March 02, 2016

Barack Obama, Joe Biden endorse Patrick Murphy in Florida's U.S. Senate race; Republicans go on the attack



Adding to his lengthy -- and growing -- list of establishment endorsements, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy just landed the two biggest names possible for a Democrat: Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

The president and vice president of the United States are backing Murphy in his bid for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat, Murphy's campaign announced this morning.

And Biden will campaign with Murphy on March 28, the campaign said. Specific details haven't been released yet.

In statements provided by the campaign, both Obama and Biden heaped praise on Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, for his work supporting the middle-class and a host of other issues.

"Patrick has been a tireless champion for middle-class families and a defender of the economic progress that American workers and businesses have made," Obama said in the statement. "In Congress, he's fought to strengthen Medicare and Social Security, reform our criminal justice system, and protect a woman's right to choose. Floridians can count on Patrick Murphy to stand up for them every day as their next Senator."

Biden added, "Patrick Murphy has the progressive values, the work ethic and the youthful energy the U.S. Senate needs. He'll work tirelessly to bring people together to make a difference for Florida's middle class."

The endorsements -- including that compliment -- weren't well-received by Murphy's primary opponent, fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson. The Orlando congressman is a proud and passionate progressive, who's banking on progressives' support to beat Murphy in Florida's Democratic primary in August.

Grayson's campaign said in a statement that Obama's and Biden's endorsements smack of "a last-ditch effort by the D.C. Establishment to try to blunt our large and growing command of the race."

Continue reading "Barack Obama, Joe Biden endorse Patrick Murphy in Florida's U.S. Senate race; Republicans go on the attack" »

March 01, 2016

Jolly, Grayson agree to one-on-one debates in U.S. Senate race; other contenders not invited


Self-declaring as the "clear front-runners" in Florida's contentious U.S. Senate race, Democrat Alan Grayson and Republican David Jolly say they have agreed to a series of head-to-head debates between this month and the November election.

The congressmen's joint announcement capitalizes on the latest Public Policy Polling poll, released earlier today, which found Jolly and Grayson each with more than 25 percent of likely voters' support and with double-digit leads in their respective party primaries.

Grayson told the Herald/Times that none of the other contenders -- Democrat Patrick Murphy and Republicans Ron DeSantis, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox -- was invited because, he said, "nobody else is really in contention."

"We're both polling with double-digit leads and that's been consistent," Grayson said.

However, the PPP poll was far from a decisive declaration of the race. In both the Republican and Democratic contests, almost half of voters polled remain "undecided" -- a consistent theme in other polls on the race for Marco Rubio's open U.S. Senate seat.

The crowded field has meant all of the candidates, particularly on the Republican side, have struggled to stand out.

Grayson said he invited Jolly to do the debates; he said the congressman from Indian Shores "well and ably represents the Republican point of view."

They want the match-ups to be "genuine debates on the major issues of the day" akin to the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Grayson said.

Jolly said the debates will provide the opportunity "to contrast our differing views for the future of Florida and the country."

Continue reading "Jolly, Grayson agree to one-on-one debates in U.S. Senate race; other contenders not invited" »

Rick Scott isn't picking a side in Florida U.S. Senate race that includes his No. 2

via @TMarreroTimes

Gov. Rick Scott is keeping the door shut on an endorsement of his lieutenant governor, who is running in a crowded U.S. Senate race that got a little more crowded this week with the addition of another key ally of the governor’s. 

Carlos Beruff, a wealthy Manatee County developer with Miami roots who served on Scott’s transition team and chaired his Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding, officially announced his candidacy Monday. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has been in the race since July. 

Tuesday, Scott said he has no plans to make an endorsement in a contest that also includes U.S. Reps. David Jolly and Ron DeSantis

“I am not endorsing in the Senate race,” Scott told reporters after a reporter asked if he would consider endorsing Beruff. “There’s a lot of good candidates running. My lieutenant governor’s in that race. Carlos Beruff, I think, entered just in the last couple of days. He was the chairman of my hospital and health care commission and did a good job. My lieutenant governor’s done a great job.”

Scott made the comments after a medal ceremony for veterans in Pinellas Park.

Public Policy Polling’s latest survey found that Lopez-Cantera is trailing both Jolly and DeSantis.

Scott says he hasn't made decision on presidential endorsement and isn't sure he will

via @TMarreroTimes:

As a presidential race of epic proportions continued to rage and voters in 13 states went to the polls for Super Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott seems content to sit on the sidelines, at least for now.

Exactly two weeks before Florida’s March 15 primary, Scott has yet to endorse a candidate in the Republican race. On Tuesday, Scott said he hasn't made a decision and is not sure if he will.

Here are portions of an exchange with reporters after Scott awarded the Governor’s Service Medal to several dozen veterans during a ceremony at the C.W. Bill Young Armed Forces Reserve Center in Pinellas Park.

Reporter: You’ve been rumored to be a possible nominee to run with (frontrunner Donald) Trump. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Scott: I’ve got three years left on this job. By the way, this is a great job. I’ve worked hard to make sure everybody can get a job in our state. We’ve added a million jobs. I’ve got three years left. My goal at the end of this time as governor is people are going to say, "I have to live in Florida because I can get a job, I have to live in Florida because my kids can get a great education and I have to live in Florida because I know I can be safe.”

Reporter: Would you consider endorsing Trump for president?

Scott: I haven’t endorsed anyone in the presidential race to date. I’m not sure if I will. My focus, as you know, is on jobs. We’ve added a million jobs. I’m looking for the best jobs plan. Somebody that’s going to cut our federal debt. Somebody that’s going to cut taxes. Somebody’s that’s going to reduce federal regulation. Somebody that’s going to figure out how to destroy Isis.

Reporter: Have you made a decision that you will endorse, or are you still on the fence about whether you will? If you do, do you have a time frame on when you would?

Scott: I haven’t made a decision on it.

Scott has made known his admiration for Trump, however. In early January, penned a glowing op/ed for USA Today that seemed to all but endorse Trump.

As for Scott getting picked as Trump’s running mate, check out what Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith had to say on that. 


February 19, 2016

Bloomberg reports Alan Grayson's family "profited from 'pariah state' gold mine"

U.S. Senate candidate and current U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, has made headlines this past week because of mounting controversy and criticism over a once-offshore hedge fund he has managed.

Bloomberg Politics is out today with a new report, this time about investments Grayson's children made. The news organization reports Grayson's children previously invested in -- and profited from -- a company that operates a mine in Eritrea, an African country that is accused of using slave labor.

From Bloomberg Politics:

Representative Alan Grayson holds an unusual position as a member of the U.S. Congress, an active investor and manager of a hedge fund.

Now that the wealthy Florida Democrat is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, his investments are becoming a more prominent liability.

Last year, Grayson, who was first elected to Congress in 2008, made a passionate speech denouncing trade with dictatorships or countries that employ forced labor.

But weeks earlier, his family cashed in a long-held investment in a mining company that derives its revenue almost entirely from Eritrea, an east African country labeled "a pariah state" by Human Rights Watch in part for its system of forced labor in service of a government that hasn’t held an election since 1991. Grayson said he wasn’t aware of the 2013 report criticizing the company.

The Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada, has already called on Grayson to drop out of the race, charging that he used his role as a member of Congress to promote his own hedge fund and saying he appeared to have "no moral compass." 

Grayson, 57, is running against fellow Florida Democratic Representative Patrick Murphy, with a primary set for Aug. 30. On Sunday, Murphy also said Grayson should close his hedge fund and even resign if allegations made in the New York Times and the Tampa Bay Times were proved true that his roles as a member of Congress and hedge fund manager had become intertwined. Grayson has denied using his office for personal gain.

Asked last week about the investment in Nevsun Resources Ltd., Grayson says he wasn’t aware of concerns expressed by human rights groups about Nevsun’s mining operations in Eritrea before the stock was sold last year.

Full story here.

UPDATE: 9:55 a.m.

Murphy's campaign released a statement this morning calling on Grayson to donate to charity the profits his family made off its investments in Nevsun.

"Hedge fund manager Alan Grayson profited off of a company accused of using slave labor on a massive scale, and then sponsored legislation condemning those same practices. That kind of shameless hypocrisy is exactly what Floridians hate about Washington," Murphy campaign manager Josh Wolf said. "If Congressman Grayson still knows how to do the right thing, he should donate to charity every penny of his profit from the suffering of innocent people." 

Bloomberg Politics reported that Grayson said he "didn’t know" and "couldn’t have known" about this specific investment.

"If I had known, then I would have divested," Grayson told Bloomberg Politics. "I did actually divest, but I didn’t know when I divested, nor would I have any reason to know that, given the fact that literally thousands of different investments are involved, given the fact that nobody brought it to my attention until I’m in the midst of a competitive campaign."

January 28, 2016

Scott: Don't count Jeb out


Gov. Rick Scott hasn't written off one of his famous predecessor's chances of becoming president.

Scott, in Washington to deliver an address on reforming hospital pricing practices at the American Enterprise Institute, put on his politics hat after the talk.

Scott, governor since 2011, said it's too soon to give up on former Gov. Jeb Bush despite his failure to gain traction in polls.

 "I still think it's early," Scott told the Miami Herald. "I mean, we haven't even done the first primary yet."

Scott said that Bush "was a very successful governor" when he headed the state from 1999 to 2007, noting in particular his education reforms.

"We're at a 12-year high in our K-12 graduation rate," Scott said.

Adding that "Jeb is working hard," Scott said, "The person that works the hardest generally wins."

Despite praising Bush's record in Florida, Scott declined to endorse him. Neither is he endorsing -- yet -- fellow Floridian Marco Rubio, the first-term U.S. senator, nor any of the other Republican presidential hopefuls.

"Like a lot of voters in Florida, I'm watching the candidates," the governor said.

Four days before the Feb.1 Iowa caucuses, Bush tallied just 4 percent in a NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll of that state's Republican voters released Thursday. He was far behind businessman Donald Trump and U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio of Florida, while also trailing neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Bush is faring better in New Hampshire, which will hold its primary Feb. 9, according to a poll released Thursday by Suffolk University. Bush broke out of the single digits with 11 percent, putting him in a second-place tie with Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Rubio, with all four men well behind Trump's 27 percent standing.

In addition to Bush, Scott said he has personal relationships with Rubio, along with Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie through the Republican Governors Association.

Scott criticized the Republican National Committee for having scheduled just nine presidential debates this year.

"I wish the national party hadn't limited the number of debates and limited the locations," he said.

The RNC is weighing three additional possible Republican presidential debates.

The March 10 GOP debate will be at the University of Miami, nine days after Super Tuesday, when 14 states will hold Republican primaries or caucuses. Florida will hold its primary on March 15.

Scott declined to comment directly on Trump's decision to skip Thursday night's Fox News debate because of his ongoing feud with Megyn Kelly, one of its moderators.

"Every candidate's got to think about what's the best forum for them to get their message out, whether it's debates, whether it's town halls," Scott said.


July 25, 2015

Super-lobbyist Ron Book bashes Miami commissioner for 'despicable' behavior on homeless issue (W/AUDIO)


The fierce debate over Miami’s sleeping-mat program for the homeless turned personal on Friday, as Miami-Dade Homeless Trust chairman Ron Book lashed out at city leaders — singling out one commissioner in particular.

Book took aim at Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who spearheaded the mat program. The two men have feuded over whether the county homeless agency should help fund 115 outdoor mats, which are part of a covered pavilion at the Camillus House shelter. Sarnoff says it’s only right that the county chip in; Book says outdoor mats encourage the homeless to stay on the street rather than seek social services, and his agency won’t fund something that’s counterproductive.

The mat program, started last year, runs out of money on Aug. 1.

On Friday, Book said Sarnoff has jumped into the homelessness issue without truly understanding it. And the city of Miami, he said, can’t be trusted.

“They’re never OK, they’re never satisfied, because Marc Sarnoff wants to be nothing but right, and he’s wrong about this, he’s wrong about it,” said Book, who in addition to leading the Homeless Trust is also one of Florida’s most powerful lobbyists.

Book’s angry comments, with his arm repeatedly banging on the table, came during a sit-down meeting with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. The meeting, which was open to the public, was an attempt by Gimenez to broker a deal on the outdoor mat issue.

As Book ripped into Sarnoff — who wasn’t in attendance — Gimenez tried to calm him.

“He thinks he’s right, you think you’re right,” the mayor said.

“He’s no expert!” responded Book, his voice raised. “He parachutes in, he hasn’t done any research, he hasn’t gone to conferences, he doesn’t care, ’cause he wants to be right. ... His behavior is despicable.”

Ron Book speaks with county mayor

More here.

January 07, 2015

The curious case of Dan Webster, a 'plodder, not a prophet'

Via @learyreports

U.S. Rep. Dan Webster of Florida is a "plodder" — his words — and he's maintained that style since arriving in Washington four years ago. But on Tuesday the Republican became the lead protagonist of an attempted coup against House Speaker John Boehner.

"No regrets," Webster said in an interview Wednesday as he and his staff were still consumed by the whirlwind of attention.

Webster did not get enough votes to oust Boehner, but the attempt illustrated rank-and-file dissatisfaction with Republican leadership.

"I felt like I had a message to give and an opportunity to do it, that is I want to have a more member-driven process where every member gets an opportunity to play. Take a pyramid of power where a few people make the decisions, push it down, spread it out," Webster said. "We have a lot of talented people in this Congress and we can avoid a lot of unintended consequences if we just included them."

More here

December 09, 2014

Movers & Shakers

While three secretaries of a major state agency have recently resigned, Gov. Rick Scott has announced the reappointment or promotion of three other administrators this week.

 Elizabeth Dudek will continue to serve as the Secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. Barbara Palmer has been reappointed as director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. And Mike Carroll has been appointed the permanent secretary of the Department of Children and Families after serving as the interim head for nearly eight months.

Dudek has held the AHCA secretary post since March 2011, facing such controversial issues as moving Medicaid into a managed-care program, Obamacare and troubled assisted living facilities.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers" »

December 01, 2014

Richardson the first openly gay representative to hold House leadership post

State Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, has been selected as the Democratic Floor Leader by House Democratic leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, and Democratic Leader pro tempore, Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville. Richardson will be the first openly gay representative in Florida history to serve in a leadership position in the Florida legislature, according to House Democrats. 

Here's the Democrats' press statement:

Richardson, D-Miami Beach, was the first openly gay member ever elected to the Florida Legislature when he was elected on August 14, 2012. Richardson has been a licensed CPA in Florida for 30 years and began his career as a Pentagon auditor identifying fraud, waste and abuse in government contracts. He was re-elected earlier this year to represent House District 113 for his second two-year term and is the only openly gay member of the Florida Legislature. Richardson joins the leadership team that will guide policy and action for House Democrats. As Floor Leader, he will serve as the chief liaison between the Democratic Leader and the Office of the Speaker. Richardson will also serve as ranking member on the House Rules, Calendar & Ethics Committee. In that role, Richardson will work on daily schedules of action for the House. Richardson will also manage, in conjunction with Republican leaders, floor debate on bills and amendments.

Continue reading "Richardson the first openly gay representative to hold House leadership post" »