September 13, 2016

Florida members of Congress to Gov. Rick Scott: Ask for clean Zika bill


Nine Florida members of Congress asked Gov. Rick Scott to use his Tuesday visit to Washington to advocate for a "clean" Zika funding bill, free of any politically charged amendments that would make it more difficult for the legislation to win bipartisan approval.

"The stakes are too high to allow partisan riders to hold up this critical support, and existing funding is set to run out by the end of this month," the lawmakers wrote in a letter. "There are over 300 cases of Zika in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, 84 of which involve pregnant women. For pregnant mothers in areas with Zika, not knowing whether one mosquito bite will dramatically alter their unborn child’s life is a daily fear, especially in South Florida, where mosquitos are year-round inhabitants."

The letter, led by Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, was signed by Democratic Reps. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, Alcee Hastings of Delray Beach, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, Kathy Castor of Tampa and Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens. They were joined by two Miami Republicans, Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Scott will be on Capitol Hill lobbying for Zika money through Wednesday.

September 07, 2016

Ros-Lehtinen attacks Democratic rival's criminal driving record in TV ads



Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen debuted a pair of hard-hitting television ads Wednesday slamming her Democratic challenger, Scott Fuhrman, as untrustworthy because of his criminal driving record.

One spot centers on the father of a 16-year-old girl killed by a drunk driver. The other features the retired Miami-Dade County police sergeant who responded to the girl’s 2000 death. Though Fuhrman was not involved, both show an illustration of Fuhrman behind bars.

“My 16-year-old daughter, Helen Marie Witty, was killed by a drunk driver on Red Road,” John Witty says into the camera. “Now another drunk driver, Scott Fuhrman, wants to be in Congress, even after also being convicted of possessing a firearm while intoxicated. Less than three years ago, he fled on foot from a hit-and-run on U.S. 1.”

Retired Sgt. David Greenwell, who introduces himself “as a 33-year police veteran and 16 years as a supervisor in traffic homicide,” delivers a similar message.

“I don’t trust Scott Fuhrman in Congress,” he says.

Ros-Lehtinen is not considered one of the most vulnerable Florida Republicans in Congress, though her redrawn 27th district now leans Democratic. But Fuhrman, who runs his family juice-bottling business in Allapattah, is well-heeled enough to run more than a token opposition campaign. He sent plenty of fliers ahead of the Aug. 30 primary, which he won easily, and has hammered Congress for inaction on the Zika virus.

More here.

August 31, 2016

DCCC praises Scott Fuhrman, who'll challenge Ros-Lehtinen in November


Political newcomer Scott Fuhrman easily won the Democratic primary Tuesday in Florida's 27th congressional district, winning him the chance to challenge longtime Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who also cruised to victory.

Fuhrman received 59 percent of the vote over Frank Perez's 24 percent and Adam Sackrin's 17 percent. Neither Perez nor Sackrin campaigned much, while Fuhrman, who is personally wealthy, mailed plenty of fliers to reliable primary voters.

"The results from yesterday's primary victory made clear that Democrats are united in taking back the House seat by seat," Fuhrman said in a statement Wednesday. "I am dedicated to standing up to special interests like the NRA on behalf of the families torn by gun violence in our district and around the country. I'm the only candidate to sign Bullsugar's pledge to protect the environment from the dumping by Big Sugar, and I stood for Miami families terrified by Zika after Congress failed to act."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which didn't actively recruit Fuhrman or anyone else to go up against the popular Ros-Lehtinen, praised his win.

"Fuhrman's efforts to hold Republicans accountable for their failure to provide funding to combat the growing Zika epidemic is a clear example that he is willing to fight for South Florida's priorities," DCCC spokesman Jermaine House said in a statement.

August 30, 2016

Ros-Lehtinen claims victory in GOP congressional primary


U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami claimed an early victory Tuesday in her Republican primary.

Early results in her Miami-Dade County district showed her trouncing her two little-known rivals, David "Tubbs" Adams and Maria Peiro.

"I work diligently for our community both at home and in Congress and that message came through loud and clear during this Republican primary election," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "From supporting small businesses and our economy to helping ensure our national security, I know that South Florida needs an advocate in Congress. I've been proud to stand up for our community on bipartisan issues like climate change to ensure our children and grandchildren have economic as well as environmental futures here.

"I invite Democrats, Independents, and all South Floridians to join my campaign so that we will continue to have a strong voice in Congress," she continued. "I'm grateful for the trust South Florida's Republican primary voters have put in me and am ready to again make my case for why I'm the best qualified candidate to represent our community."

She will face a general-election race in November.

Florida lawmakers urge tough steps against Venezuela



Florida's congressional delegation has the biggest presence in a bipartisan letter urging Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to extend sanctions and take other tough steps against the Venezuelan government.

Nine of the 30 lawmakers who signed the letter to Kerry and Lew are from the Sunshine State, among them South Florida Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, plus Democratic Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lois Frankel and Frederica Wilson.

Also on the letter are Republican Reps. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach and John Mica of Winter Park, plus Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of West Boca Raton.

"People are literally starving, suicide rates are rising and the government continues to repress its people," the lawmakers wrote.

Congress in July passed legislation sponsored by Ros-Lehtinen and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Miami, which President Barack Obama signed into law, extending sanctions on human rights abusers in Venezuela.

"However, the are scores of other Venezuelan officials, including within the Supreme Court, federal judiciary, judges in various states, national and state prosecutors, and police and security officers who have reportedly directly engaged in human rights abuses, efforts to undermine democracy and public corruption," the lawmakers wrote to Kerry and Lew.

The 30 House members called on Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro to hold a recall referendum this year, release all political prisoners, follow democratic principles, permit the delivery of emergency food and medicine, and stop government support for drug trafficking.

To read the letter:

August 22, 2016

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen goes up on TV

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen_2

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen isn't taking any chances.

The Miami Republican is expected to comfortably defeat her novice primary opponents on Aug. 30. She's not seen as being in much more danger in the Nov. 8 general election, even though her district is now more Democratic and her likely opponent, political newcomer Scott Fuhrman, has said he'll put his own wealth into the campaign.

Nevertheless, Ros-Lehtinen is on the air on South Florida television, in an apparent get-out-the-vote effort that could also help keep her favorable opinion ratings and name ID up through November.

Here's the ad:


Photo credit: Jose A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

August 07, 2016

Miami's first political campaign ad about Zika?



Miami Democrat Scott Fuhrman has seized on Zika as a political campaign issue as he tries to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Fuhrman debuted a 15-second video -- and a separate, non-video web ad -- blaming Ros-Lehtinen for Congress' inaction on the mosquito-borne virus. Lawmakers went on recess for seven weeks without passing legislation funding anti-Zika measures.

"Pregnant women told to stay out of our neighborhoods?" the video asks. "Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen goes on recess?"

A first-time candidate, Fuhrman is running a long-shot campaign against the popular congresswoman. Zika gave him an opening to draw at least a little bit of media attention; he showed up at a news conference last week held by Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on the virus. Fuhrman's wife, who is pregnant, gave an interview to NBC News sharing her concerns about contracting the virus.

Late Friday, Ros-Lehtinen sent Republican leaders in Congress a letter asking them to convene an emergency session to approve a Zika bill. She also wrote President Barack Obama, urging him to use existing funds to combat Ebola for Zika instead. And she led an effort by the Florida congressional delegation to request more money from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Zika has become a hot campaign issue in Miami, with politicians ranging from the governor to city mayors touring Ground Zero in Wynwood -- and nabbing air time -- as they try to raise awareness about the virus. 


August 05, 2016

Miami Republican lawmaker asks GOP leaders in Congress to set special Zika session


Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen formally asked GOP leaders in Congress on Friday to convene an emergency session to fund efforts to fight and prevent the Zika virus spreading in Miami.

"I have been demanding an effective response from our federal government for months to ensure that we contain and eliminate this public health crisis," she wrote House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. "Yet, the most critical role for Congress to play in the federal government’s response – appropriating an adequate and reliable stream of funding to support impacted states and local communities – has been caught up in protracted political battles."

Congress should pass stand-alone legislation funding President Barack Obama's request for $1.9 billion in Zika money, she added.

The congresswoman also wrote Obama on Friday, asking him to "reprogram" money from elsewhere in the federal budget toward Zika.

"The possibility of quickly reprogramming additional funds while Congress works to pass a robust Zika funding package was one idea generated from my meeting in Miami yesterday with Centers for Disease Control Director Tom Frieden, Florida Governor Rick Scott, Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart," she said. Rubio has publicly made a similar request.

Campaigning in South Miami on Friday, Vice President Joe Biden indicated the Obama administration could re-purpose some money that had been set aside to combat Ebola to fight Zika instead, but he reiterated that congressional action is needed.

"Now, look, we're able to take the money we have now leftover from the fund we put together to deal with Ebola, but we need new legislation," he said. "It's almost unconscionable."

Ros-Lehtinen is up for re-election and faces a Democratic challenger in first-time candidate Scott Fuhrman, who has pointedly jabbed at the congresswoman about Zika on Twitter and in press releases.

August 02, 2016

Florida members of Congress ask CDC for more Zika money


Florida needs far more money to fight the Zika virus spreading in Miami than the federal government has set aside, according to the state's congressional delegation.

Twenty-six of Florida's 27 members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday asking for additional funding to combat the mosquito-borne virus. Earlier Tuesday, the CDC promised $720,000 to combat the disease, which has been locally transmitted to at least 14 people in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood.

That's not nearly enough, the lawmakers wrote CDC Director Thomas Frieden, noting that there's a $16 million pot to divide among 40 states and territories. The $720,000, they said, "amounts to a paltry 4.5% of funding made available, despite the fact that almost half of all confirmed non-travel cases of the disease in the continental United States have now been linked to mosquito transmission in Florida."

The lawmakers thanked the CDC for its work with Florida authorities, and more distributing more than $8 million in "Zika-specific funding" to the state already.

"However, because of the potential for explosive spread of the virus via mosquito transmission through heavily-populated regions of the state, we urge you, in accordance with all applicable rules and regulations, to reconsider the current allocation formula for Zika-specific funds," they wrote. "If funds are truly allocated based on the risk of Zika virus transmission and population need, the State of Florida must receive a far greater share of available funds given the concerning developments linking new cases of the virus to local mosquitoes in Miami-Dade County."

They don't specify how much more money they want.

The letter was spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican whose Miami district begins just south of Wynwood. Among the co-signers is U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, the Miami Gardens Democrat whose district includes Wynwood, and every other delegation member except U.S. Rep. Dan Webster of Winter Garden.

UPDATE: Webster has now signed the letter.

July 08, 2016

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen files bill to study rising seas' effects on coral reefs


Here's something noteworthy: A Republican lawmaker has proposed legislation dealing with one of the effects of sea-level rise.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami introduced a bill -- dubbed, yes, the "CORAL Act" -- that would widen the scope of coral-reef research to include "the impacts of ocean acidification, warming seas and invasive species." The law would also allow the federal government to more quickly respond to problems like coral disease and bleaching, and give agencies a more active role in restoring reefs.

The GOP has been reluctant to take on sea-level rise, but the issue is unavoidable for South Florida Republicans with coastal districts, such as Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who signed on to the coral bill. Both face opponents who have stressed climate change as a key issue.

"Having fled the oppressive Castro regime in Cuba with my parents decades ago, I know that South Florida is special because it serves as a place of hope for so many," Ros-Lehtinen said on the House floor Wednesday. "We cannot allow changing ocean conditions to rob us of our livelihoods, of our lifestyle, or of our identity as an optimistic community."