May 13, 2016

Joe Biden: Patrick Murphy is a 'raw talent'

@ByKristenMClark

During his lunchtime visit to a soul-food restaurant in downtown Orlando on Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden casually greeted adoring fans, while helping promote the U.S. Senate candidacy of Democrat Patrick Murphy.

Biden described the Jupiter congressman as "the real deal" and a "raw talent."

Speaking to reporters briefly, Biden addressed the contentious Democratic primary in which Murphy faces fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson -- whose Orlando-based district was just three miles to the east.

"It wasn't about Alan; it was about the caliber of this guy," Biden said. "We need people in the Senate who can bring people together."

(Grayson, known nationally as a progressive firebrand, isn't afraid to say bluntly how he feels about other politicians, even within his own party.)

Biden reflected on his own time in the U.S. Senate -- saying how getting to know colleagues across the aisle was more effective and made it "hard to demonize" opponents.

Watch his remarks below, and click here to read more of our coverage.

May 12, 2016

Joe Biden charms while campaigning for Patrick Murphy in Orlando

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@ByKristenMClark

ORLANDO -- Vice President Joe Biden charmed a crowded restaurant in downtown Orlando this morning, lending his political stardom once again to the U.S. Senate campaign of Democrat Patrick Murphy.

As Biden entered to small cheers from an expectant audience, the ever-charismatic politician joked to the 75 people gathered at Chef Eddie's restaurant: "Look, I hope you're all eating because what I don't want to have happen is the waitresses (get) angry because they're not getting tips because I'm here!"

Much as he did at a Miami restaurant while campaigning for Murphy two months ago, Biden worked the room with magnetic energy. He shook hands, offered hugs, snapped selfies and greeted every stranger as if they were old friends.

Murphy, a two-term Democratic congressman from Jupiter, seemed to struggle for the spotlight. He often lingered in Biden's metaphorical shadow -- even helping to take a photo of Biden and some of his admirers at one point. But Murphy was also able to introduce himself and chat with some of the guests, at least a few of whom seemed to be friends or acquaintances of Murphy's.

Dolled up in suits and dresses, most of the crowd seemed to be invited guests -- not average diners who'd happened to stop by the restaurant for some of its casual soul-food. All but a handful waited with reporters for over an hour before Murphy and Biden arrived.

Continue reading "Joe Biden charms while campaigning for Patrick Murphy in Orlando" »

Competitive South Florida state Senate seats bring in more big bucks

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@ByKristenMClark

Three contested state Senate seats in Miami-Dade County are continuing to attract a lot of cash, new campaign finance reports released this week show.

The fierce battle between current Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and Democrat Andrew Korge in District 39 -- already the most expensive Senate race in the state by March -- continued to produce significant fundraising for both candidates in April.

But it was Miami Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla who had the strongest fundraising among the county's most competitive races last month.

Continue reading "Competitive South Florida state Senate seats bring in more big bucks" »

May 11, 2016

Joe Biden campaigning again for Patrick Murphy

@ByKristenMClark

For the second time this spring, Vice President Joe Biden is campaigning for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy in Florida.

But this time, it'll be on the turf of Murphy's Democratic opponent -- in Orlando.

Biden's official schedule for Thursday has him delivering remarks at 10 a.m. at an event for Murphy, which is being held "at a private residence."

After a speech in Tampa this morning, Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, came to Orlando this afternoon to attend the 2016 Invictus Games.

The Bidens are staying overnight in Orlando for the event with Murphy, before leaving Florida on Thursday afternoon to go to Wilmington, Delaware, according to the vice president's official schedule.

Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, is in a fierce primary contest with fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, who lives in Orlando and whose congressional district represents part of the city. .

In late March, Biden headlined a luncheon fundraiser for Murphy in Miami-Dade County, after which the pair made a brief appearance at a restaurant in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood.

Biden's repeated presence in Florida is symbolic of both the significance of the U.S. Senate race here and the Democratic establishment's fervent support of Murphy over Grayson in the Aug. 30 primary.

The Senate seat being vacated by Republican Marco Rubio is seen as one of a handful of seats nationwide that could flip and, potentially, help Democrats win back control of the chamber.

Top Democrats -- including Biden, President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid -- have lined up behind Murphy's campaign. The lop-sided affair that has become a bit of a flashpoint in the primary contest.

Some of those tensions boiled over on this afternoon, when Grayson -- who has garnered most of his support from progressive leaders and grassroots donors -- confronted Reid during a closed-door progressive caucus meeting in Washington, D.C.

May 10, 2016

Ana Rivas Logan could run for state Senate in Miami-Dade district

@ByKristenMClark

Former state lawmaker and Miami-Dade School Board member Ana Rivas Logan said she's considering coming out of political retirement because she doesn't want to risk Florida Democrats losing a Senate seat in Miami-Dade County to, what she called, a "Trump Republican."

Rivas Logan -- a former Republican who switched to the Democratic Party in 2014 -- is mulling a run for Senate District 40, where current Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, is facing state Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami. Independent Mario Jimenez is also running for the seat.

Rivas Logan says she doesn't expect to make a final decision on her potential candidacy for a couple weeks, but right now "I'm leaning 'yes,'" she said Tuesday.

"I'm very comfortable with what I'm doing now" such as spending time with her family and staying involved in education issues and community activities, Rivas Logan said. "To get back in the game would be a total change of my lifestyle. But I’m so strongly opposed to Trump Republicans, that it just turns my stomach."

Continue reading "Ana Rivas Logan could run for state Senate in Miami-Dade district" »

May 04, 2016

Miami Rep. Frank Artiles 'won't be bullied,' might sue over attack ads

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@ByKristenMClark

As part of an ongoing direct-mail campaign to highlight what it deems as unethical behavior by Florida elected officials, the independent advocacy organization FloridaStrong has gone after several Republican Miami-Dade legislators in recent months.

But one is now fighting back.

State Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, says he plans to sue FloridaStrong because the group's organizers refuse to correct claims they made in a mailer that went out to Artiles' constituents recently and which his attorney said depicts Artiles "in an unfavorable light."

(View the mailer here.)

Artiles, a three-term House member, is currently campaigning for a seat in the Florida Senate, where he wants to represent District 40, which includes part of central Miami-Dade County. He faces current Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, and independent Mario Jimenez in that contest.

"My reputation is very important to me and I will not allow any organization or person to defame, slander and libel me because they think nobody’s going to fight back," Artiles told the Herald/Times. "I truly believe these organizations -- which are funded nationally through special interests -- that if you don't stand up or correct them, you're acquiescing to their bullying. I won’t be bullied by some political hacks."

FloridaStrong's most recent mailer against Artiles alleges that he is a "property appraiser by trade," "voted to raise property taxes on Florida families by $427 million," "received thousands in campaign contributions from the insurance industry" and "voted to privatize Citizens Property Insurance and protect insurance industry profits."

But, in a letter dated April 21, a Tallahassee attorney for Artiles said the claims aren't true. Emmett "Bucky" Mitchell offered point-by-point rebuttals and accused FloridaStrong of making "false statements ... that should be corrected." Or else.

(Read the full letter here.)

Continue reading "Miami Rep. Frank Artiles 'won't be bullied,' might sue over attack ads" »

April 29, 2016

Here are the most vulnerable seats in Florida's congressional delegation

via the Tampa Bay Times' @loujacobson

For the fourth straight election cycle, the Buzz is publishing periodic rankings of the most vulnerable seats in Florida's U.S. House delegation, which includes 17 Republicans and 10 Democrats. This is our first attempt to compile rankings since June 2015 -- and a lot has happened since then.

Thanks to newly redrawn district lines, an open U.S. Senate seat that attracted U.S. House members from both parties, a smattering of retirements, and some primary challenges to incumbents, nearly half of Florida's seats in the U.S. House - 13 out of 27 - are in some type of flux this year.

Despite the delegation's current volatility, though, only a few seats are actually at risk for a party switch in November -- the criteria we use for inclusion this list. Here are the seats we're keeping an eye on, in descending order by how vulnerable the incumbent party is to losing the seat on Election Day.

Continue reading "Here are the most vulnerable seats in Florida's congressional delegation" »

Marco Rubio warming up to Donald Trump

via @learyreports

Note: We've revised the "let's not divide the party" section of this blog to provide more context and to correct an implication that Rubio was directly making that point.

Marco Rubio appears to be warming up to Donald Trump, saying Friday his “performance has improved significantly." Rubio has also continued to withold an endorsement of Ted Cruz, even though he previously praised him as the conservative in the race.

Last Sunday on Univision, Rubio said it appeared Trump will lock down the nomination.

"If he keeps winning delegates like he did the other night in New York, I think he's going to reach that number," Rubio said on Al Punto Florida. "But let's see. There are still other states to go."

Rubio, who continues to hold onto more than 100 delegates, has said he disagreed with Trump about the delegate system being "rigged." But Rubio did echo the argument that if Trump is close to 1,237 delegates, he should get the nod.

“I do think it's valid to argue to delegates: 'Look, let’s not divide the party. You have someone here who has all these votes, very close to get 1,237, let’s not ignore the will of the people or they’re going to be angry.' And delegates may decide that on that reason they decide to vote for Donald Trump. But if they don’t, it’s not illegitimate in any way,” he told Miami radio host Jimmy Cefalo on April 20. "That's why we elect delegates. That's the meaning of being a delegate, is choosing a nominee that can win."

“I’ve always said I’m going to support the Republican nominee, and that’s especially true now that it’s apparent that Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic candidate,” Rubio said. "My differences with Donald Trump are well documented ... ."

On the Saturday before Florida's March 15 primary Rubio was less certain about supporting Trump. "I don't know," he told the Miami Herald, his voice breaking. "Getting harder every day."

U.S. Education Secretary John King, Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam to speak at FAMU graduation

@ByKristenMClark

U.S. Secretary of Education John King and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will deliver the commencement addresses at Florida A&M University on Saturday.

King will speak at the 9 a.m. ceremony, while Putnam is scheduled to speak at the 2 p.m. ceremony. More than 1,200 students are graduating from FAMU this spring.

The ceremonies will be held at the Al Lawson Jr. Multi-Purpose Center on FAMU's campus in Tallahassee and be broadcast live online.

King was appointed by President Barack Obama last year to be the nation's top education official.

Putnam, a Republican and former U.S. congressman, was first elected in 2010 as state agriculture commissioner. He is widely believed to be planning a run for governor in 2018.

Meet Hillary Clinton's new Florida campaign director

via @adamsmithtimes

Simone Ward, former national political director of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, will be the Hillary Clinton campaign's new Florida State Director, overseeing efforts to deliver the state's 27 electoral votes to the former first lady.

She is a well-regarded veteran of Democratic campaigns, having worked worked previously as campaign manager for Natalie Tennant's Senate campaign in West Virginia and everal positions at the Democratic National Committee, including Director of African American Outreach and then National Constituency Director. She was campaign manager for Sen. Barbara Mikulski in Maryland in 2010, and before that worked for Planned Parenthood and EMILY's List.

Her selection is something of a departure from Barack Obama's Florida campaign hires in that Ward has little experience in Florida that we know of. Obama in 2008 hired Steve Schale as his Florida campaign director and in 2012 hired Ashley Walker.

The Clinton campaign has held off an announcing general election campaign hires while focusing on the primary, but the primary is no longer in doubt after Clinton's recent wins.