June 22, 2016

Andrew Korge switches Florida Senate races in Miami-Dade

@ByKristenMClark & @MaryEllenKlas

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In a major shake-up for two of Miami-Dade’s closely watched state Senate races, Democrat Andrew Korge is once again switching which public office he wants voters to elect him to in November.

Instead of challenging Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores in District 39, Korge will now run for the District 40 seat, he told the Herald/Times, confirming rumors that have swirled in South Florida political circles for the past couple weeks.

His decision sets up a three-way Democratic primary in District 40 against former state representative Ana Rivas Logan and current state Sen. Dwight Bullard and all-but-hands Flores her re-election unless Democrats can produce a viable replacement to challenge her with two days left in the qualifying period.

Korge planned to announce his decision Wednesday afternoon, when he filed his qualifying papers in Tallahassee. Candidates have until noon Friday to qualify and thereby secure their places on the August primary or November general election ballots.

“As a third-generation Miamian, it has long been a dream of mine to serve my community as a member of the Florida Senate, to create a better future for our children, to improve public schools and protect college students, and create high-wage jobs for hard-working, middle-class families,” Korge said in a statement. “District 40, where I grew up and spent half of my life, offers the best opportunity to do that.”

More here.

Democrats quick to pounce as Marco Rubio jumps back in Florida U.S. Senate race

@ByKristenMClark

With Marco Rubio announcing today that he'll seek re-election to his U.S. Senate seat after all, Democrats were quick to fire off statements this morning blasting the incumbent for going back on his word -- offering a glimpse at the critical attacks they're likely to lob at Rubio in the months ahead.

"Marco Rubio abandoned his constituents, and now he's treating them like a consolation prize," Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy said in a statement. "Unlike Marco Rubio, I love working hard every single day for the people of Florida. From missing the most votes of any Florida senator in nearly 50 years, to seeking to ban abortion even in cases of rape or incest, to repeatedly voting against closing the terrorist gun loophole, Rubio is proving he is only out for himself."

<<< MORE: "Rubio says yes to another Senate run after all" >>>

Minutes after the news of Rubio's decision broke, Murphy's campaign also sent out an urgent fundraising email -- capping off days of pitches for campaign cash that Murphy has made in the build up to Rubio's decision.

News of Rubio's decision came just a few hours after a new Quinnipiac University poll came out, showing that Rubio is Republicans' best hope by a wide margin of beating either Murphy or fellow Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee -- which endorsed Murphy in the Democratic primary -- similarly blasted Rubio today for his attendance and voting record, his poor showing in Florida's presidential primary in March and his support for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

"Now, he is cravenly using the deadliest mass shooting in American history as the springboard to go back on his word and further his political career," DSCC spokeswoman Sadie Weiner said in a statement. "They said it couldn't be done, but Marco Rubio's actions, words and votes reveal one of the more self-serving Washington politicians who has always put his political career above the people he represents."

On Tuesday in Tallahassee, Grayson told reporters it would be "delightful" to take Rubio on, and in a Facebook post after Rubio's announcement this morning, he added: "Oh, yes, please. Bring it on."

Continue reading "Democrats quick to pounce as Marco Rubio jumps back in Florida U.S. Senate race" »

June 21, 2016

Alan Grayson: It would be 'delightful' to take on 'incompetent' Marco Rubio

@ByKristenMClark

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alan Grayson blasted his potential opponent and current Republican Sen. Marco Rubio as "incompetent" and someone who has "no flare" for the elected office he's in.

"I think it's a delightful situation," the Orlando congressman said Tuesday afternoon of the prospect of facing Rubio, who has yet to decide whether he'll change his mind this week and seek re-election. (The deadline to qualify is noon Friday.)

Grayson made his remarks during a press conference he held in Tallahassee, after filing his paperwork to qualify for the August primary ballot and, then, urging Republican legislative leaders at the Florida Capitol to take up gun control measures after the Orlando shooting last week.

Grayson -- one of five Democrats now seeking Rubio's seat -- slammed the Miami Republican for his lack of productivity in the Senate, saying Rubio has produced only one bill in his five years there. Grayson, who calls himself the "congressman with guts," touted his own record of passing bills and amendments through the U.S. House.

<<< Politifact: "Alan Grayson says he passed more bills and amendments than any other current member" >>>

"I think it's shocking that anybody who is that incompetent -- if I may use that term -- as a legislator would be considered for an extension on his contract, much less a promotion to the presidency," Grayson said. "I was genuinely puzzled why anybody thought he was a plausible candidate for the president because, frankly, he's so bad as a senator."

"Maybe if he showed up more often he could get more things done," Grayson said, referencing Rubio's poor attendance record for which he's been relentlessly criticized. "I don't know why he wants to continue in the job. He doesn't seem to show any interest for it, and for God's sakes, certainly no flare. Maybe he should let somebody else do it for a while who has some ability to get good things done for the people of Florida."

"There's a reason why he's called 'No Show Rubio,' and I'm called the 'most effective member of Congress,' " Grayson added, citing praise he quotes often from Slate magazine in an article that was published three years ago.

Spokespeople for Rubio did not immediately return an email seeking comment this evening.

Grayson is running against U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, Miami labor attorney Pam Keith, Jacksonville attorney Reginald Luster and Orlando businessman "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary.

Alan Grayson calls for Florida Legislature to adopt Connecticut's assault weapons ban

@ByKristenMClark

Attempting symbolic similarity to Martin Luther and his "95 Theses" to the Catholic Church, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson on Tuesday urged the Republican-led Florida Legislature to adopt stricter gun control measures in the aftermath of last week's shooting massacre at a gay nightclub near his district.

The Orlando congressman affixed to the doors of the Florida House and Senate chambers in Tallahassee a summary of the bill analysis for the law Connecticut passed a few months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in that state four years ago. Assault weapons were used in both the Orlando and Newtown tragedies.

"It's much too easy in America today to kill so many people so quickly," Grayson told reporters who captured his photo op in the Florida Capitol. "This bill ended that for people in Connecticut."

He said seven states have adopted either bans or heavy restrictions on assault weapons, and "I think that this state needs to do that."

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, didn't acknowledge Grayson's request when asked for comment by the Herald/Times, but he did slam Grayson for using the Orlando shooting for political gain.

"Last week, our first-responders bravely and selflessly ran into the Pulse nightclub to end the horrible terror attack in Orlando," Crisafulli said in a statement. "That is quite a contrast to Congressman Alan Grayson who is using the same tragedy to run in front of television cameras to gain attention for his floundering U.S. Senate campaign."

Continue reading "Alan Grayson calls for Florida Legislature to adopt Connecticut's assault weapons ban" »

Alan Grayson files to qualify for U.S. Senate race

0621 Grayson files

@ByKristenMClark

Seeking to become the fourth Democrat to qualify for Florida's open U.S. Senate seat, Orlando U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson submitted his candidate paperwork this afternoon at the state Bureau of Elections' office in Tallahassee.

Shortly after noon, Grayson dropped off his $10,440 check to get on the ballot, along with his candidate oath.

Three other Democrats officially qualified on Monday, the first of the five-day window for candidates to qualify for this year's primary and general elections. They were: U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, Jacksonville attorney Reginald Luster and California businessman "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente, a former presidential hopeful who moved to Orlando in March. (Murphy pre-filed by submitting his paperwork two weeks ago.)

Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith -- who, along with Murphy and Grayson, has been actively campaigning for months -- has yet to submit her paperwork. She has until noon Friday to do so.

Before the deadline, there may be other candidates who jump in the race, as well. De La Fuente and Luster only started campaigning for the seat this month, and De La Fuente -- who spent $6 million of his own money on an unsuccessful presidential bid -- could potentially be a wild card in the Senate contest.

On the Republican side, still only Manatee County developer Carlos Beruff and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox had qualified by 2:45 p.m. Tuesday -- as the political world still waits for incumbent Republican Marco Rubio to make a decision on seeking re-election.

Photo credit: U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, submits his paperwork to qualify for Florida's U.S. Senate race on June 21, 2016 at the Florida Bureau of Elections' office in Tallahassee. Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

June 20, 2016

New U.S. Senate candidate didn't register as Democrat in Florida until this afternoon

@ByKristenMClark

Rocky Image 2Former presidential hopeful and newly qualified Democratic U.S. Senate candidate "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente was not a registered Democrat in Florida until this afternoon after the Herald/Times inquired about the status of his voter registration.

Records show De La Fuente registered as a "no party affiliation" voter on March 28, after he moved to Orlando from his hometown of San Diego, Calif. That was his current status as of 2:57 p.m. today, according to an email from the Orange County Supervisor of Elections' office.

As the Herald/Times then made inquiries to De La Fuente's campaign and the San Diego County (Calif.) Registrar of Voters, De La Fuente went to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections' office and changed his affiliation to the Florida Democratic Party.

His amended voter application is time-stamped as received by the office at 3:43 p.m.

But De La Fuente told the Herald/Times in an interview shortly after that that he had corrected his voter registration this morning.

Continue reading "New U.S. Senate candidate didn't register as Democrat in Florida until this afternoon" »

Republican, Democratic fields take shape for Florida U.S. Senate race

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@ByKristenMClark & @MichaelAuslen

Three main contenders for Florida's U.S. Senate seat have officially secured their positions on the party ballots, and a couple newcomers also staked a claim in the race as the qualifying period for Florida's August primary elections began today.

Democrat Patrick Murphy and Republicans Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox all pre-filed their paperwork -- along with a $10,440 check -- earlier this month to qualify for the ballot.

Several other candidates actively campaigning have yet to file -- including several Republicans, and Democrats Alan Grayson and Pam Keith. They have until noon Friday to do so.

The Republican field remains largely in limbo, as uncertainty swirls about whether Sen. Marco Rubio will seek re-election despite promising during his presidential campaign that he would leave the Senate if he lost the March presidential primary.

Rubio has signaled for several weeks a growing change of heart and said last week, in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, that he was re-considering his pledge to become a private citizen again in 2017. He had said he would take this past weekend to consider his options.

Until he announces his plans, other Republican candidates appear to be biding their time. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, had not filed to qualify, as of this afternoon.

Lopez-Cantera, a close friend of Rubio, said he will step aside if the senator runs again. DeSantis has hinted that he also may leave the race if Rubio runs. U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, announced Friday that he will seek re-election to his congressional seat, rather than continuing his Senate campaign.

Meanwhile, the Democratic field grew more crowded with two previously unknown contenders qualifying: Jacksonville attorney Reginald Luster and real estate developer "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente, who still has an active presidential campaign based in San Diego.

Continue reading "Republican, Democratic fields take shape for Florida U.S. Senate race" »

President Obama helps Patrick Murphy in new radio ad

@ByKristenMClark

Signaling a new stage in the Democratic primary for Florida's U.S. Senate race, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy unveiled a new radio ad on Monday that features a heavyweight narrator: President Barack Obama.

"In Congress, I could always count on Patrick to have my back. He’s been there for me when I needed him," Obama says, asking listeners to support Murphy in the Aug. 30 primary.

In the ad -- titled "For What's Right -- Obama also hails Murphy as a "strong progressive," while praising several of his policy positions, such as on Social Security and Medicare, health care and criminal justice reform.

The 60-second spot is paid for by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which endorsed Murphy more than a year ago and is prepared to spend millions on his behalf in the campaign ahead. Florida's seat, currently held by Republican Marco Rubio, could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate next year.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden endorsed Murphy in March. They've also already joined the Jupiter congressman on the campaign trail three times this spring -- Obama and Biden with separate trips to Miami and Biden once by himself in Orlando.

Murphy is competing against fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, and Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith in the U.S. Senate primary.

Listen to the radio ad here:

Continue reading "President Obama helps Patrick Murphy in new radio ad" »

June 18, 2016

Marco Rubio is 'most homophobic' senator, Patrick Murphy says

@ByKristenMClark

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy says it's "appalling" that Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio could be using the Orlando shooting massacre to re-consider his decision to seek re-election this year, especially when Rubio is "the most homophobic senator" in the country, Murphy said.

Although he'd publicly said for months he wouldn't seek re-election, Rubio said on Monday -- the day after the shooting -- that he was "deeply impacted" by the tragedy and that it "gives me pause" to re-evaluate his political future. Then on Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera -- a current Republican U.S. Senate candidate and Rubio's friend -- told Politico that he'd urged Rubio to run for re-election while the two were sitting in Rubio's pick-up truck on Sunday evening, hours after the shooting.

Rubio has said he would take this weekend to think about his options.

Murphy initially avoided a firm answer when asked Saturday whether Rubio was using the terrorist attack as an excuse to run for re-election but Murphy then grew more direct in his answer.

"That's up to the voters ... but I cannot tell you how many phone calls I've received just in the last 48 hours about how appalled people are, especially, especially my friends -- our friends -- in the LGBT community," Murphy said.

"Many of which are actually Republican, right now calling me and saying, 'this is atrocious, this is despicable' that a senator who is one of the most homophobic senators in this country, someone who voted to keep this terrorist gun loophole open, who has a 100 percent voting record with the NRA, I think -- and now all of a sudden is going to use this horrific mass shooting, this act of terrorism, this hate crime to decide to run for the U.S. Senate? "

When pressed for his personal opinion, Murphy said he "certainly" agreed with those callers' assessment that Rubio is the most homophobic senator.

Continue reading "Marco Rubio is 'most homophobic' senator, Patrick Murphy says" »

Patrick Murphy presents criminal justice reform plan

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@ByKristenMClark

Surrounded by two nationally known lawmakers, a couple Florida legislators and almost a dozen community leaders, Florida Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy released on Saturday his policy proposal for criminal justice reform.

Murphy called for laws to "ban the box" on job applications and restore voting rights for ex-felons, improved funding for law enforcement agencies to buy body cameras and other reforms aimed at reducing incarceration rates and helping those who've done time to become productive members of society, instead of returning to crime.

"I'm running for the U.S. Senate because I know we can make a difference on these issues," Murphy said. "We must reduce recidivism by creating a better pathway back into society for formerly incarcerated individuals."

Democratic U.S. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey joined Murphy to announce his proposal during a press conference Saturday afternoon at the Florida Democratic Party's "Leadership Blue" gathering at The Diplomat hotel in Hollywood.

Booker -- who is rumored to be among Hillary Clinton's possible choices for a vice presidential candidate -- is the keynote speaker at the Democrats' fundraising gala Saturday evening. Booker endorsed Murphy more than a year ago.

Also there to support Murphy were Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Fort Lauderdale state Sen. Chris Smith and West Park state Rep. Shevrin Jones.

Photo credit: Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy presents his criminal justice reform plan during a press conference June 18, 2016 at the Florida Democratic Party's "Leadership Blue" gala in Hollywood, FL. He was joined by more than a dozen Democratic supporters, including South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn (left) and (from right) New Jersey U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Florida state Sen. Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.