April 01, 2010

Gloves come off, briefly, in first forum for candidates looking to replace Kendrick Meek

The rowdiest part of Wednesday's South Florida AFL-CIO forum for candidates vying to replace U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek came during the last closing statements of the night, when Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson made jabs at physician and activist Rudy Moise and at North Miami Councilman Scott Galvin.

"Dr. Moise, I was surprised to find that you've only voted four times," said Gibson, a Democrat. "Why are you going to Congress if you've only voted four times?"

Then she criticized Moise for not living in the 17th Congressional District -- which is fine as long as the candidate moves to the area after being elected (we have been duly corrected by a reader: members need not live in their districts). "In the 21st district where you actually live we need another Democrat," Gibson said, referring to the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

She was cheered -- and booed. Moise took her on in his closing statement, resulting in loud applause and chants from his supporters. "I voted for every single election since I was registered to vote," he said. "So I don't know who did the research, but she's totally wrong."

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March 25, 2010

Miami Republicans hail Obama's new tone on Cuba

President Obama, in his harshest censure of Cuba's repression of dissent, said Havana had used "a clenched fist'' against "those who dare to give voice to the desires of their fellow Cubans.''

Obama also appeared to hint that his efforts to improve U.S. relations with the Castro government have lost steam in the face of the recent string of tough actions by Havana.

"During the course of the past year, I have taken steps to reach out to the Cuban people and to signal my desire to seek a new era in relations between the governments of the United States and Cuba,'' he said in a four-paragraph statement released by the White House.

The words brought some rare praise from Miami's three Cuban American members of Congress -- Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- who in a joint statement thanked Obama for his "statement in solidarity with the Cuban people and his recognition of the increased repression by the Cuban dictatorship.

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March 22, 2010

The health care bill and the November election: A preview

As soon as the votes were recorded on the health care bill, the attacks were flying, with Democrats and Republicans suggesting their November lines of attack. Democrats were first out of the gate with releases targeting, among others, Mario Diaz-Balart, Vern Buchanan and Lincoln Diaz-Balart (though he won't be on the ballot in November.) They're accused of turning their backs on the middle class and sticking with insurance companies.

Republicans followed with attacks targeting, among others, Ron Klein, Suzanne Kosmas and Alan Grayson. They're accused of serving as rubber stamps for Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi.

Continue reading "The health care bill and the November election: A preview" »

March 21, 2010

The health care debate begins and Florida has its say

A feisty debate over what's being billed as historic health care legislation has begun and Florida lawmakers are in the fray.

First up was Lincoln Diaz-Balart who warned of a "decisive step in the weakening of the United States.

"We could have avoided the social convulsion and profound pain that prolonged fiscal irresponsibility inevitably brings to nations, but this President and this Congressional Majority went with dogma instead," the Miami Republican said.

Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor was the first Floridian to speak up for the bill: "Yes, we're going to side with American families today."

Outside the Capitol, a large crowd of protestors gathered, shouting "Kill the Bill" and applauding a group of Republican lawmakers who ventured out of the Capitol to rally them on. The crowd shouted approval as several lawmakers unfurled a "Don't Tread on Me" flag. A crowd on Saturday shouted racial taunts at black and gay lawmakers, and GOP lawmakers sought Sunday to distance themselves.

The Florida Democratic party called on Senate candidate Marco Rubio to rebuke the protestors, with spokesman Eric Jotkoff pointing out an MSNBC report that some protestors were wearing Rubio pins.

"Since Miami Lobbyist Marco Rubio refuses to denounced the racist and anti-gay slurs from his extremist Tea Party supporters, Rubio’s silence shows he must condone these despicable actions by the extreme right-wing, including some wearing Speaker Rubio’s campaign pins," Jotkoff said.

On a conference call with reporters, Democrat Ron Klein suggested those not in Washington were missing what he called a "lively atmosphere."

Asked about whether he's worried about facing the voters in November -- with opponents warning of health care warning about defeat -- Klein said he listened to his constituents carefully before endorsing the proposal. "Ultimately I think it's the right thing to do. I'm very comfortable that I'm using my best judgement."

David Rivera, who is running for the House seat being vacated by Mario Diaz-Balart, put out a press release saying that he -- like Mario -- would vote against the bill.

"Democrats would put their time to better use by creating a new bill that creates real health insurance reform, instead of spending time arm twisting and making sweetheart deals that only benefit a few states and districts," Rivera said.

March 17, 2010

Are Mel Martinez and Lincoln Diaz-Balart backing a "birther"?

The Washington Post blogs that Ben Loyola, a Cuban-American who has been endorsed by Mel Martinez and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, said in an interview posted on the blog Bearing Drift that he is not sure President Obama was born in the United States.

"When asked if Obama was a 'natural born United States citizen,' Loyola responded 'I'm not sure, and that troubles me.'

"Read the full interview. The interview from Va Blogger of Too Conservative was conducted in August 2009, but just posted online today. Loyola is one of several Republicans competing in a congressional district primary in the Hampton Roads area to run against Democrat Rep. Glenn Nye.

Loyola spokesman Joshua Clark told the Post that the answers were accurate -- "and that he answered that way because he doesn't know whether the president was born in the United States or not."

March 10, 2010

Lincoln Diaz-Balart lavishes praise on the Obama administration

The retiring Miami Republican offered rare words of praise Wednesday for the Obama administration, saying he's been impressed with its response to the earthquake that leveled Haiti.

"We have here a lot of partisan differences and debate," Diaz-Balart said at an earthquake briefing for Florida lawmakers. "But with regard to the response of the Obama administration, all decisions and actions should be commended. I think all Americans should be proud of the way the administration acted from the first minute. All actions and subsequent decisions I commend."

March 03, 2010

Lincoln Diaz-Balart: The Democrats are incompetent

Lincoln Diaz-Balart told MSNBC he's leaving the House because "I feel it's time. It's been the honor of my life... I've been able to do important things. I never thought I'd be here for life, so I leave with a sense of duty fulfilled."

The Miami Republican says he doesn't buy the buzz that government is broken -- only that Democrats are incompetent.

"What's happening now is incompetence and trying to ram through things that the American people don't want," he told MSNBC's David Schuster who is spending the week interviewing retiring members. "It's not that the government is broken, it's that the majority is acting in an incompetent way."

His one regret: voting for term limits. He says he's leaving "of my own free will, unopposed," and believes "the people should be able to decide how long their member of Congress should serve."

March 02, 2010

Lincoln Diaz-Balart to give a televised exit interview

The Miami Republican will be among a handful of members of Congress who are not returning in the fall but will appear this week on MSNBC for an exit interview.

According to Fishbowl DC, Host David Shuster will conduct the interviews for departing lawmakers in a series called "So Long Capitol Hill."  It airs 3 to 4 p.m. this week. Interviewees include: Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-North Dakota, Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kan., Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn., and Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark. Diaz-Balart's interview airs Wednesday.

February 25, 2010

Rivera makes it official and jumps from Senate race to Congress

State Rep. David Rivera on Thursday  became the first candidate to jump into the District 25 congressional race in Miami to replace U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who plans to switch to the district being vacated by his brother, Lincoln.

Rivera's entry into the District 25 is expected to be followed by Sen. Alex de la Portilla, a fellow Miami Republican, and the race could become one of the more crowded contests in the state if four others who are considering it get into the match.

Rivera announced his candidacy at press conferencese in Miami and Naples Thursday, the two largest cities in the sprawling congressional district originally created for Mario Diaz-Balart.

But in a sign of what is likely to be a hotly-contested rmatch-up, both candidates touted dueling polls. A poll released Wednesday by the Texas polling firm Hill Research Consulting matched up the names of the likely contenders in the Senate and showed that 67 percent of the 300 people surveyed recognized Diaz de la Portilla, while only 41 percent recognized Rivera.

In a poll released Thursday by Dario Moreno Inc. and conducted of 600 likely Republican voters Feb. 15-16, Rivera had a slightly higher name identification, especially among older Cubans. According to the poll, 44 percent recognized Rivera and 41 percent recognized Diaz de la Portilla.

Rivera said he was focused on his campaign and welcomed all opponents. "You're never going to hear me talking about other candidates," he said. "I'm going to run on the issue of concern, especially job creation and the economy, education and national security."

But, according to the Hill poll, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Joe Martinez was known by 68 percent of those surveyed, one point higher than Diaz de la Portilla. The poll also tested the name ID of other candidates, who have also expressed interest in running for the seat: Carlos Curbelo, U.S. Sen. George LeMieux's state director, who was known by 32 percent, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, known by 29 percent, and Miami Lakes Mayor Mike Pizzi, identified by 22 percent respectively.

 The Moreno poll also asked about state Sen. Alex Villalobos, who was recognized by 31 percent of those surveyed, and Curbello, recognized by 11 percent.

Diaz de la Portilla said that he will likely make his decision by the end of March and chided Rivera for switching to the federal election "on the eve of the legislative session."

"It would be unfair to Floridians for me to take my focus off finding real solutions to the problems we are facing and instead turn my attention to my next campaign or career opportunity," he said in a statement.


February 13, 2010

The 'natural move' by the Diaz-Balarts

Somewhere in Hialeah, former Mayor Raul Martinez is smiling.

Thursday's announcement by archenemy Lincoln Diaz-Balart that he's retiring from Congress has got to be the most delicious news Martinez has heard since they named city hall after him. Those who know the brash Democrat wouldn't put it past him to claim that he ran the Republican congressman out of his seat, even though Diaz-Balart crushed him by 16 percentage points.

Keep reading column here.