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

January 24, 2017

Florida Democratic Party director to step down

@amysherman1

Florida Democratic Party executive director Scott Arceneaux announced Tuesday that he is stepping down.

His departure was expected after the election of a new chair, Stephen Bittel, earlier this month.  The party also announced that it hired Juan Penalosa, a consultant who helped Bittel campaign for his post and Reggie Cardozo, former deputy state director for Hillary Clinton, to serve as transition advisers to Bittel. Tessa Bay, who had already been working for the state party, was named as director of the chair's office.

“I have been blessed for over seven and a half years to work with amazing people, surrounded by friends and colleagues who I respect, all for a cause and an organization I deeply believe in,” Arceneaux said in a press release. “I want to thank all the dedicated Democrats, elected officials, candidates, volunteers, staff, and party leaders across our great state who made my time at the FDP truly rewarding.” 
 
Arceneaux will stay on until a replacement is hired. The party plans to do a national search to replace him.
 
Bittel thanked Arceneaux for his service: “Under his leadership we’ve set fundraising records, professionalized and expanded staff operations, and built the strongest digital and communications program of any state party in the country. He’s been a tremendous asset to the team and we wish him all the best."
 
Bittel hopes to rebuild the party after devastating losses in November. Sen. Bill Nelson is currently the only statewide Democrat and he could face a tough fight if Gov. Rick Scott decides to challenge him. Democrats also hope to win statewide cabinet seats, including the governor's race but that field is uncertain at this point.
 
Bittel said of the new hires: “Our goal is to build the strongest statewide grassroots operation in FDP history, and I know Juan, Reggie and Tessa will help put us in the position to do just that. They bring a wealth of grassroots organizing experience and deep Florida connections to the FDP and I’m thrilled to have them on the team.”

January 10, 2017

Sen. Bill Nelson endorses Stephen Bittel for Florida Democratic Party chair

BillNelsonatdeskKristenClark

@amysherman1

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has endorsed Stephen Bittel, a Coconut Grove developer and wealthy donor, for Florida Democratic Party chair.

Nelson's statement:

"I have known Stephen Bittel for over 30 years and believe he will be an extraordinary Chair of the Florida Democratic Party. Stephen has been a dedicated advocate for the principles of the Democratic Party for many years and is a leader who has the smarts and heart to unite the party in addition to implementing plans that will help rebuild the party from the ground up. While there are several qualified candidates in this race, I am convinced that Stephen is the right person to chair the Florida Democratic Party,  he has my full support and I ask that you join me in this effort.”

Nelson's endorsement isn't a surprise because he had previously praised Bittel saying in December he would "bring a lot to the Democratic Party" -- but stopped short of officially endorsing him until Tuesday afternoon.

Nelson is Florida's only Democratic statewide office holder and is running for re-election in 2018 and could face millionaire Republican Gov. Rick Scott as his opponent. Bittel has been a major funder of Democratic candidates up and down the ballot including Hillary Clinton and could help Nelson run against Scott.

Democratic elected officials and state committeemen and women throughout Florida will gather in Orlando Saturday to elect a new party chair.

The other candidates are former state Sen. Dwight Bullard of Miami-Dade County, Hillsborough turned Bradford County activist Alan Clendenin, Osceola Democratic chair Leah Carius and Duval County's Lisa King.

The chair race has been full of drama. Two candidates -- Bullard and Clendenin -- moved counties after they lost a state committeeman race, a prerequisite to run statewide.

Bullard moved to Gadsden County after he lost to Bittel in Miami-Dade and Clendenin moved to Bradford County. 

On Friday, the rules committee will discuss a complaint filed about Clendenin's residency as well as a complaint filed by a group of Miami-Dade Democrats about the procedures used for the county to elect Bittel to state committeeman.

 

Karp: Overhaul embarrassing Florida Democratic chair election rules

From a Miami Herald op-ed by Florida Democratic communications strategist Joshua Karp, who recently worked on Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign:

On Jan. 14, the Florida Democratic Party will elect a new chair. Six days later, Donald Trump will be sworn in as president. The new state party chair will articulate the party’s response to Trump and run a party that hasn’t won a governor’s election in 22 years. The new chair will need to hit the ground running, raising money and recruiting candidates for the 2018 elections. This is a tough job.

Given the stakes, Florida Democrats should be passionately engaged in the election to pick their party’s next leader. But most of Florida’s nearly 5 million registered Democrats have no idea an election is happening.

It’s hard to blame them. This election is elitist, old fashioned and exclusionary.

Having helped set strategy for Florida Democrats during the past four years, I know the impact an energetic party chair can have. The current chair, my former boss Allison Tant, raised the bar for the job, traveling and fundraising tirelessly in support of Democratic candidates.

But the election to replace Tant should embarrass every Democrat.

More here.

January 09, 2017

Florida Democratic Party chair candidate Stephen Bittel leads Dwight Bullard in endorsements

Bittelbullard

@amysherman1

Miami-Dade donor Stephen Bittel released a list of about two dozen endorsements in his race for Florida Democratic Party chair -- including four three members of Congress Monday.

That far outpaces the number of endorsements released Monday by his local rival -- former state Sen. Dwight Bullard -- who announced a handful of endorsements.

Bittel, a major donor to Democratic candidates and a Coconut Grove developer, and Bullard will compete in the state party chair election in Orlando Saturday. The other candidates are activist Alan Clendenin -- from Hillsborough County who moved to Bradford to keep his bid alive -- Duval County's Lisa King and Osceola Democratic party chair Leah Carius.

State committeemen and women who represent large Democratic counties get the most powerful voice in the election because their votes are weighted based on the number of registered Democrats in their counties. 

Holding a county party position is a prerequisite to running for state chair. After Bullard lost a state committeeman race to Bittel, he moved to Gadsden County and won a similar position there.

Bittel has been endorsed by three members of Congress who live in Palm Beach County: Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel.

Bittel's list initially included U.S. Rep. Val Demings who represents the Orlando area. After we posted this blog, a spokeswoman for Demings, Caroline Rowland, said Demings did not endorse Bittel or anyone else. Rowland provided a statement from Demings: 

“While Mr. Bittel asked for my support, I told him I had not decided and would not decide until I had the opportunity to look at all of the candidates.”

Bittel's team said it was a "cut and paste error."

One key statewide politician is missing from the official endorsement list: U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the only statewide Democrat in Florida. Nelson has stopped short of officially endorsing Bittel but has praised him. Ultimately the votes are public so Nelson will have to make it clear Saturday which candidate he supports.

Also missing on endorsement lists: U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston who appears to be staying quiet about the race this time after stepping down as national party chair in July. In 2013, Wasserman Schultz urged activists to vote for Allison Tant, the eventual winner who isn't seeking the position again. Bittel has fundraised for Wasserman Schultz in the past.

A spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, David Damron, said she isn't commenting on the chair race and will send a proxy to vote for her.

One group that weighed in earlier in the process has since gone quiet: Our Revolution, the political organization formed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. Our Revolution endorsed Bullard in December for his race in Miami-Dade County but a spokeswoman, Arianna Jones, told the Miami Herald that it is no longer involved in the race for state chair. Jones didn't respond to an email asking why Our Revolution is no longer involved.

Here are the endorsements Bullard and Bittel announced Monday -- all of them get a vote Saturday unless otherwise noted:

Here are Bullard's endorsements:

  • Democratic Black Caucus of Florida
  • Brevard County state committeeman Sanjay Patel
  • Martin County state committeewoman Dawn Abate. 
  • Alachua County Democratic Executive Committee (doesn't get a vote but Bullard won their straw poll)

Here are Bittel's endorsements:

   ·    Chris Reilly, President of Florida College Democrats

·      Catherine Michiels, Lee County Committeeman

·      Michael Bonacolta, Lee County Committeewoman

·      Rhett Bullard, Hamilton County Committeeman

·      Shauna Faries Adams, Hamilton County Committeewoman

·      Lucy Garner: Charlotte County Committeeman

·      Thomas Garner, Charlotte County Committeewoman

·      Thomas Byrd, Bay County Committeeman

·      Patricia Byrd, Bay County Committeewoman

·      Diane Krumel, Escambia County Committeewoman

·      David Dew, Martin County Committeeman and Chair of the Small County Coalition of FL

·      Brad Culverhouse, St. Lucie County Committeeman

·      Cong. Ted Deutch, US Congress

·   ·  Cong. Lois Frankel, US Congress

·      Cong. Alcee Hastings, US Congress

·      Volusia Councilwoman Joyce Cusack, State Executive Committee

·      Joseph Falk, State Executive Committee

·      State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, State Executive Committee

·      Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, State Executive Committee

·      Rep. Janet Cruz, Florida State House Democratic Leader

·      Andy Tobias, State Executive Committee

·      Carlos Odio, State Executive Committee

·     Miami-Dade Democratic Party (Bittel gets a vote as state committeeman)

·      Escambia Democratic Party steering committee (the party itself doesn't get a vote)

 

 

January 04, 2017

Florida Democratic Party chair candidate Stephen Bittel subject of eligibility complaint

 

Combo1bittelbullard

@amysherman

A group of Miami-Dade Democrats filed a grievance Tuesday alleging that the county party violated rules when it elected Stephen Bittel as state committeeman, a prerequisite for him to run for chair of the Florida Democratic Party.

The grievance, signed by 13 Democrats, relates to various procedures used at two meetings leading up to Bittel winning the state committeeman spot.

On Dec. 6th, Bret Berlin won the state committeeman post but them quickly stepped down to make way for Bittel to run on Dec. 20th. 

Bittel, a wealthy donor and Coconut Grove developer, is one of five candidates running for Florida Democratic Party chair. The other candidates are activist Alan Clendenin, former state Sen. Dwight Bullard, Duval County's Lisa King and Oscela chair Leah Carius.

The race to replace Allison Tant as chair has been filled with drama -- and the latest grievance filed by the state party is no exception. It includes allegations about an "invalid midnight motion" and "stuffing the ballot box" and conflicts of interest.  

Most of the allegations relate to procedural issues such as whether a quorum was met. The letter alleges that some Democrats who traveled hundreds of miles were "physically barred" from entering the room.

The grievance also alleges that Juan Cuba, the newly elected county chair and former executive director, has unfairly favored Bittel because "Bittel has been funding Cuba's salary." Bittel has given thousands to the county and state party. Cuba was paid through the county party when he was a consultant in the past and was paid through the state party when he was the executive director. 

"Because of the rules violations outlined below, we strongly believe that this election must be immediately overturned," wrote the Democrats who signed the letter including Zenia Perez, who was the interim rules chair, and Erika Grohoski, outreach chair. "We do not raise these concerns out of malice or to discourage inclusiveness. We simply want to enforce our rules to ensure fair play, and to build a party that earns and respects the trust of our voters."

Cuba has said the county party followed the rules at the meetings.

"Everyone had an opportunity to be heard," he said. "Despite efforts to disrupt the meeting, an election was held and the membership overwhelmingly voted for Stephen Bittel to be the next state committeemen. We had an election attorney at the meeting to ensure bylaws and procedures were not violated."

Bruce Jacobs, a lawyer and rules committee member at the DNC who represents Bullard, sent a similar letter of complaint to the state party. 

The state party rules committee is expected to act on the challenges to eligibility on Jan. 13th, one day before the chair vote in Orlando. The committee will also examine a complaint about the  Clendenin's residency. After Clendenin lost a state committeeman election in Hillsborough County he moved into a rented trailer in Bradford County and won a similar spot there.

Bullard made a similar maneuver: after he lost a state committeeman race to Bittel in Miami-Dade he moved to Gadsden County. 

Bullard's voter registration form initially showed he moved to 36 Lanier Lane in Gretna. When the Miami Herald pointed out to the elections office that the address didn't exist in property records, an elections official later said the address is actually 32 Lanier Lane.

Bullard told the Miami Herald today that he is renting in Gretna and if he wins the chair job he will quit his Miami-Dade school teaching job and may move to Gretna or maintain both residences.

Bullard said Democrats in northern Florida reached out and encouraged him to run in Gadsden.

"They were really disappointed in the shenanigans around the Miami-Dade election," he said. "They granted me another opportunity and I decided to take it."

 This post has been updated to include comments from Bullard. Photo of Bittel on the left and Bullard on the right.