September 23, 2016

Can Zika aid bill overcome its DC partisan past?



WASHINGTON Senate Republican leaders revealed what they called a breakthrough in Zika funding Thursday under renewed pressure from Florida lawmakers and mayors to break a seven-month political impasse.

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Democrats, however, said disputes over funding other urgent needs could still block any final deal, with the Zika money now part of a larger appropriations measure meant to fund the federal government through Dec. 9.

Just a few hours after Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine met with South Florida members of Congress and visited the White House to push for the stalled Zika money, the Senate Republicans disclosed the new Zika effort.

For more, read here:

Photo credit: C. M. Guerrero, El Nuevo Herald


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Marco Rubio, Republicans use Iran to attack Patrick Murphy on foreign policy

Murphy _ ap


For months, Republicans have hammered Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy for his support of the Obama administration when it comes to Iran policy, and those attacks escalated overnight after Murphy voted with House Democrats to oppose a ban on future cash payments to the Middle East nation.

GOP groups, including Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio, are using Thursday night's vote to characterize the Jupiter congressman as "weak" on national security, but Murphy, like other Democrats, argue Republicans are merely playing politics.

The debate stems from revelations this summer that the U.S. paid $400 million to Iran as part of a decades-old settlement on the same day four American prisoners were released from the country. Republicans have described the transaction as a "ransom" payment, a characterization the Obama administration disputes.

In response to that controversy, though, the Republican-led House on Thursday passed a bill -- mostly along partylines with Democrats, like Murphy, opposed -- that would prohibit cash payments to Iran and require congressional notification for any future settlement transactions.

MORE from McClatchy DC: "House approves legislation prohibiting cash payments to Iran"

When asked by the Herald/Times why Murphy opposed the bill, his congressional spokeswoman Erin Moffet initially did not specify the reason for Murphy's vote, but then later explained his position in a follow-up statement.

"It is not in our nation's best interest to tie this and the next president's hands from being able to settle claims, which this politically motivated bill would do by preventing the U.S. government from making future payments – even if required by law," Moffet said.

Continue reading "Marco Rubio, Republicans use Iran to attack Patrick Murphy on foreign policy" »

Labor unions' new attack ad criticizes Marco Rubio's 'priorities'



Two liberal labor unions have teamed up to launch a new attack ad on Friday that criticizes Republican incumbent Marco Rubio's legislative "priorities" and casts him as out of touch with Floridians.

The ad from AFSCME People and AFT Solidarity accuses Rubio of favoring cuts to Social Security and Medicare and also says he "voted to slash school funding by billions of dollars and would eliminate the Department of Education."

MORE: "Fact-checking Democratic attacks on Marco Rubio's statements on Social Security and Medicare"

The 30-second spot will air in the Tampa and Orlando media markets through the end of the month, AFSCME PEOPLE said. AFCSME and AFT's political committees are jointly funding the $1.3 million ad buy. 

Both of the labor unions support Rubio's opponent, Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

"Marco Rubio is more concerned with his chances to run for president in 2020 than to tackle the issues that Floridians care about as proven by his dismal record when he actually does show up for work," Shirin Bidel-Niyat, AFSCME’s assistant director of political action, said in a statement. "This ad reminds voters of something they want so badly to forget: Marco Rubio is only out for Marco Rubio, not for their families and their communities."

But Rubio's campaign spokesman Michael Ahrens fired back, saying "Patrick Murphy's liberal supporters are distorting Marco's positions, just like Murphy distorted his own résumé."

Ahrens reiterated a previous statement from the campaign, noting that Rubio's mother relies on Social Security and "Marco would never do anything to hurt his mother or the millions of Florida seniors who depend on Social Security and Medicare."

"Marco also believes our children are best served by an education system that's run by Floridians at the state and local level, not by the federal government bureaucrats who bankroll Patrick Murphy's campaign and paid for this false attack ad," Ahrens added.

For AFSCME PEOPLE, the ad represents the second wave of $1.8 million the union plans to spend on TV ads in Florida's U.S. Senate race. The union's first ad -- a joint operation with the Senate Majority PAC -- also criticized Rubio over entitlement programs. PolitiFact rated the claims in that ad "Half True."

Here's the unions' ad:

Image credit: AFSCME PEOPLE / YouTube

*This post has been updated with comment from the Rubio campaign.

September 22, 2016

Suffolk poll: Rubio leads Murphy, 43% to 34%

Rubio_herald jose iglesias


A new poll out Thursday by Suffolk University shows Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio leading his Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy by 9 percentage points in Florida's U.S. Senate race.

Out of 500 likely Florida voters surveyed Sept. 19-21, the Suffolk poll found 43 percent supported Rubio, compared to 34 percent backing Murphy.

About 17 percent were undecided, and the rest either didn't answer or preferred another candidate. The results had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Compared to the last Suffolk poll in Florida done a month before the Aug. 30 primary, Rubio's lead over Murphy has narrowed slightly. In that survey, Rubio led Murphy by 13 percentage points.

Rubio has been ahead of Murphy in most every poll since June, with an average advantage of about 6.1 percentage points, according to Real Clear Politics.

Photo credit: Jose Iglesias / El Nuevo Herald

Americans for Prosperity doubles down on Patrick Murphy attack with new mailer



Through a new mail-piece arriving in Floridian voters' mailboxes this week, Americans for Prosperity continues its criticism of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy and his "questionable ties" to special interests.

AFP hones in on Murphy's congressional support for the EB-5 visa program -- which has been used, in some cases, to help finance high-profile South Florida projects that have involved Murphy's family construction company and other Murphy campaign donors. (More here.)

The direct-mail campaign echoes a recent TV ad AFP aired on the same topic. The mailer -- which is viewable here -- should reach more than 900,000 Florida households, according to AFP, a national conservative advocacy group, funded by the Koch Brothers.

"The only ‘record’ Murphy has to show for his time in Congress is one of repeatedly using his position for self-gain," AFP-Florida state director Chris Hudson said in a statement. "Floridians deserve a senator who will fight for them, not one who simply views the office as another line on his bloated resume. Americans for Prosperity-Florida is working around the clock to make sure this message is heard loud and clear."

AFP -- and other elements of the Koch brothers' network -- support Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio.

When AFP began this line of attack against Murphy earlier this month, the congressman's campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen responded by calling the criticism "ironic" because she said Rubio "votes with (the Koch brothers') priorities 98 percent of the time in the U.S. Senate."

Image credit: AFP-FL

Rubio accepts more U.S. Senate debate invitations, as Murphy quietly declines some

Rubio murphy

With Democrat Patrick Murphy quietly declining debates proposed by two of Florida’s largest newspapers and Republican incumbent Marco Rubio adding two other debates to his list of acceptable possibilities, Florida’s top U.S. Senate candidates are no closer to mutually agreeing to more debates before Election Day.

Murphy and Rubio have so far committed to only two events together: a debate on Oct. 17 in Orlando and another in Davie on Oct. 26.

Both campaigns say publicly that they’re open to potential compromise, but the odds of that being anything more than political posturing are slim. Neither Rubio nor Murphy is giving an inch, but each continues to accuse the other of ducking ample chances to debate.

Rubio has accepted at least eight invitations to debate Murphy. He added two this week: one from Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace and another from the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute and WJXT Channel 4.

Neither of those events have confirmed dates — a detail that would require negotiations with Murphy’s campaign, which hasn’t come to the table. It’s unlikely Murphy would accept the Fox News debate, though, because the cable news channel caters to a conservative audience.

Meanwhile, Murphy is holding steadfast to his commitment of three debates and one candidate forum, which he announced last week. Rubio seems equally unwilling to hash out details over one of those debates and the forum, citing concerns of bias in Murphy’s favor.

“[Rubio’s] ask for six debates was clearly disingenuous since he is now afraid to even do four,” Murphy spokesman Joshua Karp said. “Marco Rubio is only out for himself, using a political strategy to serve his campaign instead of the voters.”

Yet Murphy is employing campaign strategy over debates, too.

Karp said early Tuesday that Murphy hasn’t “made any other announcements or decisions regarding debates,” but the Jupiter congressman’s campaign quietly has.

Read more here.

Photo credit: AP / The Palm Beach Post

September 21, 2016

Fox News wants to host a Florida U.S. Senate debate


Fox News Channel wants to host a televised U.S. Senate debate between Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and his Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy -- a recognition of how high-profile Florida's contest remains.

A date for the potential debate, which would be moderated by anchor Chris Wallace, hasn't been determined. (Wallace is also hosting the third and final presidential debate on Oct. 19.)

Rubio's campaign accepted the invitation, but it's unlikely Murphy's will. Fox News is known for catering to a conservative audience, and Murphy's campaign, meanwhile, is holding steadfast to its list of three debates and a candidate forum that the Jupiter congressman has agreed to attend.

Murphy and Rubio have mutually agreed to only two debates so far, although Rubio is pushing for six. Their campaigns continue to criticize each other for avoiding more chances to debate. 

Also this week, though, Rubio's campaign agreed to a debate proposed by Jacksonville University's Public Policy Institute and WJXT Channel 4 in Jacksonville -- bringing his total of accepted events to eight.

The Institute suggested Oct. 18 for the event, but Rubio's campaign didn't commit to a date. Murphy's campaign hasn't responded to the invitation, institute director Rick Mullaney said.

"We are hopeful the Murphy campaign will also commit to the debate and we are looking forward to hearing back from them," Mullaney said.

NRSC releases Spanish-language version of Murphy attack ad



Senate Republicans' campaign committee on Wednesday released a Spanish-language version of a recent ad attacking Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy over his professional experience.

You can read more about the ad's message here from our previous coverage and about the problematic claims it includes here from PolitiFact. The independent fact-checking website found it's "too extreme" to say Murphy "never" worked as a CPA or as a small business owner.

Both versions of the ad from the National Republican Senatorial Committee mirror one another with one key difference: The final line.

The English-language version ends with the narrator saying: "Patrick Murphy: We just can't trust him." But the Spanish-language version concludes by saying essentially that "Patrick Murphy is a great teller of tales" -- a play on words for the Spanish word contador, which means "accountant" but also means "someone who tells (a story)."

The 30-second ad will run in Tampa and Orlando, the NRSC said.

When the NRSC released the English-language version last week (called "Revealed"), Murphy campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen said: "All the NRSC has 'revealed' in this ad is repeated lies, which have been rated 'mostly false' by PolitiFact."

The NRSC has committed $4.8 million on TV ads in Florida through Oct. 2, and the group could spend even more in the final month of the campaign season.

Here's the Spanish-language version of the NRSC ad:

Herald politics writer Patricia Mazzei contributed to this story.

Image credit: NRSC / YouTube

September 20, 2016

Watch Pam Bondi answer questions about Trump donation


After weeks of silence on the issue, Florida's Attorney General Pam Bondi answered questions for more than 15 minutes Tuesday morning about a controversial $25,000 campaign donation she previously accepted from Donald Trump, as her office fielded a complaint about his Trump University real estate seminars.

Bondi convened the press conference shortly before the Florida Cabinet's monthly meeting at the Capitol in Tallahassee.

Watch her comments and answers to reporters' questions in the videos below, and read the full story here.

New Murphy ad calls Rubio 'reckless on choice'



Hot off announcing an endorsement from Planned Parenthood earlier today, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy is launching a new TV ad this afternoon that highlights his and Marco Rubio's contrasting viewpoints on abortion.

Murphy's ad slams the incumbent Republican U.S. senator for being "reckless on choice."

The 30-second spot highlights Murphy's new endorsement from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and mentions he is "100 percent pro-choice," while Rubio specifically opposes exceptions for abortion in the cases of rape, incest or for pregnant women infected with the Zika virus.

Murphy's campaign says the ad will run statewide as part of a "seven-figure" buy.

"Marco Rubio is reckless on a woman's right to choose, radical in his attacks on women’s health funding, and irresponsible in his anti-woman rhetoric," Murphy said in a campaign statement. "Florida women deserve a senator who will stand up for their right to make their down health care decisions."

In response to Planned Parenthood's endorsement of Murphy today, Rubio's campaign said in an earlier statement that Murphy was "leaning on liberal interest groups to prop him up," because his campaign "is floundering."

As for Murphy's new ad, Rubio spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said, "Patrick Murphy is distorting Marco's record like he distorted his own resume."

"Not only does Murphy support using taxpayer money to fund abortions, he also supports late-term abortions. Murphy's extreme positions on abortion put him out of touch with the vast majority of Floridians," Perez-Cubas said.

Here's Murphy's new ad:

Image credit: Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign / YouTube

*This post has been updated with comment from Rubio's campaign.