October 20, 2016

Prominent gay-rights group backs Joe Garcia against Curbelo

NP-JoeGarcia-LBGT-SAVE-102016-006 Joe Garcia DS


A key LBGT organization in South Florida on Thursday endorsed Joe Garcia in his bid to win back from Rep. Carlos Curbelo the House seat that the Miami Republican wrested from him two years ago.

The Miami-based SAVE group, formed in 1993, said it was supporting the Miami Democrat because of his work advocating equality.

"During his term as congressman, Joe served South Florida's LGBTQ community admirably, garnering SAVE's Champion of Equality Award in 2013 for his sponsorship of the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act and his efforts to protect LBGT immigration rights," SAVE said in a statement.

Long before joining the House in January 2013, the group noted that Garcia had led the Cuban American National Foundation, which he then headed, in opposing the repeal of Miami-Dade's human-rights ordinance.

Once in Congress, Garcia served as vice chairman of the LGBT Equality Caucus. He helped pass bipartisan legislation reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which extended protects against rape and domestic violence to members of the LBGT community.

"One of my guiding principles is that every person should be treated equally," Garcia said Thursday. "That's why I'm honored that SAVE would recognize my work in support of the LGBTQ community."

SAVE's endorsement of Garcia came six days after Log Cabin Republicans, an influential GOP gay-rights group, endorsed Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo of South Florida in their re-election races, along with five other incumbent lawmakers from across the country.



Hastings leads black lawmakers on Broward blitz for Clinton, Murphy



Rep. Alcee Hastings is bringing a group of fellow African-American members of Congress to South Florida for a two-day push to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump in the key battleground state.

Hastings, a 12th-term congressman from Miramar, will be joined by Reps. Charlie Rangel and Hakeem Jeffries of New York, and by Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green of Texas in a swing through Broward County.

Almost 30 percent of Broward residents are black, forming one of the state's largest African-American voting blocs and a hub of a critical demographic group for Clinton to win the nation's biggest swing state in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

"With the rhetoric that we've heard from the Republican ticket, there can be little doubt how dangerous a Trump presidency would be for our country," Hastings told the Miami Herald. "We are here, first and foremost, to rally the African-American community in South Florida to elect Hillary Clinton as president and Patrick Murphy as our next United States senator."

Murphy, a Democratic congressman from Jupiter, is running against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Miami.

The congressional group's first stop was slated to be tonight at 7 p.m. to address a meeting of the Haitian American Democratic Club at Diecke Auditorium in Plantation.

Hastings and his Congressional Black Caucus colleagues had six events planned for Friday:

9 a.m., Breakfast at Betty's Soul Food Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale;

Noon, Visit the combined Clinton/Hastings campaign offices, 1033 NW Sixth Street, Fort Lauderdale;

12:55 p.m., Lunch at Ponderosa Soul Food Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale

1:40 p.m., Visit the headquarters of the Broward Democratic Executive Committee, 8320 W. Sunrise Boulevard, Plantation

3 p.m., Visit the Clinton campaign office, 3519 North Pineland Road, Sunrise;

4 p.m., Canvas homes on foot in Sunrise neighborhood around the Clinton campaign office.

Photo credit: Matias J. Ocner, Miami Herald




October 14, 2016

Major GOP LBGT group backs South Florida lawmakers



Log Cabin Republicans on Friday endorsed Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo in their re-election races, along with five other incumbent lawmakers from across the country.

The advocacy group, which believes that equality for LBGT people is in the best traditions of the Republican Party, said the seven newly endorsed representatives "have been steadfast allies of LBGT freedom" in the House of Representatives.

"All of these common-sense conservatives have not only spoken out in support of equality, but also cast votes in the 114th Congress that confirm their commitment to the cause," Gregory T. Angelo, head of Log Cabin Republicans, said.

Ros-Lehtinen, running for her 15th term against Miami small business owner Scott Furhman, expressed gratitude for the endorsement.

"I will continue to promote inclusiveness and ensure the fair and equal treatment of all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender," she said.

Curbelo is running for his second House term against Joe Garcia, the former congressman he defeated two years ago.

"In Congress, I have been proud to stand up for equality," Curbelo said. "I am honored to have the support of Republicans who understand that equality can never be a partisan issue."

For more information about Log Cabin Republicans, read here.

Photo credit: Hector Gabino, El Nuevo Herald



September 29, 2016

Zika funds finally approved in late-night vote



Lawmakers had to stay late to get it done, but House passage of $1.1 billion in Zika prevention and research funds after a more than seven-month delay finally sends the bill to President Barack Obama's desk.

Despite having originally sought $1.9 billion in emergency Zika aid in February, Obama was expected to sign the broader $1.1 trillion stopgap appropriations measure that included the revamped Zika in a bid to break the partisan impasse over the money to combat the virus.

Just before 10 p.m. Wednesday, the House voted 242-85 to pass the larger spending measure funding the federal government through Dec. 9. Seventy-five Republicans and 10 Democrats voted against it, none from Florida.

The House vote came hours after the Senate approved the spending packing with Zika funds by a 72-26 vote. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Orlando both voted for the measure.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was still not ready to forgive completely GOP lawmakers who'd targeted Planned Parenthood partner clinics in Puerto Rico and added extraneous provisions to the original Zika bill, moves that contributed to its delay.

"After more than 900 confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Florida, House Republicans finally allowed us to pass most of the emergency funding we need to curb this public health crisis," the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman said.

While she called the Wednesday-night vote "a welcome start for Florida's pregnant women, business owners and families affected by the Zika virus," Wasserman Schultz added: "It has come many months later than it should have."

Dr. Andrew W. Gurman, head of the American Medical Association, praised the new Zika aid.

"It has been clear over the past several months that the U.S. has needed additional resources to combat the Zika virus," Gurman said. "With the threat of the virus continuing to loom this funding will help protect more people -- particularly pregnant women and their children -- from the virus' lasting negative health effects."

Pregnant women are especially vulnerable to Zika because it can cause birth defects such as microcephaly, which causes abnormally small brains and heads in newborns.

A large chunk of the $1.1 billion for Zika would go to Florida, New York and Puerto Rico, which combined have far more infections of the virus than any other states or territories.

The National Institutes for Health would receive more than $160 million of the Zika funds to continue its recently launched first clinical trial for a vaccine and to conduct other research.

Florida had 921 Zika cases as of Wednesday, including 92 involving pregnant women. One-hundred fifteen of the state's infections were transmitted directly by mosquitos.

The virus is carried primarily by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, but it can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse with an infected partner.

Sen. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, praised bipartisan efforts of South Florida lawmakers to push the Zika funding.

"This is a tremendous victory for the South Florida delegation who has tirelessly worked together, from both sides of the aisle and both chambers, to raise the importance of this issue and help resolve it," he said.

In a floor speech late Wednesday, Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, also from Miami, acknowledged that "the process of getting this funding across the finish line has been frustrating at times and bogged down in unnecessary political gamesmanship."

Saying that Zika represented "an ongoing threat to the health of residents and to the economic vitality of businesses in South Florida," Curbelo praised final passage.

Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Palm Beach Democrat running for the Senate against incumbent Republican Marco Rubio, said the Zika funds "could not be more urgent as Florida quickly approaches 1,000 cases."

Republican Reps. David Jolly and Vern Buchanan, who had pushed their House Republican colleagues to approve Zika funding for months, also hailed the successful vote.




Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article104729131.html#storylink=cpy


Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article104729131.html#storylink=cpy




September 23, 2016

Ros-Lehtinen, Ortega toss verbal grenades at each other

NP-ILR-092316-Florida_Candidates 05 EKM


Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the Nicaraguan government traded bitter criticisms Friday over charges of intimidation and repression.

The exchange started with a statement by the Managua government opposing an effort in Congress led by Ros-Lehtinen to restrict its access to loans in what would be a form of economic sanctions.

Without citing the Miami Republican by name, Nicaragua accused her and other lawmakers of having "been involved in disinformation and intimidation campaigns in the media against Democratic, pluralistic and progressive processes in Latin America and the Caribbean."

The alleged interference in Latin America appeared to be a reference to lawmakers' past criticism of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments.

Ros-Lehtinen has been especially critical of Cuba and its allies in Venezuela and Nicaragua, along with Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and other Cuban-American members of Congress.

Ros-Lehtinen fired back at the Nicaraguan government's latest salvo.

"Ortega's baseless accusations are just his latest attempt to detract attention away from the human rights abuses and the acts of corruption and intimidation he has been perpetrating in Nicaragua, but nobody is fooled," she said.

While Ros-Lehtinen targeted Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, the statement criticizing her bill came from the government he heads, not from him personally, although he all but certainly approved it.

And although Ros-Lehtinen said Ortega had attacked her, the Nicaraguan government statement did not mention her or any other lawmaker by name.

The House on Wednesday unanimously passed a measure that would place U.S. limits on loans to the Ortega government unless it accepts international observers and other steps toward holding free elections.

Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Albio Sires, a Cuban-American Democrat from New Jersey, were lead sponsors of the legislation. The Senate has not pass a companion bill.

Ros-Lehtinen said her measure's main aim was to “stop Ortega from accessing international funds until he adopts reforms that promote democracy, strengthen the rule of law, respect human rights, and celebrate free, fair, and transparent elections supervised by electoral observers.”

For more, read here.

Photo credit: Emily Michot



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.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/latest-news/article103560742.html#storylink=cpy

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


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/latest-news/article103560742.html#storylink=cpy


May 16, 2016

Rep. Wilson to chair hearing on helping young people of color


Rep. Frederica Wilson on Tuesday will bring together lawmakers and youth experts from Florida and beyond for a congressional forum on expanding opportunities for black and Latino young people.

Michael Smith, special assistant to President Barack Obama and head of the White House My Brother's Keeper program, will moderate the forum. Wilson will be joined by Arnaldo Gonzalez, Miami-Dade Schools chief of growth and development, and education leaders from North Carolina, Virginia and other states.

Also speaking will be Albert Dotson Jr., a board member of 100 Black Men of America who helps run the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

"As the founder of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, an in-school dropout prevention and mentoring program, I have experienced firsthand the powerful influence that a caring adult can have on a young person's life," Wilson, a third-term Democrat from Miami Gardens, said.

In February, Wilson helped launch the Congressional My Brother's Keeper Caucus. It now has 18 members, among them Rep. Alcee Hastings of Miramar; South Carolina's Jim Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat; and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey.

When he started the My Brother's Keeper mentoring program in 2014, Obama drew criticism from some advocacy groups for excluding young women and girls. Wilson's hearing Tuesday will focus on expanding opportunities for male and female people of color.





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.


November 25, 2014

The 2014 governor's race votes and ad spending by Florida media market


The race for Florida governor was officially certified last week, so now we have final numbers. By our estimate, more than $103 million was spent on TV ads since March. 

All told, 6,026,802 Floridians cast ballots. Of them, about 53 percent voted early in person or by absentee ballot (1,878,537 absentees + 1,309,198 early votes = 3,187,735).

More people voted in the governor's race than any other contest: 5,951,561. Scott received 2,865,343 votes to Crist's 2,801,198. That's 48.14 percent to 47.07, a margin of 1.08 percent, or 64,145.

Scott's raw-vote margin was 4.2 percent bigger than in 2010, when his margin was 61,550 over Democrat Alex Sink. On a percentage basis, though, Scott did worse than in 2010, when his win-margin was 1.2 percentage points (the overall number of people voting in the governor's race grew 11 percent since 2010).

Here's how the 2014 votes broke down by media market, along with the ad spending:

Florida votes & ad spending




November 04, 2014

South Florida's light voting great for Rick Scott, bad for Charlie Crist. But indies might save the Dem


As the polls are about to close, Gov. Rick Scott's team should be feeling a little more confident because Democrat-rich South Florida is doing what it does in midterms: not voting in strong numbers.

Miami-Dade is reporting that 183,000 people had voted as of 6 p.m. on Election Day. Add that to the 293,000 who had absentee and early voted, and the county's turnout was just under 37 percent with one hour to go. 

Broward County might be in a similar position.

As of 3:15 p.m., when turnout gets slowest, Broward County reported Election Day turnout at 136,000. That was on top of 248,000 who had voted before Election Day by early and absentee ballot. And that puts turnout at roughly 36 percent.

In a sign of desperation, Charlie Crist’s campaign just issued a press release saying it wants the polls to stay open longer in Broward. It claims, among other things, that voters were turned away at the polls due to re-precincting. Miami Herald reporters found signs of this, but they weren't widespread.  Download Crist motion for polls to stay open.

Considering overall state turnout could be at 49 percent, this could signify higher performance by Republican counties and Republican voters. And thus, a likelier Scott win.

Here's what we reported in April about South Florida turnout:

Year after year, voters in the Democratic region are among the state’s worst when it comes to showing up at the polls. It was most glaring in 2010 when Scott won office and statewide voter turnout was a meager 49 percent.

The turnout in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties was worse: about 41, 40 and 47 percent, respectively. If those three counties had voted at the state average, Democrat Alex Sink likely would have beaten Scott by nearly 250,000 votes statewide. Instead, Sink lost by 61,550 votes.

Crist vows that won’t happen again.

Crist's campaign said it's hammering South Florida voters to get them out, but the reporters we have at the polls aren't seeing much action.

Our freelancer Theo Karantsalis reports light turnout in Liberty City, an African-American area. And he just encountered a voter who's..... voting for Scott.

The Caleb Center, which drew hundreds of Souls to the Polls churchgoers on Sunday, was open for early voting only.

Voters continue to park near the Caleb Center and carefully walk across busy NW 54th Street to cast ballots at the Mildred and Claude Pepper Towers.

"I came out in the cold and dark to vote for a republican," said Shirley Smith, 47, an African-American from Liberty City, who voted the republican ticket in the 2010 and 2012 elections. "I am so tired of people thinking the government owes them something."

Smith, who first looked to see if anyone was listening, then added: "I know I am the minority around here, but my vote counts even if it's different."

There is no line and few people at the neighborhood polling site located in the 2300 block of NW 54th Street. Polls close at 7 p.m.

This doesn't mean Crist has lost and that Scott has won. Not by a longshot. One analyst said the story of the night might be independents, who are leaning Crist. 

In Pasco, Pinellas, and Hernando counties in the Tampa Bay region, independent voters are coming out in droves, respectively: 22, 23 and 20 percent.

Even in GOP-rich Collier Countty, Rick Scott's home base, 20 percent of the voters are independents.

Republicans are boasting that they have more supervoters (those who voted in 4 of 4 elections, known as 4/4) to come out. But Democrats note that they're turning out more infrequent voters. Here's one Democrats' analysis:

As of end of the day yesterday, 31.0% of Democrats who had cast a ballot didn't vote in 2010, 43.4% of IND/NPA, 22.7% of Republicans. Dems have very nearly 80K more people who have cast ballots that DIDN'T vote in 2010 than Republicans.

On the other end of things, Dems have 54.2% of their 2/2s (and 49.3% of 4/4s) who had not yet voted as of COB yesterday; those numbers are remarkably similar for Reps: 53.7% of 2/2 and 49.5% of 4/4.

But, as GOP consultant Marc Reichelderfer told Adam Smith at the Tampa Bay Times, Republicans have more reliable Republicans voting:

"What I'm looking at is how many 4/4 voters and how many 3/4 voters are still out there waiting to vote," said Reichelderfer, suggesting that the Republicans and Democrats are roughly equal on 3/4 voters.

Add that 130,000 almost certain 4/4 votes today to the roughly 100,000 early and absentee vote advantage Republicans had going into today, and the 230,000 GOP lead looks tough to crack barring an massive Democratic turnout operation, he said.

After the 2010 cycles, elections officials cleaned up their lists of voters automatically receiving absentee ballots. The result, Reichelderfer said, that that many formerly consistent Republican mail voters have been shifted to election day voters, while the Obama campaign in 2012 shifted many of its most reliable election day voters to mail voters.