July 12, 2017

In Miami senate race, mailer says Donald Trump endorsed Jose Felix Diaz -- but read the fine print

Diaz Trump mail

Diaz mailingone

@amysherman1

A mailer in a Miami senate race says that Donald Trump has only backed one of the candidates, but voters will have to read the fine print to figure out when Trump supported state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.

It appears that Trump supported Diaz in his previous bids for state house years before Trump's successful bid for president.

"Only one candidate in Senate District 40 has been endorsed twice by Donald Trump," states one side of the mailer, showing a photo of Trump and Diaz smiling together giving the thumbs up sign. 

The other side of the mailer states "Jose Felix Diaz supports Donald Trump" and shows a photo of Diaz, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. The mailer displays a note written by Trump on an invoice: "Jose -- Good Luck -- we are all proud of you -- you will win!" 

If you read the fine print of the invoice, it shows a date of June 2012. State campaign finance records show that Trump donated $500 to Diaz's house race in July 2012 (as well as an earlier race in March 2009.)

Note that the mailer doesn't say President Donald Trump but only says Donald Trump -- another sign that as president, Trump isn't supporting any candidates in the Miami senate race.

The White House didn't want to weigh in on this mailer, but it would be unusual for a president to endorse in a state legislative race even though Diaz and Trump know each other.

Diaz was once a contestant on Trump's "The Apprentice" reality show. Also, Diaz was interviewed as a potential Miami U.S. attorney candidate for Trump's administration. Earlier in the race, Diaz deleted a twitter photo of himself with President Trump after he was aggressively trolled online.  

Diaz faces former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and attorney Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck in the special July 25 Republican primary election to replace State Sen. Frank Artiles. If Diaz wins, Democrats will emphasize his ties to Trump in the Democratic-leaning Senate District 40. 

Diaz could not be immediately reached to answer questions about when Trump supported him and if he officially endorsed him when he gave him money in state house races.

 

July 10, 2017

Miami senate district forum will be skipped by at least one major Republican candidate

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@amysherman1

Former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, one of the Republican rivals in the race to replace Sen. Frank Artiles, will not appear at a candidate forum at Miami Dade College's Kendall campus Wednesday night.

"I spend my time with my voters not with elites," he told the Miami Herald in a text confirming that he won't attend.

State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz said he will try to attend part of the forum, but it is scheduled the same evening when he will appear at a Univision event about the condo reform bill that he shepherded through this session along with a few other Miami-Dade lawmakers. 

Diaz and Portilla didn't appear at a forum June 1 due to scheduling conflicts. The forums provide the rare opportunity for voters to hear multiple candidates at once before the July 25 primary in District 40.

Republican Lorenzo Palomares, a lawyer, will attend the forum along with Democrats Annette Taddeo, a frequent candidate and owner of a translation business, and former state Rep. Ana Rivas Logan

The format is not a debate -- the candidates will be asked the same set of questions. Generally, the candidates are not going to be given the opportunity to rebut each other unless a candidate attacks another candidate.

Likely topics include the health care legislation, gun safety, restoring felons' voting rights, the environment, and public education. The forum will be moderated by WLRN morning anchor Luis Hernandez

The event is sponsored by the League of Women Voters. Additional event partners include the Miami Herald, ACLU Florida, Women’s Fund Miami-Dade, YWCA, Kendall Federation of Homeowners, Engage Miami and National Council of Jewish Women Kendall.

Partners have submitted questions in advance but the public can also submit questions on written cards at the forum. 

The forum will be held at MDC’s Kendall Campus, Room 6120, 1011 SW 104 St.

Miami Herald photo from left to right: Lorenzo Palomares, Ana Rivas Logan, Steve Smith, Christian "He-Man" Schlaerth, and Annette Taddeo participate in a Florida Senate District 40 Forum at the Second Baptist Church in Richmond Heights on Thursday, June 1, 2017. 

 

 

 

July 05, 2017

Talk of fixing HB 7069 ‘way too premature,’ Hialeah lawmaker says

Florida Legislature (12)

@ByKristenMClark

Although a major school reform bill was signed into law last month amid heavy criticism and calls that it be fixed immediately, an influential lawmaker from Miami-Dade County indicates that issue won’t be a priority on the Legislature’s agenda for 2018.

“It’s way too premature,” said Hialeah Republican Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., who helms the House’s pre-K-12 education budget committee. “Making adjustments going forward — we first have to see what happens instead of jumping the gun.”

HB 7069 took effect Saturday, prompting myriad changes in statewide education policy — many favorable to charter schools seeking less restrictions to their expansion in Florida.

Among the most controversial of those changes is a new “Schools of Hope” program to help the state’s worst-performing schools by, in part, providing incentives for new charter schools to directly compete with them.

It’s that part of the bill that some senators — led by Republican David Simmons of Altamonte Springs — have argued needs to be revised. They say, as written, the new law forces failing schools to either shut down after getting two “D” or “F” grades or hand themselves over to privately managed charters, with both options leaving the schools’ teachers out of work.

Diaz — who helped craft HB 7069 and shepherd it through the Legislature — contends such critics are misreading the new law and they need to be patient while the Florida Department of Education drafts rules this summer that better clarify how the “Schools of Hope” program will be implemented.

More here.

Photo credit: AP 

July 03, 2017

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to fundraise for Jose Felix Diaz's senate race

Diazfundraiser

@amysherman1

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is the special guest at a fundraiser for Rep. Jose Felix Diaz's state senate campaign at the Biltmore Hotel July 18th.

Diaz is running in the July 25th primary for the special election in District 40 created by the resignation of Sen. Frank Artiles

Diaz will face attorney Lorenzo Palomares and former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla in the Republican primary.

June 28, 2017

Condo law reforms sought by Miami-Dade lawmakers signed into law

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via @BrendaMedinar of El Nuevo Herald

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has approved state condominium law reforms that seek to punish voter fraud and theft in condo associations, clarify the definition of conflicts of interest and promote transparency.

Amendments to chapter 718 of the state law will take effect on July 1.

“I am very happy that we have finally achieved some of what is needed to stop fraud and abuse toward condominium owners,” said Maritza Escobar, owner of a condo unit in Hialeah Gardens. “In the future we have to make more changes to stop the abuse from management companies and boards.”

The reforms were presented in Tallahassee as a signature bill by the bipartisan Dade Delegation during the legislative session that ended in May. It was sponsored by Rep. José Félix Díaz and Senators José Javier Rodríguez and René García, and unanimously approved by the state House and Senate.

“That [the governor] signed the law is a victory and one that does not always happen,” said Díaz, whose district encompasses the Fontainebleau neighborhood in west Miami-Dade.

Díaz, who is vying for a Senate seat, said the delegation’s action and community engagement were key to the reforms getting passed.

“There are so many people in this county who have so many problems and do not raise their voices,” he said. “This is an example of when the government responds to the advice and suggestions of the public.”

The bill came a year after the publication of the “Condo Nightmares” series by el Nuevo Herald and Univisión 23. The investigation highlighted cases of electoral fraud, forged signatures on ballots, conflicts of interests, misappropriation of funds and rigged bids.

Full story here.

Photo credit: C.M. GUERRERO / El Nuevo Herald

June 15, 2017

Baez lists home for sale after residency questioned

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@PatriciaMazzei

State Rep. Daisy Baez listed her Coral Gables home for sale Wednesday, about a month after her compliance with a Florida constitutional requirement that she live in her district was called into question.

Realtor.com shows Baez's three-bedroom, two-bathroom Malaga Avenue house for sale for $695,000. The property is in House District 112 -- which is a problem for the freshman Democratic lawmaker because she represents District 114 and was supposed to have lived there by Election Day last November.

When the Miami Herald first reported in May that Baez was apparently still living on Malaga Avenue, Baez said she kept two residences: the house and a rental in District 114. That address was an occupied apartment owned by a pair of her campaign donors. Baez's friends later said she was renting another property in the district and planning to move out of Malaga Avenue. A "For Rent" sign went up on her yard.

Baez, who dropped out of a Florida Senate race after news of her residency problem broke, was hit with an ethics complaint over the issue earlier this month.

"I currently live in the district I represent and right now my focus is on the special session and my continued efforts to push for more responsibility and transparency when handling our tax dollars, to protect our public schools and the environment and to bring better paying jobs to the district," Baez said in a statement to the Herald at the time.

June 07, 2017

South Florida rain interferes with lawmakers traveling to Tallahassee

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@ByKristenMClark

South Florida's torrential rains and stormy weather were bad enough to affect attendance at the Florida Legislature's special session nearly 500 miles away in Tallahassee, as some lawmakers found it challenging to make it here because of cancelled or delayed flights.

Hialeah Republican Sen. René García, for instance, had his flight from Miami delayed -- causing him to miss today entirely.

After their flight on Tuesday night was cancelled because of bad weather, Democratic Sens. Gary Farmer, of Lighthouse Point, and Perry Thurston, of Fort Lauderdale, jumped in a car and drove all night to make it Tallahassee.

They arrived in town at 5:15 this morning, they said. (Thurston said he did the bulk of the driving, joking that Farmer drove about 30 minutes of the 7- to 8-hour drive from Broward County.)

Some South Florida House members also had to find a workaround to get to the Capitol.

House budget chairman Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, said Tuesday night a flight that was supposed to carry him and a couple other Dade lawmakers was cancelled -- which would force them to find an alternate flight or, if necessary, drive. They made it, though, arriving in time for when the House began session at 12:30 p.m.

-- Mary Ellen Klas contributed.

Photo credit: A car tries to make its way through the flooded street to the gas station at Sawgrass Mills mall on Wednesday, June 7, 2017. Bryan Cereijo / Miami Herald

June 06, 2017

Mallea, Perez and Mayaudon will battle for Jose Felix Diaz's House seat

Jose Felix Diaz goodbye

@ByKristenMClark

Two Republicans and one Democrat qualified by a Tuesday deadline to run in a special election this year that will determine who will replace Miami Republican Jose Felix Diaz in the Florida House.

The primary contest between Republicans Jose Mallea and Daniel Anthony Perez will be held July 25. The winner of that race will face off against Democratic newcomer Gabriela Mayaudon in the special general election on Sept. 26.

Those are the same dates when a special election for the District 40 Senate seat will also be held. Sen. Frank Artilesresignation in April from that seat — after an offensive and racist tirade against two senators — created a game of dominoes in Miami politics. Diaz resigned his District 116 House seat last month to run for Artiles’ seat, which sparked the need for the additional special election.

More here on the candidates who qualified in the House District 116 race.

Photo credit: AP

Miami-Dade Republican: I'm 'not comfortable' with more K-12 funding without changing HB 7069

Condos three lnew cmg

@ByKristenMClark

Hialeah Republican Sen. René García told Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, in a letter today that he's "not comfortable supporting any compromise" on increasing K-12 funding for 2017-18 that does not also address a controversial education policy bill that awaits Gov. Rick Scott's approval.

García was one of three Senate Republicans to vote against HB 7069 when it narrowly passed the Senate on the final day of the 2017 regular session.

Lawmakers are returning to Tallahassee for a three-day special session starting Wednesday, one of the topics of which includes increasing money for K-12 public schools after Scott vetoed the Legislature's approved spending level as insufficient.

But HB 7069 -- although tied to the budget -- will not formally be up for discussion during the special session, which has drawn some unrest among senators who had expected Scott to veto it and now fear he won't. Scott has not committed to an opinion on the bill, but many lawmakers expect he'll sign it in trade for the Legislature approving his ask for additional economic development money.

García said in his letter he was grateful for the special session to "revisit several critical issues."

"While my career has reflected a passionate commitment to school choice and local autonomy, I find it difficult to support adjusting the Florida Education Finance Program while failing to address the erosion of Florida's commitment to public education that is contained in HB 7069," García said.

"Dramatic policy shifts such as broadening the scope of eligibility of Title I funds, as well as allowing charter schools to use local tax revenue for capital outlay projects should be discussed in conjunction with any proposed increases in per student funding," he added. "The public policy held within the FEFP and the set of policies passed within HB 7069 are inherently intertwined."

Negron's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Read García's full letter here.

Altamonte Republican Sen. David Simmons, the chairman of the K-12 education appropriations committee who also opposed HB 7069, has said he wants to "fix" the bill as early as this special session -- particularly to address challenges in implementing it that he says are too constraining on traditional public schools. However, HB 7069 is not formally part of the call for a special session and it would take a two-thirds vote of both chambers to add it to the agenda, which is incredibly unlikely.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero / el Nuevo Herald

May 22, 2017

Conservative group thanks senators, urges Scott approval of schools bill

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@ByKristenMClark

A national Hispanic conservative group is showing its gratitude to 18 Republican state lawmakers who were crucial to passing a controversial and charter-friendly K-12 public schools bill, in the hopes of building more support for Gov. Rick Scott to sign the legislation into law.

The LIBRE Initiative -- which is supported by the Koch Brothers -- is mailing out bilingual fliers this week to voters represented by the three House members and 15 senators. The group is letting residents know their senator supported HB 7069 and is urging the resident to ask Scott to approve it.

The Initiative and another Koch-affiliated group, Americans for Prosperity, are among the school choice proponents of HB 7069 that want to see it enacted -- in contrast to county school superintendents, almost all elected school boards, and parent groups and teachers unions that want the legislation vetoed.

"Right now, too many Florida students are trapped in failing schools that are not meeting their educational needs. This is why it is essential for Governor Scott to sign H.B. 7069 into law and empower students and parents with more options to choose schools that better serve their educational needs," Cesar Grajales, the LIBRE Initiative’s coalitions director, said in a statement. "We urge Gov. Scott to quickly sign this bill and remove unnecessary barriers so our students don’t have to remain stuck in schools that are failing to provide a quality education."

Those targeted by the mailers are: House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O'Lakes, and Reps. Manny Diaz Jr. of Hialeah and Michael Bileca of Miami; and Senate President Joe Negron of Stuart and Sens. Dennis Baxley of Ocala, Lizbeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers, Rob Bradley of Fleming Island, Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, Anitere Flores of Miami (shown above), Bill Galvano of Bradenton, Tom Lee of Thonotosassa, Debbie Mayfield of Vero Beach, Kathleen Passidomo of Naples, Keith Perry of Gainesville, Wilton Simpson of Trilby, Kelli Stargel of Lakeland, Greg Steube of Sarasota and Dana Young of Tampa.

Corcoran, Diaz and Bileca shepherded HB 7069 through the House, one of the chamber's top priorities of session. The 15 senators listed represent most of the 20 Republican senators whose votes were vital in ensuring HB 7069 passed.

It was approved on a 20-18 vote in the Senate, so one more opposing vote would have killed it. (Flores was the only Miami-Dade County senator to support it.)

The LIBRE Initiative's latest direct-mail campaign comes two weeks ago after the group sent out mailers hailing five select Republicans -- Negron, Corcoran, Diaz, Bileca and Clearwater Rep. Chris Latvala -- who were key to pushing through the school choice measure in the final days of session.