August 04, 2016

Poll: Rubio leads Grayson, Murphy by wide margins



A new poll out by Suffolk University's Political Research Center today shows Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio up by at least 13 percentage points on either of his likely Democratic opponents in November's election for Florida's U.S. Senate seat.

In a match-up against Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, Rubio leads 45 percent to Grayson's 31 percent, with about 22 percent undecided and 2 percent who didn't answer. Against Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, Rubio's lead narrows by 1 percentage point; he led 46 percent to Murphy's 33 percent, with about 19 percent undecided and 2 percent who didn't answer.

Suffolk University surveyed 500 likely Florida voters by telephone between Aug. 1-3. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Florida's U.S. Senate race has garnerned national attention and millions of dollars in political spending because the election could decide which party controls the chamber next year.

The university's polling results further solidify Rubio's status as the front-runner in the Senate race, especially within his own party primary.

Of the 165 people polled who planned to vote in the upcoming Republican primary, 62 percent said they would vote for or were leaning toward Rubio, while his main challenger Carlos Beruff got 12 percent support. About 24 percent remained undecided and 1 percent didn't answer. Lesser-known candidates Dwight Mark Anthony Young and Ernie Rivera got 1 percent and 0 percent support in the poll, respectively.

In the Democratic primary, "undecided" was in the lead -- as it has been in many polls for months -- followed by Murphy.

About 40 percent of the 168 likely Democratic primary voters surveyed said they didn't know yet who they'd vote for -- even as some ballots have been mailed out already and there's less than a month until the election.

Murphy got about 36 percent support, followed by Grayson with 17 percent. Pam Keith received about 2 percent support, while newer candidates Reginald Luster and "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente were tied with around 1 percent support. (Two percent of respondents didn't answer.)

Both the Democratic and Republican primaries for Florida's U.S. Senate race are Aug. 30. The winners will face each other in the November election.

Photo credit: Alan Diaz / AP

August 03, 2016

Patrick Murphy won't debate Alan Grayson



The only debate in Florida's contentious Democratic primary race for U.S. Senate is cancelled.

In a surprise move, Democrat Patrick Murphy -- the leading contender in the race -- reneged this afternoon on a scheduled debate next week against fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and Murphy rejected his primary opponents' pleas for more debates ahead of the Aug. 30 election.

The reason?

Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, says allegations Grayson abused his ex-wife have "disqualified" Grayson from public service, and Murphy doesn't want to debate Grayson because of it.

"I cannot in good conscience give him a platform to promote himself and his campaign. As a result, I will not participate in any forums or debates with Alan Grayson," Murphy said in a statement this afternoon.

The statement was timed for release to coincide with a press conference Grayson and Pam Keith, a third Democrat in the race, had planned to hold in West Palm Beach to call on Murphy to agree to more debates.

More here.


MoveOn won't endorse in Florida's Democratic U.S. Senate primary

062116_grayson presser5@ByKristenMClark Political Action, a nationally known progressive organization, is withholding an endorsement in Florida's competitive Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in light of allegations that one candidate, Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, abused his ex-wife.

The organization sent an email to its members Friday afternoon, notifying them of its decision.

The group had previously launched an online poll to solicit its members' feedback on whom MoveOn should endorse in the race: Grayson, fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, or Pam Keith, a Miami labor attorney and former naval officer. (The poll was still live, as of this morning.)

"We recently asked your help in deciding which candidate MoveOn should endorse in the race for U.S. Senate in Florida. Since then, new and serious allegations of domestic abuse have emerged about one of the candidates, Representative Alan Grayson," read the email, a copy of which was obtained by the Herald/Times. "We are not in a position to fully investigate these claims but take them very seriously. Violence against women is never acceptable. In light of this disturbing news, we have decided not to issue any endorsement in this race at this time."

"We urge local authorities to act swiftly and to fully investigate these allegations," continued the email, which was signed by the group's leaders including executive director Ilya Sheyman.

Grayson has vehemently denied the claims by his ex-wife, Lolita Grayson. Their marriage was annulled last year. His campaign declined to comment about MoveOn's email.

MoveOn spokesman Brian Stewart confirmed the authenticity of the email to the Herald/Times and said, "I can't say what the outcome of an endorsement would have been" had the Grayson allegations not surfaced.

The group's online poll originally told members: "Any candidate who receives more than 50% of the votes cast will win the endorsement. If no one receives more than 50%, MoveOn won't endorse a candidate."

Grayson, known for being a liberal firebrand, recently lost endorsements from two other high-profile progressive groups (the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America) after the abuse allegations came to light last week.

MoveOn's survey did not include lesser-known Democratic candidates Reginald Luster and "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente, who will also be on the Aug. 30 primary ballot.

Photo credit: Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, of Orlando, speaks to reporters in Tallahassee in late June. Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

Already looking to November, new Patrick Murphy ad attacks Rubio's Senate attendance



Pledging "I'll never stop working for you" in his second TV ad for his U.S. Senate campaign, Democrat Patrick Murphy takes a jab at Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio's poor attendance record.

The 30-second spot, called "Work," is part of a nearly $1.7 million ad buy the Murphy campaign reserved in advance of the upcoming Aug. 30 primary. The ad will air in Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville.

"Marco Rubio stopped showing up for work, let us down. I’m Patrick Murphy and enough is enough," the two-term Jupiter congressman says in the ad, before once again touting the endorsement of President Barack Obama (who appeared in Murphy's first TV ad last month).

In response to the ad, Rubio spokesman Michael Ahrens said in an email to the Herald/Times that Murphy "knows nothing about getting things done for the people of Florida."

"That's why non-partisan studies have labeled him one of the 'least-effective members of Congress.' If Murphy had gotten a single bill passed during his years in Washington, maybe he wouldn't have to lie to voters about his resume," Ahrens said. "Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and national Democrats can try their hardest to pull Privileged Patrick across the finish line, but Floridians already have a senator with a strong record of fighting for them who has actually gotten things done."

Watch Murphy's new ad below:

Continue reading "Already looking to November, new Patrick Murphy ad attacks Rubio's Senate attendance" »

August 01, 2016

Patrick Murphy bashes Marco Rubio for not disavowing Trump


Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy chastised Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio on Monday for not condemning Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nominee's comments this weekend attacking the parents of a Muslim U.S. Army captain killed in Iraq.

"Donald Trump is the man Marco Rubio wants to see elected as our next commander-in-chief. It is unacceptable that Marco Rubio remains silent as Trump seeks to tear down everything this country stands for," Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, said in a statement this afternoon.

Murphy added: "Trump has completely disqualified himself from the presidency, and if Marco Rubio can’t work up the courage to withdraw his endorsement, then he does not have the courage to be Florida's Senator."

While some other high-profile Republicans -- like Arizona Sen. John McCain -- have distanced themselves from Trump since this weekend, Rubio waited before commenting on Trump's widely criticized remarks in responding to Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of the late Capt. Humayun Khan.

Rubio's campaign this afternoon sent out these comments that they said were made by the senator "earlier today" in Tampa:

On Saturday, Rubio affirmed his support for Trump, saying at a candidate forum in Sarasota: "We have to make sure that Donald wins this election."

Murphy is viewed as a front-runner in the Democratic field of candidates seeking to unseat Rubio. In the Aug. 30 primary, Murphy faces fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando and former naval officer and labor attorney Pam Keith of Miami. Former assistant U.S. attorney Reginald Luster of Jacksonville and California real estate developer "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente of Orlando are also running.

Rubio's primary challenger is Manatee County home-builder Carlos Beruff, an outspoken Trump supporter.

This post has been updated with Rubio's comments, which were released shortly after original publication.

UPDATE 5:05 p.m. Murphy wasn't satisfied with Rubio's comments today, issuing this follow-up statement this evening:

"In his shockingly tone-deaf and inadequate response, Rubio failed to even mention Donald Trump’s name. This was not a condemnation of Trump. This was Marco Rubio once again proving that he would rather pursue his political ambition and abandon this country’s values than stand up to his party's racist nominee for President."

Pro-Murphy super PAC duplicates ad touting Obama-Biden endorsement


In case Floridians haven't heard yet that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have endorsed Democrat Patrick Murphy for U.S. Senate, a pro-Murphy super PAC is airing an ad this week to drive that point home.

The 30-second spot from "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" might seem familiar to some Floridians. It's exactly the same as one launched two weeks ago by the Democrats' Senate Majority PAC.

It's the third such ad run in as many weeks that has touted Obama's and Biden's endorsement of Murphy, a Jupiter congressman. In the Murphy campaign's first TV ad last month, Obama appeared in person to sing Murphy's praises.

Murphy is relying heavily on the Obama-Biden endorsement ahead of the Aug. 30 primary where he'll face fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando and former naval officer and labor attorney Pam Keith of Miami. Former assistant U.S. attorney Reginald Luster of Jacksonville and California real estate developer "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente of Orlando are also running.

"Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" is spending $520,000 on the ad buy -- which is more than 60 percent of the group's most recently reported cash on hand. The super PAC reported having $812,000 in the bank, as of June 30. Super PACs aren't subject to campaign contribution limits and cannot directly coordinate with a candidate's campaign.

"Republicans are scared of running against Patrick Murphy; they know he's the strongest candidate against (Republican incumbent) Marco Rubio so they're spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to distort his record before the Democratic primary," Ashley Walker, a representative for the super PAC, said in a statement.

July 29, 2016

Florida U.S. Senate candidate is still running for president

UPDATED: Aug. 1, 10:45 a.m. -- De La Fuente said in an interview with the Herald/Times on Aug. 1: "My primary objective is to serve the American people and I will serve where they want me to serve."

He acknowledged he's simultaneously pursuing both his U.S. Senate campaign in Florida and his ongoing presidential campaign elsewhere in the country. He said he wants to help "prepare the American people to have a third party candidate" in the presidential race and hopes to be on the November ballot in 40 states.

However, he added that getting elected to the U.S. Senate from Florida "is what I'm working on 99 percent of the time."


De la fuente@ByKristenMClark

A late entry in Florida's U.S. Senate race last month is apparently not giving up on his primary ambition: to become president of the United States.

Florida newcomer and Democrat "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente entered the state's U.S. Senate race in late June, after moving to Orlando in March from his home state of California.

But even as he filed his Senate candidacy in Florida on June 20, De La Fuente continued to loan and spend money for his presidential campaign based in San Diego, Federal Election Commission records show.

And despite landing a spot on the Aug. 30 primary ballot here, he's still working to get on other states' ballots for the November general election as an independent presidential candidate.

According to his most recent FEC report, De La Fuente gave his presidential campaign another $389,500 on June 30, making for a total of $6.4 million that De La Fuente has personally loaned that campaign. Last month, he also continued to spend tens of thousands of dollars on consultant fees, transportation and other bills, spending $362,000 in all in June.

Included in the expenses: a $250 filing fee to the "State of New Hampshire." The Secretary of State's office there said De La Fuente filed a "declaration of intent" in early June to run as an independent presidential candidate in the general election. He has until Sept. 7 to submit petition papers to qualify for the New Hampshire ballot.

This month, he also reportedly sought to get on the November ballot in Georgia, too, according to Ballot Access News.

De La Fuente's U.S. Senate campaign hasn't returned an email seeking comment Friday. The July FEC report for his presidential campaign is due Aug. 20.

Meanwhile, De La Fuente is self-funding his Florida U.S. Senate bid, as he is his presidential one. He loaned his Senate campaign $71,000 on June 30 and reported no contributions in the first couple weeks of his campaign, according to his first campaign finance report to the FEC in mid-July.

De La Fuente has marketed his U.S. Senate campaign largely toward Hispanic voters. His campaign website has a lengthy "national issues" section, while his "Florida issues" page has only this generic pledge: "Rocky aims to put his ideals into practice by solving the most common issues that our fellow citizens in Florida face today."

Before moving to Florida this spring, De La Fuente's only connection to the Sunshine State was business deals he said he had here over the past couple decades, including owning property in some areas of the state. De La Fuente, a 61-year-old businessman and entrepreneur, had previously lived in California his whole life.

De La Fuente notably botched his voter registration when he moved to Florida in late March by accidentally registering as "no party affiliation." He fixed it and registered as a Democrat after the Herald/Times made inquiries last month.

De La Fuente is emphatic the mistake was on the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles -- because he registered when getting his driver's license -- but state officials said De La Fuente checked the wrong box, possibly due to confusion with Florida's registration process. (They said he checked "no party change," rather than "Democrat," but that designation is specifically for use by Florida residents who move in-state, not newcomers coming from out of state.)

Democratic groups weigh in on U.S. Senate debate controversy


Two other political groups are now voicing their opinions on whether Miami Democrat Pam Keith should be included in an Orlando TV station's upcoming primary debate for Florida's U.S. Senate race.

The Boynton Beach-based Democratic African American Women Caucus says, quite bluntly, that Keith shouldn't complain about being excluded, because the fact is she didn't meet the qualifying criteria to participate.

"Put the race card away. It doesn't apply here," caucus president Leslie Wimes said of Keith, in an email statement to the Herald/Times.

But the Democratic Progressive Caucus -- a subset of the Florida Democratic Party -- is echoing the Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women in urging WFTV Channel 9 to change its mind and invite Keith. Florida NOW, which endorsed Keith, said it was "outraged" she wasn't invited.

Keith has accused WFTV in Orlando of "blatant racism and sexism" for excluding her from its televised primary debate next month between the two leading Democratic candidates, U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy. Keith is African American and the only female candidate seeking Florida's U.S. Senate seat this year. Grayson and Murphy are white.

The station said earlier this week that Grayson and Murphy were the only two of the five Democratic candidates who'd met the qualifying criteria: 15 percent support in polls. Keith received 10 percent and 11 percent support in the two polls she has been included in.

A polling threshold is common for organized political debates. It's unclear how the qualifying criteria was set for this one; the terms are typically the subject of negotiation between the invited participants and the host.

In her email, Wimes said: "We do not think WFTV is being racist or sexist towards Pam Keith. If she doesn't meet the criteria, then she doesn't participate. Crying racism/sexism because she hasn't increased her poll numbers or her name recognition in the almost two years that she has been running does a huge disservice to women who are victims of racism/sexism."

The Democratic African American Women Caucus has not endorsed any candidate and Wimes said her statement "in no way is a reflection on Pam Keith's qualifications."

"Fair is fair, though. Not everything is racism and we would be remiss if we didn't say so," Wimes said.

The Democratic Progressive Caucus didn't address Keith's line of attack in criticizing the station and her competitors. The group, which hasn't endorsed any candidate, defended what they say is her right to participate in candidate debates.

"No one -- Democratic elites, the media or elected officials -- should put their thumb on the scale to advantage or disadvantage any candidate," caucus chairwoman Susan Smith said in a statement. "Florida Democrats who will go to the polls on August 30th deserve to hear from all three candidates so they can make a smart decision about who should represent out party in the General Election against Marco Rubio."

"By keeping Pam Keith out of the debate, WFTV is denying Democratic voters the opportunity to be fully informed of their options," Smith said.

WFTV has not responded to Keith's remarks. But the station said earlier this week that other Senate candidates, Democrats and Republicans (including Keith), would be invited to do three-minute segments “to communicate their stance on the issues to the people of Central Florida.”

Grayson hasn't commented either, and Murphy was vague when asked about the controversy on Thursday by the Miami Herald's editorial board.

The Grayson-Murphy debate is set to be taped in advance and will air at 7 p.m. Aug. 12 on WFTV in Orlando and online at

Lesser-known Democratic candidates Reginald Luster of Jacksonville and "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente of Orlando also weren't invited to the debate. They each launched their campaigns last month -- just in time to qualify for the primary ballot -- and neither has been included in any polls.

Women's group 'outraged' by Pam Keith's exclusion from U.S. Senate debate


The Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women says it's "outraged" that an Orlando TV station is excluding Democrat Pam Keith from its U.S. Senate primary debate next month.

Keith -- an African American from Miami and the only female candidate in the Senate contest -- wasn't invited to WFTV Channel 9's "one-on-one" debate between U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy because she hasn't polled high enough to meet the threshold to participate.

Keith received 10 percent and 11 percent support in the two polls she has been included in; the station said candidates needed to have at least 15 percent support in order to be eligible.

"This discriminating action by the station and other candidates demonstrates the ongoing fight both women and minorities face in our society," Florida NOW said in a statement. "To summarily dismiss Ms. Keith’s candidacy as inconsequential is an insult to all voters, especially women and people of color."

The group endorsed Keith's campaign several months ago.

Earlier this week, Keith also blasted WFTV and her opponents for the decision to exclude her. She decried their decision as "blatant racism and sexism."

The station hasn't responded.

But it said earlier this week that other Senate candidates, Democrats and Republicans, would be invited to do three-minute segments “to communicate their stance on the issues to the people of Central Florida.”

When asked about it by the Miami Herald's editorial board on Thursday, Murphy was vague on whether Keith should be included and he was unaware of what terms for debate his campaign staff negotiated with the station. He deferred to both his campaign and to WFTV's set criteria, and he said he personally had no part in those talks.

"If the host comes up with qualifications that she meets, then of course, by all means" she should participate, Murphy said. "I've known Ms. Keith for several years, so I don't have any personal contention or beef with her."

Grayson's campaign hasn't commented. For his part, Grayson has appeared on stage with Keith at at least a couple candidate forums during the campaign. He had agreed to debate her on radio next month, but that event was cancelled after Murphy declined to participate.

Florida NOW touted Keith's credentials as among the other reasons she should be allowed to take part in the WFTV debate, which is expected to be the only Democratic debate before the Aug. 30 primary.

"Pam Keith is uniquely qualified to run for the U.S. Senate. Her experience as a Naval Officer JAG and attorney fighting for labor workers gives her an advantage neither of the other candidates possess," Florida NOW said.

"Women and minorities make up 50 percent of the voters in Florida. To exclude Pam Keith from the Senate debates is an insult to these voters," the group added. "It demonstrates a bias that should never be included in a news organization whose duty is to inform the public. ... WFTV needs to change their position on this debate."

Keith has been campaigning full-time since November 2014, longer than any candidate from either major party. Nonetheless, Murphy and Grayson -- sitting U.S. congressmen from Jupiter and Orlando, respectively -- have garnered almost all of the attention in the Democratic field.

The Grayson-Murphy debate is set to be taped in advance and will air at 7 p.m. Aug. 12 on WFTV in Orlando and online at

Lesser-known Democratic candidates Reginald Luster of Jacksonville and "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente of Orlando also weren't invited to WFTV's debate. They each launched their campaigns last month -- just in time to qualify for the primary ballot -- and neither has been included in any polls.

July 28, 2016

Conservative super PAC goes after Patrick Murphy in new ad


A dark-money conservative group with ties to the Koch brothers has launched an ad attacking Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy for a vote supporting the Export-Import Bank.

The ad from American Future Fund began airing this week on certain Florida markets. It urges viewers to call Murphy and tell him to support HR 5715 to "stop supporting corporate welfare" and "stop supporting state sponsors of terror."

Murphy campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen called the ad "just another misleading attack by Republicans to distract from Marco Rubio's record of skipping work and missing many important closed intelligence briefings."

The Washington Post reported the ad buy is worth $1.5 million and is targeting "networks that attract a disproportionate share of Democratic viewers, including MSNBC, while eschewing GOP-heavy networks, such as Fox News Channel."

"Also arousing suspicions are the markets in which the ad is airing — Democratic strongholds like West Palm Beach and Gainesville are seeing the ad, while GOP-heavy areas like Fort Myers and Pensacola are not," The Post reported.