June 08, 2016

Joe Garcia likens Donald Trump to Hugo Chávez


Miami Democrat Joe Garcia warned voters that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump could be as dangerous to the U.S. as the late President Hugo Chávez was for Venezuela.

Garcia told Miami-based El Venezolano TV, a small local publication, that "Trump is a reality, folks."

"If there's anyone who knows the importance of the vote it's Venezuelans, who have experienced the tragedy of seeing a demagogue get into power," Garcia said. "For Venezuelans, this isn't theoretical... They don't see this as right and left. They see very clear similarities" to Chávez, he implied.

Garcia, a former congressman, urged voters in Florida's 26th district, which stretches from Westchester to Key West, to volunteer for or donate to political campaigns for candidates (left unsaid: like himself) who denounce Trump.

"We've lived through what it's like to lose a democracy," said Garcia, whose parents were born in Cuba. "We should all participate, because democracy has results."

It's not surprising for a Democrat in a district with a large number of Venezuelan immigrants to deride Trump as Chávez-like. But it is unusual to hear U.S. politicians compare any popularly elected (or in this case, soon-to-be nominated) U.S. leaders to authoritarian rules from other countries.

Before Trump, Garcia said he would have "bet his life" that Republicans nominated former Gov. Jeb Bush. He disagreed with Bush when he was governor, Garcia said, but "he always kept his eye on the Hispanic community."

Garcia is coming off a strong couple of weeks. Polls -- including from his primary rival's campaign -- showed him leading opponent Annette Taddeo. Taddeo fired her top campaign staff shortly after that. 


June 01, 2016

Annette Taddeo comments on firing her Congressional campaign staff

Annette Taddeo says her new campaign manager James Stretch will start next Monday in her Miami Congressional race. Taddeo recently fired her campaign manager, finance director and spokesperson.

 "I'm not going to get into the details of the specific issues, ..." she said. "We are at the stage of the campaign where we are implementing a clear strategy with a path to win. I felt we needed some new energy to get us there and the right team."

Taddeo said she made the decision to fire the staffers but discussed it with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee which has supported her candidacy. 

Taddeo is running in a Democratic primary against former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia who was ousted by Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo in 2014. Curbelo could face his own primary challenger, although it's unclear who may file this month to run against him. Internal polls have showed that Garcia leads Taddeo.

Taddeo's new finance director is Aaron Jarboe who worked for Maryland State Sen. Jamie B. Raskin who beat a wine dealer who poured more than $12 million into his own race for Maryland's 8th Congressional district.

May 31, 2016

Miami Congressional candidate Annette Taddeo fires top campaign staff

Annette Taddeo, who is running in a Democratic Congressional primary against former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, has fired three staffers in a campaign shakeup.

Campaign manager Shaun Daniels, finance director Foxhall Parker and communications director Francisco Bravo were fired, said Jermaine House, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman. Bravo's last day is today while Daniels and Parker left within the past couple of weeks. (Politico reported the news earlier today.)

“It was necessary for the Taddeo campaign to change directions and hire new senior campaign staffers," House said in a statement. "Annette has a clear path to victory with the right team on board, and while difficult, we absolutely support her in these decisions. Clearly, Taddeo has the strategic eye to make decisions necessary to win.”

James Stretch is Taddeo's new campaign manager. He was formerly campaign manager for Melissa Gilberts, a Congressional candidate in Michigan. Additional staffers will be announced by the end of the week, House said.

Taddeo did not return a phone message seeking comment. The Democrats are vying to compete for the seat now held by U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami. 

The DCCC supported the firings following polls that showed Taddeo lagging behind.

A poll released by Garcia's campaign earlier this month showed that he has a 25-point lead over Taddeo. An internal poll by Taddeo's campaign released to the Miami Herald showed Garcia has a 21-point lead but with one-quarter of the voters undecided.

Two Republicans who ran against Curbelo in 2014 -- Ed MacDougall and Lorenzo "Larry" Palomares-Starbuck -- said that a Republican plans to file against Curbelo. The two men wouldn't identify the challenger but Palomares-Starbuck told the Miami Herald that the person is not an elected official. Both MacDougall and Palomares-Starbuck are Trump supporters while Curbelo is not a fan of Trump and suggested he might be a ringer for Hillary Clinton.

May 18, 2016

Rival polls show Joe Garcia leading Democratic primary for swing Miami congressional seat



The Democratic race for Florida’s most competitive congressional district looks like former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia’s to lose.

Garcia holds a 25-point lead over rival Annette Taddeo, according to a new internal poll by Garcia’s campaign. That’s 15 percentage points higher than it was in January, when Garcia’s team surveyed the match-up before he launched his candidacy for the 26th congressional district.

“This poll reflects the strong support this community has for Joe Garcia,” campaign spokesman Javier Hernandez said in a statement released with a two-page summary of the latest results. “The people of this district know that when they choose Joe Garcia, their voices will be heard in Washington.”

Garcia bests Taddeo by 53-28 percent, with 19 percent of likely Democratic primary voters undecided , according to the poll conducted by the campaign’s pollster, Pete Brodnitz of Expedition Strategies. The January poll by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, an outside firm, pegged Garcia’s lead at 34-24 percent, with 42 percent undecided.

The new lead jibes with an internal poll by Taddeo’s campaign shared in its entirety with the Miami Herald. That survey had Garcia ahead 48-27 percent — by 21 points — with 25 percent undecided.

But Taddeo’s poll also showed her doing far better than Garcia once voters learned about Taddeo’s personal background as the Colombian immigrant daughter of a Colombian mother and an American father, and about her positions on issues important to progressives.

More here.

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald

May 17, 2016

Joe Garcia to return contributions from donor who pleaded guilty to domestic assault


It started with a Washington report that U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Jupiter Democrat running for U.S. Senate, had accepted $16,400 in contributions from donor Ibrahim Al-Rashid, a friend who in 2014 pleaded guilty to a domestic assault charge.

The report from The Hill prompted Murphy to return the campaign cash by making equivalent contributions to charity. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada also gave back $100,000 Al-Rashid had contributed to the Senate Majority PAC.

Republicans are now highlighting that other Florida Democrats benefited from Al-Rashid's political largesse -- including former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia of Miami, who is running for his old seat. Garcia accepted $5,200 from Al-Rashid in 2014, and $5,400 in March.

Garcia's campaign said Tuesday, as first reported by Politico, that it is making an equivalent donation to Planned Parenthood to get rid of the 2016 money.

This post has been updated to correct the fact that it's the campaign will be giving the 2016 money to charity, not the 2014 money.

May 15, 2016

Carlos Curbelo cut David Rivera a check in 2012 but says he didn't end up voting for him


Carlos Curbelo admitted to a Miami radio station recently that he didn't vote in the 2012 congressional election between then-incumbent Republican Rep. David Rivera and Democratic challenger Joe Garcia.

“When it became apparent that both those campaigns had been involved in unethical and illegal activities — because people went to jail from both campaigns — I did not vote in that election,” he told WIOD, as we reported in our story about Curbelo's political future.

Rivera is now running for the Florida House of Representatives. Garcia, who won the 2012 election and then lost to Curbelo in 2014, is running in the Democratic primary to try to oust Curbelo in November.

Curbelo may not have voted for Rivera, his fellow Republican, in 2012. But he did give him a financial contribution: $1,000 on June 29 of that year, campaign records show. The donation came before the Miami Herald revealed suspicious ties between Rivera and a ringer Democratic candidate.

But even before then, Rivera had found himself on shaky legal and ethical ground. Earlier Herald reporting led to a 2010 state investigation into Rivera's questionable use of campaign finances. Those investigations ended without charges in April 2012, a few months before Curbelo wrote his check. (A pair of separate investigations by the FBI and IRS appeared to be ongoing at the time but never went anywhere.)

So why back Rivera despite his prior troubles -- but then not vote for him?

"Once it became clear that the campaign had recruited and illegally financed a straw candidate, I no longer felt comfortable being supportive," Curbelo told the Herald in an email Saturday. "At first I figured it would be better to support him against Joe Garcia who had always shown a penchant for dishonesty, nastiness, and manipulation. Later we discovered that in fact Garcia pioneered the concept of attempting to rig elections by using straw candidates. It's all disgusting."

April 15, 2016

UPDATED Miami congressional candidates say Carnival shouldn't cooperate with Cuban 'discrimination'


Democrat Annette Taddeo weighed in earlier this week on the controversy that has gripped Miami politics: whether Carnival Corp. should sail to Cuba as planned, given that the Castro regime won't allow Cuban-born passengers to disembark the ship.

No, said Taddeo, who is running in Florida's 26th congressional district.

Here's the statement her campaign released Wednesday:

While I am supportive of the steps President Obama has taken to open diplomatic relations with Cuba, I recognize that there will be many issues to address and we cannot ignore our American values as we work through these issues. The current Cuban policy prohibiting Cuban-born Americans from entering the country by sea has now created a policy of discrimination on cruise lines traveling to Cuba. We should not allow the Cuban Government to decide which Americans get on a U.S. cruise ship.

This is not the first time a cruise line has been forced to deal with a country's bias towards an entire ethnic group. When Tunisia refused to allow Jewish passengers to disembark in their country, Norwegian Cruise Lines cut ties and stopped travel to Tunisia. I am hopeful the Cuban government will see the error in this policy and move quickly to remedy the discrimination it creates towards Cuban Americans. In the meantime, I encourage Carnival to follow the example set by Norwegian and refuse to cooperate with a policy that singles out and discriminates against one group of Americans. I agree with President Obama's focus on people-to-people engagement and Cuban Americans are people, too.

On Thursday, Taddeo wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew urging him to push Cuba to "see the error in this policy."

Taddeo is Colombian-American, not Cuban-American, But she has spent years living among Miami's Cuban exiles, and her primary opponent, former Rep. Joe Garcia, is a chief proponent of Obama's U.S.-Cuba engagement policy. The Republican incumbent, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, generally opposes it. (Both Garcia and Curbelo are sons of exiles.)

Curbelo tweeted in support of the Miami Herald column by Fabiola Santiago exposing the Cuban policy. He's against Carnival sailing under the existing Cuban policy.

UPDATE: Garcia tells the Herald he, too, thinks Carnival should not sail under existing Cuban policy:

"Discrimination is discrimination, and we should never tolerate governments who discriminate under the guise of policy for anyone, not for sexual orientation, race, creed, or national origin," Garcia said in a statement. "I support engaging Cuba, but our policy is simple. We are America. We should not enable discrimination here at home or in any corner of the globe."

Read Taddeo's letter to Lew:


In new bid for old seat, ex-Rep. Joe Garcia says he raked in $325K


In his first six weeks as a candidate for his old congressional seat, former Rep. Joe Garcia of Miami said he raised $325,000 -- more than his Democratic opponent, Annette Taddeo, has collected in any three-month period since she began running a year ago.

Both are hoping for a shot to unseat freshman Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in Florida's 26th congressional district, which spans Westchester to Key West.

"I announced my candidacy in February, because I couldn't sit by and watch Republicans like Carlos Curbelo dismantle access to healthcare and family planning for women, treat our immigrant community like second-class citizens and strike down environmental protections that keep our water clean and our natural treasures safe," Garcia said in a statement. "Today's numbers show the people of South Florida know I won't let them down."

Campaign-finance reports showing fundraising from Jan. 1 through March 31 are due by midnight to the Federal Election Commission. Garcia's campaign said he's got $315,000 cash on hand, after expenses.

Neither Curbelo nor Taddeo have announced their totals yet, though Curbelo, who has far more money in the bank, is expected to still lead the cash-on-hand race.

Taddeo's last report showed about $275,000 in fundraising, while Curbelo's showed about $450,000. Taddeo's strongest quarter was the one that ended last October; in that period, she collected more than $300,000, but that included a $75,000 loan to herself. That was Curbelo's slowest Curbelo; he brought in about $256,000.

March 09, 2016

UPDATED Miami congressman snubbed from White House meeting on Cuba


U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo wanted in on the White House's upcoming Miami meeting with Cuban-American community leaders. 

No such luck.

Curbelo says he asked to attend Friday's get-together with Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. But he was told the meeting will be "private."

"This White House works very hard at excluding Cuban-American representatives -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- from any meetings or discussions having to do with U.S.-Cuba policy," Curbelo said in a statement to the Miami Herald. "I've worked with the Administration on higher education reform, climate change, immigration, and other issues. However, on Cuba they shut out anyone who doesn't fully agree with them -- even those who represent our country's Cuban-American community. It doesn't make sense, and quite frankly, it seems petty."

Pete Boogaard, assistant press secretary for the National Security Council, said Rhodes and other senior administration officials have met "directly with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle."

"We will continue to make outreach to Congress a focus of our engagement, but during the limited time Mr. Rhodes has in Miami, he will meet with human rights and civil society advocates, faith leaders, young emerging leaders, and representatives from the private sector."

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, the Democrat who lost to Curbelo in 2014 and hopes to challenge him again later this year, issued a campaign statement deriding Curbelo's complaint as "priceless."

"The person who has opposed every single one of this administration's initiatives on Cuba -- from family travel to remittances to normalization of migratory policy -- now wants a photo op. The Obama administration has been in contact with Cubans both on the island and in Miami, as well as with leaders of the civic, business, art and political communities. If there is someone who is out of touch with the people in Cuba and, in particular, South Florida, it is Mr. Curbelo."

Curbelo was snubbed by the White House last year: It denied him an Air Force One seat to a President Barack Obama town hall on immigration at Florida International University, in Curbelo's congressional district. The White House later made nice with Curbelo, and he got to fly with the president a few months later on a trip to the Florida Everglades.

Miami Dade College announced Wednesday that, as part of his visit, Rhodes will attend a town meeting with young Cuban Americans at downtown Miami's Wolfson Campus. The event is co-sponsored by Roots of Hope, a nonprofit network of Cuban-American college students and professionals. Rhodes will hold a news conference afterward.

UPDATE: Rhodes telephoned Curbelo on Wednesday night, according to the congressman. They spoke for about half an hour and had a "very productive conversation."

This post has been updated.

February 17, 2016

Miami politicians react to Obama's planned visit to Cuba


News of President Barack Obama's impending trip to Cuba -- in March, sources told the Miami Herald -- prompted quick backlash from Miami politicians, many of them of Cuban descent.

Here's reaction, which we will update as it comes in:

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who is running for president


Former Gov. Jeb Bush, who is running for president


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