisers and corporate support. The two men know each other: In 2011 Sanders appointed Canova, a law professor who is an expert on finance, to an advisory committee about Federal Reserve reform.

In July, Sanders told USA Today he would support at least 100 candidates across the country in 2016 -- including Canova -- and possibly campaign for them in person.

But it appears Sanders has blown Canova off -- perhaps because Canova still appears to be a longshot.

“We need all the help we can get,” Canova told the YouTube show Young Turks, according to a clip played Tuesday night on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show. “Look, when Bernie endorsed me, he called me and gave me his number and said, ‘Stay in touch and please call.’ And I have, and I`m waiting for Bernie to return my call. .... So we are hoping that the Sanders campaign does still come through, that Bernie comes through and makes an appearance for us, or at the very least, helps us raise some more money during such a critical period down the home stretch. And that is our hope.”

Spokespersons for Sanders did not reply to emailed questions from the Miami Herald Wednesday.

At his Hollywood press conference, Canova said he had invited Sanders to come and that they had “some general conversations.” But when asked if Sanders ever told him whether he would show up, Canova bristled.

“No comment,” Canova said, referring reporters back to Sanders comments that he would probably campaign for Canova.

Canova’s campaign hired Sanders’ media consultants -- Devine, Mulvey and Longabaugh -- in late July only to see them quit about two weeks later. Canova said Wednesday his campaign rejected the consultants’ strategy of focusing money on TV ads rather than on field operations. Canova also said an attack ad the consultants pitched was  “over the top.”

“Bernie Sanders’ media consultants left the campaign because we weren’t taking their advice,” Canova said. “I rejected their advice and put more money in the field than TV. I said from the beginning the campaign was not relying on Beltway consultants.”

Mark Longabaugh declined to provide specifics about what happened between his firm and Canova.

“l think it's unfortunate Tim Canova decided to characterize it that way,” he said. “We left campaign because of disagreement over strategy, the message and the professionalism of the campaign.”

Canova tried to make the case that it doesn’t matter if Sanders stumps for him in person. But a recent poll by the Sun Sentinel and Florida Atlantic University showed Canova has a wide lead among young voters and Sanders voters -- a sign that a visit by Sanders to the district could boost his campaign. However, it would be tough for Canova to win on Sanders’ supporters alone because Clinton got twice as many votes in the district than Sanders during the presidential primary.

“The voters of this district don’t much care if Bernie comes here or not,” Canova said. “They care about issues about putting food on the table -- real issues of concern to them whether social security will keep up with inflation, how a child is going to pay for higher education, whether the drinking water going be drinkable. That’s what I am talking about in this campaign and that’s why I called his press conference. Bernie Sanders is not on the ballot, Hillary Clinton is not on ballot. You might all find it very interesting to talk about -- it's not of importance to me.”

August 23, 2016

PAC pours in big bucks to help Debbie Wasserman Schultz



A Democratic Super PAC has spent big bucks in an effort to re-elect U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The Patriot Majority PAC has spent about $600,000 on mailers, radio and digital ads in addition to money on polling in the Broward/Miami-Dade district for the Aug. 30th primary.

The mailers we have seen make no mention of her primary rival Tim Canova and focus on her record fighting for gun safety reform, equal pay for women and support for abortion rights and align her with President Barack Obama.

Wasserman Schultz had raised about $3.1 million through Aug. 10th while Canova raised $3.3 million so combined with the PAC her side is ahead in the race for dollars.

Patriot Majority PAC’s campaign finance report through Aug. 10 shows the following large donors:

Donald Sussman of Maine and Fort Lauderdale: $250,000. He is the CEO of Paloma Partners hedge fund which is a major contributor to Democratic and liberal groups including those working on behalf of Hillary Clinton. (Sussman bought a home for $27.5 million in Fort Lauderdale in January plus an $8.2 million property next door a few months after he announced he was getting divorced from U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine.)

Joseph Blount: $133,000. The businessman and frequent Democratic donor lives in Miami Beach.

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers PAC: $125,000

Florida Crystals Corp: $25,000.

Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen: $20,000

Canova attacked Wasserman Schultz for being supported by a PAC that takes money from Big Sugar. He wrote in a press release that Sussman’s hedge fund has “over $100 million dollars in energy and fossil fuel investments.” wrote in April that less than 4 percent of the hedge fund’s portfolio is invested in energy companies.

“Donald Sussman is one of the most progressive individuals in America and has a long history of supporting progressive candidates and progressive causes, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz and many other candidates supported by Emily’s List,” said Craig Varoga, treasurer of Patriot Majority PAC.

It’s unclear if the PAC still plans to advertise on TV. The PAC had reserved at least $393,000 in TV ad time by early August, reported MapLight, a nonpartisan organization that researches data on campaign fundraising. But Varoga did not respond to questions from the Miami Herald about current advertising plans.

This is the first time Wasserman Schultz of Weston has faced a primary challenger since 1992 when she first ran for the state Legislature. Canova, who lives in Hollywood, is a first-time candidate and Nova Southeastern University law professor. He got a boost in fundraising due to the endorsement by Bernie Sanders and publicity about Wasserman Schultz stepping down as Democratic National Committee party chair.

This post was updated after the PAC filed an amendment to its FEC report to change Sussman's address from Maine to Fort Lauderdale.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz says she backs fracking ban after sounding open to it in debate


After calling for “regulations” on fracking during a debate, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz now says she would support a ban in Florida.

"Let me be clear, I am against fracking, especially in Florida,” Wasserman Schultz said in a press release after the Miami Herald sought more details about her position. “I support a ban on fracking at the state level.”

Fracking, a controversial type of oil and gas extraction that raises red flags for environmentalists, was one of the few issues that divided Wasserman Schultz from her Democratic opponent Tim Canova in their lone debate on CBS4 in Miami earlier this month. They also clashed about the Middle East.

When host Jim DeFede asked the candidates during a brief lightning round at the end of the debate if they would support a ban on fracking in Florida, Canova said "I would."

Wasserman Schultz said: "I think we need to strongly regulate fracking and make sure that we protect our environment in process."

DeFede asked: "So you are open to fracking as a possibility in Florida?"

"As long as we have significant regulations,” she replied.

Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting fluids and chemicals at high pressures to extract oil and gas production from rock underground. A 2015 study by the Environmental Protection Agency concluded fracking could hurt drinking water.

State lawmakers have tried three times and failed to pass a bill to prevent local governments from banning fracking and in some years the legislation would have allowed the industry to hide the chemicals used from public record. Gov. Rick Scott’s Department of Environmental Protection has supported the legislation.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature didn’t pass a bill that would have established a temporary ban on fracking to allow for a study about the impact on water. Opponents feared it was a way to eventually allow fracking in Florida, which has been opposed by some local communities including Broward County.

Since the debate, in fundraising emails Canova has repeatedly bashed Wasserman Schultz for her position. The two are competing in the Aug. 30th primary in a district that stretches from western Broward to northern Miami-Dade.

“Fracking is a terrible idea and I am just appalled that Wasserman Schultz wants to allow this controversial drilling practice here in Florida,” he wrote in an Aug. 22 fundraising email.

On Monday, the Miami Herald sent Wasserman Schultz’s campaign a list of questions asking her to provide more specifics about what types of regulations she would support and if she would oppose fracking if a city, county or state opposed it.

Her campaign issued a press release Tuesday about her position:

"Let me be clear, I am against fracking, especially in Florida, because of the sensitivity of our aquifer, which is the source of our drinking water, the environmental damage that it could do to our ecosystem in sensitive areas like the Everglades and, as a mom and a cancer survivor, the serious health risks that accompany fracking.  

“I support any and all regulation of fracking and have consistently used my vote to support stronger regulation and oversight of fracking, like closing loopholes in the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

“As a federal legislator, I support regulations that are severe enough to push the fracking industry out of existence. However, federal law currently prohibits regulation of fracking on private land, therefore I support a ban on fracking at the state level. Given the terrible track record of my Republican colleagues in Congress – not to mention Governor Rick Scott and a Republican-controlled state legislature – I would support a range of means, including a constitutional amendment to ban fracking in Florida.”

When asked why she said she said she called for “regulations” but didn’t call for a “ban” during the debate, Wasserman Schultz’s spokesman Ryan Banfill said that the question came up during a brief lightning round of questions.

“It was at the very end of hour long debate,” he said. “These are not questions that have 10-second answers.”

August 22, 2016

Tim Canova ready with dozens of Broward poll watchers


Tim Canova's campaign has registered 33 poll watchers in Broward County for the primary.

Meanwhile, his Democratic rival -- U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- has zero, according to a list we obtained from the Broward Supervisor of Elections today.

The Florida Democratic Party registered 21 poll watchers in Broward. The only other poll watcher is one person for Brenda Forman who is running for the Clerk of Courts position held by her husband, Howard Forman, who is retiring.

The deadline to register poll watchers was Aug. 16. Poll watchers can stand within voting areas and monitor on behalf of campaigns.

J.C. Planas, an elections lawyer for Republicans in Miami-Dade, previously told the Miami Herald that campaigns rarely use poll watchers for primaries -- but he says they should. 

"Poll watching provides verification that the process is running smoothly," he told the Herald in March before the presidential primary when Donald Trump used dozens of poll watchers. "I consider it an important part of a campaign's legal strategy to make sure the process fair."

The Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections has released a list of poll watchers only for early voting and not yet for election day. That list shows no poll watchers for Canova or Wasserman Schultz.

Canova and Wasserman Schultz are competing in the Aug. 30th primary in a district that stretches from Weston to northern Miami-Dade County. 


Tim Canova attacks Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Big Sugar, DNC role in TV ads

Tim Canova has released two new TV ads attacking U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, over her positions on Big Sugar and payday loans and related to her resignation as chair of the Democratic National Committee.

The ads are running on local cable and broadcast outlets. The Democrats are competing in a Broward/Miami-Dade district in the Aug. 30 primary.

Here are the ads:



August 21, 2016

Debbie Wasserman Schultz ahead of Tim Canova, Sun Sentinel poll finds


U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is ahead of Tim Canova by 10 percentage points, according to a new Sun Sentinel/Florida Atlantic University poll.

The poll found that 50 percent of likely Democratic voters chose Wasserman Schultz and 40 percent chose Canova. The poll found that Wasserman Schultz did better among men, older voters and Hillary Clinton supporters. Canova did better among younger voters, Bernie Sanders supporters and those who have an unfavorable view of President Barack Obama

"It's a little tighter than you would expect in a primary of an incumbent, a well-financed Democrat but this is an unusual race with a little bit more of a national focus," FAU political scientist Kevin Wagner told the Miami Herald.

For Canova to win, he will have to drive up turnout among younger voters but typically older Americans vote more often.

"Barack Obama turned out much younger voters at a higher rate than historically expected," Wagner said. "It's hard to say in a single congressional district if you could repeat that younger person turnout."

Obama endorsed Wasserman Schultz and Clinton campaigned for her in South Florida -- as did Vice President Joe Biden. Sanders endorsed Canova, a first-time candidate and Nova Southeastern University law professor. Clinton won the district with 68 percent of the vote in the March 15 presidential primary.

"Barack Obama is relatively popular there among the Democrats, as is Hillary Clinton. That support translates pretty well" for Wasserman Schultz, Wagner told the Sun Sentinel. "A candidate like Canova who is challenging the system "would probably do better in a district that is more dissatisfied with the Democratic leadership."

Canova's campaign got a boost in donations and media attention in July after Wasserman Schultz stepped down as Democratic National Committee chair after WikiLeaks published thousands of DNC emails. Those emails showed that the DNC favored Clinton over Sanders -- something Wasserman Schultz had denied for months.

But the poll found the national scandal has only slightly hurt her among South Florida voters. The email revelations led 35 percent to say they were less likely to vote for her, 29 percent more likely to vote for her and for 36 percent it made no difference.

After Wasserman Schultz came out in favor of the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, there were questions about whether it would cost her Jewish support in the district -- one of the most heavily Jewish districts in Florida. The poll found that 43 percent of likely Democratic voters back the deal, 17 percent oppose, 31 percent undecided and 9 percent never heard of it.

Respondents who favor the Iran nuclear deal support Wasserman Schultz -- who backed the deal -- while opponents of the deal support Canova. While Canova has bashed Wasserman Schultz for supporting the deal and aligned himself with opponents, he has often said he isn't certain how he would have voted if he was in Congress.

The poll also found geographic differences in the district that stretches from western Broward to northern Miami-Dade County. Wasserman Schultz has a commanding lead in the Weston area where she lives while Canova is far ahead in the Hollywood area where she lives. Other portions of the district including Pembroke Pines and Davie are more competitive.

The poll of 400 likely voters was done Wednesday to Friday and has a margin of error of 5 percent.

This is the first poll in the race done by a media outlet. A poll done by Canova's campaign showed that he was eight points behind but that 60 percent of voters don't know him while a poll by a PAC supporting Wasserman Schultz showed she is 33 points ahead.

The Democrats are competing in the Aug. 30 primary but voting by mail and early voting has already started.