July 10, 2017

Florida Democratic Party raises almost $3.5 million

Bidenaldiazhollywood

@amysherman1

The Florida Democratic Party announced that it raised nearly $3.5 million during the first half of the fiscal year.

The party got a big fundraising boost due to the visit by former Vice President Joe Biden who was the keynote speaker at the Leadership Blue event in Hollywood in June. 

From a press release from party chairman Stephen Bittel, Senate Democratic Leader Designate Jeff Clemens and House Democratic Leader Designate Kionne McGhee:

“Democrats are more fired up and ready to win than ever before. Having raised nearly $3.5 million this year, Florida Democrats are immensely grateful for the generous support of our donors and Democratic legislators from across the state. We are committed to supporting Democrats from schoolboard to U.S. Senate, and as we continue to build grassroots enthusiasm and raise resources, we are confident that Florida Democrats will win in 2018."

 

 

June 20, 2017

For now, embattled Florida Democratic Party chairman keeps his job

Braynon-bittel-mcghee
@PatriciaMazzei

Two top African-American Democrats in the Florida Legislature aired their grievances Tuesday with Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel, reaching an apparent truce — for now — after Bittel called black lawmakers “childish.”

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens and future House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee of Miami stopped short of asking Bittel for his resignation during a two-hour-long private meeting at Bittel’s Miami Beach office Tuesday.

But the lawmakers, who remain upset, said they demanded that Bittel take a more inclusive approach to leading the party ahead of the 2018 election. 

“There are things that he is going to have to do, that the party is going to have to do, to make sure that respect is shown,” Braynon said, citing outreach to minority communities and diverse party committee appointments as examples. “There have to be legitimate action items.”

Does he think Bittel will follow through? “I don’t think he has a choice,” Braynon said. 

Braynon said it wasn’t up to him to call for Bittel’s resignation, given that he’d never backed him as chairman in the first place — and wouldn’t if the vote took place again today, he added.

“I would not vote for him again, just like I didn’t vote for him before,” Braynon said.

Braynon said Bittel once again apologized for saying the senator had been acting like “a 3-year-old” at the party’s annual fundraiser Saturday night.

In a statement released after the meeting Tuesday, Bittel tried to look forward.

“Our meeting was productive and we are moving forward together to secure victory in 2018,” he said. “Together we are focused on electing Democrats who will stand up for working families and bring change and economic progress to Florida.”

More here.

June 18, 2017

Florida Democratic Party chair called black legislators 'childish,' and drama ensued

Bittell-braynon

@PatriciaMazzei

The Florida Democratic Party’s big annual fundraiser ended in acrimony Saturday night after Stephen Bittel, the party chairman, dismissed anger from lawmakers who didn’t get introduced on stage as a “childish” complaint from African-American legislators.

Bittel also said state Sen. Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens, the Senate Democratic leader who had expressed lawmakers’ unhappiness to the chairman, was acting like “a 3-year-old.” Bittel has since apologized.

Most Democratic legislators — not only African-American ones — were upset that Bittel, looking to speed up the program to get to former Vice President Joe Biden’s keynote speech, scrapped the part where Braynon and Rep. Janet Cruz of Tampa, the House Democratic leader, would present the members of their respective caucuses. Biden noted his appearance was keeping him from his wife on the night of their 40th wedding anniversary.

Braynon, who said he didn’t care one way or another about speaking at the annual Leadership Blue gala, nevertheless warned Bittel lawmakers would not like being passed over. Already the party had decided not to introduce each legislator by name, citing time constraints. Instead, Braynon and Cruz were each supposed to get four minutes each with their colleagues on stage before U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson introduced Biden.

Bittel, whose relationship with Braynon has been contentious, ignored Braynon’s warning, even though lawmakers had begun lining up by the stage and didn’t know the program had been changed. Bittel proposed bringing lawmakers up after Biden spoke. By then, the dinner’s roughly 1,300 attendees were streaming out of the room, and the legislators got no recognition, other than a pre-taped video that featured some of them, along with the Democratic candidates for governor. 

After the dinner, Sen. Lauren Book of Plantation, who is white, asked Bittel about the snub — prompting Bittel’s outburst blaming African-American legislators for complaining, even though Cruz, who is Hispanic, and others were also angry.

“He said, ‘They’re like children, these black lawmakers. They just don’t get it,’” Braynon said, relaying what Book told him. “‘I raised more money in this amount of time than they ever could.’”

More here.

June 17, 2017

'We are better than this,' Biden tells Florida Democrats

0247 Biden Fundraiser 06171

@PatriciaMazzei @martindvassolo

Still recovering from a crushing November loss, Florida Democrats turned to the 2018 election cycle Saturday with the help of the man who remains their party’s biggest cheerleader: former Vice President Joe Biden.

Without ever mentioning President Donald Trump, Biden rejected the new president’s rhetoric and assured Democrats there is a way for them to recover their political standing.

“The state the nation is today will not be sustained by the American people,” Biden said. “We are better than this.” 

At times funny, at times so serious he was whispering, Biden spoke to Democratic activists in Hollywood for more than 50 minutes, sounding like a potential candidate for president in 2020 — or at least like one the party’s most impassioned messengers for 2018. Biden created a new political action committee, American Possibilities, last month, fueling speculation that he is considering a presidential bid.

Though he discussed making community college free and narrowing the wage gap — the sort of issues that make up Democratic presidential platforms — Biden made no reference to the PAC or 2020, when he will be 77 and Trump will be 74. 

Instead, Biden began by making a case for the reelection of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who will likely face his biggest challenger yet next year in Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Florida Democrats have struggled to win in non-presidential years, when fewer of their voters have shown up to the polls.

“No one, no one, no one has ever questioned his word when he’s given it, and no one, no one that I’ve met in my entire time in the Senate and eight years as vice president doesn’t respect Bill for his moral courage and his physical courage,” Biden said. “Bill, I’ll come back to Florida as many times as you want — to campaign for you or against you, whichever helps more.”

More here.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

June 13, 2017

Tim Canova to announce 2018 political plans Thursday

Canovamic

@amysherman1

Tim Canova, who lost a heated Democratic primary against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in August, will announce his political plans for 2018 Thursday.

Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor and Hollywood resident, confirmed to the Miami Herald in a text Tuesday that he will announce his plans at a progressive caucus event at the Broward AFL-CIO office in Plantation at 6:30 p.m Thursday:

Canova wrote on Facebook  that he will speak at the event where he will be “making a big announcement on our plans for 2018, which will be live streamed on this page. You won't want to miss out!”

In September, Canova filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission so he could start fundraising in case he decided to run against Wasserman Schultz who represents a Broward/Miami-Dade district. But through April he hasn’t fundraised.

While Canova has argued someone on the left should challenge Wasserman Schultz, he hasn’t made clear if that someone will be him or whether he will run for another office. Two possibilities: he could be joining an already crowded Democratic field for governor or running against U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida’s only statewide Democratic office holder who is likely to face Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Earlier this year, Canova delivered petitions to Nelson’s Coral Gables office to demand he take action to halt the Sabal Trail Pipeline.

Despite Canova’s loss to Wasserman Schultz by 14 percentage points in the August primary, his prolific fundraising showed he is a serious candidate. In his first race ever, Canova drew drew support from Bernie Sanders’ fans and raised $3.8 million.

Last year was the first time that Wasserman Schultz faced a challenge from the left in many years. She defended her seat when she was at her most vulnerable -- several weeks after she resigned as chair of the Democratic National Committee amid leaks of emails showing the party favored Hillary Clinton over Sanders.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, Canova expressed frustration with the Florida Democratic Party and said that it is allowing Wasserman Schultz to make welcoming remarks at the annual Leadership Blue gala. Canova directed some of his ire at party chairman Stephen Bittel, an ally of Wasserman Schultz.

“Why the party would want to promote the very personification of scandal, disgrace, and failure to open the gala says more about the incompetence and bad faith of Bittel and his leadership team than any lip service they've given in recent months and even recent days about remaining neutral and impartial in contested primaries.”

But Wasserman Schultz's spokesman David Damron said that Wasserman Schultz isn't speaking at the gala.

The Florida Democratic Party has not yet released a list of speakers -- other than headliner former Vice President Joe Biden -- and declined to comment.

Nelson will speak at the event, his spokesman Ryan Brown said.

This post has been updated to include information from spokespersons for Wasserman Schultz and Nelson.

May 23, 2017

Florida Democratic Party makes new hires

via @adamsmithtimes

From a Florida Democratic Party release:

The Florida Democratic Party continues working to build the strongest statewide grassroots operation in FDP history. Today, Chair Stephen Bittel announced several key hires and promotions within the Florida Democratic Party. 

“Over the past few months we have seen a resurgent Florida Democratic Party,” said FDP Chair Stephen Bittel. “In large part, this has been thanks to the tireless efforts of our staff. That is why I am very proud to announce two major promotions and several new hires. I’m confident that the new Florida Democratic Party will build the strongest, most effective grassroots infrastructure in the entire country as we turn Florida back to blue in 2018.”

Below is the list of promotions and new hires. 

Continue reading "Florida Democratic Party makes new hires" »

May 05, 2017

Fact-checking a Democratic attack about a Trump golf course in Puerto Rico

AP_trumpprgolfcourse (1)

@amysherman1

President Donald Trump accused Democrats of using Puerto Rico’s debt as a bargaining chip before the deadline to settle the federal budget.

“The Democrats want to shut government if we don’t bail out Puerto Rico and give billions to their insurance companies for OCare failure. NO!” Trump tweeted April 27.

Trump appeared to be referring to an effort by Democrats, including Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, to address a Medicaid shortfall in Puerto Rico, which became the largest municipal bankruptcy on May 3.

 
The Florida Democratic Party fired back at Trump’s tweet in a press release, suggesting that Trump shares blame in the island’s economic downfall. A Trump golf resort, the party said, crashed in Puerto Rico and hurt taxpayers.

“Trump conveniently left out the fact that his golf course on the island defaulted, like so many of his other failed business schemes. The failure left Puerto Rican taxpayers with a nearly $33 million bill, another example of Trump’s many scams that make him wealthier and con hardworking families,” the party wrote.

Did Trump really leave the island stuck paying for a bungled investment? Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.


May 01, 2017

Vice President Joe Biden to keynote Florida Democratic Party event

 
Biden_New_Hampshire_99650
@amysherman1
 
Former Vice President Joe Biden will headline the Florida Democratic Party's annual Leadership Blue Gala June 17 at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood. 
 
"We are thrilled to announce the former Vice President as our keynote speaker. Joe Biden has spent his life in public service and has fought tirelessly for the Democratic belief that all Americans deserve an equal shot in our economy, not just those at the top. We are excited to welcome him back to Florida for our Leadership Blue Gala," said FDP Chair Stephen Bittel in a press release. 
 
Democrats will gather at the event with an eye toward generating interest in 2018 races.
 ​

April 26, 2017

Meet the new administrator of the Florida Democratic Party

04262017_134138_sallyboyntonbrown_8colvia @adamsmithtimes

Florida Democratic Chairman Stephen Bittel is hiring the former top administrator of the Idaho Democratic Party, Sally Boynton Brown, to be the Florida party's new "president," which for some reason is the new term for executive director. Brown, who earlier this year ran unsuccessfully for Democratic National Committee Chairwoman, succeeds Scott Arceneaux, the top party administrator for seven years.

If we were snarky, we would note that Idaho has a Republican governor, two Republican senators, an all-Republican Congressional delegation and an all-Republican Cabinet.

"Sally shares my optimistic, idealistic enthusiasm," Bittel said in a press release. "Her national profile and experience as President of the Democratic State Party Directors are a testament to her impressive party and infrastructure building skills. I look forward to her bringing her knowledge of state party management to Florida as we work to turn our state back to blue."

From the release: 

Continue reading "Meet the new administrator of the Florida Democratic Party" »

April 11, 2017

Tepid 2017 fundraising so far for Florida Republican and Democratic parties

via @adamsmithtimes

The latest quarterly campaign finance reports highlight the weakened state of both the Republican Party of Florida and the Florida Democratic Party in the era of super PACs and other political committees.

This is nothing new for the long-struggling Democrats, but the party had hoped newly elected Florida Democratic Chairman Stephen Bittel would prove to be a champion fundraiser. No sign of that yet. Even with Bittel personally stroking a $100,000 check to the party at the very end of the fundraising quarter, Democrats raised just $844,000. In the same quarter following the last presidential election cycle, the party raised more than $1.1 million.

The Republican Party of Florida, which Gov. Rick Scott has more or less abandoned to focus on his own "Let's Get to Work" political committee, reported raising $2.46-million in the first three months of the year. In that same quarter four years ago the state GOP raised $5.37 million.

The biggest check-writers to the state Republican Party included the Republican State Leadership Committee, which helps elect conservatives to state offices and donated $125,000 and the "Florida Roundtable" political committee of Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is the only top Florida politician helping bankroll the state party.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the all but announced candidate for governor in 2018 -- facing a possible primary challenge from Corcoran -- is focused on his own "Florida Grown" political committee, which has about $7.7 million on hand. Republican state senators also have their own committee separate from the state GOP and raised $1.43 million in the first three months of 2017.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times