May 09, 2017

Could race for Ros-Lehtinen's seat hurt Democrats seeking Curbelo challenger?


In this week's episode of "Beyond the Bubble," our weekly McClatchy newspapers political podcast, we asked Florida Democratic political consultant Steve Schale about the race to replace Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- specifically, whether it might hurt Democrats hunting for someone to challenge Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

"I worry about that," Schale said.

A bunch of Democrats have expressed interest in Ros-Lehtinen's seat -- but so far no one has filed against Curbelo. Both Republicans represent Democratic-leaning, Miami-based seats.

"Good candidates for any elected office tend to be very rational actors," Schale said. "If you look at history, it's always easier to win an open seat."

Ros-Lehtinen's 27th district "is probably four to five points better for a Democrat" than Curbelo's 26th district, Schale added. "I do think that a lot of your top-tier candidates are going to look at this seat first."

But Schale noted that if a strong competitor emerges in the Ros-Lehtinen field, others might then shift their campaigns elsewhere.

Listen to the full interview below.

Democratic senator says he'll run for Ros-Lehtinen's congressional seat

007 Amendment 4 DS

Arguing that “the character of our democracy” is at stake, state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez plans to soon become a candidate for Congress.

The Miami Democrat told the Miami Herald he intends to compete for U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat in 2018.

“It’s a really important time to run,” Rodríguez said in an interview. “It’s a time when we’re trying to define what country we are, and the character of our democracy.”

Rodríguez, 38, would be the first big-name Democrat to declare a candidacy since Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, shocked the political order last week when she said she wouldn’t seek reelection after 28 years in the U.S. House. Rodríguez could take a few weeks to get his paperwork in order and formally open a fundraising account.

Ros-Lehtinen had already drawn four Democratic challengers before announcing her retirement April 30. In the nine days since, a string of other local politicians have said they might be interested in running for her open, Democratic-leaning seat. She represents the 27th district, a swath of southeastern Miami-Dade County.

More here.

May 03, 2017

Ros-Lehtinen is the longest-serving woman in Congress from the South (and other fun facts)


The folks at Smart Politics have compiled a number of interesting factoids about Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who said Sunday she will retire at the end of her term next year.

Among their findings:

  • "A new Smart Politics report finds that Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will exit the U.S. House in January 2019 with the sixth longest tenure (29 years, 4 months, 6 days) among the nearly 300 women who have served in the chamber and the second longest among GOP women.
  • Ros-Lehtinen will eclipse Frances Bolton on July 7, 2018 to exit Capitol Hill with the second longest service for a Republican woman in the chamber’s history behind only Edith Rogers.
  • Ros-Lehtinen is the longest-serving woman from the South in the chamber’s history and the only such member to serve over a quarter century. Texas Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson (24 years, 4 months) will eclipse that mark in early 2018."

The full Smart Politics report is available here.

Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald staff

May 01, 2017

Gov. Rick Scott miffed about budget but doesn't use 'veto' word



Gov. Rick Scott is clearly miffed that the state Legislature doesn’t see eye-to-eye with him on tax cuts and the amount of money for Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, but he wouldn’t use the “veto” word in an interview in Broward Monday.

Scott briefly spoke with reporters while visiting Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale for Fleet Week. Scott gave no indication about his timeline for setting a special election to fill the seat of Sen. Frank Artiles and called the retirement of U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen a loss for the state.

Here is a partial transcript:

Q: It looks like tax cuts are far smaller than you had hoped for. How do you feel about that?

“We walked in with almost $3 billion surplus. We have some extra general revenue, the president gave us the low-income pool that President Obama had cut so we have ability to do tax cuts. The right thing to do is give citizens some of their money back. Our economy is booming right now, we ought to give people their money back.

I am very concerned about making sure the Legislature finds$ 200 million to jump start the Lake Okeechobee dike project. I am very focused on making sure they give us $100 million to continue the success we’ve had with tourism in this state. If we want to continue to diversify this economy we've got to continue to fund Enterprise Florida.”

Q: How likely is it you will veto the budget if it doesn’t give as much in tax cuts or Visit Florida or Enterprise Florida funding as you think Florida needs?

“I’m going review the budget like I've done every year make sure it's good for citizens of our state.”

Q: What do you think about the Latest GOP health care plan -- the MacCarthur amendment that would give waivers states. Do you think Congress should pass that and would you want a waiver or Florida?

“I clearly want as much flexibility as possible. We've got to figure out how to reduce costs. The way you reduce costs is you create more competition, you would allow people to buy the insurance they want to can buy, you sell insurance across state lines....”

Q: Would you want them to vote yes on the (health care) amendment?

“I haven’t seen all of it but I know we have to repeal and replace Obamacare. We’ve got to make sure citizens can afford their health care.”

Q: what do you think about Ileana Ros-Lehtinen retiring?

“She is wonderful person. I spoke to her on Saturday. She and her husband Dexter are wonderful people. She clearly cares about her state, she clearly cares about freedom and liberty in Cuba. It will be very difficult to replace her.

Q: What do you think the chances are that Republicans can win that seat. It's now a left leaning seat with tons of Democrats lining up."

“This election going to be about who can do the best thing for the state.”

File photo of Gov. Rick Scott

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

IMG_Economic_Impact_of_I_2_1_8BAO5GJG_L296697696 (4)

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

Cuba_Deal_MJO_04 (1)

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

Roslehtinen2 castro lnew cmg

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