November 01, 2015

RECAP: Absent star power, Florida Democrats energize for 2016


LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Given Florida’s status as a swing state in the 2016 elections, the absence of the Democratic Party’s two major presidential candidates didn’t go unnoticed during the state party’s annual convention this weekend at Walt Disney World.

Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were campaigning in other states and missed out on what Florida Democratic Party officials called a record-breaking gathering of the party faithful.

The 2,000 attendees left with mixed emotions. Energized, certainly — but also somewhat disappointed.

“You had some who really thought it would signal Florida’s importance” if Clinton and Sanders were to attend, said Susan McManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida. “Others are happy that people seem engaged even without their presence, and they’re willing to be patient until the general election.”

Democrats know they have to mobilize both their base and moderate voters, if they’re going to have a chance at winning not only the presidency but also Florida’s open U.S. Senate seat.

Both parties have a slate of candidates duking it out in the party primaries, hoping to put up the strongest candidate in a competitive race to replace Marco Rubio.

Democratic candidate Patrick Murphy, a Jupiter congressman, picked up several major endorsements during the weekend that propelled his status as the Democratic establishment’s favorite in the race.

Read the full story here.

October 30, 2015

McCaskill, Kobuchar and Senate candidates highlight Florida Democrats' Orlando line-up


Florida Democrats are gathering in Orlando this weekend for their annual convention, aiming to energize their base -- and Floridian voters -- into making the Sunshine State a bluer shade of purple after the 2016 elections.

There's a lot on the line next year, with Florida once again being a swing state in the presidential race and with the victor of Florida's open U.S. Senate race potentially deciding which party will control the chamber in 2017. The Florida Democratic Party is emphasizing those stakes with the convention's theme, "Florida's Future."

The convention line-up includes prominent Democrats from Florida and around the country, including Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who's scheduled to speak Saturday morning and is acting as a surrogate for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign since the former Secretary of State won't be in attendance.

The gathering kicks off today and runs through Sunday at Disney's Yacht & Beach Club convention center.

Saturday night, the two congressmen seeking to be the party's nominee in the race to replace Marco Rubio and join Bill Nelson in the U.S. Senate -- U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, of Jupiter, and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, of Orlando -- will get their chance to address the party faithful. Murphy also has scheduled a Saturday afternoon press conference to make "an important announcement" with some yet-to-be-named special guests.

Other prominent Democrats attending this weekend include: Democratic National Committee Chairwoman and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, state legislative leaders and several mayors -- including Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam.

Panels and seminars will also be held on topics such as LGBT equality issues, education, and the minimum wage.

October 28, 2015

Florida Democratic Party hires deputy political director


How important is the swing I-4 corridor in Central Florida to Sunshine State politics?

The Florida Democratic Party announced Wednesday the hiring of a deputy political director, Roosevelt Holmes III, and touted his Orlando roots.

"Roosevelt will bring his strong central Florida campaign experience and grassroots network to the team, and we can't wait for him to hit the ground running in Orlando," Chairwoman Allison Tant said in a statement. "With so much at stake in 2016, Florida Democrats are fired up and ready to win."

The party hold's its annual convention this weekend in Orlando. 

Here's his background, from the party's press release:

Roosevelt Holmes III is a Florida Democratic campaign staffer and legislative assistant. The 30 year-old Orlando native and UCF graduate has worked on successful Democratic campaigns at all levels of government, including President Obama’s 2008 campaign and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s 2012 reelection campaign. Most recently, he worked in Congresswoman Kathy Castor’s office, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and the Workforce, and served in the Government Affairs and Public Policy Department of the UNCF. Roosevelt will work at the Party’s satellite office in Orlando this election cycle. 

September 16, 2015

Florida Democrats target Miami and Hispanic vote, hire new outreach coordinator in Miami office

With Miami being Florida's political battleground and the Hispanic vote the key, the Florida Democratic Party announced Wednesday that it is ramping up its outreach efforts and has hired Sheyla Asencios to serve as deputy political director in charge of Hispanic outreach based in Miami.

Asencio, 29, donor relations coordinator for the University of Miami’s School of Communications, served as the party's Central Florida's Hispanic outreach coordinator in 2013. She provided support to elected officials, launched voter registration efforts and helped with media relations with Hispanic media. She later worked for former Gov. Charlie Crist and Annette Taddeo's team as director of Hispanic media. 

“We absolutely are thrilled to have Sheyla join our team,” said Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant. “Sheyla was a tremendous asset last cycle, and I look forward to her continued efforts energizing and empowering communities across Florida to help deliver victories to Democrats up and down the ballot. ”

The party's Hispanic outreach efforts this cycle "will dwarf anything in the past,'' said party spokesman Max Steele. Democrats in 2014 won 20 percent more of the Hispanic vote than Republicans and the party is determined to expand those numbers this cycle, he said.  

The effort will include year-round voter registration, hiring a director of Hispanic media, and developing a presence in Hispanic communities across the state, with a special focus on the Orlando and Miami areas.

"The RPOF chair said just the other day that they have the right message but have a “marketing problem” when talking to voters who don’t traditionally vote Republican,'' Steele said. "They still don’t get it. When you have folks like Donald Trump pulling the party to the hard right with racist, nativist rhetoric, and proposing mass deportation, they clearly have a message problem. I mean Trump got Jeb Bush to start using the term anchor baby, which he had previously condemned."

Steele said Florida's Hispanic community is rejecting the GOP message "by a large majority...But rather than sitting back while Trump puts at risk the millions they are spending in Hispanic outreach, we are working to run up the score and improve our performance,'' he said. 

Wadi Gaitan, Republican Party of Florida communications director, offered the opposite view.

"While Democrats attempt to spin the broken immigration and economic promises of a Democrat run White House, the reality is that Hispanic voters are eager for a change from the old, failed Democrat polices that have resulted in a stagnant economy, an unfixed immigration system, and less opportunity,'' he said in a statement. "That is why our party is committed to holding Democrats accountable and sharing our message of real leadership and greater opportunity for all Americans.”

July 17, 2015

Was Carlos Lopez-Cantera an enthusiastic supporter of bringing an Arizona-style immigration law to Florida?

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera became the first Hispanic candidate to enter the Florida Senate race to replace U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on July 15.

Florida Democratic Party chair Allison Tant leveled a series of charges against the Republican, but the one that caught our attention was this one: that Lopez- Cantera "voiced enthusiastic support for bringing an Arizona-style immigration law to Florida, calling the measure 'common sense.’ "

Lopez-Cantera, who was born in Spain to Cuban parents, is hoping to draw part of his support from Hispanic voters. Is it true that he was an enthusiastic supporter for an Arizona-style law, which some Hispanics feared would lead to racial profiling?

Tant has omitted the full story about what Lopez-Cantera said about bringing such a law to Florida. Turn to PolitiFact Florida for our fact-check.

June 10, 2015

Senate Democrats to continue with fundraiser in Tally on Monday

Senate Dem VictoryAs Florida legislators convene the third week of a three-week session with a budget vote pending, Senate Democrats have scheduled a fundraiser Monday night at the Governor's Club in Tallahassee. 

Senate rules prohibit fundraisers during session, including the special session, with one exception. If the fundraiser was previously planned before the special session was scheduled, an exemption is allowed. 

"The rules say it's allowed if it was planned before the call of the session,'' said Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner of Tampa who is hosting the event with Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami.

Joyner, however, said Wednesday if the fundraiser was scheduled, she hasn't been thinking about it.

"Nothing rings a bell but the budget right now," she said.

Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, also took advantage of the exemption. He held a fundraiser on the first day of session June 1 at the Florida Association of Realtors in Tallahassee to raise money for his state Senate campaign. 

April 30, 2015

Democrats continue hammering House GOP: first robo-calls, now mailers

Diaz_mailer_backDemocrats continue to hammer House Republicans in vulnerable districts over their early exit this week and are now dropping thousands of mailers in nine swing districts, a day after announcing they were targeting those same districts with robo-calls. 

“In Tallahassee, Manny Diaz lets the Tea Party pull his strings,’’ reads the flyer, which features Rep. Richard Corcoran as puppet master and the heads of Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli in the background. 

“Turning his back on Broward and Miami-Dade families, Miami Diaz decided that denying health care to 800,000 working Floridians was more important than doing his job,” the copy reads. 

Also targeted for the mass mailings are Reps. Scott. Plakon of Longwood, Bob Cortes of Maitland, Mike Miller of Winter Park, Shawn Harrison of Tampa, Chris Latvala of Clearwater, Kathleen Peters of St. Petersburg, Bill Hagar of Boca Raton, Manny Diaz of Hialeah, and Frank Artiles of Miami. Each of them reside in districts were voter registration is shifting away from Republicans, and that could make them vulnerable in the 2016 general election year.

The "Tea Party" message also helps Democrats exploit the pressure legislators are getting from those on the right, who are warning Republicans that a vote in favor of Medicaid expansion could draw a primary challenge for these House seats. 

“This week Floridians saw House Republicans quit work and go home, just because their jobs got tough.,’’ said Joshua Karp, spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party which is financing the mailers. "These mailers are going to make sure that House Republicans don’t get a free pass for allowing their Tea Party puppet masters to deny health care to hundreds of thousands of Floridians."

Driving home from Tallahassee, Rep. Manny Diaz dismissed the robo-calls and mailers as more of what he has already faced in the last election cycle. 

“This is just a repeat of what occurred in 2013,’’ he said. He said he’s done local radio and met with constituents at senior centers around his district and he believes he has their support. 

“I tell them that the one-size-fits-all forced hand of the federal government is not right, and the fact that many people who have gotten insurance under the exchange would lose their insurance if we expanded Medicaid and the health care outcomes are just not good ones.”

March 03, 2015

House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford responds to State of State

Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, is the House Democratic leader. Here are his remarks in response to Gov. Rick Scott's State of the State address. Watch him here.

Hello, I’m Mark Pafford from West Palm Beach. It’s my honor to serve as Democratic Leader of the Florida House of Representatives.

I’m glad to be here to offer our response to Governor Rick Scott’s State of the State.

The start of the Legislature is always an exciting time for me. It’s especially true this year as we look forward to making Florida a better place to work and live. We want to address your concerns: How to get ahead. How to give your children a great future. How to take care of your family’s health and safety.

We’ve noticed how Governor Scott and Republicans are finally hearing the people. It’s the same thing Democrats have been saying all along.

Continue reading "House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford responds to State of State" »

Sen. Arthenia Joyner gives Democratic response

State Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, the Senate Democratic leader, gave a response to Gov. Rick Scott's State of the State. Her remarks as prepared for delivery:

On the road to his first election, Republican Governor Rick Scott promised Floridians that under his 7-step economic plan, “total job growth will accelerate, the number of new business start-ups will increase, wages and salaries will grow, and the productivity and vitality of Florida’s economy will soar.”

Well, this past January, as Governor Scott returned for a second term, the jury came in about all those promises. And the verdict was grim: Florida is taking the lead in the race to the bottom, in large part because all those new jobs Governor Scott has been busy creating are mostly minimum wage. And it’s not working. Just ask Adhanet Kidane, a 30 year old single mom in Tampa, who works two minimum wage jobs at fast-food restaurants.

Sadly, the road to today’s state of the state came at your expense. The ones who prospered before, during, and after the Great Recession never lost their tax breaks, rarely made good on their commitment to create all those high paying jobs, and continued to sock away profits in offshore accounts protected by powerful financial institutions.

The middle class has been sinking while the lifeboats sailed off with the well off and the well connected.

And they have yet to return for your rescue.

Continue reading "Sen. Arthenia Joyner gives Democratic response" »

December 01, 2014

Richardson the first openly gay representative to hold House leadership post

State Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, has been selected as the Democratic Floor Leader by House Democratic leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, and Democratic Leader pro tempore, Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville. Richardson will be the first openly gay representative in Florida history to serve in a leadership position in the Florida legislature, according to House Democrats. 

Here's the Democrats' press statement:

Richardson, D-Miami Beach, was the first openly gay member ever elected to the Florida Legislature when he was elected on August 14, 2012. Richardson has been a licensed CPA in Florida for 30 years and began his career as a Pentagon auditor identifying fraud, waste and abuse in government contracts. He was re-elected earlier this year to represent House District 113 for his second two-year term and is the only openly gay member of the Florida Legislature. Richardson joins the leadership team that will guide policy and action for House Democrats. As Floor Leader, he will serve as the chief liaison between the Democratic Leader and the Office of the Speaker. Richardson will also serve as ranking member on the House Rules, Calendar & Ethics Committee. In that role, Richardson will work on daily schedules of action for the House. Richardson will also manage, in conjunction with Republican leaders, floor debate on bills and amendments.

Continue reading "Richardson the first openly gay representative to hold House leadership post" »