May 22, 2018

Democrats reserve $1.9 million in Miami TV airtime ahead of 2018 election

Debate 27

@alextdaugherty

A Washington-based organization that seeks to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives is locking in its TV airtime for the fall. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced Tuesday that it reserved $1.9 million in the Miami market ahead of Election Day 2018. Campaign committees and other political organizations typically reserve airtime in advance to receive cheaper advertising rates. The Miami reservation, part of a $12.6 million nationwide ad buy was first reported by Inside Elections.

It's not clear yet which Democrats stand to benefit from the outside television presence. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Mary Barzee Flores will likely be the Democratic nominees challenging incumbent Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart, while five Democrats are seeking to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for an open seat that is expected to be a pickup opportunity for Democrats in November. 

None of the Broward County-based seats, currently represented by Democrats Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alcee Hastings and Ted Deutch are expected to be competitive races for Republicans. 

The GOP equivalent of the DCCC, the National Republican Congressional Committee, previously announced a $3.2 million ad reservation in the Miami media market in March as part of a $46.3 million ad buy nationwide. Running TV ads in Miami is an expensive proposition and most congressional campaigns must run English and Spanish language ads. 

The NRCC does not get involved in Republican primaries, but their money will likely be spent to support Curbelo, Diaz-Balart and whoever emerges from a nine-way GOP primary in Ros-Lehtinen's seat. 

A Super PAC called the House Majority PAC that also seeks to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives also announced a $1.1 TV ad reservation in March.

May 18, 2018

Miami Democrats pounce on Trump 'animals' comment — Republicans say it's overreaction

Mario Diaz-Balart

@alextdaugherty @newsbysmiley

Donald Trump used the word "animals" while talking immigration Wednesday, and Democrats pounced.

They'd been waiting.

At a White House event discussing California's sanctuary city laws, Trump listened as a local sheriff lamented that the state's policies prevent local law enforcement from referring MS-13 gang members to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation. And then Trump vented.

"You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are," Trump said in response, without explicitly mentioning the gang. "These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before."

The comments set off another round of condemnation from the left for a president who's become known for using inflammatory language to communicate a hard-line stance on immigration. Democratic leaders quickly framed the comments as the latest affront from the president who opened his campaign in 2015 by referring to Mexicans as drug dealers, criminals and rapists.

But the White House defended Trump's remarks on Thursday, and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said people decrying Trump's remarks are defending MS-13. Trump said the same Thursday evening.

"Frankly, I don't think the term POTUS used was strong enough," Huckabee Sanders said.

Regardless, Republicans spent Thursday playing defense, which is where Democrats want them.

Heading into the mid-term elections, Trump's penchant for incendiary, off-the-cuff remarks is among the reasons the country's minority party is so optimistic they can win in November, particularly in areas like South Florida, where high percentages of voters were either born in a different country or born to parents who fled to the U.S. to find a better life. The president's knack for offending other cultures and dragging lawmakers into his vortex could be a great equalizer even for strong incumbents.

As the White House tried to explain Trump's comments Thursday, Democratic challengers in South Florida sought to put their opponents in the same position. Mary Barzee Flores, a former judge and trial lawyer running against longtime Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, called the incumbent a "coward" for staying silent on Trump's latest remarks.

Read more here.

May 14, 2018

Rick Scott, Ron DeSantis attend U.S. embassy opening in Jerusalem

Gov Rick Scott

@alextdaugherty

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is in Israel today for the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, and gubernatorial hopeful Ron DeSantis will also be on hand as members of the Trump administration tout the president's decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv.

Donald Trump's decision to move the embassy was praised by Scott last year and he is also meeting with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a schedule released by Scott's office. The decision to move the embassy has been praised by many Florida Republicans while South Florida Democrats in districts with large Jewish populations also supported the move.

Some of Trump’s top Cabinet officials opposed the decision, arguing that the move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital would needlessly inflame tensions between Israel and Palestinians and potentially put people in danger. Demonstrations on the Israel-Gaza border on Monday killed 41 Palestinians demonstrating along the border fence with 1,600 wounded, according to the Washington Post. The protests mark the bloodiest day in Gaza since a 2014 war with Israel, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. 

Scott is traveling to Israel in his official capacity as governor and not through his Senate campaign. He is scheduled to return to Florida on Tuesday. 

Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart also attended the embassy opening with a host of Republicans in Congress. 

 

May 09, 2018

Miami Republicans defy GOP leadership to force votes on a DACA solution

Mario Diaz-Balart

@alextdaugherty

Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart are trying to force votes on four immigration bills, bypassing Speaker Paul Ryan and House GOP leadership which has been resistant to any immigration proposal that doesn't have 218 Republican votes.

Curbelo filed a petition on Wednesday that would require Congress to vote on a proposal known as "Queen of the Hill," an arcane legislative maneuver that allows the majority of Congress to vote on a legislative solution for DACA recipients who are currently mired in legal limbo after Congress and the White House failed to find a solution earlier this year.

The courts are trying to determine the legality of President Donald Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, an Obama-era executive action that protected 690,000 young immigrations from potential deportation.
 
Read more here.

May 04, 2018

The field for three competitive Miami-Dade congressional races is now official

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

@alextdaugherty

Candidates for federal office in Florida had until noon Friday to make their bids official, and all four incumbents running for Congress in Miami-Dade districts will face opposition in November. 

Two of the incumbents, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Miami Gardens Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson will face primary challenges, though they will be overwhelming favorites to win the August primary election. Wilson will be heavily favored to keep her seat in a deep blue district against a candidate who has also filed to run for U.S. Senate in Florida and Congress in California. While Curbelo's primary will likely be non-competitive, he likely faces a competitive general election challenge from Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell

Two Democrats who considered challenging Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart dropped out after former judge Mary Barzee Flores switched races yesterday. Diaz-Balart and Barzee Flores will not have primary challengers. 

And Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz, the fourth incumbent running for reelection in Miami-Dade, won't face a Democratic primary like she did in 2016. Tim Canova is running again after raising millions but falling well short of knocking off the former DNC chair, but this time he's running as an independent. There will also be a Republican primary in Wasserman Schultz's Democratic-leaning district. 

The largest primary field on both sides is the race to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The district is considered a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats and four of them, former University of Miami president Donna Shalala, state Rep. David Richardson, former Knight Foundation Director Matt Haggman and Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez have all raised over $100,000. TV journalist Maria Elvira Salazar and former Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barreiro have raised the most money on the Republican side. The race to replace Ros-Lehtinen is the most crowded in Florida as 9 Republicans, 5 Democrats and 1 no party candidate have filed paperwork to run. 

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott both qualified to run for Nelson's Senate seat, as expected. Neither faces a competitive primary. 

Full list of Miami-Dade congressional candidates below: 

District 27 (Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is retiring): 

Elizabeth Adadi (R)

Bruno Barreiro (R)

Angie Chirino (R)

Kristen Rosen Gonzalez (D)

Matt Haggman (D)

Mayra Joli (NPA) 

Stephen Marks (R)

Michael Ohevzion (R)

Maria Peiro (R)

David Richardson (D)

Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera (R)

Maria Elvira Salazar (R)

Donna Shalala (D)

Gina Sosa (R)

District 26 (incumbent Rep. Carlos Curbelo is running for reelection) 

Carlos Curbelo (R)

Souraya Faas (R)

Demetries Andrew Grimes (D)

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D) 

District 25 (incumbent Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is running for reelection) 

Mario Diaz-Balart (R)

Mary Barzee Flores (D)

District 24 (incumbent Rep. Frederica Wilson is running for reelection) 

Frederica Wilson (D)

Ricardo De La Fuente (D)

District 23 (incumbent Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is running for reelection) 

Tim Canova (NPA)

Don Endriss (NPA) 

Joseph Kaufman (R)

Carlos Reyes (R)

Carla Spalding (R)

Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D)

Democrat Mary Barzee Flores switches races to challenge Republican Mario Diaz-Balart

Mario Diaz-Balart

@alextdaugherty

Former judge Mary Barzee Flores is switching races to challenge Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, ensuring that Democrats will field strong candidates in the November election for all three Miami-Dade U.S. House seats held by Republicans.

"I’m leaving District 27 race with a heavy heart but also with the confidence that come November that a Democrat is going to take back this seat," Barzee Flores said in an interview with the Miami Herald. "I’m confident that Mario Diaz-Balart can and will be beaten this fall." Until Thursday, Barzee Flores was running to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring.

Diaz-Balart, who hasn't faced a serious challenger since 2008, will be tough to beat. He's a longtime incumbent who is well-known in his Hialeah-based district and Barzee Flores has never run a contested race for elected office. But the former federal judge nominee, who was blocked by Sen. Marco Rubio, picked up key endorsements from EMILY's List, a group that seeks to elect female Democrats to Congress, while she was running in the Democratic primary to replace Ros-Lehtinen. She says EMILY's List is "100 percent behind" her decision to switch races.

Barzee Flores' switch was first reported by Politico Florida.

Barzee Flores said she made her decision to switch races in the past 24 hours, though she said she represented parts of the district as an attorney and circuit court judge. She does not live in the Florida's 25th congressional district, which includes most of Northwestern Miami-Dade and then extends across the Everglades to include portions of Collier and Hendry Counties.

"Last time I looked Mario doesn’t live in 25 either," Barzee Flores said. Members of Congress do not need to live in the districts they represent.

For months, Democrats struggled to find a serious candidate to challenge Diaz-Balart, who won reelection by 24 percentage points in 2016 against nominal opposition. But President Donald Trump won Diaz-Balart's congressional district over Hillary Clinton by just two percentage points, and Democrats are giddy at the prospect of taking control of Congress after they flipped dozens of seats nationwide this year, including a state Senate seat in Miami-Dade and a congressional seat in Pennsylvania that Trump carried by 17 percentage points.

Read more here.

April 13, 2018

Curbelo won't appear with Trump in Miami on Monday

Donald trump 2

@alextdaugherty @newsbysmiley

President Donald Trump is coming to South Florida to talk up the GOP tax bill on Monday, but a Miami Republican who played a role in its creation—and who is facing a tough reelection—won't be there. 

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a member of the House tax writing committee that drafted the tax bill signed into law by Trump late last year, is in Lima this weekend at the Summit of the Americas and won't be back in time for the Monday afternoon event, according to spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez

"Congressman Curbelo is part of the U.S. Delegation to the Summit of the Americas, taking place in Peru this weekend, promoting our engagement in the region," Rodriguez said in an email. "The delegation is not set to return until Monday so he is currently not expected to make it back in time to attend the event in Miami." 

Curbelo had plans to attend the summit well before Trump’s event was announced, Rodriguez said. 

The Monday event is an official White House event and not a Trump campaign stop, though Curbelo appearing alongside a president who overwhelmingly lost Curbelo's Miami-to-Key West district to Hillary Clinton could be ad fodder for Democrats seeking to defeat him in November. Curbelo's campaign previously said he doesn't invite people to campaign with him but "anyone who wants to support Carlos' efforts and endorse his bipartisan approach to public service is welcome to do so." 

Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who doesn't have a serious Democratic opponent and who has worked with Trump on Cuba policy and immigration, confirmed that he will attend the event, though details have not been publicly released yet by the White House. 

Sen. Marco Rubio's office did not immediately respond when asked if he plans to attend, though Rubio is also attending the Summit of the Americas in Peru. 

April 11, 2018

Miami Republicans say lame-duck Paul Ryan unlikely to go rogue on immigration

Ryan_63051

@alextdaugherty

The three Miami Republicans in Congress don't think House Speaker Paul Ryan will change course and force a slew of immigration bills onto the floor for a vote now that he's announced he'll leave office at the end of his term. 

"I don't that you'll see a rogue speaker," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is also retiring after the 2018 elections. "I think he'll be doing more or less what he's been doing, listening to the conference and making decisions that he thinks are in the best interest of the conference. It would be ideal for him to pass a Dreamer bill or put something else up for discussion. I don't suspect that he will do that." 

Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo are hopeful that Ryan will continue to listen to the more moderate wing of the Republican caucus.

"We have this log jam of issues that don't get resolved here, whether it be immigration or a number of others," Curbelo said. "I think Speaker Ryan's intention when he took over was to allow the House to work its will and have a more open process and in that regard I think he could have done a little better." 

Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen voted against a slew of spending bills in recent months over inaction on immigration. But Curbelo changed course and voted in favor of a spending bill in the midst of a debate on young immigrants who came to the U.S. as young people because he argued enough progress had been made, a decision that angered some activists in his majority Hispanic district. 

"I changed my vote on two occasions when there was measurable progress," Curbelo said. "In one case Senator (Mitch) McConnell kept his word with regards to a immigration debate and votes on the Senate floor and the second time the Speaker made a commitment that the House would take action," Curbelo said. "Now the last time, the omnibus vote, no progress had been made and I reverted to my original position. The Speaker remains committed to solving this issue so I think we're going to have a chance to." 

Curbelo said "it's possible" that Ryan could choose to hold votes on immigration, though Republican leaders will likely have the ultimate say on whether something gets to the floor before the 2018 election. 

"I'm going to keep working on it and I can tell you that Paul Ryan has been one of the people that I've always been able to confide in on that issue," Diaz-Balart said, adding that he doesn't know that Congress will act on DACA after a deadline mandated by President Donald Trump was rendered useless by the courts. 

Democrats face long odds in effort to topple Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart

RHP03 RubioHaley News rk

 

@alextdaugherty

Democrats are scrambling to find a credible challenger for Mario Diaz-Balart.

They may not find one.

Though a slim majority of the Miami Republican’s district voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, Democrats don’t control any significant state or local offices in the area, depriving them of a potential bench to take on a well-known and well-funded incumbent in the 2018 election.

“That’s a district that is very hard to win for a Democrat, especially if you’re not Hispanic and don’t speak Spanish,” said Raúl Martínez , a Democrat who served as mayor of Hialeah from 1981 to 2005 and who unsuccessfully challenged former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, the congressman’s brother, in 2008. “You’ve got to remember this district was hand-drawn for Mario. It takes Hialeah and the conservative areas and goes all the way to Naples. The alligators in the middle don’t vote and the Florida panthers don’t vote.”

There are just more than three weeks before congressional candidates in Florida must decide whether to run for the August primary election, and Martínez, along with other Republican and Democratic sources, could not name a Democrat with deep connections to the district that could seriously threaten Diaz-Balart.

National Democrats insist there’s still time for a candidate to emerge, though Politico Florida reported House Minority whip Steny Hoyer recently tried and failed to persuade former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman, who is running in a crowded Democratic primary to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, to take on Diaz-Balart.

Read more here.

April 05, 2018

Gun-related town halls are a partisan affair in South Florida (updated)

LOCAL_RALLY_DAV6 (2)

@alextdaugherty

A national group that promotes face-to-face interactions between lawmakers and constituents is working with the March for Our Lives organizers to host town hall events on preventing gun violence during the current congressional recess, and no South Florida Republicans are planning to attend. 

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, who represents Parkland, held a town hall earlier this week, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, will hold a town hall on Saturday in Pembroke Pines, while Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, will host a town hall tonight in Miami Gardens. 

The three Republicans from Miami-Dade County, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, do not have any town hall events scheduled during the recess. 

A March for Our Lives-affiliated event is being held in Curbelo's district tonight, though Curbelo's office said he was not invited to the event at John A. Ferguson High School. While pro-gun control student activists from Parkland have demanded town hall events during this congressional recess, Ros-Lehtinen, Diaz-Balart and Curbelo have not held any in-person town hall events since the beginning of 2017, according to the Town Hall Project. Curbelo and Diaz-Balart both hold office hours with staff at various locations throughout their districts. 

Curbelo's seat is a target for Democrats in 2018 while Ros-Lehtinen is retiring and Diaz-Balart does not have a serious Democratic challenger. 

Neither of Florida's two senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, have held an in-person town hall since the beginning of 2017, according to the Town Hall Project.  

UPDATE (4/6/18): A student organizer with pro gun-control group Students Demand Action said Curbelo was invited to the town hall event in his district, but he declined citing a scheduling conflict. 

William Breslin, who lives outside of Curbelo's district, said he called Curbelo's official office three times before receiving a response that Curbelo could not attend. Breslin then invited Curbelo's Democratic opponents after the congressman declined the invitation, he said. 

Information on upcoming town halls: 

Town hall with Frederica Wilson and state Rep. Shevrin Jones: 

Thursday, April 5 6:30pm

Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex Auditorium

3000 NW 199th St. 

Miami Gardens, FL 33056 

Town hall with Debbie Wasserman Schultz: 

Saturday, April 7 2pm 

301 NW 103rd Avenue

Pembroke Pines, FL 33026 

Town Hall for Our Lives West Miami-Dade

Thursday, April 5 7pm

John A. Ferguson High School 

15900 SW 56th St. 

Miami, FL 33185