August 01, 2017

Curbelo draws Democratic challenger in swing Florida district

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@patriciamazzei @alextdaugherty

Months after Democrats began calling him a top national target, Carlos Curbelo has drawn a serious 2018 challenger.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who ran a stronger-than-expected state Senate campaign in 2016, will run for Congress. She plans to hold a news conference announcing her candidacy Wednesday.

“It’s shocking that the people in Washington are trying to strip healthcare from millions of Americans,” Mucarsel-Powell told the Miami Herald in an interview Monday, taking a jab at Curbelo. “The person that I’m running against voted for Trumpcare.”

She claimed Curbelo “has voted more than 86 percent of the time with Trump,” but also insisted: “I don’t want to focus my entire energy on what’s happening with the president.”

The bilingual Mucarsel-Powell, 46, was born in Ecuador, where she lived until she was 14. That’s when she and her single mother and three sisters moved to southern California. Mucarsel-Powell followed a sister to South Florida in 1996.

Now married with a stepdaughter, a daughter and a son, Mucarsel-Powell lives in Pinecrest, which is outside the 26th congressional district, a stretch of Westchester to Key West. She rents property in the Florida Keys, she said. Curbelo lives about a mile from the district’s boundaries in West Kendall.

After years of working in various nonprofit organizations, at ZooMiami and for Florida International University, Mucarsel-Powell opened a consulting firm on strategic planning.

“I’ve spent my entire life in nonprofits trying to bring change, positive change,” she said. “People are really charged. They’re angry. They’re frustrated. They want change.”

For months, national Democrats have labeled Curbelo a top target, citing his district’s Democratic-leaning makeup. It favors Democrats by 6 percentage points, according to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, making Curbelo’s district the most Democratic in the country currently held by a Republican. Last year, Hillary Clinton bested Trump in the district by 16 points.

But Curbelo defeated Democrat Joe Garcia by 12 points, a 28-point swing showing Curbelo’s crossover appeal among Democrats and independents. He’s also a prolific fundraiser who had $1.1 million in his campaign account as of June 30 and consistently posts among the highest fundraising hauls of House members in both parties. Mucarsel-Powell said she expects to have to raise at least $4 million to compete.

Curbelo’s support in May for the American Health Care Act, House Republicans’ proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act, was political manna for Democratic Party leaders, who see the vote as one of Curbelo’s biggest electoral weaknesses in a district where 92,500 people get health insurance through Obamacare — one of the highest rates in the country. Republicans have already vowed to spend millions of dollars defending Curbelo and other Republicans in competitive districts who backed the legislation.

Read more here.

July 25, 2017

Raquel Regalado officially announces run to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Regalado Congress

@alextdaugherty 

Raquel Regalado is officially joining the race to replace longtime Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring from Congress next year. 

The former Miami-Dade school board member and candidate for county mayor in 2016 filed her paperwork to compete in the Republican primary against county commissioner Bruno Barreiro on Tuesday morning. Nancy Watkins, a top Florida GOP political accountant based in Tampa, will serve as campaign treasurer. 

Regalado highlighted Miami's affordable housing woes in her announcement video. 

"I'm running for Congress because we cannot afford to live in South Florida, because before we get to any other issue we need better paying jobs" Regalado said. "We can't afford to buy a home. We can't afford to live here. We can't afford to raise our children here. We're at a critical point, we need educated, reasonable, articulate and thoughtful people in Congress."

The 43-year-old daughter of Miami mayor Tomás Regalado can now start fundraising after Barreiro raised $176,000 in the most recent fundraising quarter. Maria Peiro, who unsuccessfully ran against Ros-Lehtinen in the 2016 Republican primary also announced her intentions to run, but has not filed yet. 

Regalado is a self-described moderate Republican seeking election in a Miami-based district that Hillary Clinton won by nearly 20 percentage points over Donald Trump, making it the most Democratic district in the country currently held by a Republican. Ros-Lehtinen's retirement opens up a seat that national Democrats see as a prime pickup opportunity in 2018.

Regalado has a history of bucking the GOP. In 2010, she campaigned for Democrat Alex Sink for governor over Republican Rick Scott before unsuccessfully challenging Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez, a fellow Republican, for his seat in 2016. She also did not endorse Trump or Clinton in the 2016 election.

A slew of Democrats have announced or are weighing bids for Ros-Lehtinen's seat. 

Correction: A previous version of this most misidentified Regalado's age. She is 43, not 42. 

June 06, 2017

Trump encouraged Russian hacking during Doral speech less than a year ago

TRUMP0728 PRESS1 CTJ

@alextdaugherty 

Over the weekend, the FBI arrested a suspected leaker for turning over classified documents that outlined the extent of Russian hacking efforts on voting systems, including an attempted hack on Florida officials, during the 2016 election. 

But less than 12 months ago President Donald Trump encouraged the Russians to hack into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's emails during a press conference at his golf resort in Doral.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said to a room full of TV cameras at Trump National Doral in July 2016. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Since assuming the presidency, Trump has railed against "leakers" who provide anonymous information to news media outlets, arguing they undermine his ability to lead, after repeatedly promoting information from WikiLeaks during the campaign that was obtained through leaks.  

During a rollicking hour of back-and-forth round of questioning from the press in Doral, Trump flippantly promoted the idea of Russian involvement in Clinton's email server. 

“They probably have her 33,000 e-mails that she lost and deleted because you'd see some beauties there,” he said. “So let's see.”

Trump surrogates characterized his comments as a joke after the speech. 

Jason Miller, Trump's communications adviser at the time, said Trump was not calling for Russia to hack Clinton but to hand over emails to the FBI if they had them.

“To be clear, Mr. Trump did not call on, or invite, Russia or anyone else to hack Hillary Clinton’s e-mails today,” Miller said on Twitter. “Trump was clearly saying that if Russia or others have Clinton’s 33,000 illegally deleted emails, they should share them.”

But in order for Russia to have the emails, the government would have likely needed to engage in hacking if Clinton declined to hand them over on her own free will. 

The arrest of Reality Winner, a 25-year-old intelligence contractor, is the first leak case that led to an arrest under President Trump. The FBI said Monday that Winner had contact with a news outlet and the FBI announced Winner's arrest, which occurred last weekend, about an hour after national security website The Intercept published a story based on classified documents. The documents, which were partially redacted, outlined the ways in which Russian hackers attempted to obtain voting information using emails. 

A Herald/Times story from September 2016 said the FBI was investigating a "malicious act" against election supervisors throughout Florida. There is currently no evidence that Russian hacking efforts altered votes in the 2016 election. 

Barack Obama brought nine or 10 leak-related prosecutions during his eight years in office, about twice as many that were brought under every previous presidency. 

 

February 01, 2017

Invalid votes for president spike in Florida, outnumbering Trump's margin of victory here

From Gary Fineout at the Associated Press:

Beyoncé, Tim Tebow or the Norse god Thor for prez? Those were some of Florida's more unusual picks for president this past election.

And the number of Florida voters who didn't cast a vote for either Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or any other valid contender spiked in 2016, apparently in protest over the ballot choices.

A report released by state officials Wednesday showed more than 161,000 Florida voters who took part in the elections either at the polls or by mail didn't cast a valid vote for president.

The "non-valid votes" include those who wrote in such names as Mickey Mouse or Bernie Sanders and others who simply left the ballot blank. It also includes those who voted for more than one candidate.

All told, the invalid ballots outnumbered Republican Trump's margin of victory over Democrat Clinton of nearly 113,000 votes to clinch Florida's 29 electoral votes.

And the rate of invalid votes for president in 2016 — 1.69 percent overall — was more than double the rate it was in 2012 and 2008 when President Barack Obama won the state each time.

"There were some people who were very disgruntled," said Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles, giving the read of some fellow election officials on the report.

More here.

January 17, 2017

Congressman Alcee Hastings boycotts Donald Trump's inauguration

Alcee2AP

@amysherman1

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings will not attend Donald Trump's inauguration.

Hastings will spend the day in his district instead, spokesman Evan Polisar said. Hastings, who lives in Delray Beach, represents portions of Broward, Palm Beach and Hendry counties. Hastings rallied African-Americans to support Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The other two Democrats who represent Broward -- Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston and Ted Deutch of Boca Raton -- will both attend the inauguration. Wasserman Schultz will attend the Women's March on Washington Saturday and is co-hosting a breakfast before the march.

Here is Hastings' statement:

“I have decided to boycott the Inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump and remain in my Congressional district in Florida. This decision is not a protest of the results of the Electoral College, but rather, an objection to the demagoguery that continues to define the incoming administration.

“President-elect Trump has done little to prove that he is ready to lead this country. Instead, he continues to champion divisiveness. The office of the President is not endowed with unquestioned loyalty, and it is the obligation of each and every American to speak out against injustices however big or small. I cannot play a part in normalizing the countless offensive comments that he has made throughout the past year.

“It is quite simply wrong for the President-elect to use his position of power to continue to make racist, sexist, and bigoted statements, to demean those who have spent their lifetimes championing civil rights, such as Rep. John Lewis, and to ridicule religious minorities, ethnic minorities, and anyone who looks different. President-elect Trump continues to denigrate the American intelligence community, jeopardizing the security of the American people, and has clear, undeniable conflicts of interest in violation of Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution, designed to prevent foreign influence over American elected officials. Make no mistake: these behaviors are not, nor can they ever be, considered normal.

“President-elect Trump has made it clear that when given the choice, he stands with Vladimir Putin. I choose to stand with Rep. John Lewis, and every American that expects our President to serve with compassion and humility. If the Trump administration continues to champion illegal, unconstitutional, or other ideas that put the safety of the American people at risk, it will find no harsher critic than me.”

 

December 29, 2016

PolitiFact Florida: Top 10 viewed fact-checks in 2016

Trump_pointing_miami

@amysherman1

Donald Trump’s wealth and Hillary Clinton’s record as Secretary of State were some of the contentious topics in 2016 that fueled our most clicked-on fact-checks at PolitiFact Florida.

Also fueling our Truth-O-Meter were statements by two of Florida’s Republican presidential primary opponents -- former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio-- as well as former Democratic National Committee chair U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

But it was a story about race and murder statistics that we wrote in 2015 hat drew the most clicks in 2016. Our story explained that FBI data shows that whites usually kill whites, and blacks usually kill blacks. In recent years, these statistics have repeatedly drawn interest in the aftermath of high-profile shooting deaths in which race was a factor.

Here’s a look at the most-clicked on fact-checks and articles we published in 2016 from PolitiFact Florida.

December 28, 2016

PolitiFact: The Top 10 fact-checks in 2016

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@lindaqiu

President-elect Donald Trump’s business record and Hillary Clinton’s email practices were some of the most contentious issues of the 2016 election — and some of PolitiFact’s most popular reports of the year.

In addition to our fact-checks, readers clicked on special reports and roundups. The perennial reader-favorite examining whether Ted Cruz being born in Canada had any bearing on his presidential eligibility fetched nearly a million views. Our guide to viral graphics contrasting Clinton and Bernie Sanders was a hit during the Democratic primary. And we drew tons of eyeballs for our live fact-checking and round-ups of the presidential debates.

Out of over 1,100 fact-checks related to this presidential cycle, here are the most clicked-on fact-checks of the past 12 months.

Keep reading from PolitiFact.

 

December 21, 2016

Clinton's team feared Rubio more than Trump - until it was too late

via @learyreports

It’s not news that Hillary Clinton’s campaign viewed Marco Rubio with some fear. Democratic emails apparently stolen by the Russians showed Clinton’s team was impressed with the Floridian. “He gives a good speech, and sounded more reasonable, populist than a GOP candidate …” read one email.

Now comes evidence that Clinton considered him more of a threat than Donald Trump — if the size of opposition research books mean anything.

The Trump oppo book was a mere 157 pages, while one for Ted Cruz was 201 pages. Rubio’s was 431 pages.

The details were contained in a Vanity Fair story about the “desperate, year-long hunt to find Donald Trump’s rumored Apprentice outtakes.”

While Cruz was clearly a possible contender, many in the room agreed that Rubio, with his youth and charisma, posed the most considerable challenge. And then there was Trump, who was characterized in the meeting under “the four B’s”: a bully, a bigot, a bad businessman, and—as some staffers noted—not a billionaire. (There was discussion of a fifth B, which, in typical Democratic jargon, was “blithe.”) Trump’s oppo book was slim not because Clinton staffers had missed details regarding his divorces or corporate bankruptcies. It was short because they didn’t think he had much of a chance of winning the G.O.P. nomination.

December 13, 2016

PolitiFact: Lie of the Year for 2016 is fake news

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@angieholan 

Ignoring the facts has long been a staple of political speech. Every day, politicians overstate some statistic, distort their opponents’ positions, or simply tell out-and-out whoppers. Surrogates and pundits spread the spin.

Then there’s fake news, the phenomenon that is now sweeping, well, the news. Fake news is made-up stuff, masterfully manipulated to look like credible journalistic reports that are easily spread online to large audiences willing to believe the fictions and spread the word.

In 2016, the prevalence of political fact abuse – promulgated by the words of two polarizing presidential candidates and their passionate supporters – gave rise to a spreading of fake news with unprecedented impunity.

Fake news: Hillary Clinton is running a child sex ring out of a pizza shop.

Fake news: Democrats want to impose Islamic law in Florida.

Fake news: Thousands of people at a Donald Trump rally in Manhattan chanted, "We hate Muslims, we hate blacks, we want our great country back."

None of those stories – and there are so many more like them – is remotely true.

Keep reading from PolitiFact.

November 30, 2016

Analysis shows Miami voters crossed party lines to support Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen -- and Clinton

An new analysis of how Florida's congressional districts voted in November by Democratic data guru Matt Isbell shows that voters crossed party lines heavily in two Miami-Dade districts to re-elect Republican incumbents, despite overwhelmingly support for Democrat Hillary Clinton. Florida Congressional Districts Trump v Clinton

Isbell's data shows that if voters who supported Clinton had stuck with Democrats in the congressional vote, there would be 14 Repubicans in Florida's congressional delegation and 13 Democrats, instead of 16-11 split that was elected.

The principle takeaway: the partisan battleground lies in Miami but the battle grounds are already clear for 2018: newly-elected Democratic Congressman Charlie Crist better be wary, his district barely embraced Clinton; and Republican U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart's Miami district also only narrowly gave Trump the edge. 

The crossover votes came in Miami District 26, where Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo fended off a challenge from his former rival, Democrat Joe Garcia 53 to 41 percent, with independent Jose Peixoto getting 6 percent of the vote. In Miami District 27, where Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen kept her decades long hold on an otherwise Democratic district by defeating Democrat Mark Fuhrman 55 to 45 percent. 

Here's the breakdown via Matt Isbell of @mcimaps: 

Continue reading "Analysis shows Miami voters crossed party lines to support Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen -- and Clinton" »