June 07, 2018

'It's like the last two minutes of a football game' Miami Republicans push for a DACA solution

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

@alextdaugherty

House Republicans are nearing the point of no return on immigration. 

A petition that would force a slew of immigration votes is three signatures away from success, while Speaker Paul Ryan continues to negotiate with petition ringleader Rep. Carlos Curbelo and conservative Republicans. 

Curbelo said a Thursday morning meeting with the entire Republican caucus went well.

"Wrapping up meeting," Curbelo tweeted. "I don’t think it could have gone any better. Some questions but a lot of consensus. Our country deserves meaningful action on now. For too long politicians have used this issue for personal political gain. Enough." 

But conservative Rep. Mark Meadows, who leads a group that is opposed to Curbelo's discharge petition, said a deal that satisfies the various factions of House Republicans was not reached on Thursday morning. Marc Short, President Donald Trump's liaison on Capitol Hill, said Curbelo's petition would cede the House floor to Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. He wants to see the House agree to an immigration plan that looks like the president's proposal from earlier this year, though that proposal failed to gain support in the U.S. Senate in February. 

Other Republicans who have not signed Curbelo's petition did not agree with Short's assessment, and said the petition gives Ryan the latitude to craft a bill that satisfies 218 Republicans. 

"Some of us are really frustrated to not be able to have a vote," petition signer Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said. "Miami, South Florida in general is ground zero for Dreamers so we want a permanent legislative fix, we want them to have a pathway to citizenship, but we realize for some that's really tough." 

Ros-Lehtinen said Ryan and Republican leaders aren't cajoling Republicans not to sign the petition, at least not in front of other members, but that getting three more people to sign on will be a major challenge. 

"In the conference they weren't telling people 'Don't sign the petition,'" Ros-Lehtinen said. "We're three signatures away but it's like the last two minutes of a football game, it just goes on forever." 

There's a limited window for immigration votes if Curbelo's petition succeeds. If Curbelo can get enough support in the next week or so, the House could vote on four immigration bills on June 25. 

Republicans like Ros-Lehtinen and Curbelo, who both represent Miami-area districts with thousands of immigrations, are demanding a legislative solution that provides a path to citizenship for 700,000 young people who came to the United States years ago. 

May 11, 2018

Conservative group endorses Maria Elvira Salazar in GOP primary for Ros-Lehtinen's seat

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@alextdaugherty

So far, national conservative groups have largely stayed away from the GOP primary to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

But Miami broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar nabbed an endorsement on Friday from FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group that promotes small government and frequently clashes with GOP leaders in Washington. 

“Maria Elvira Salazar has the advantage every Republican candidate is looking for this year: authentic grassroots enthusiasm surrounding her campaign," FreedomWorks executive director Noah Wall said in a statement. "The feedback we received from activists across the district was overwhelmingly supportive of sending Salazar to Washington. Democrats are fundraising like crazy to flip this seat, so it will be a very competitive general election. Maria Elvira Salazar is the obvious choice for Republicans who want to send a strong and principled candidate into the general election and protect this seat." 

The nine-person GOP field to replace Ros-Lehtinen includes former Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barriero, who entered the race a year ago. But Salazar and a host of other GOP hopefuls raised at least six figures in the latest fundraising quarter, and Salazar led the group with a $303,000 fundraising haul since announcing her candidacy in March. 

FreedomWorks is frequently at odds with GOP leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, and is generally supportive of lawmakers who oppose any federal spending increases. Miami Republican Reps. Ros-Lehtinen, Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart all have failing scores on their voting record from the group this year, and many lawmakers with high scores are members of the conservative Freedom Caucus. 

Democrats are favored to flip Ros-Lehtinen's seat in November after Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by 19 percentage points in the coastal Miami-Dade district in 2016, though the Democratic field does not include a Hispanic candidate in a majority Hispanic district and Ros-Lehtinen said this week she plans to campaign for whoever wins the GOP primary in August. 

May 04, 2018

The field for three competitive Miami-Dade congressional races is now official

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

@alextdaugherty

Candidates for federal office in Florida had until noon Friday to make their bids official, and all four incumbents running for Congress in Miami-Dade districts will face opposition in November. 

Two of the incumbents, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Miami Gardens Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson will face primary challenges, though they will be overwhelming favorites to win the August primary election. Wilson will be heavily favored to keep her seat in a deep blue district against a candidate who has also filed to run for U.S. Senate in Florida and Congress in California. While Curbelo's primary will likely be non-competitive, he likely faces a competitive general election challenge from Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell

Two Democrats who considered challenging Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart dropped out after former judge Mary Barzee Flores switched races yesterday. Diaz-Balart and Barzee Flores will not have primary challengers. 

And Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz, the fourth incumbent running for reelection in Miami-Dade, won't face a Democratic primary like she did in 2016. Tim Canova is running again after raising millions but falling well short of knocking off the former DNC chair, but this time he's running as an independent. There will also be a Republican primary in Wasserman Schultz's Democratic-leaning district. 

The largest primary field on both sides is the race to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The district is considered a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats and four of them, former University of Miami president Donna Shalala, state Rep. David Richardson, former Knight Foundation Director Matt Haggman and Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez have all raised over $100,000. TV journalist Maria Elvira Salazar and former Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barreiro have raised the most money on the Republican side. The race to replace Ros-Lehtinen is the most crowded in Florida as 9 Republicans, 5 Democrats and 1 no party candidate have filed paperwork to run. 

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott both qualified to run for Nelson's Senate seat, as expected. Neither faces a competitive primary. 

Full list of Miami-Dade congressional candidates below: 

District 27 (Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is retiring): 

Elizabeth Adadi (R)

Bruno Barreiro (R)

Angie Chirino (R)

Kristen Rosen Gonzalez (D)

Matt Haggman (D)

Mayra Joli (NPA) 

Stephen Marks (R)

Michael Ohevzion (R)

Maria Peiro (R)

David Richardson (D)

Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera (R)

Maria Elvira Salazar (R)

Donna Shalala (D)

Gina Sosa (R)

District 26 (incumbent Rep. Carlos Curbelo is running for reelection) 

Carlos Curbelo (R)

Souraya Faas (R)

Demetries Andrew Grimes (D)

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D) 

District 25 (incumbent Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is running for reelection) 

Mario Diaz-Balart (R)

Mary Barzee Flores (D)

District 24 (incumbent Rep. Frederica Wilson is running for reelection) 

Frederica Wilson (D)

Ricardo De La Fuente (D)

District 23 (incumbent Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is running for reelection) 

Tim Canova (NPA)

Don Endriss (NPA) 

Joseph Kaufman (R)

Carlos Reyes (R)

Carla Spalding (R)

Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D)

April 27, 2018

Carlos Curbelo signs the DREAM Act

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@alextdaugherty

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo announced Friday he will sign onto the DREAM Act, a bill that protects young immigrants who stand to lose protection from deportation if President Donald Trump successfully cancels an Obama-era executive action known as DACA. 

"We're closer than ever to meaningful compromise on immigration," Curbelo said on Twitter. "Thankful to Rep. Jeff Denham for his work to force a vote on possible solutions in the House. Today, I co-sponsored 2 bills I would support – Rep. Will Hurd & Rep. Pete Aguilar's USA Act and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard's DREAM Act."

Immigration activists have asked Curbelo for months to co-sponsor the DREAM Act, which is considered the most expansive piece of immigration legislation that would protect the young immigrants known as Dreamers from deportation. Curbelo wrote his own piece of immigration legislation, dubbed the Recognizing America’s Children Act, a more conservative version of the DREAM Act designed to capture more Republican support.

Curbelo had previously said he would vote for any immigration bill, including the DREAM Act, if it made it to the House floor. The sole immigration bill that was recently considered by House leadership is a conservative plan that Curbelo doesn't support and the U.S. Senate tried and failed to pass a slew of immigration bills in February.

Curbelo, a Miami Republican facing reelection in a Miami-to-Key West district that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 16 percentage points, joins retiring Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as a DREAM Act cosponsor. Ros-Lehtinen introduced this Congress' version of the DREAM Act in July 2017, and Curbelo is the sixth Republican to sign onto the bill.

Read more here.

April 25, 2018

Curbelo, Ros-Lehtinen rank among the most bipartisan members of Congress

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@alextdaugherty

When French President Emmanuel Macron stressed the importance of climate change during a joint address to Congress on Wednesday, three Republicans stood up and joined Democrats to applaud him. 

The trio, Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, along with Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, also happen to be the three most bipartisan House Republicans, according to new rankings complied by Georgetown University. 

Ros-Lehtinen, who has signed on to the DREAM Act, was ranked as the most bipartisan House Republican while Curbelo, who introduced a bill to ban bump stocks, ranked third out of 236 House Republicans. The rankings are based on the number of bills introduced in 2017 by an individual lawmaker that receive support from lawmakers of the opposing party and by signing onto bills introduced by a lawmaker from the other party. 

"The Index rewards those who prioritize governance over posturing and aims to encourage members of Congress to seek areas of consensus as opposed to simply using legislation to delineate differences," Georgetown University's Lugar Center says on its website. The center uses metrics to award more weight to bills that attract substantial bipartisan support, and does not include ceremonial bills like naming post offices that typically receive support from both parties. 

Curbelo is up for reelection in a Miami-to-Key West district that is the most Democratic-leaning in the country currently represented by a Republican running for reelection, and is campaigning in part on a record of working with Democrats on certain issues like climate change. He's distanced himself from President Donald Trump, who lost his district by 16 percentage points, on a number of issues, though he did accompany the president on a recent visit to Key West and helped write the GOP tax bill that became law late last year. 

Ros-Lehtinen, a frequent critic of Trump, is retiring this year. Democrats are favored to flip her seat in November. 

Both Curbelo's and Ros-Lehtinen's rankings from 2017 were up compared to rankings issued after the 114th Congress. Ros-Lehtinen ranked fifth among House Republicans while Curbelo ranked 7th. Former Florida Rep. Gwen Graham, now running for governor in a contested Democratic primary, also ranked among the top 10 most bipartisan lawmakers before leaving Congress. 

In the Senate, Republican Marco Rubio ranks 10th among 100 senators while Democrat Bill Nelson ranks 36th. 

Here's the bipartisan rankings for Miami-Dade's congressional delegation: 

-Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehinen (R) 2nd out of 435 members 

-Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R) 4th

-Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz (D) 160th 

-Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) 225th 

-Rep. Frederica Wilson (D) 412th 

April 19, 2018

Darren Soto endorses David Richardson in Dem primary for Ros-Lehtinen's seat

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@alextdaugherty

Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, is wading into the crowded Democratic primary to replace outgoing Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, endorsing State Rep. David Richardson. 

Soto is the first sitting member of Congress to make an endorsement into the race. He's also the first Puerto Rican member of Congress from Florida and a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. 

"David Richardson is a fighter for the progressive cause. During his years as a State Legislator he fought for social rights and civil liberties for DACA recipients, LGBTQ Americans, and incarcerated Floridians," Soto said in a statement. "His campaign for Congress has continued this trend with his support for Medicare-for-All, his calls for immediate aid to Puerto Rico, and his demands for gun reform nationwide. As such, I am proud to endorse his campaign for Congress, and look forward to serving with a progressive voice like David's in Washington, D.C." 

The Democratic primary also includes includes former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman and former judge Mary Barzee Flores.

 

Shalala and Richardson have over $1 million to spend on the race after the latest fundraising quarter, though both have loaned money from themselves to their campaigns. Soto and Richardson served together in the Florida Legislature. 

"I’m deeply honored to receive the support of Congressman Darren Soto," Richardson said in a statement. "Darren since his days as a State Legislature has become a national leader on progressive issues and has fought tirelessly for the people of Florida. I’m happy to have his support as we approach the Democratic primary election on August 28th." 

National Democrats groups have largely stayed out of the primary for Ros-Lehtinen's seat and whoever wins the primary will be favored to flip the seat in November, though the Democratic Party lacks a Hispanic candidate in a majority-Hispanic district after state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez dropped out of the race last week. 

 

April 16, 2018

A second Republican emerges in the race to replace Ros-Lehtinen

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@alextdaugherty

Miami broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar looks like she could force a competitive Republican primary in the race to replacing retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Former Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barreiro was largely running a one-man money race among Republicans since he entered the primary shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement, but Salazar bested his fundraising numbers in her first fundraising quarter since she officially jumped into the race in March. 

Salazar raised $303,115 from January 1 to March 31 and she has $287,612 left to spend, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Barreiro raised $264,778, his best haul since entering the race shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement last year. He maintains a cash on hand advantage over his new rival, with $420,978 left to spend. 

The pair have separated themselves from the rest of the Republican pack, though newcomers Stephen Marks and Michael Ohevzion have six figures left to spend. Marks loaned himself $200,000 while Ohevzion loaned himself $100,000 and directly contributed $35,000 to his own campaign. Angie Chirino, the daughter of Miami singer and songwriter Willy Chirino, hasn't had her fundraising totals processed yet by the FEC. 

Republicans are not favored to keep Ros-Lehtinen's seat in 2018, as the district voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by more than 19 percentage points. Multiple election prognosticators rate Ros-Lehtinen's district as "lean Democratic" and former University of Miami president Donna Shalala headlines a Democratic field that narrowed in the past week after two contenders dropped out after choosing to keep their current elected offices over making a run for Congress.

State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez's departure leaves Democrats without a Hispanic candidate in a majority Hispanic district. State Rep. David Richardson, former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman, former circuit court judge Mary Barzee Flores and Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez are among the remaining Democrats seeking Ros-Lehtinen's seat. 

 

April 13, 2018

The GOP’s biggest LGBT advocate is retiring. Here’s how the party plans to move ahead.

IMG_1995

@alextdaugherty

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuba libre in hand, was busy waxing nostalgic with former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart about their efforts to undermine Fidel Castro when the animated discussion was interrupted by Caitlyn Jenner.

The world’s most recognizable advocate for transgender causes wanted to hug the retiring Miami lawmaker with a history of bucking and pushing the Republican Party on LGBT issues.

“Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a person of many firsts, and if you know anything about me I love firsts,” Jenner said at a recent gala honoring Ros-Lehtinen’s career. “The first Latina elected to Congress, the first woman elected to Congress from Florida, the first Republican in the House to support marriage equality, and she did it in a very big way.”

Jenner, also a Republican, and Ros-Lehtinen are at odds with the majority of Republican lawmakers. President Donald Trump has announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military via tweet and multiple state legislatures have considered legislation that would restrict access to restrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-segregated facilities on the basis of sex assigned at birth.

“Fighting for gay rights, transgender rights is such an important part of my DNA and what I do,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

Ros-Lehtinen introduced legislation in 2015 that would prohibit schools from discriminating against students based on sexual orientation or gender identity. She also signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief in a Supreme Court case seeking to protect access to public accommodations for transgender students. And Ros-Lehtinen’s son, Rodrigo, is the first openly transgender child of a sitting member of Congress.

“The most important job Ileana’s had... is being a mom,” Jenner said. “For the trans community we have many, many issues. The suicide rate for young trans youth is nine times higher than the general public, we have homelessness, we have young trans people being kicked out of their homes all across this country. Transgendered kids … may be bullied in school, they may be a little different, but when they go home, [if] they go to a safe place and a loving family, that is by far the most important thing we can do for our kids. So Ileana, I want to thank you for that.”

But Ros-Lehtinen, the only Republican in Congress with a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBT rights organization, won’t be in office next year.

Her retirement and a potential wave election for Democrats in 2018 could make pro-LGBT Republicans a rare breed in the next Congress. Four of the eight Senate Republicans endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans, a pro-LGBT group, could be gone next year, and nine of the 11 House Republicans endorsed by the group are retiring or face tough reelection campaigns.

Ros-Lehtinen was honored by Jenner at the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute's annual gala. The institute recognized Ros-Lehtinen with its Leadership in Public Service Award and Leadership in International Relations Award, and it renamed the latter award after Ros-Lehtinen in her honor.

Read more here.

April 11, 2018

Miami Republicans say lame-duck Paul Ryan unlikely to go rogue on immigration

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@alextdaugherty

The three Miami Republicans in Congress don't think House Speaker Paul Ryan will change course and force a slew of immigration bills onto the floor for a vote now that he's announced he'll leave office at the end of his term. 

"I don't that you'll see a rogue speaker," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is also retiring after the 2018 elections. "I think he'll be doing more or less what he's been doing, listening to the conference and making decisions that he thinks are in the best interest of the conference. It would be ideal for him to pass a Dreamer bill or put something else up for discussion. I don't suspect that he will do that." 

Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo are hopeful that Ryan will continue to listen to the more moderate wing of the Republican caucus.

"We have this log jam of issues that don't get resolved here, whether it be immigration or a number of others," Curbelo said. "I think Speaker Ryan's intention when he took over was to allow the House to work its will and have a more open process and in that regard I think he could have done a little better." 

Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen voted against a slew of spending bills in recent months over inaction on immigration. But Curbelo changed course and voted in favor of a spending bill in the midst of a debate on young immigrants who came to the U.S. as young people because he argued enough progress had been made, a decision that angered some activists in his majority Hispanic district. 

"I changed my vote on two occasions when there was measurable progress," Curbelo said. "In one case Senator (Mitch) McConnell kept his word with regards to a immigration debate and votes on the Senate floor and the second time the Speaker made a commitment that the House would take action," Curbelo said. "Now the last time, the omnibus vote, no progress had been made and I reverted to my original position. The Speaker remains committed to solving this issue so I think we're going to have a chance to." 

Curbelo said "it's possible" that Ryan could choose to hold votes on immigration, though Republican leaders will likely have the ultimate say on whether something gets to the floor before the 2018 election. 

"I'm going to keep working on it and I can tell you that Paul Ryan has been one of the people that I've always been able to confide in on that issue," Diaz-Balart said, adding that he doesn't know that Congress will act on DACA after a deadline mandated by President Donald Trump was rendered useless by the courts. 

April 05, 2018

Gun-related town halls are a partisan affair in South Florida (updated)

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@alextdaugherty

A national group that promotes face-to-face interactions between lawmakers and constituents is working with the March for Our Lives organizers to host town hall events on preventing gun violence during the current congressional recess, and no South Florida Republicans are planning to attend. 

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, who represents Parkland, held a town hall earlier this week, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, will hold a town hall on Saturday in Pembroke Pines, while Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, will host a town hall tonight in Miami Gardens. 

The three Republicans from Miami-Dade County, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, do not have any town hall events scheduled during the recess. 

A March for Our Lives-affiliated event is being held in Curbelo's district tonight, though Curbelo's office said he was not invited to the event at John A. Ferguson High School. While pro-gun control student activists from Parkland have demanded town hall events during this congressional recess, Ros-Lehtinen, Diaz-Balart and Curbelo have not held any in-person town hall events since the beginning of 2017, according to the Town Hall Project. Curbelo and Diaz-Balart both hold office hours with staff at various locations throughout their districts. 

Curbelo's seat is a target for Democrats in 2018 while Ros-Lehtinen is retiring and Diaz-Balart does not have a serious Democratic challenger. 

Neither of Florida's two senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, have held an in-person town hall since the beginning of 2017, according to the Town Hall Project.  

UPDATE (4/6/18): A student organizer with pro gun-control group Students Demand Action said Curbelo was invited to the town hall event in his district, but he declined citing a scheduling conflict. 

William Breslin, who lives outside of Curbelo's district, said he called Curbelo's official office three times before receiving a response that Curbelo could not attend. Breslin then invited Curbelo's Democratic opponents after the congressman declined the invitation, he said. 

Information on upcoming town halls: 

Town hall with Frederica Wilson and state Rep. Shevrin Jones: 

Thursday, April 5 6:30pm

Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex Auditorium

3000 NW 199th St. 

Miami Gardens, FL 33056 

Town hall with Debbie Wasserman Schultz: 

Saturday, April 7 2pm 

301 NW 103rd Avenue

Pembroke Pines, FL 33026 

Town Hall for Our Lives West Miami-Dade

Thursday, April 5 7pm

John A. Ferguson High School 

15900 SW 56th St. 

Miami, FL 33185