September 20, 2018

Mary Barzee Flores named to DCCC's Red to Blue program

 

Mary barzee flores

@lesleyclark 

National Democrats are delivering a boost to Mary Barzee Flores, who is looking to unseat Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart in one of three South Florida races that Democrats are hoping to flip.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Thursday named Flores to its "Red to Blue" program which brings with it organizational and fundraising support.

Barzee Flores is one of 84 candidates nationwide to be included in the program which highlights candidates in competitive races who have exceeded fundraising goals and shored up local support. A first-time candidate, Barzee Flores raised nearly $500,000 in her first fundraising quarter.

“Through every step of her career, Mary Barzee Flores has shown the qualities that we need more of in Congress,” said DCCC chairman Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-New Mexico. “She will put hardworking Floridians before Washington special interests and will answer to the people she serves. She is running a strong campaign and finally providing the community she is running to represent the chance to vote for a new approach, not more of the same Republican agenda that hurts hardworking Floridians.”

Barzee Flores, a former federal judge nominee who was blocked by Sen. Marco Rubio, has support in the legal community and has picked up key endorsements from EMILY's List, a group that seeks to elect female Democrats to Congress.

Diaz-Balart represents the only Miami-Dade district where Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, though he won by less than two percentage points. Diaz-Balart's district includes Northwest Dade and stretches across the Everglades to Naples and he hasn't faced serious opposition since 2008. 

September 04, 2018

A Miami Cuban American has never lost a House seat to a non-Cuban. It could happen in November

Donna Shalala00101 JAI

@alextdaugherty

Miami-Dade Democrats, hoping to ride a blue wave in November, have set their sights on winning all five of Miami-Dade County’s congressional seats. It’s a tall order that, if successful, would end the longtime dominance of Cuban-American Republican lawmakers who have exercised outsized power over the nation’s relationship with Latin America.

If a blue wave were to actually hit Miami, the county would be represented in Washington by five women from an unusually diverse background: one African American, one non-Hispanic white, one Jewish, one Ecuadorean American and one Lebanese American. The only Cuban-American Republican left from Miami would be U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

But unseating incumbent Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, and flipping the seat held by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring, will require convincing tens of thousands of independent voters — and even some Democrats who have voted against their party in congressional races — that the unique perspective brought by the sons and daughters of Cuban exiles is no longer a prerequisite for holding elected office in Congress, where members have influence over the nation’s foreign-policy course.

“The South Florida tradition in Congress established by Ileana, that tradition is going to continue,” said former Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American lawmaker who served in Congress from 1993 to 2011. “When you see these national things about waves and all these predictions, South Florida’s different and we’re going to remain different.”

Since Ros-Lehtinen first won her seat in 1989, no non-Cuban has ousted a Cuban-American Republican from a Miami-Dade congressional seat, even in years like 2006 and 2008, when Democrats made sweeping gains across the country in the latter part of George W. Bush’s administration.

Democrats will need to win in Cuban-American strongholds in all three GOP-held districts, including Little Havana and Westchester in Ros-Lehtinen’s district, parts of Kendall in Curbelo’s district and Hialeah in Diaz-Balart’s district.

Ros-Lehtinen is supporting Cuban-American journalist Maria Elvira Salazar — who handily won her GOP primary Tuesday — as the way to continue the legacy that began 29 years ago.

“Lincoln [Diaz-Balart] and I have had the pleasure of working together as a united team for many years and I’ve missed him in Congress,” Ros-Lehtinen said at Salazar’s victory party on Tuesday night. “And now I hope that Chucky [Curbelo] and Mario [Diaz-Balart] miss me in Congress, but they won’t miss me for very long because Maria Elvira Salazar is going to take over.”

Read more here.

August 22, 2018

Fred Guttenberg cuts ad blasting Mario Diaz-Balart

Mario Diaz-Balart

@alextdaugherty

Fred Guttenberg is going after the one South Florida congressman who accepted National Rifle Association money after the nation's deadliest high school shooting where Guttenberg's daughter Jaime was one of 17 people killed. 

Guttenberg, one of the most outspoken anti-gun Parkland parents, cut an ad that blasts Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart for supporting the NRA on behalf of Diaz-Balart's Democratic challenger, former judge Mary Barzee Flores

“Mario Diaz-Balart, after February 14th, after my daughter and 16 others died, you had a choice to make. And you chose to take money from the NRA,” Guttenberg says directly to Diaz-Balart at the beginning of the ad. “You chose to take their money... you’re not worthy of service... you need to be fired.”

Diaz-Balart has accepted more direct campaign contributions from the NRA than any other member of Congress from Florida over the last 20 years, including a $1,000 donation after the shooting in May 2018. His continued support from the NRA comes as other Republican members of Congress from South Florida like Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Brian Mast have distanced themselves from the nation's largest gun lobby. 

Barzee Flores' campaign manager Sam Miller said the ad will run on digital platforms for now, but could end up on TV later in the campaign. 

Guttenberg has traveled around the country and lobbied dozens of lawmakers on Capitol Hill to change the nation's gun laws since the Valentine's Day shooting. 

"I will be working everyday to support Mary Barzee Flores for Congress," Guttenberg said after lauding her judicial background.

Diaz-Balart's Hialeah-based district that stretches across the Everglades is the most conservative of the three Miami-Dade congressional seats currently held by Republicans, though Democrats consider the district competitive after Donald Trump eked out a narrow win over Hillary Clinton there in 2016.

Diaz-Balart hasn't faced a competitive reelection challenge since 2008.

Watch the ad below: 

 

August 01, 2018

Curbelo, Diaz-Balart campaigns to receive campaign contributions from Trump

Curbelo (1)

via @anitakumar

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo didn't vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, but his campaign is about to get a cash infusion from the president as he fights for reelection. Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who did vote for Trump and is facing a competitive reelection himself, is also set to receive money along with Trump supporter and U.S. Senate hopeful Rick Scott. The Florida Republicans are part of a group of 100 Republicans nationwide that are receiving direct financial support from the president as the GOP seeks to maintain control of Congress. 

Read more below: 

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is giving money to a surprising group of Republican candidates this fall — those who are not only more moderate than he is, but also those have openly defied him on key issues of immigration and trade.

Some didn’t even vote for him.

Reps. Jeff Denham of California and Carlos Curbelo of Florida, who led a failed effort opposed by the White House to circumvent House leaders and force a vote on granting citizenship to so-called Dreamers, are getting Trump’s money, according to a list of favored candidates obtained by McClatchy.

Some vulnerable Republicans may not welcome the donations, fearful that Democrats will seize on the money as they look to tie the GOP to a controversial president in districts he lost in 2016 or where he remains unpopular.

“We have neither solicited nor received said contribution,” said Joanna Rodriguez, a spokesperson for Curbelo, who represents the most Democratic-leaning House district in the country held by a Republican seeking re-election.

Curbelo of Miami is a frequent critic of Trump and did not support him in the 2016 race.

The Trump campaign announced last week that it would donate the maximum amount allowed by law — $2,000 per candidate — to 100 Republicans running for Congress in November, perhaps a sign that the GOP is worried it will lose its majorities in Congress. Democrats need to pick up a net of 23 seats in the House and two in the Senate to gain control of the chambers.

The Trump campaign did not disclose which candidates would receive contributions and did not respond to subsequent questions about how the candidates were selected, but McClatchy obtained a detailed list.

Read more here.

July 23, 2018

Café con politics podcast: When the attacks focus on candidates’ spouses

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@newsbysmiley

On the latest episode of Café con Politics, the Miami Herald’s political team breaks down attacks on the spouses of two congressional candidates, Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s carbon tax, state Rep. David Richardson’s trip to Cuba and an update on the White House’s child separation policy.

The Herald’s D.C. reporter Alex Daugherty joined the podcast to discuss all these issues and more. Give it a listen.

Listen here.

July 18, 2018

Diaz-Balart campaign attacks Barzee Flores' husband in first TV ad

Mario Diaz-Balart

@alextdaugherty

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is going negative as he kicks off his campaign against Democratic challenger Mary Barzee Flores

Diaz-Balart, a Republican who hasn't faced a competitive reelection bid since 2008, launched his first television ad on Wednesday titled "Just Wrong." 

The ad, which will air in Miami-Dade and Collier Counties, opens with a tweet by Barzee Flores opposing President Donald Trump's decision to rollback the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by Barack Obama. Then, the screen shows Barzee Flores' federal financial disclosure form showing that her husband Hector Flores works as an attorney at Barzee Flores LLP before cutting to Flores' bio page on the firm's website which states "Hector L. Flores has handled numerous federal criminal trials and appeals, including death penalty, complex white-collar defense and international arms and narcotics conspiracies." 

The ad argues Flores' firm "boast about defending criminals that arranged millions of dollars of arms shipments to Iran in violation of the U.S. arms embargo." 

"Making money at the expense of our national security, and now wanting to represent us in Congress, is just wrong," the ad concludes. 

Barzee Flores argued that Diaz-Balart is attacking her family because he doesn't want to talk about his own record.

Diaz-Balart's Miami-based district extends across the Everglades to suburban Naples, and is the most conservative of the three Miami-Dade seats currently held by Republicans. Neither Barzee Flores or Diaz-Balart face primary opposition, and outside groups are likely to spend millions on the race. 

Watch the ad below: 

 

July 17, 2018

Donna Shalala, Maria Elvira Salazar lead the money race for Ros-Lehtinen's seat

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

@alextdaugherty

With six weeks remaining until the August 28 primary, two women are leading their respective parties in fundraising in the race to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Latina elected to Congress. 

Democrat Donna Shalala and Republican Maria Elvira Salazar, who both have leads over the competition according to multiple polls, also have the most money left to spend in their competitive primaries. Shalala ended the latest fundraising quarter, which spanned from April 1 to June 30, with $1.1 million left to spend while Salazar has $578,000 in the bank. 

Two other Democrats, former state Rep. David Richardson and former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman also have more than $700,000 to spend as they try to upset Shalala. The reports which were finalized on Monday are the final fundraising totals released before the primary. 

Democrats are hopeful they will flip Ros-Lehtinen's district, which voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by over 19 percentage points in 2016, and the five Democrats running have a substantial advantage in combined cash raised over the nine Republicans still in the race. 

Salazar, a broadcast journalist, and Shalala, the former Secretary of Health and Human Services and president of the University of Miami, both entered the race after the other top contenders in their parties. Richardson leads the combined field in small dollar donations while Shalala has a small lead in total money raised over Richardson and Haggman. 

Republicans are hopeful that their nominee will remain competitive in a district that is majority Latino. The top Republican contenders are all Latino while all five Democrats in the race are not. 

The fundraising totals for Ros-Lehtinen's open seat have a different pattern than the two other GOP-held seats in Miami-Dade.

Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart, who are both seeking reelection, have maintained a fundraising advantage over their top Democratic challengers though both Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Mary Barzee Flores are raising significant amounts of money.

Mucarsel-Powell has $1.2 million to spend while Curbelo has $2.6 million, one of the highest totals for a House Republican nationwide. Barzee Flores has $642,000 on hand while Diaz-Balart has $1.6 million. 

July 16, 2018

Florida lawmakers blast Trump for not calling out Putin

Donald trump 2

via @learyreports

Florida lawmakers on Monday blasted President Trump over taking Vladimir Putin's word that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election, a conclusion that stands in dramatic contrast to widely held views among the intelligence community and on Capitol Hill.

"I don't see any reason why" Russia would do that, Trump said in Helsinki.

"What the president said today is not accurate," Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said during an Atlantic Council event.

Florida Democrats were the first to react and in sharper terms.

"The president's refusal to acknowledge that Putin interfered in our elections should alarm us all," Sen. Bill Nelson tweeted. "Putin is a threat to our democracy and our upcoming election, that's a fact. The president's unwillingness to stand up to him and defend our nation is unacceptable and embarrassing."

"Today @RealDonaldTrump became an illegitimate president when he showed the world that his loyalty lies more with than the people of the United States," Miami Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson tweeted. 

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio did not directly criticize Trump but did say "Foreign policy must be based on reality, not hyperbole or wishful thinking."

Rubio was more specific during an Atlantic Council event.

"What the president said today is not accurate," the Florida Republican said, adding that "all I can speculate" is that Trump was trying to be nice to Putin to establish a better working relationship.

"The flaw is that Vladimir Putin is not interested in a better working relationship," Rubio said.

Miami Republicans Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen directly criticized Trump. 

"The President's comments in Helsinki were deeply alarming," Curbelo said in a statement. "Russia's meddling in the 2016 election is fact – and the recent indictment from Director Mueller and the evidence it outlines proves that. It is unacceptable that an American President not only stood there and said nothing while Vladmir Putin spewed fiction at that press conference, but also questioned the hard work and findings of American intelligence and law enforcement investigators. The U.S. relationship with Russia has deteriorated to its current state because of Russia's criminal interference in our elections, lack of respect for human rights, and invasive and militant actions against its neighbors and our allies around the world. Blaming it on anything else, is unacceptable."

"No, @POTUS. Mueller investigation on election manipulation by is not 'a disaster for our country,'" Ros-Lehtinen tweeted. "It is law enforcement doing work our country needs it to do. What has 'kept us apart' is failure to condemn Russia, lack of any sign that you’ll stop it from happening again." 

Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart avoided directly criticizing Trump in his statement. 

"As our own intelligence experts and the House Intelligence Committee have asserted, Russia interfered in the United States' 2016 election just as it meddles in the elections of its neighbors," Diaz-Balart said in a statement. "Throughout the world, Russia is often on the opposite side of U.S. interests in crucial areas such as Ukraine, Syria, and Iran. Under Putin's charge, Russia has become increasingly undemocratic, expelling pro-democracy NGOs from its territory, suppressing independent media, ignoring human rights, and manifesting a perilous environment for journalists. We must remember that Russia is not an ally of the United States, and that those responsible for attacks on our democratic institutions must be held accountable."

July 13, 2018

Mary Barzee Flores raises $450,000 in first quarter running against Diaz-Balart

Image1 (3)

@alextdaugherty

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart has a race on his hands. 

Democrat Mary Barzee Flores, who jumped from a crowded Democratic primary in retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's district to run against Diaz-Balart unopposed in May, raised over $450,000 in the latest fundraising quarter from April to June. 

Barzee Flores will likely have less cash to spend than Diaz-Balart, who reported $1.1 million on hand at the end of March, though she will likely have the backing of national Democrats and outside groups that can inject money into the Miami-to-Naples district. Her campaign says they have around $650,000 on hand. Diaz-Balart's campaign did not respond when asked for an updated fundraising total, which must be finalized by Sunday. 

Barzee Flores doesn't have to worry about a contested primary and is seeking to tie Diaz-Balart to President Donald Trump in her campaign. Diaz-Balart was the only member of Congress from Miami-Dade County who voted for Trump during the 2016 campaign, and he worked closely with the president and Sen. Marco Rubio to roll back portions of President Barack Obama's Cuba policies last year. 

Diaz-Balart hasn't faced a competitive election since 2008, and his district which covers Northwest Dade and stretches across the Everglades to suburban Naples, is the most conservative congressional district in Miami-Dade. Trump won Diaz-Balart's congressional district over Hillary Clinton by two percentage points, and Democrats are giddy at the prospect of taking control of all five Miami-based House seats after the 2018 election. 

UPDATE (7/16) 

Diaz-Balart raised $507,000 in the latest quarter and has $1.6 million on hand. 

 

 

June 27, 2018

Immigration bill brokered by Miami Republicans fails

Curbelo

@alextdaugherty

The Miami lawmakers who spent weeks trying to craft an all-Republican immigration solution settled for a messaging vote on Wednesday on an immigration bill that wasn't conservative enough for Republicans and wasn't liberal enough for Democrats.

Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo failed to navigate the third rail of GOP politics that has tripped up lawmakers like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the past. A compromise immigration bill that included a solution for giving young immigrants known as Dreamers a path to citizenship in exchange for $25 billion for President Donald Trump's border wall and limiting legal immigration failed by a vote of 121 to 301.  

Every Democrat and 112 Republicans voted against the plan. 

The bill also included a provision that would have allowed families to be detained together at the border if they cross illegally together. 

Trump endorsed the bill hours before the vote in an all-caps tweet, following days of mixed messaging as conservatives blasted the bill as "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants.

“HOUSE REPUBLICANS SHOULD PASS THE STRONG BUT FAIR IMMIGRATION BILL, KNOWN AS GOODLATTE II, IN THEIR AFTERNOON VOTE TODAY, EVEN THOUGH THE DEMS WON’T LET IT PASS IN THE SENATE,” Trump tweeted. “PASSAGE WILL SHOW THAT WE WANT STRONG BORDERS & SECURITY WHILE THE DEMS WANT OPEN BORDERS = CRIME. WIN!”

But Trump's tweet wasn't enough, and the failure of Republican leaders to get any immigration bill passed effectively ends the prospect of further congressional action on the issue before the 2018 election. 

Diaz-Balart and other Repubilcan lawmakers met with the president on Tuesday, one day before the vote on the immigration bill. Instead of talking about the effort, Diaz-Balart asked Trump about infrastructure, according to a pool report. 

The immigration bill did not come up during the part of the with lawmakers that was open to the press.  

“We have the worst immigration law in the history of the world. It’s a joke,” Trump said during the meeting, blasting a proposal to hire more immigration judges to speed up deportation hearings. 

Curbelo and Diaz-Balart's inability to pass a bill hurts Republicans' ability to deliver a message to voters in their competitive Miami-Dade districts that GOP members in Congress are capable of working working with Trump to solve issues such as what to do with 690,000 young immigrants who could face deportation.  Without congressional action, the fate of the young immigrants known as Dreamers rests with the courts. 

Read more here.