August 10, 2016

Broward activist ejected from Democratic club meeting for confronting Patrick Murphy



A liberal activist in Broward County was booted from a local Democratic club meeting Tuesday night after confronting U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy about why Murphy won’t debate his primary opponent, Alan Grayson.

Joe Kreps, a Grayson supporter from Plantation, challenged Murphy to explain why he backed out of the debate with Grayson this week, the only one planned ahead of the Aug. 30 primary.

“All I wanted was an answer to my question.... It’s got to stop. Somebody’s got to stand up and say, ‘stop hiding,’” Kreps said.

But others at the Plantation Democratic Club’s meeting — which included a friendly audience of Murphy supporters — said Kreps was out of line for forcing his question on the Jupiter congressman. The club’s acting president, Ralph Rickel, on Wednesday admonished Kreps as “a real wackadoo” and an embarrassment.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Murphy U.S. Senate campaign

With few public events, Patrick Murphy under fire for avoiding voters

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Democrat Patrick Murphy talks often about needing to introduce himself to Florida voters. To illustrate his efforts, the U.S. Senate candidate has, for months, claimed an aggressive campaign schedule — “dozens and dozens” of events from Key West to Pensacola in the past year.

But this summer, the Jupiter congressman has actually had relatively few public campaign stops — prompting opponents to accuse him of hiding from voters with less than three weeks to go before the Aug. 30 primary and as mail-in ballots are already being cast.

Based on media reports, campaign announcements and social media posts by Murphy, the Herald/Times identified just 14 campaign events Murphy has made publicly known between June 1 and Aug. 9. More than half of those were since July 25, the week of the Democratic National Convention when Murphy ramped up his campaign.

By comparison, Republican Marco Rubio has had at least 23 public events since July 18, and Democrat Alan Grayson has had at least 27 campaign stops since July 3.

More here.

Photo credit: AP

August 09, 2016

Patrick Murphy to speak to Democrats in Broward County


Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy is addressing a Democratic club in Broward County tonight.

Murphy is poised to give a short speech and possibly take questions from audience members during the Plantation Democratic Club's monthly meeting.

The event starts at 7 p.m. at the Diecke Auditorium at Hoffman Park in Plantation.

This will be the third local Democratic club Murphy has spoken to in the past couple weeks, as he ramps up his public presence on the campaign trail ahead of the Aug. 30 primary. In late July, he addressed the Democratic Women's Club of Bay County in Panama City and the Marion County Democratic Party in Ocala.

August 08, 2016

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer endorses Patrick Murphy


Orlando's Democratic mayor, Buddy Dyer, has endorsed Patrick Murphy in Florida's U.S. Senate race.

The endorsement adds to the plethora of establishment backers that the Jupiter congressman has, and it's notable because Murphy's main rival in the upcoming Aug. 30 primary -- fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson -- lives in and represents parts of Dyer's city.

The Orlando mayor hailed Murphy as "the leader that my city and our state needs in the U.S. Senate."

"More than ever, we need leadership from our next U.S. Senator and I know that Patrick is the man for the job," Dyer said in a statement released by Murphy's campaign.

August 06, 2016

DNC emails reveal controversial reputation of South Florida billionaire


While prominent Democrats from Hillary Clinton on down regularly mock Donald Trump in public, he's not the only wealthy commercial real estate developer to be ridiculed by party operatives.

Stephen Bittel, a Miami Beach businessman who owns and operates more than $1 billion in real estate in South Florida and beyond, isn't the most popular fellow at the Democratic National Committee despite his large donations to the party.

A few of the DNC emails released last month by Wikileaks, which prompted the resignation of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz as chairwoman, contain trash-talking about Bittel among folks at top levels of its massive fundraising operation.

Bittel, who is co-chairman of the party's national finance committee, is cited in several emails looking ahead to a May 18 meeting of President Barack Obama with the Coconut Grove resident and a small group of other big donors at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington.

Two days before the event, DNC national finance director Jordan Kaplan and his Mid-Atlantic deputy Alexandra Shapiro were fretting about where to seat Bittel.

"Bittel said this morning he was coming so just plan on it, but he doesn't sit next to POTUS!" Kaplan told Shapiro.

POTUS is the Secret Service code name for President of the United States.

Shapiro quickly responded: "Yes -- Bittel will be sitting in the s-------t corner I can find."

The next day, in another email about seating for the elite fundraiser, Shapiro provided an update to Zach Allen, another DNC regional finance director.

Shapiro zeroed in on Bittel and Henry R. Munoz, a prominent San Antonio architect who is also co-chairman of the DNC national finance committee.

"So Henry and Bittel are both coming to the roundtable (with Obama) as punishment for something I did in a past life," she emailed Allen.

The two operatives mused about seating Bittel next to DNC finance vice chairman Chris Lowe and his wife, comedy writer Bonnie Datt.

"LOL, Chris and Bonnie think Bittel is a character," Allen told Shapiro. "So if you want to go that route, let me know so I can at least forewarn them but they'll be fine and if it makes your life easier, all the better."

In apparent reference to both Bittel and Munoz, Allen added: "I'm sorry you're having to deal with them."

Bittel, chairman of Terranova Corp., is a friend of Wasserman Schultz. He hosted a dinner for her at a Philadelphia restaurant during the Democratic National Convention shortly after she resigned as DNC head.

The Weston lawmaker quit the top Democratic post after some of the emails revealed disparaging comments by DNC aides about Sen. Bernie Sanders, who former Secretary of State Clinton bested to win the Democratic presidential nomination.

In a separate email exchange, Chadwick Rivard, a top DNC researcher, warned White House aide Bobby Schmuck about another donor with South Florida ties.

Coping the email to a half dozen other DNC operatives, Rivard sent Schmuck a long background description of Palm Beach billionaire George Lindemann Jr., board president of the Bass Museum in Miami Beach who was once an Olympic equestrian hopeful as a highly skilled horse rider.

The biography, part of which came from the Lexis-Nexis database, included Lindemann's 1995 conviction on three counts of wire fraud. That case resulted from a federal probe that found 50 horses had been killed over two decades in acts of insurance fraud.

Lindemann, who has donated to Republican and Democratic politicians, received a 33-month term in federal prison for his role in the scheme.

DNC compliance director Alan Reed, who'd been copied on Rivard's email, rendered his verdict on Lindemann two hours later.

"I vote fail....again," Reed wrote.

To browse the entire Wikileaks trove of 19,252 DNC emails, click here:


Patrick Murphy won't commit to town-hall meetings


While Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson plans to host a town-hall meeting in Miami Dade County on Saturday afternoon, his main primary opponent, Patrick Murphy, won't commit to holding any for his campaign.

"We've been doing all sorts of events, as you've seen here," Murphy said Friday afternoon -- following a private fundraiser and an unannounced campaign stop with Vice President Joe Biden at a small, local restaurant, which was largely occupied by invited guests and Democratic supporters of Murphy's.

"I've been doing dozens and dozens of events around the state, all sorts of sizes, meeting as many people as humanly possible," said Murphy, a two-term congressman from Jupiter, who's the front-runner in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate and the party establishment's favored choice.

When pressed on whether town-hall meetings, specifically, were in his plans, Murphy said: "Call them whatever you want. We meet people all the time, doing events, going to restaurants like this. I'm running a grassroots campaign, going left to right, up and down from Key West to Pensacola, meeting people."

Murphy offered a similar non-committal answer to a Times reporter on Thursday -- a day after Murphy backed out of the only scheduled debate with Grayson ahead of the Aug. 30 primary. (Murphy said he didn't want to give Grayson a platform for his campaign, because Grayson's ex-wife recently accused him of domestic abuse during their 25-year marriage that was annulled last year.)

Aside from the Biden events, Murphy's campaign announced just two events this week, both on Thursday: a press conference in Tampa announcing the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and an Orlando press conference with a parent of a Pulse shooting victim to criticize Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio over gun control reform.

Town-hall meetings typically involve an elected official or politician interacting directly with their constituents by taking their questions and providing answers in a public setting with an audience.

Grayson is from Orlando. His event on Saturday begins at 4 p.m. at the Stadium Hotel in Miami Gardens. The topic is on the Zika virus -- for which Miami is Ground Zero for the first local transmissions in the U.S. -- and what Grayson calls "the wholly inadequate public health response from the federal government and state of Florida."

Photo credit: Walter Michot / Miami Herald

August 05, 2016

Joe Biden: Democrats have 'a genuine quality candidate' in Patrick Murphy

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The last time Vice President Joe Biden was in Florida campaigning for Patrick Murphy, the dynamics of the state's high-profile U.S. Senate race were very different.

That was in mid-May.

Before incumbent Republican Marco Rubio decided to seek re-election after all -- up-ending the status quo of Florida's Senate race.

And before Murphy's campaign took a hit from multiple media reports that revealed Murphy had inflated his academic and professional credentials by either incorrectly stating them or by omitting a full explanation of his pre-congressional experience.

Murphy remains the Democratic front-runner out of a field of five, but in hypothetical match-ups against Rubio, Murphy is now behind by double-digits, instead of edging out the Republican pack as he was before Rubio jumped in.

But what hasn't changed since Biden's last visit is Biden's glowing support for Murphy, a 33-year-old, two-term congressman from Jupiter.

On his third visit to Florida for Murphy since March, Biden on Friday continued to shower Murphy with praise -- touting Murphy's youth and the need for Democrats to take back control of the Senate in November.

"It’s really important that we win back the United States Senate, no matter what the outcome of the presidential -- and I think we’ll do well in the presidential -- but there’s so much at stake in terms of the Senate," Biden said, while speaking to reporters as Murphy and Biden made an unannounced stop at O'leans Cafe across the street from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee on Friday afternoon.

"I feel pretty good across the board, starting off, because I think we got a quality candidate, a genuine quality candidate," Biden said of Murphy.

When a Herald/Times reporter asked Biden for his thoughts on the media reports about Murphy's embellishments, Biden was quick to defend Murphy and dismiss the issue.

Continue reading "Joe Biden: Democrats have 'a genuine quality candidate' in Patrick Murphy" »

August 04, 2016

Biden fundraising Friday in Miami for Wasserman Schultz, in Tallahassee for Patrick Murphy

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For the third time since March, Vice President Joe Biden is returning to Florida to campaign for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy — this time in Tallahassee.

A source close to Murphy’s campaign confirmed to the Herald/Times that Murphy and Biden are scheduled to attend a fundraiser together around midday Friday at the home of Don Hinkle, a Tallahassee personal injury attorney and prominent Democratic donor.

No details are available about any public campaign stops Murphy and Biden might make while the pair spend the afternoon in Florida’s capital city.

But Biden’s prior campaign trips with Murphy — first in Miami and then in Orlando — included an unannounced stop at a local restaurant.

After traveling to Tallahassee, Biden will fly to Miami to headline a a fundraiser in Coconut Grove for beleaguered Weston U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who last week resigned her post as Democratic National Committee chairwoman amid controversy over leaked emails.

More here.

Photo credit: Vice President Joe Biden campaigns with Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy at an Orlando restaurant in mid-May. Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

Patrick Murphy vows to make himself available to voters, even without debate


Via @adawsonwrites

YBOR CITY — U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy defended his decision to cancel a debate in his bid for the Senate and said he still will put himself out for questioning through other campaign forums.

Asked for specifics during an appearance Thursday, Murphy mentioned only campaign events scheduled in the next few days — a newspaper editorial board meeting, a news conference on gun violence in Orlando and a fund-raising event in Tallahassee.

He did not answer directly when asked whether he will schedule public town halls.

"I've been traveling the state for over a year now, zig-zagging, doing dozens and dozens of events, some big, some small," Murphy said during an appearance at Hillsborough Community College's Ybor City campus, where U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa endorsed him. "I'm going to continue to be out there."

Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, stood by his decision to cancel a debate scheduled before the Aug. 30 primary with fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson. Murphy said allegations Grayson had abused his ex-wife should disqualify him from public service.

"The truth is I've been hearing from so many survivors, individuals and groups saying 'Patrick, you cannot give Congressman Grayson this platform to legitimize his campaign,'" Murphy said. "To continue letting him have a voice while so many people are suffering out there, I couldn't, in good conscience, do that."

There are three other candidates in the Democratic primary but they were not invited to the now-cancelled debate. That was the decision of the debate sponsor, WFTV Channel 9 in Orlando, and was based on their low polling numbers, Murphy said.

Murphy had rejected earlier calls from the three candidates for more debates before the primary.

"We agreed to a debate with Congressman Grayson 10 days ago, and the only thing that's changed from that point till now are allegations of 20 years of domestic violence," Murphy said.

Photo credit: Anastasia Dawson / Tampa Bay Times

Florida Democrats hire new political director


The Florida Democratic Party announced today that it has hired Mayra Macias as its political director.

Macias previously worked for the state party as its Hispanic outreach coordinator for South Florida and then as its deputy political director. She left Florida for a Capitol Hill Fellowship, where she worked for Connecticut U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro.

“We are thrilled to welcome Mayra back to the team,” party chairwoman Allison Tant said in a statement. “Mayra’s talent and ability have played a crucial role in helping us win races across the state. Her work to empower communities and build winning coalitions has been a source of inspiration and I look forward to her continued success as our Political Director.”

Macias said she was "excited to rejoin Chair Tant and the Florida Democratic Party as we work to keep Florida blue for Hillary Clinton and deliver Democratic victories up and down the ballot."

"I look forward to building on our successes over the last four years in a way that is inclusive of all our communities and highlights the diversity of our great state," she said.