April 14, 2017

Many Democrats to run in Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's Miami district



Many Democrats are planning to run in the district held by Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who represents a left-leaning Miami-Dade district that Hillary Clinton won by 20 percentage points.

In 2016, Ros-Lehtinen fended off a challenge from Democrat Scott Fuhrman in November after District 27 was redrawn to lean Democratic. Furhman has said he will run for the seat again in 2018. Fuhrman lost 45-55 to Ros-Lehtinen, the best any challenger had achieved against Ros-Lehtinen who has been in office since 1989.

Here's a quick look at the other Democrats who have filed to run in the coastal southeastern Miami-Dade district, according to Federal Election Commission reports:

Kristen Rosen Gonzalez: She is in the second year of her first term on the Miami Beach City Commission and a Miami Dade College professor finishing her PhD on leadership in higher education administration at Barry University.

Michael A. Hepburn: A Miami native, Hepburn is a member of the Miami Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and serves on the Allapattah Neighborhood Association and the Miami Dade Democratic Executive Committee. He works as a senior academic advisor for the School of Business at the University of Miami. Hepburn lost a primary against Daphne Campbell for state representative in 2014. 

Mark Anthony Person filed to run with the state Division of Elections but his name was not listed with the Federal Election Commission and he could not be reached for comment.

Ros-Lehtinen has been one of the main GOP critics of President Donald Trump including the Republican Party's health care overhaul which Trump backed.

The Cook Political Report, which publishes a Partisan Voting Index, named Ros-Lehtinen third on the list of the 10 Republicans in the most Democratic districts in the nation. Miami U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo topped the list. 

"Most districts are gerrymandered to the point where folks only have to listen to the most conservative positions, the most conservative viewpoints, and think that the other side is full of hogwash arguments. That's not true," Ros-Lehtinen previously told the Miami Herald. "I'm very comfortable with this district because it is actually a reflection of me: Sometimes I'm conservative, and on some issues I'm more moderate."


April 07, 2017

Curbelo may be the most endangered Republican in Congress, report suggests

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Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo better get used to that political target on his back.

The sophomore congressman might be the single most vulnerable Republican in the country going into the 2018 election, according to a new analysis of partisanship in congressional districts.

The Cook Political Report, which has been publishing its Partisan Voting Index since 1997, found that Curbelo represents the most Democratic of districts held by Republican members of Congress.

Florida’s 26th district, which extends from Westchester to Key West, performed an average of 6 percentage points more Democratic than the nation did as a whole between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, Cook Report editor David Wasserman found in his report, released Friday.

“In the modern era, it takes considerable personal appeal to win a House election in a district that fundamentally favors the opposite party,” Wasserman wrote. “There are several members on both sides who have successfully run ‘against the grain.’ However, these members are also likeliest to be among the top targets for the opposite party in 2018 and beyond.”

No. 3 on the list of the 10 Republicans in the most Democratic districts is Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, whose 27th district — a stretch of coastal southeastern Miami-Dade County — performed on average 5 points more Democratic at the presidential level than the rest of the country.

More here.

Photo credit: Jose A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

Ros-Lehtinen predicts Bannon's 'days are numbered' in White House

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Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen welcomed news earlier this week that President Donald Trump had removed chief strategist Steve Bannon from the National Security Council. But should Trump go further and kick Bannon out of the White House?

That was the question local Democratic pollster and radio host Fernand Amandi posed the congresswoman Friday morning, after several reports that Bannon is increasingly isolated inside the White House.

"I think it will be welcome news for the nation" if Bannon leaves the administration, Ros-Lehtinen said on Amandi's WIOD-AM (610) show. "His views are not in line with our country. We are an inclusive country that welcomes different points of views. His ties to certain groups are very worrisome."

"I think his days are numbered in that administration," continued Ros-Lehtinen, a frequent Trump critic who represents a Democratic-leaning district and doesn't have close White House ties. "And I think profound changes will be coming in the shakeup in the White House in the coming months."

Listen to Ros-Lehtinen here.

Photo credit: Matias J. Ocner, Miami Herald

April 05, 2017

Florida lawmakers offer bipartisan praise for Bannon's removal from NSC

via @learyreports

Steve Bannon's removal from the National Security Council brought bipartisan praise from Florida.

Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miamicalled it "welcome news."


Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Orlando had also pushed for Bannon's removal.

“Today’s decision to remove Steve Bannon from the National Security Council is a huge victory for democracy and a strong step toward depoliticizing our national security,” she said. “In February, I introduced a bill to remove political advisers like Bannon from the NSC, and it received nearly 200 cosponsors and a groundswell of national public support. This is proof that democracy works and that the American people, when they make their voices heard, can affect change."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 29, 2017

Miami Republicans divided over internet privacy rules

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Two Miami Republicans, Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart, voted this week to lift restrictions on internet providers from tracking and sharing personal data without consent, joining a Republican majority that sent the legislation to President Donald Trump's desk.

Diaz-Balart's office said he supported the bill because it "eliminates confusing regulations" that allow both the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission to regulate the internet. The FCC rules that would be repealed by the law apply only to major providers like Verizon but not to giant websites like Google.

"This evens the playing field for the entire internet," Diaz-Balart spokeswoman Katrina Valdés said in a statement. "At the end of the day, the bill doesn't strip consumer privacy, but rather, strengthens the power of the one agency that had already been enforcing it."

Curbelo made a similar argument.

"The FCC has been trying to expand its rulemaking authority and grow our government and regulations in a way that inhibits the free market competition," he said in a statement. "This joint resolution does not modify or reduce existing privacy regulations, and does not put consumers at any increased risk."

But the third local Republican lawmaker, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, disagrees. Ros-Lehtinen was absent from Tuesday's vote because she had to go out of town to be with her daughter, the congresswoman's office said Wednesday. But if Ros-Lehtinen had been in Washington, she said she would have broken with Diaz-Balart and Curbelo.

"I would have voted no on the bill because of the potential for individuals' private information to be shared," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement to the Miami Herald after a reporter inquired about her absence. "Many treat their online searches and activity as a part of their private lives and to have that information exposed for no or little other purpose than targeted advertising or data mining betrays the public's trust." 

All House Democrats voted against. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which plans to target Curbelo in the 2018 election, accused him of putting "corporate interests over the private, personal interests of Florida."

When the Senate passed the measure last week, Floridians Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio split their votes along party lines. Rubio, a Republican, voted in favor, while Nelson, a Democrat, voted against.

This post has been updated.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald

March 28, 2017

Miami Republicans call Trump order on climate change 'dangerous,' 'misguided'


Miami Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo on Tuesday once again criticized President Donald Trump, their party's leader, this time over his executive order undoing many of the Obama administration's climate change rules.

The reversal is "troubling" and "dangerous," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. Curbelo called Trump's action "misguided."

Both lawmakers represent coastal South Florida districts directly affected by rising sea levels and other effects of global warming. They have already been critical of Trump's executive order on immigration.

"The administration's decision to roll back emissions standards is troubling due to the impact it has on sea level rise and ocean acidification on our South Florida beaches," Ros-Lehtinen said. "Instead of taking this dangerous path, we should be working to promote clean energy and other methods that will help preserve our environment for future generations to come. My coastal South Florida district is negatively impacted by this order and it takes us backward during a time when we should be monitoring climate change and working assiduously to stop its damaging impact."

"While I am encouraged the Administration did not ask the EPA to reconsider its endangerment finding, which declares greenhouse gas pollution threatens human health and welfare, today's rollback of emission standards is misguided," Curbelo said in a statement of his own. "Climate change is occurring and it is not a coincidence global temperatures have risen at the same time tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide have been added to the atmosphere.  We see the effects of climate change firsthand in South Florida, resulting in rising sea-levels, bleached coral reefs, and salt water intrusion. Climate change is also a threat to our national security and local economies across the country. We cannot, and must not, ignore these challenges.

"I continue to believe economic growth and dealing with this threat are not mutually exclusive. We have a responsibility to our citizens and future generations to support market-based solutions, investments, and innovations that could alleviate the effects of climate change and make our nation more resilient. In South Florida we know well that the economy and the environment are one in the same. Weak environmental policies ultimately lead to the destruction of jobs and quality of life. I hope the Administration will work with me and my colleagues in the Climate Solutions Caucus to Act on this in a responsible, bipartisan way going forward, but today that is clearly not the case."

Democrats also decried Trump's action -- including Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman.

 That prompted the National Republican Congressional Committee to criticize Luján for caring "more about serving his far-left environmentalist financial backers than New Mexico families."

The same NRCC will be tasked next year with defending Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen from almost-certain challengers in their Democratic-leaning districts.

Photo credit: José A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

March 23, 2017

Miami Republicans will have to make up their minds on health care today

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With a vote looming Thursday evening on House Republicans' healthcare bill, two of three Miami lawmakers whose districts have among the highest number of Affordable Care Act enrollees have yet to announce their support or opposition.

Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart have been undecided -- with Curbelo leaning "Yes" and Diaz-Balart leaning "No" -- since both voted for the American Health Care Act in different House committees.

Curbelo helped move the law out of the Ways and Means Committee before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that 14 million Americans would drop or lose their insurance coverage in 2018 under the law; Diaz-Balart helped break a tie to pass the legislation out of the Budget Committee, despite saying he had concerns with it.

The White House has been wooing Diaz-Balart and other ambivalent Republicans all week. Curbelo was among the group of moderates who met Wednesday night with House Speaker Paul Ryan. They reached no broad agreement.

The third Miami Republican, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, was the first Florida member of Congress to oppose the bill -- and she still does, she said Thursday.

"After studying the impact of this legislation on my constituents, I will vote no on this bill because it does not provide adequate solutions for the working poor, disabled, and elderly in South Florida," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "Too many of my constituents will be left paying more for coverage and many will be left without coverage at all. The cuts and changes to Medicaid will make it more difficult to effectively care for uninsured patients as well as individuals with high costs of coverage due to special needs or chronic diseases. Additionally, costs for seniors will increase significantly as insurance companies will charge older Americans exorbitantly high premiums and fees which many cannot afford."

Later, Ros-Lehtinen said in an interview on WIOD-AM (510) that any of the proposed cuts to "essential" healthcare benefits to appease the most conservative members of the GOP caucus would amount to a "humongous concession."

"Oh my gosh -- why have insurance?" she told host Fernand Amandi, who is also a Democratic pollster.

Amandi asked if the White House had tried to entice Ros-Lehtinen to change her mind. She said she'd gotten overtures from "people who never even knew I existed."

"I did get invited to bowl at the White House. Yaaaay!" she said. "But I turned that down."

Spokeswomen for Curbelo and Diaz-Balart said Thursday morning the lawmakers are in negotiation meetings over the bill all day.

A national Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday showed 56 percent of respondents oppose the AHCA, and only 17 percent support it.

This post has been updated.

Photo credit: Hector Gabino, el Nuevo Herald

March 21, 2017

Club for Growth kicks off ads urging Ros-Lehtinen to oppose 'Ryancare'


The conservative Club for Growth wants Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to hold firm on her opposition to the House GOP healthcare plan.

The group has kicked off a TV and digital ad campaign asking Ros-Lehtinen to vote no. She has already said she will -- but not for the reasons endorsed by the Club for Growth. Ros-Lehtinen says the bill would hurt too many people in her district insured under the Affordable Care Act. The Club considers the legislation, backed by Speaker Paul Ryan, not conservative enough.

“The RyanCare bill fails to keep President Trump’s promises of interstate competition and health insurance deregulation,” Club for Growth President David McIntosh said in a statement. “Republicans promised a bill that would stop Obamacare’s taxes and mandates, and replace them with free-market reforms that will increase health insurance competition and drive down costs. RyanCare fails on those counts and that’s why the Club is letting millions of constituents know that their Representative should reject RyanCare.”

The $500,000 ad campaign will target Ros-Lehtinen and nine other Republican lawmakers: Leonard Lance of New Jersey, Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, John Katko of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Rob Wittman of Virginia, Peter King of New York, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Darrell Issa of California and Don Bacon of Nebraska.


March 20, 2017

Ros-Lehtinen, unlike other Republicans, questions FBI chief about Russian election meddling

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As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen got to question FBI chief James Comey on Monday. But unlike some of her GOP colleagues, she steered clear of any talk about leaks to reporters about FBI investigations -- and focused rather on the investigations themselves, into Russian meddling into the U.S. presidential election.

It was during Ros-Lehtinen's questioning that Comey made the -- perhaps underappreciated -- admission that hackers will probably try to interfere with future elections, too.

"They'll be back in 2020. They may be back in 2018," he conceded, noting that cyber actors may consider their "sowing discord" in the 2016 campaign to have been a success.

"We will follow the facts wherever they lead, on a bipartisan level," Ros-Lehtinen said about the committee's investigation. "And there will be no sacred cows."

New batch of digital ads pressure Curbelo, Ros-Lehtinen to back GOP health plan


Ahead of this week's expected House vote on the Republican healthcare plan, a political group linked to Speaker Paul Ryan is putting out a new batch of digital ads meant to nudge two South Florida members of Congress to vote in favor.

Starting Monday, American Action Network's web campaign will target 29 Republican lawmakers, including Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, both of Miami, whose Democratic-leaning districts have among the highest number of Obamacare enrollees in the country.

"Tell Congress it's time for better health care," the display ads say. There will also be video ads.

Ros-Lehtinen has said she won't vote for the American Health Care Act as written because it would leave too many people uninsured. Curbelo, who voted for it in committee, late last week expressed some concerns and said he would work with Ryan and other House leaders to improve the legislation. American Action Network had already backed Curbelo with TV ads to bolster his position.

A vote is planned for Thursday,