May 29, 2013

FL Gov. candidate Nan Rich: Dem Party is "inappropriate" for blocking 5-minute gala speech

@MarcACaputo

After years of fielding complaints that its annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner was interminably long, the Florida Democratic Party had a solution: Make it shorter by having fewer speakers.

Now it has a new complaint: It's blocking former state Senate Democratic leader Nan Rich, a gubernatorial candidate, from speaking.

"I think it's inappropriate, given the amount of attention the governor's race will draw," said Rich, a Weston resident. "I've been a candidate for a year, I've traveled the state and built a significant infrastructure and grassroots support. And I'm just asking for five minutes."

But it's five minutes too long in the eyes of the Democratic Party's chairwoman, Allison Tant, who decided along with party leaders to keep the June 15 fundraiser at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood limited to three speakers: Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and featured speaker Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio.

"The decision for our JJ program was to have a streamlined event where we have a national speaker. And this year we’re excited to have Julian who spoke at the 2012 Democratic National Committee,” said Christian Ulvert, the state party’s political director.

“In years past, we’ve heard from the attendees that the program goes too long," he said. "We want a shorter program."

Party leaders are adamant: No extra time for Rich or anyone. Letting Rich speak, they say, would lead other Democrats to want to do the same. And that would weigh down the program.

"The program does not feature any candidates," Ulvert said. "This year we have a state convention a more candidate focused event. She’ll have great opportunity to showcase her candidacy and share her message."

Rich learned of the decision last week when she called Tant and was denied a speaking slot. Soon, the liberal Florida Squeeze blog, which opposed Tant for Democratic chair, began complaining about the treatment of Rich.

Rich said she understands the decision to limit the length of the program. She said she remembers one year in which now-Vice President Joe Biden had to wait until about midnight to speak and no one was there.

"It was embarrassing," she said.

But she's not asking for much, Rich siad. And she points out that the governor's race is different from other campaigns; so there should be special consideration.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is widely disliked and seen as beatable, although he'll be well-funded. Still, Rich isn't the only Democratic candidate. Unknowns Ryan Adam Lipner and Jessica Lana Stewart have filed. Neither has raised any money

Rich's campaign has raised about $121,000 and spent about $26,000 and her political committee has raised an additional $136,000 and spent about $62,000.

By contrast, Scott is ready to spend as much as $100 million by November 2014.

Rich's relatively weak fundraising has Democrats casting about for another candidate. Some are trying to recruit Sen. Nelson, but the Democrat isn't inclined to leave the seat he just retained in Washington. Former Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to announce sometime this summer. But the Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat isn't trusted by many grassroots Democrats.

"They want a true Democrat," Rich said. "They want someone who has consistent core values and principles. They don't see that in Charlie Crist."

But beyond the grassroots, Crist enjoys a major advantage. He has statewide name-identification, he's well-liked by President Obama's Florida team, and he'd be an instant frontrunner who has the best chance of beating Scott, most polls show. Like Castro, Crist spoke at the DNC.

Rich said she'll have the money and the organization to beat Crist. But she also would like a shot to make her case at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. She said she'll still attend, but she doesn't like the new rules.

"This runs contrary to the spirit of the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner," Rich said.

April 15, 2013

Charlie Crist vulnerabilities are fueling speculation over Nelson running for governo

From @AdamSmithTimes

Major Democratic financial backers, including trial lawyers and teachers, are gushing about Charlie Crist and his prospects for 2014. Crist has not announced plans to run for governor again, but polls show him trouncing Republican Gov. Rick Scott by double digits.

The lifelong Republican-turned-Democrat at this point looks like he could grab the Democratic nomination without even a serious challenge. But oh-so-quietly, veteran Democratic fundraisers and strategists across Florida worry about another scenario: a Charlie Crist train wreck that would ensure a second term for one of America's most vulnerable Republican governors.

The wariness and even downright hostility to Crist's candidacy are part of what's fueling speculation about Sen. Bill Nelson entering the race. Story here. 

 

April 10, 2013

Democratic women tell legislators: "We're watching"

Some of the young women carrying signs scrawled with slogans like "Time to ratify the ERA" weren't even born when the proposal was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1972. But they, along with a couple women legislators, leaders and other Democratic women from around the state, came to the Capitol Monday to show they haven't given up on ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. They also want legislators to know they're "watching" them on numerous key issues like the Parent Trigger bill, election reform, Medicaid expansion and women's healthcare.

"Despite the good things that have happened, we continue to be under assault here in this state," said Rep. Lori Berman, who with Rep. Janet Cruz has co-sponsored a bill (HB 8001) that would ratify the
ERA in Florida. The bill was workshopped Monday in the House Local and Federal Affairs Committee, its first of three stops, but the odds are against it passing with the clock ticking on this session.

Continue reading "Democratic women tell legislators: "We're watching"" »

Democratic women tell legislators: "We're watching"

Some of the young women carrying signs scrawled with slogans like "Time to ratify the ERA" weren't even born when the proposal was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1972. But they, along with a couple women legislators, leaders and other Democratic women from around the state, came to the Capitol Monday to show they haven't given up on ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. They also want legislators to know they're "watching" them on numerous key issues like the Parent Trigger bill, election reform, Medicaid expansion and women's healthcare.

"Despite the good things that have happened, we continue to be under assault here in this state," said Rep. Lori Berman, who with Rep. Janet Cruz has co-sponsored a bill (HB 8001) that would ratify the
ERA in Florida. The bill was workshopped Monday in the House Local and Federal Affairs Committee, its first of three stops, but the odds are against it passing with the clock ticking on this session.

Continue reading "Democratic women tell legislators: "We're watching"" »

Democratic women tell legislators: "We're watching"

Some of the young women carrying signs scrawled with slogans like "Time to ratify the ERA" weren't even born when the proposal was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1972. But they, along with a couple women legislators, leaders and other Democratic women from around the state, came to the Capitol Monday to show they haven't given up on ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. They also want legislators to know they're "watching" them on numerous key issues like the Parent Trigger bill, election reform, Medicaid expansion and women's healthcare.

"Despite the good things that have happened, we continue to be under assault here in this state," said Rep. Lori Berman, who with Rep. Janet Cruz has co-sponsored a bill (HB 8001) that would ratify the
ERA in Florida. The bill was workshopped Monday in the House Local and Federal Affairs Committee, its first of three stops, but the odds are against it passing with the clock ticking on this session.

Continue reading "Democratic women tell legislators: "We're watching"" »

April 03, 2013

Dept. of Smart Hires: FL Dems make Christian Ulvert political director

@MarcACaputo

Christian Ulvert, a well-connected political operative, is taking over a newly created spot at the Florida Democratic Party: Political director.

Ulvert's hire is a smart move on multiple levels.

A Miami native who's Hispanic, he also cut his teeth in Tallahassee as a consultant and lobbyist. So he understands the dual worlds of Florida politics that run the gamut from Hialeah Drive to Capitol Circle. And Ulvert has worked with some top political minds from both parties: Democrat Dan Gelber (on his attorney general's campaign) and Republican David Rivera (on the Miami-Dade slots campaign).

Earlier this year, Ulvert helped Allison Tant handle the news media in her hotly contested and narrowly won bid to lead the Democratic Party. So he has her gratitude and trust.

The big question: Will Ulvert, Tant and the party at large actually have the cash and the candidates to help win the governor's mansion, an extra Cabinet seat and more seats in the Florida Legislature?

Here's the press release:

Continue reading "Dept. of Smart Hires: FL Dems make Christian Ulvert political director" »

January 28, 2013

Mario Diaz-Balart likes Gang of 8/Rubio immigration plan

From U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican and key House member on immigration:

“Although we have not seen the legislation text, the principles released today are compatible with the discussions in the House. The prospect of true immigration reform can only happen with bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, and today’s news is a step in that direction. I commend the dedicated efforts of the group. We look forward to working with the Senate and President Obama to find a real, permanent solution.”

Note: If Diaz-Balart, a longtime friend of Sen. Marco Rubio's didn't support the plan of his fellow Republican, it would be big news. Diaz-Balart was on CNN talking about the issue.

"If this was an easy lift it would have been done a long time ago," Diaz-Balart said. "We've been hammering out our differences, we've been hammering out what needs to be fixed."

January 27, 2013

Despite dismal poll numbers, Rick Scott still a challenge for Democrats

by MarcACaputo

Rick Scott’s poll numbers look dismal. His finances don’t.

"One number should worry you: $70 million. That’s how much Rick Scott spent in 2010," Annette Taddeo-Goldstein, Miami-Dade’s new Democratic chairwoman, told Democrats this weekend.

To be clear, she was referring to Scott’s personal money. And it was actually closer to $75.1 million.

Include the Republican Party, and Scott probably spent just under $100 million. He was worth at least $218 million at the time, but reports he lost net worth after becoming governor. His wife has millions more.

Scott is prepared to spend as much or more in 2014.

The money race is on. And Democrats are losing it. But they know it.

Continue reading "Despite dismal poll numbers, Rick Scott still a challenge for Democrats" »

Ballot irregularities, conspiracies dog FL Democratic chair election

Uncounted votes. A spoiled ballot. A Democrat who signed a proxy vote-form with an X. Conspiracy theories.

Elections just aren't easy in Florida, especially when it comes to Democrats -- even when they vote for their own during the Florida Democratic Party Chair race. At the very least, it's a cautionary tale about how losers cry foul after elections and how voters themselves can be to blame for election problems.

Initially on Saturday, Allison Tant was elected chair Saturday over Alan Clendenin by a vote of 587 to 448.

Turns out, that first tally missed a block of 59 votes cast by Bret Berlin, a Miami-Dade state committeeman.

"They said my ballot was stuck to another person's ballot and it didn't get counted," said Berlin, who voted for Clendenin. "I didn't eat anything in the voting room. My fingers didn't have anything sticky on them."

On a second pass, Berlin's vote was counted. Final tally: 587-507.

A Tant voter, Palm Beach County's John Ramos, didn't have his ballot counted at all. He signed on the wrong line.

"I have cataracts. I don't see so well," Ramos said. "What matters is the outcome."

Some saw conspiracy. Ramos initially pledged his votes to Clendenin. Then he was pressured by party insiders to vote for Tant, the favored of Sen. Bill Nelson and Democratic National Committee chair and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. His ballot was worth 41 votes (the votes are apportioned to give more weight to voters from Democrat-heavy counties).

Continue reading "Ballot irregularities, conspiracies dog FL Democratic chair election" »

January 26, 2013

It's Tant. Allison Tant wins FL Dem Chair race, beats Clendenin 587-507

Allison Tant beat Alan Clendin in a hard-fought race for Florida Democratic Party chair.

Tant won 587 votes to Clendenin's 448 507. UPDATE NOTE: the original count didn't include at least one ballot that wasn't initially counted.

"Thank you, Alan Clendenin, for making me a better candidate," Tant said.

Tant's win spared Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson a measure of embarrassment. Both pushed hard for Tant. They wanted her to lead the party because she knows how to fundraise. And they need money, truckloads of it, to unseat Gov. Rick Scott in 2014.

"We are going to have to work to out-raise, out-organize and out-work the GOP," Tant said. "We’ve done it before. We’re going to do it again."

But they haven’t done it during a governor’s race since 1994, when incumbent Gov. Lawton Chiles beat challenger Jeb Bush.

Ever since that election, though, Republicans took over the entire Legislature. Bush then won the governor's mansion in 1998 and Republicans now control every statewide elected seat based in Tallahassee. Nelson is the only Democrat elected statewide.

But President Obama's re-election in Florida and nationwide has Democrats feeling stronger than ever in recent years. He's the first Democrat to carry Florida twice since 1936. Also, Republican Gov. Rick Scott has terrible poll numbers.

Democrats know they have a problem: Their voters show up in outsized numbers in presidential election years, but often get out-voted during governors' races.

"Can we get them to show up in off year elections? Can we get that same energy in off year elections?" Rod Smith, presiding over the election in his last act as chair, asked the crowded room of Democrats.

"I don’t know about you all, but I wouldn’t mind attending something I’ve not been to in a long, long time – and that would be the inauguration of a Democratic governor in this state," Smith said. "Rick Scott has done his part for us. His work alone won’t be sufficient to get us elected. But it should give us a running start.”

Annette Taddeo, Miami-Dade County's Democratic chairwoman who nominated Tant pointed out that Scott also has prodigious personal wealth.

"One number should worry you: $70m," she said. "That's how much Rick Scott spent in 2010."

Actually, Scott spent millions more of his own money.

The Democratic chair race was unusually bitter – not between Tant and Clendenin, but between their supporters.


Democrat attacked Democrat behind each other’s back and on blogs. Some tried to block others from voting in the chair race.

Smith refused to block Democrats from voting if they had been certified previously.

“I will not tolerate any effort at voter suppression," he said in a letter.

On the final day, Friday, liberal activist Susannah Randolph rebuked another Democrat by email when he accused another of fraud. Randolph, a backer of Tant along with husband and Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph said that tensions were so high that someone taped a sign on her office door that said “Beware of Bitches.”

Clendenin had widespread and early grassroots support. But it wasn't enough to overcome the institutional support of Tant.

Before the vote, Clendenin sought to make the race a contest between the rank-and-file and the elite.

"Does our party belong to a group of Tallahassee insiders, consultants and lobbyists or does it belong to us?" he asked.

After he lost, Clendenin was elected vice chair and took the loss with grace. He hugged Tant and then held her hand high.

"Make no mistake, GOP, this team's coming to get you," Clendenin said.