November 02, 2014

Joe Biden to Miami Hispanics: 'This is your election'

@PatriciaMazzei

IMG_3428 (1)Democrats welcomed Joe Biden -- or rather, José Biden, as he was introduced by U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia -- to Miami on Sunday as part of a final appeal to voters to go to the polls Sunday and cast their ballots for Garcia for Congress and Charlie Crist for governor.

The vice president held court, speaking at length in an appeal to Hispanics and the middle class. He received the most applause when he referred to Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

"He says when asked about climate change, 'I'm not a scientist.' But he sure as hell thinks he's a doctor when he tells women what to do," Biden said.

The crowd was enthusiastic, though the 200 or so people did not fill the auditorium at Florida International University. The intended audience, though, were voters watching TV at home.

There weren't enough chairs to go around when the politicians walked on stage. So Biden, after initially sitting down, gave up his seat to Crist's wife, Carole. He joked with supporters behind him and played up the personal anecdotes when he took the microphone.

Hispanics, Biden said, could determine this and future national elections if they vote in proportion to the size of their population.

Continue reading "Joe Biden to Miami Hispanics: 'This is your election'" »

November 01, 2014

Obama records robocall for Miami Rep. Joe Garcia

@PatriciaMazzei

Stuck in a close reelection race, U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia has brought out the big Democratic guns to help.

Targeted Democratic voters in the 26th congressional district received an automated telephone recording Saturday asking them to vote for the congressman. The voice they heard? President Barack Obama's.

"I'm calling on behalf of Joe Garcia to remind you to vote early this election, because your vote matters, and the choice couldn't be clearer," Obama says. "Joe Garcia knows that Medicare and Social Security aren't schemes, they're promises we make to one another, they're commitments that make this country stronger, and he'll always fight to protect them."

Garcia's challenger, Republican Carlos Curbelo, who has campaigned with former Obama opponent Mitt Romney, has repeatedly tied the Democratic incumbent to the unpopular president.

"Although scandal-plagued Joe Garcia has spent the vast majority of his campaign distancing himself from President Obama, he is now praying that the President's last-minute call will help hid the fact that his campaign is under federal criminal investigation," read part of a statement released Saturday by Curbelo spokesman Wadi Gaitan.

On the campaign trail, Garcia has stressed that he's disagreed at times with Obama, and let him know about it.

But Garcia's campaign seems to be betting that the president is still popular enough -- at least among the party faithful -- to draw reticent midterm voters to the polls. The congressman plans to campaign Sunday with Vice President Joe Biden.

Listen to the robocall here.

This post has been updated with a quote from Gaitan's statement.

Joe Garcia, a Cuban dissident and details over a diabetes drug trial

@PatriciaMazzei

A Cuban dissident caught in a political frenzy over his appearance in a campaign commercial for Miami Rep. Joe Garcia praised the Democratic congressman in a series of interviews this week for listening to his views on the U.S. trade embargo.

Guillermo Fariñas said he was impressed last year when Garcia paid attention to, and later followed up with, the dissident over his opposition to selling Cuban prescription drugs in the U.S. -- a move Fariñas told several television stations could undermine the embargo, which he supports. So does Garcia.

Fariñas didn't go into detail, so it was difficult to know exactly what he and the congressman discussed. Was Fariñas suggesting Garcia backtracked on a push he made last year, first reported by the Miami Herald, to allow a Havana research institute to hold trials for a diabetes drug in the U.S.?

Garcia's campaign said the congressman maintains his support for the trial, which was approved on a limited basis. The Cuban drugmaker chose not to pursue it because the approval had not guarantee of future permission to sell any medication here.

The congressman had not sought that additional approval, but it was that broader issue he discussed with Fariñas, his campaign clarified -- not the drug trial itself.

UPDATED Carlos Curbelo blames 'glitch' for omitting or mislabeling $93K in campaign finance report

@PatriciaMazzei

Carlos Curbelo's congressional campaign omitted or mislabeled $93,000 in contributions from special interests in finance report last month because of what the Miami Republican called an unintentional software "glitch."

The campaign revealed the significant changes in an amended report filed this week -- nearly two weeks after submitting the original quarterly report to the Federal Election Commission.

The $93,000 came from 40 conservative political action committees. Curbelo's original Oct. 15 report listed $40,500 in PAC contributions. His Oct. 28 amended report bumped up that number to $133,500. 

As a result of the errors, Curbelo's total contributions were revised upward to $472,000 for the three-month reporting period, up from $420,000. His cash on hand went up to $555,000 from $505,000.

At first, it seemed that the entire $93,000 had been missing from Curbelo's report. His campaign explained Saturday that some of the contributions had been reported but mislabeled as coming from individuals.

Curbelo attributed the problems Friday to a software switch that didn't go well. His campaign moved to a higher-end program from a more basic one available to campaigns at no charge.

"In the conversion, there was a problem, and we had to re-file," he said, calling the incident a "data glitch."

Among the omitted contributions were $5,000 from firebrand and former Plantation Rep. Allen West's PAC. There were also omissions from far less controversial contributors, such as $2,000 from popular Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Among the mislabeled contributions were $5,000 from KochPAC, a group run by billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch.

Continue reading "UPDATED Carlos Curbelo blames 'glitch' for omitting or mislabeling $93K in campaign finance report" »

October 31, 2014

Joe Biden is Miami bound for Charlie Crist, Joe Garcia

From two press releases:

Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. – Vice President Joe Biden will join Charlie Crist at a "Souls to the Polls" event in Miami on Sunday, November 2 at 2:00 PM. Doors will open to the public at 12:00PM.

This event is OPEN PRESS.

Who: Vice President Biden, Governor Charlie Crist

What: “Souls to the Polls” Rally Event

When: Sunday, November 2, 2:00PM

Where: Mt. Hermon AME Church, 401 NW 7th Terrace, Ft. Lauderdale

RSVP: Press wishing to attend the event must RSVP to press@charliecrist.com by Saturday, November 1 at 12:00 PM ET. Additional press details forthcoming, including pre-set and sweep times.

Tallahassee, FL — On Sunday, November 2 at 10:00 AM, Vice President Joe Biden, Gov. Charlie Crist, nominee for Lt. Governor Annette Taddeo, and Congressman Joe Garcia, and the Latino Victory Project will rally with supporters in Miami.

The candidates will be joined by actor William Levy, Univision host Enrique Santos and Henry Muñoz.

This event will be open to pre-credentialed media only. Reporters who wish to be credentialed must email press@fladems.com with the subject line “Vice President BidenEvent Credentials.” Members of the media who have not been pre-credentialed by 3:00 PM on Saturday will not be admitted into the event. 

The rally will take place at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center on Florida International University’s campus. Doors open at 10:00 AM.

DATE: Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014

LOCATION: Wertheim Performing Arts Center at FIU, 10910 SW 17th Street, Miami

October 30, 2014

With little success, Cuban dissident tries to address controversial ad in Miami congressional race

@PatriciaMazzei

Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas tried -- rather unsuccessfully -- to address Thursday the controversy over the political commercial he taped for U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia.

In repeated interviews, he refused to offer a play-by-play of how he ended up in Garcia's ad. He said only that it was an "error" to get in the middle of a rancorous campaign between the Democratic incumbent and Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo.

But Fariñas, who lives in Cuba, stood by his praise for Garcia, and seemed to add to it. He said in a Pinecrest fundraiser last year for President Barack Obama, Garcia tried to recruit Fariñas to support an effort to bring a Havana research institute's diabetes treatment to the U.S. Fariñas said no, he said, because he felt that would undermine the U.S. trade embargo toward the island, which the dissident supports.

A few days later, Fariñas said, Garcia telephoned him to tell him he had thought about their conversation and agreed with him -- an apparent indication that the congressman had a change of heart about the drug trial. It's unclear if Garcia really did stop pushing for the treatment in the U.S. He hasn't campaigned on the issue this year.

According to Fariñas, Garcia called him in the past two days to "apologize" over any trouble the campaign ad could bring the dissident. The Cuban government likes to find new excuses to crack down on its opponents, Fariñas acknowledged, without expressing regret over praising Garcia.

Beginning in an interview with el Nuevo Herald, Fariñas also said wealthy businessmen contacted him and other dissidents last year. "They tried to buy us off with several million dollars, and we refused," he said.

Cuba politics maze traps Joe Garcia, Carlos Curbelo

@PatriciaMazzei

They vowed to be different. They'd sound like a new generation of Miami politicians. They'd shift their focus away from foreign policy. They'd care more about the family down the street than the brothers in power 90 miles across the Florida Straits.

Yet the Cuba politics maze trapped them anyway.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia and Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo have spent the precious last few days of their congressional campaigns dissecting an unusual Spanish-language television advertisement by Garcia that stars a prominent Cuban dissident.

Curbelo and other Miami Cuban Americans have accused Garcia of using Guillermo Fariñas for personal political gain and violating an unwritten rule that shields opponents of the island's Communist regime from internal U.S. politics.

That rule is hardly hard-and-fast. As Florida governor, Republican Jeb Bush once sent a recording of support to a dissident in a Cuban political prison. President Barack Obama met with Fariñas and another opposition leader last year at a Democratic fundraiser in Pinecrest.

Garcia, though, appears to be the first politician to feature a dissident, speaking straight into the camera, in an ad.

More here.

October 29, 2014

Rothenberg Report says FL-26 race now tilting GOP

@PatriciaMazzei

Ten days ago, the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report said Florida's 26th congressional district was no longer tilting in incumbent Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia's direction, and switched the race to "Pure Tossup."

On Wednesday, the report updates its ratings once again -- and further moved the odds in Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo's favor. Rothenberg, working with Roll Call, now lists the race as "Tossup/Tilts Republican" because the GOP and its allies plans to outspend Democrats and their allies in the final days of the race. (Read Rothenberg's reasoning here, though a subscription is required.)

Curbelo's campaign trumpeted the news as a sign the GOP has momentum to win back the Westchester-to-Key West district.

Rothenberg also shifted Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter's seat from "Favored Democratic" to "Safe Democrat." The other competitive Florida race, in the Panhandle between Republican Rep. Steve Southerland and Democrat Gwen Graham, remains "Pure Tossup."

UPDATED U.S. Chamber hits Joe Garcia over Obamacare support

@PatriciaMazzei

A new television advertisement by the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce goes after Miami Democratic Congressman Joe Garcia for backing the Affordable Care Act.

"Despite promises, premiums are still going up," the ad says, calling Obamacare "a big-government disaster that Congressman Joe Garcia still supports today."

The chamber has endorsed Garcia's Republican opponent, Miami-Dade County school board member Carlos Curbelo.

UPDATE: Garcia spokesman Miguel Salazar called the ad misleading and noted the Chamber once backed the former Republican incumbent.

"The truth is that Rep. Garcia has voted multiple times to improve the Affordable Care Act and has worked with Republicans to protect the Medicare that seniors have earned," Salazar said in a statement. "This group backed David Rivera before, and now they're behind Curbelo -- which should tell South Floridians all they need to know."

 

October 28, 2014

Cuba talk unexpectedly dominates last debate in Miami congressional race

@PatriciaMazzei

The hard-fought Miami campaign between U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia and challenger Carlos Curbelo had been noteworthy in part because of how rarely the candidates had brought up the issue of Cuba.

Until Tuesday, that is.

In a bonus, eighth debate a week after what had been billed as the seventh and final debate, the Republican Curbelo and Democrat Garcia spoke at length about what role, if any, Cuban politics should play in Miami politics.

The very discussion showed that, like it or not, the issue remains significant — at least in the waning days of a campaign, when the race remains close and candidates need to ensure that their strongest backers vote.

Triggering the conversation was a political advertisement Garcia debuted on Spanish-language television Monday starring a Cuban dissident.

More here.