August 29, 2017

Marco Rubio calls for temporary protected status for Venezuelans

Rubio 01 EKM

@alextdaugherty

Marco Rubio has spent months pushing the White House to expand a temporary program that would allow Venezuelans who have fled Nicolás Maduro’s regime to stay in the United States, according to a previously unpublished letter from Rubio to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

The letter, dated March 20, asks Tillerson and Kelly to “review the existing conditions in Venezuela and consider granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to eligible Venezuelan nationals residing in the United States.”

“In light of the ongoing political, economic, social and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, it is not in the best interests of the United States to deport non-violent Venezuelan nationals back to the country at this time,” the letter reads.

President Donald Trump, who continues to talk tough on immigration, hasn’t indicated that he is open to extending the program to another country.

Rubio’s position puts him in line with an increasing number of Venezuelan activists and Florida politicians from both parties who want to expand the temporary program, which currently applies to foreign nationals from 10 countries already in the United States.

Last week, Democrats Bill Nelson and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, along with Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, voiced their support for the program, which would not be a permanent solution for Venezuelans seeking to stay in the United States.

In recent days, José Javier Rodríguez, a Democratic state senator and congressional candidate, along with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham, have also called for expanding the TPS program.

“Temporary Protected Status will allow Venzeuelans fleeing violence to live and work here legally and contribute to our state’s diverse communities until it is safe for them to return home,” Graham said in a statement.

Rubio has positioned himself as an important voice on Venezuela under Trump as the State Department deals with a downsized staff. He set up a meeting between Trump and Lilian Tintori, a human-rights activist married to jailed Venezuelan dissident Leopoldo Lopez, and Rubio’s vocal criticism of Maduro and his associates led to the Florida senator getting protection from a security detail.

Rubio and Nelson hinted as far back as 2014 that they would consider the possibility of TPS for Venezuelans, but the issue has drawn increased attention after Maduro held a constituent assembly vote with the power to redraw the nation’s constitution.

Read more here.

June 27, 2017

Graham, Gillum and King push for rejection and alternatives to Senate health care bill

Graham petitionsAs Gov. Rick Scott and other Florida Republicans scramble in D.C. today to try to understand the impact of the proposed Senate healthcare bill on the state, three Democratic candidates for governor offered their own feedback Tuesday. 

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham delivered a three-foot stack of petitions to the Tallahassee office of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, signed by 4,000 people, urging him to reject the proposal because it will hurt more Floridians than it will help.

"This bill is heartless,'' Graham said, urging Rubio to transcend the partisanship surrounding the issue and reject it for Florida. "He doesn't represent the Republican Party. he doesn't represent Donald J. Trump. He represents the people of Florida and that's why he should vote against this bill."

She was joined by Dr. Louis St. Petery, a Tallahassee pediatrician, who feared that the Medicaid cuts and restructuring in the Senate bill will leave thousands of children in the state without care.

"Don't forget, 52 percent of live births in Florida are paid for by Medicaid,'' he said. "We are not talking about an insignificant number of kids. Over one-third of Florida's children are on Medicaid and pulling the rug out from under that many kids and that many families will be devastating to not only the child but the rest of us in society who have to pay for their health care costs."

Graham said she was "very concerned" about the block grants proposed in the Senate health care bill because they are "not good for Florida" because she has no confidence that Republicans in Washington or Tallahassee will use them "in the best interests of the people of Florida." 

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum suggested the answer is a statewide constitutional amendment declaring healthcare a right. 

"It's time for Florida to finally enshrine healthcare as a right for all,'' he said a statement. "There is a public trust for the government to care for its citizens, and our state can no longer be ambiguous about that moral obligation. When healthcare is under attack in Washington, we're going to lean into the challenge of healthcare in the Sunshine State and live our values."

Gillum's communications director Geoff Burgan said that if elected, Gillum will "push the Legislature to put this on the ballot in 2019, and if they fail to do so he'll campaign for it as well."

"There's an added onus on the Legislature to make sure that health care is actually affordable and accessible,'' he said. "This is a long conversation about health care and it's being brought to the forefront."

He said that Gillum supports the idea because "Floridians have a right to make their voices heard, and he's committed to raising the funds necessary to do that,'' Burgan said. "We'll also be submitting it to the [Constitution Revision Commission.]"

Graham dismissed the constitutional amendment as a practical way to effect change. "I think healthcare is a right but I want to make sure the way we go about it as doable." 

Democrat candidate Chris King called the Senate healthcare proposal unacceptable   and Tuesday condemned the Medicaid cuts and the treatment of older Floridians. If the Senate plan becomes law, he has pledged not to seek waivers allow health insurers to discriminate against people with existing conditions or to exclude coverage of contraceptive care, said King spokesman Hari Sevugan.     

Graham blasted Gov. Rick Scott for failing to take Medicaid expansion while he is now complaining that the state is not getting enough Medicaid money. She said that has resulted in the Affordable Care Act not working as well as it was intended. Graham supported changes to the Affordable Care Act as a member of Congress and said Congress should continue to pursue fixes, not repeal.

"Congress has not done its job,'' she said. "Why? It's the politics. I will never let politics get in the way of doing what's right for the people of Florida." 

NOTE: This post has been updated. 

May 02, 2017

Emily's List endorses Gwen Graham for Florida governor

Gwen Graham 10 EKM (1)

@amysherman1

Emily's List, the national group that backs pro-choice female candidates, announced today that it endorsed Gwen Graham for Florida governor.

From a press release:

“Gwen Graham doesn’t need to tell Floridians that she’s a champion for women and families in her state – her record proves that beyond a doubt,” said EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock. “While serving in one of the most divisive Congresses in memory, Gwen fought to ensure Florida’s veterans received the health care they deserved, to end gender discrimination in pay, and for affordable college education for Floridians and all Americans. A tireless advocate for the middle class, Gwen has time and again fought for all the people of her state by building consensus, finding common ground, and defending our progressive values. Florida has never in its history elected a woman governor, and as someone who is incredibly passionate about the Sunshine State and the people who live there, Gwen is the leader Floridians need as governor. Gwen puts Florida first – and we are thrilled to stand with her in this fight.”

Gwen Graham kicks off campaign for governor in Miami Gardens

Gwen Graham 10 EKM (1)

@amysherman1

Gwen Graham, a former North Florida congresswoman and daughter of former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, officially announced her bid for governor on Tuesday, becoming the first major female candidate in a crowded field.

“I am so proud to announce I am running to serve as Florida’s next governor,” she said.

Graham focused much of her speech on supporting public schools and criticized the state for grading public schools and focusing on standardized tests.

“As governor I will not just criticize this culture of teaching to the test: I will end high-stakes testing,” she vowed.

Graham’s announcement at Carol City park in Miami Gardens was no surprise, because she has essentially acted like she was running for the 2018 race during the past year.

In April 2016, Graham announced she wouldn’t seek election to her seat in Congress, which was redrawn to favor Republicans, and was seriously considering a race for governor.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is term limited, prompting many candidates from both major parties to consider a run.

Keep reading here.

May 01, 2017

Gwen Graham expected to announce for governor Tuesday

GwengrahamAP

@amysherman1

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham is expected to announce her bid for governor Tuesday in Miami Gardens.

Her spokespersons are not officially confirming the subject of her "major announcement" but Democrats believe she will make her candidacy official.

Graham announced a year ago that she would not seek re-election to her Panhandle-based seat in Congress and would instead explore a bid for governor.

She will become the first major candidate who is female -- on the Democratic side Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King have announced. Republican Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam filed Monday.

March 01, 2017

Andrew Gillum, candidate for Florida governor, will speak to Broward Democrats

Gillumdncap

@amysherman1

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum who announced this week he will run for Florida governor in 2018 will speak to Broward Democrats Saturday night.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will deliver the keynote speech at the county party's annual fundraising dinner.

Other speakers including U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, Florida Democratic Party chairman Stephen Bittel and Broward Mayor Barbara Sharief.

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, another contender for the 2018 governor's race, is expected to attend the dinner. Gillum became the first major candidate to announce for the governor's race but Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and trial lawyer John Morgan have all but announced. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is a potential contender.

Gillum, 37, has been in the spotlight more in the past year after he spoke at the Democratic National Convention and took on the gun lobby in Florida. But he isn't well-known among average voters in South Florida.

About 350 Democrats have bought tickets to attend the "Obama-Roosevelt dinner" at Hyatt Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale.

Broward has about 600,000 registered Democratic voters -- the largest contingent in the state. A key challenge for the county party is to find a way to drive up turnout in 2018 -- in past cycles Broward voters have shown scant interest when the presidential candidates aren't on the ballot.

December 15, 2016

Husband's cancer is a factor in Graham's decision to run for governor

Gwen1_apFrom Brendan Farrington at the Associated Press:

Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham says she wants to run for governor, and she plans to run for governor. But there's one very important factor that's weighing on her decision: her husband has cancer.

"Every part of me wants to run for governor, that's what I feel passionate about, that's what I know I need to do for the state of Florida, but things happen in life that could take me off that path. I hope not," Graham said Wednesday evening while conducting her last "work day" as a congresswoman - helping sell Christmas trees at an outdoor stand.

The work days were a signature of her father Bob Graham's time as Florida governor and a U.S. senator. Like her father, she spends time experiencing different jobs as a way to reach out to constituents and voters.

She decided not to seek a second term in Congress after the Florida Supreme Court ordered new congressional districts be drawn so that don't favor incumbents or political parties. Graham's district became far more Republican and she decided to explore a 2018 run for governor rather than risk re-election.

She sounded a lot like a candidate when talking with reporters outside the Christmas tree stand, saying she plans to campaign in all 67 counties and discussing her campaign strategy. But she said she's waiting to see how treatment progresses on her husband Steve Hurm's prostate cancer.

"He absolutely wants me to run. He's very supportive of that and I couldn't do it without him by my side," she said. "I wouldn't do it without him by my side."

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is leaving office in 2019 due to term limits. Among other Democrats believed to be considering a run are Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and trial lawyer John Morgan. Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is also considering a run.

The Republican Governors Association is already preparing for a potential Graham candidacy, wasting little time after this year's election to begin attacking Graham in press releases. The association called Graham "just another Washington politician." Graham hadn't held elected office before winning her House seat two years ago.

Photo credit: AP

December 08, 2016

Republicans go on offensive against Gwen Graham

Gwen1_ap

@ByKristenMClark

Gwen Graham hasn't officially launched a campaign for Florida governor in 2018 -- but that's not stopping the Republican Governors Association from taking a pre-emptive swipe at the outgoing Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee.

In a statement Thursday, the RGA accused Graham of not being transparent, saying her congressional office hasn't responded to a Freedom of Information Act request made by the RGA.

However, the federal FOIA applies only to the executive branch, i.e. federal agencies. Congress, like federal courts, is exempt so Graham -- or any other member of Congress -- is under no obligation to respond to FOIA requests.

Nonetheless, RGA spokesman Jon Thompson said, "when it comes to transparency, Gwen Graham says one thing, but does another."

"Graham says she believes that Florida families deserve full transparency, but as her actions have demonstrated, she only believes in full transparency until it could impact her quest for political power," Thompson said.

Graham dismissed the RGA's criticism, saying in a statement: "We are 23 months away from the governor's election in Florida, and there will be plenty of time for the RGA to engage in this petty nonsense and partisan attacks."

Continue reading "Republicans go on offensive against Gwen Graham" »

August 04, 2016

PolitiFact: Gwen Graham says Rick Scott boasts about low wages

GwengrahamAP

A Donald Trump presidency would be as bad for America as Gov. Rick Scott has been for Florida, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham said to delegates at the Democratic National Convention.

At a Florida delegation breakfast on July 28, Graham compared the Republican presidential nominee to former businessman Scott, saying they were both from the "con-man wing" of the GOP. She said Scott has stunted Florida’s economy by keeping it a low-wage state.

"After six years, we’re now the third most populous state, but we rank 38th in wages," said Graham, the daughter of former Florida Gov. Bob Graham. "Scott's actually proud of how low they are. He goes out around the country and advertises that to other states."

We wondered if Floridians really earned so little, and whether Scott was so proud of low wages that he was using it as a selling point for other states. We found Graham was tripped up by details for both parts of this claim.

Keep reading Joshua Gillin's fact-check here.

Photo by AP