February 11, 2010

A send-off only Charlie Crist could give with a straight face

Ask any politician, lobbyist or reporter who has crossed Gov. Charlie Crist: He'll still kill you with kindness, at least in public.

So although his public statement on U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart's retirement didn't arrive until eight hours and 33 minutes after the press conference, Crist finally mustered some kind words for the congressman who withdrew an endorsement of his struggling U.S. Senate campaign last month.

It is hard to imagine the Florida delegation without the passion, thoughtfulness, and strength of Lincoln Diaz-Balart. Florida has been represented well for twenty-four years by this legislative champion.  He earned a reputation as a defender of freedom and democracy, particularly on behalf of his beloved Cuba. On behalf of Florida, we thank Congressman Diaz-Balart for his service in Washington, D.C. and welcome him home to the Sunshine State.

David Rivera plays hard to get

State Rep. David Rivera of Miami, who was running full steam for the state Senate, is now expected to make an abrupt turn toward the newly opened congressional seat represented by Mario Diaz-Balart. Here's his statement:

Today's announcement by Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart is a bitter-sweet one for me.  As someone who I consider a brother and a mentor, I wish him and his family only the best in his future endeavors.  At the same time, our community has lost a statesmen in Washington, D.C.  who has served us with honor and distinction for decades.  His record of public service will be sorely missed by our state and our nation, but I look forward to continue working closely with him in his future service as a private citizen.In the coming weeks I will be consulting with family and supporters regarding opportunities to continue my public service either in the Florida Senate or the U.S. Congress.  My decision will be based on where I can best serve the interests of our community.  That is the standard and example which Congressman Diaz-Balart has always demonstrated throughout his career of public service.  It is the same standard I will strive for in my decision-making in the days ahead.

And here's what Rivera's close ally, former House Speaker Marco Rubio, had to say about Diaz-Balart's retirement:

U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio today issued the following statement following U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balarts announcement that he will not seek re-election this year:For two decades, Lincoln Diaz-Balart has served his district and our community well.  He has also been a passionate voice for millions throughout the world who live under tyranny in places like Cuba and Venezuela.  I congratulate him on a distinguished career and am proud to have been a part of his first 1992 campaign.  As he looks ahead towards the next phase of his life, I wish him and his family all the best.

Mario Diaz-Balart makes it official -- he's running for Lincoln's seat

Within minutes of Lincoln announcing his retirement, Mario Diaz-Balart has launched a campaign to succeed him in the more Republican-leaning congressional district. The Miami Republican called it a "natural move," noting that he's represented -- at the state and federal level -- several of the communities in the district.

And he noted, "as the only Broward native in the U.S. House of Representatives, I look forward to the opportunity of representing Broward’s residents." The district includes a slice of south Broward.

Full statement after the jump

Continue reading "Mario Diaz-Balart makes it official -- he's running for Lincoln's seat " »

Colleagues pay tribute to Lincoln Diaz-Balart

From Sen. George LeMieux: "Florida is losing one of its strongest voices in Washington. For almost two decades, Lincoln has been an irreplaceable champion of democracy. He has represented the people of South Florida with integrity and effectiveness. Since I arrived in Washington, he has been a good friend and one of my key advisors on critical policy affecting South Florida and the Western Hemisphere. I thank Lincoln for tirelessly serving the people of Florida and for the personal sacrifices he has made to advance the causes of freedom, democracy, and human rights throughout the world."

From Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: "Lincoln was always at the forefront of important issues for South Florida. His work on behalf of immigrants, bringing SouthCom to South Florida, and his tireless advocacy will
be sorely missed in our community and in Congress. Nothing is closer to Lincoln’s heart than the struggle for freedom in his beloved Cuba. I know that whatever endeavor he may pursue he will remain a strong and steadfast voice on this issue and many others. Lincoln, I wish you, Cristina and your family only the best and I know that you will continue making South Florida proud."

Lincoln Diaz-Balart makes it official: he won't seek reelection in November

Lincoln Diaz-Balart just wrapped up a press conference in Miami, saying he's stepping down from elected office but will continue to work on his signature subject -- democracy in Cuba.

He told those assembled at the Florida International University lawschool building that bears his father's name that he could help Cuba most as a private citizen." He said he'll go back to practicing law and said his public service duty has been fulfilled.

"I am convinced that in the upcoming chapter of the struggle, I can be more useful to the inevitable change that will soon come to Cuba, to Cuba’s freedom, as a private citizen dedicated to helping the heroes within Cuba..." he said, adding, "It's important to recognize that the bipartisan team working for Cuba’s
freedom from within the U.S. Congress, is fully in place and functioning more effectively than ever, led by my dear colleagues Mario, Ileana, Bob and Albio, with the admirable and continuous support of this community."

His departure is the 18th retirement for Republicans and potentially opens up two South Florida congressional seats. Democrats have eyed both seats for years -- but lost in 2008 after spending millions -- and under favorable circumstances -- with Obama on the ticket.

His full remarks after the jump.

Continue reading "Lincoln Diaz-Balart makes it official: he won't seek reelection in November" »

Sen. Diaz de La Portilla considering Congress run

That didn't take long.

State Senate Majority Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla said he's interested in running for Congress now that U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz Balart is leaving. Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, is being forced from state office due to term limits as his own older brother, former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, runs for his seat. The senator's younger brother, Renier Diaz de la Portilla, is a Miami-Dade school board member. So it's good bet that the family has strong name ID, giving the senator a good shot of being dubbed a frontrunner should he throw in his hat. If he and his brother win, each Diaz de la Portilla brother would represent a different level of government: federal, state and local.

Also, the senator has recently made an alliance with lobbyist/political strategist Dave Custin, who works for the Diaz Balarts as well as Diaz de la Portilla's sometime-rival, Sen. Alex Villalobos.

"I have had the honor and privilege of serving my community as a state senator and I am seriously considering the opportunity to continue to fight for the people of Florida on a national level in the United State Congress.  I will make my final decision soon after thoughtful and deliberate consideration,” Diaz de la Portilla wrote in an email.

Lincoln Diaz-Balart expected to announce retirement

Word is the Miami Republican will announce today he's not running for re-election. He's scheduled a noon presser at Florida International University to make an "announcement regarding his future" -- his office isn't saying, but sources say he won't run. 

That may come as a surprise but not a total shock -- remember the Miami Republican months ago had signaled he'd be willing to retire if Charlie Crist appointed him to the US Senate for a caretaker job?

Word is his brother, Mario Diaz-Balart, will run for Lincoln's seat -- a safer Republican district. That would open up Mario's seat. There's no clear Republican front runner, but David Rivera and Anitere Flores are running for a state Senate seat that is almost fully contained in the congressional district.

And there's speculation the open seat could entice Democrat Joe Garcia to try again. Garcia came close to ousting the younger Diaz-Balart in 2008, but is now working in Washington for the Obama administration.

February 10, 2010

Lincoln Diaz-Balart salutes Charlie Wilson

The former Texas congressman who inspired the movie, Charlie Wilson's War, died today and Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart is offering words of praise for the larger-than-life Democrat credited with funneling millions of dollars to Afghanistan, allowing the country's mujahedeen rebels to beat back the Soviet Army.

"Charlie Wilson was a great American patriot," the Miami Republican said. "His leadership in the fight against the Soviet Union is well known. Less known was his extraordinary solidarity with the cause of Cuba's freedom. He was a cordial colleague and a friend. I will miss him. May he rest in peace."

February 04, 2010

Florida's take on EPA water standards: 'Be afraid'

Florida's Congressional delegation sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson today asking the agency to extend the comment period and expand public hearings on its water quality standards issued last month. The letter  -- signed by U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and George LeMieux and 18 U.S. House members, led by Rep. Adam Putnam -- follows the first detailed remarks from Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole, who told a state House committee Wednesday to "be afraid" of some components of the new rules.

EPA is hosting two public forums at three locations Feb. 16 (Tallahassee), Feb. 17 (Orlando) and Feb. 18 (West Palm Beach) and soliciting comments for 60 days. 

Sole and EPA critics -- including Gov. Charlie Crist, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bronson -- were surprisingly quiet when the standards were released. But now the campaign to fight them is gearing up. State lawmakers joined the chorus Wednesday with Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, wondering aloud why the lawsuit against the federal government isn't already filed. "What do we do other than seceding from the Union?" he asked.

Find the full text of the letter from the Congressional delegation below.

Continue reading "Florida's take on EPA water standards: 'Be afraid'" »

NAACP: GOP fails on civil rights -- but for a few D's and a C in Florida

The NAACP is out with its annual report card ranking members of Congress on civil rights votes -- and most every Republican across the country earned an "F." Most Democrats -- including Sen. Bill Nelson -- got A's or B's.

The highest scoring GOP'er? Miami's Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who scored a C. Fellow Miamians Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart scored D's. Politico notes that all House Republicans but 6 got F's. The ratings were based on a number of bills the NAACP tracked, including the nominations of Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder, hate crimes legislation, paid parental leave, credit card protection, the stimulus bill and DC voting and gun rights votes.

Dems Kendrick Meek, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Alcee Hastings scored A's.