June 30, 2016

Hialeah Gardens mayor, council endorse Manny Diaz Jr.

@ByKristenMClark

Incumbent Republican state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. has earned the endorsement of Hialeah Gardens Mayor Yioset De La Cruz and the entire city council, Diaz's campaign announced today.

“We need Manny Diaz’s leadership in Tallahassee,” De La Cruz said in a statement provided by the campaign. “He is a trusted partner at the state level for our community. We look forward to continuing to work with him to improve our schools and to support policies that will increase economic growth and opportunity in our area.”

Joining De La Cruz in supporting Diaz are Councilmen Luciano “Lucky” Garcia, Rolando Piña, Jorge Merida, Jorge Gutierrez, and Elmo Urra.

“Manny Diaz knows our community and is committed to making it even better,” Gutierrez said. “We can depend on him to listen to the constituents he serves and make wise choices in Tallahassee. We can’t afford to be without him as our representative in the Florida House.”

Diaz, of Hialeah, is seeking re-election to a third term in the Florida House, representing District 103. He was first elected in 2012. If re-elected, Diaz is in line to be either House Education Committee chairman or education budget committee chairman in 2017.

Diaz faces Democrat Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich in the November general election. Neither candidate has a primary challenger.

District 103 includes Miramar, Hialeah, Hialeah Gardens, Medley and part of Doral.

June 24, 2016

Anitere Flores does have a Democratic challenger, so does Rene Garcia

Miami dade districts@ByKristenMClark

Of course, Democrats wouldn't have just let Miami Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores coast to re-election.

After some re-shuffling this week when Flores' previous Democratic challenger qualified in a neighboring district instead, Democrats were under the gun to find a candidate to put up against Flores in District 39. The deadline for candidates to file for this year's primary and general elections is noon today.

They found one: Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

Mucarsel-Powell, of Pinecrest, filed her candidacy for District 39 on Thursday, but it doesn't appear - as of 9 a.m. - that her qualifying papers have been processed yet by the Florida Division of Elections. (That's not uncommon; there's usually a lag between when candidates submit their papers and when their affirmed to be "qualified" in the candidate list online.)

According to Miami Herald archives and her LinkedIn page, Mucarsel-Powell was named senior vice president of development at Jackson Health Foundation in November 2014. Before that, she spent more than eight years working at Florida International University -- first as director of development from 2003-2007, then as associate vice president for advancement for FIU's Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine from 2007 to July 2011.

Mucarsel-Powell helps run her own business, D. Mucarsel-Powell & Associates, LLC -- which was registered with the state in 2012. According to state records, she and her husband, Robert Powell, are managers of the business. Mucarsel-Powell's LinkedIn page lists her as current president of the firm, also known as DMP Associates.

The District 39 seat, newly redrawn because of redistricting, leans Democratic and Hispanic. The seat spans western and southern Miami-Dade County and Monroe County, including the Florida Keys.

A write-in candidate, Brent Artz of Big Pine Key, also qualified Thursday. An independent candidate, Sheila Lucas George, filed previously in the race but had not yet qualified as of 9 a.m. today.

Mucarsel-Powell fills the void left by Miami Democrat Andrew Korge, who left the District 39 race on Wednesday for what he viewed as better prospects in District 40, which is in central Miami-Dade County.

Korge set up a three-way Democratic primary there between sitting Sen. Dwight Bullard and former state legislator Ana Rivas Logan.

A fourth Democrat entered that race on Thursday: Missalys Perez, of Hialeah. (Her qualifying papers have not yet been processed.)

Unless there are any more late-filing candidates today, the winner of that August primary among those four will take on Miami Republican Rep. Frank Artiles in the fall. Independent Mario Jimenez also qualified for the November election.

Korge is under fire this week -- accused of offering Bullard money to move to a different race. Rivas Logan says Korge also approached her last month about swapping races (but offered no money). Both say they declined Korge's offers. Korge denies he offered Bullard "$25,000 cash," but wouldn't say whether he, instead, might have offered campaign help or fundraising support.

Elsewhere in Miami-Dade County, Republican Sen. Rene Garcia, of Hialeah, also drew a last-minute challenger. Until yesterday, he'd been the only candidate to file for the District 36 seat -- which meant he would've been re-elected without opposition.

But Democrat Anabella Grohoski, of Miami Springs, filed her candidacy, setting up a general election campaign.

District 36 includes north-central Miami-Dade County, including Doral and Hialeah.

Miami-Dade Senate candidates say challenger tried to get them out of District 40 race

@ByKristenMClark

Miami Democratic state Senate candidate Andrew Korge is so ambitious for public office that he’s willing to go to extremes, his primary opponents say.

In the past month, Korge tried to pay a state senator to switch districts in Miami-Dade County, and he tried to persuade his other competitor to swap races with him, Korge’s two Democratic opponents in District 40 each told the Herald/Times.

Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, said Korge approached both him and his political consultant within the past two weeks and offered $25,000 if Bullard left the District 40 race for the open, coastal seat in District 38 — now being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Gwen Margolis.

In a campaign statement, Korge — who on Wednesday switched from the District 39 race to the District 40 contest — said: “I unequivocally deny the accusation that I offered Dwight Bullard $25,000 cash to move to the District 38 Senate race.”

But he wouldn't say whether he offered Bullard the money in campaign support or fundraising help.

And the other Democrat in the August primary -- former state Rep. Ana Rivas Logan -- says Korge also tried to persuade her not to run in District 40, by offering to swap with her for the District 39 race he was previously in.

More here.

June 22, 2016

Andrew Korge switches Florida Senate races in Miami-Dade

@ByKristenMClark & @MaryEllenKlas

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In a major shake-up for two of Miami-Dade’s closely watched state Senate races, Democrat Andrew Korge is once again switching which public office he wants voters to elect him to in November.

Instead of challenging Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores in District 39, Korge will now run for the District 40 seat, he told the Herald/Times, confirming rumors that have swirled in South Florida political circles for the past couple weeks.

His decision sets up a three-way Democratic primary in District 40 against former state representative Ana Rivas Logan and current state Sen. Dwight Bullard and all-but-hands Flores her re-election unless Democrats can produce a viable replacement to challenge her with two days left in the qualifying period.

Korge planned to announce his decision Wednesday afternoon, when he filed his qualifying papers in Tallahassee. Candidates have until noon Friday to qualify and thereby secure their places on the August primary or November general election ballots.

“As a third-generation Miamian, it has long been a dream of mine to serve my community as a member of the Florida Senate, to create a better future for our children, to improve public schools and protect college students, and create high-wage jobs for hard-working, middle-class families,” Korge said in a statement. “District 40, where I grew up and spent half of my life, offers the best opportunity to do that.”

More here.

June 17, 2016

Sen. Dwight Bullard not switching to Gwen Margolis seat

State Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, says he is staying put to run in District 40 and won't switch to run for the district where Sen. Gwen Margolis recently dropped out.

Margolis dropped out last week after she dismissed some of her Democratic opponents as "Haitians." That set off a flurry of speculation about who else would jump in to the race although there were already five other Democratic candidates competing when Margolis was in the race.

Former North Miami Mayor Kevin Burns announced Wednesday that he is running for the District 38 seat. The other candidates are small business owner Anis Blemur, former state Rep. Philip Brutus, teacher Don Festge, lawyer Jason Pizzo and state Rep. Daphne Campbell.

From Bullard's press release:

“While there has been much speculation about my future Senate seat plans, I wanted to take this opportunity to reiterate my commitment to the South Dade community (in the newly drawn District 40). I have had the pleasure of serving as both Representative and Senator in this District for many years and could not think of a more rewarding area to have the privilege of continuing to serve. While I greatly appreciate those who have reached out to encourage me to move to a different District, the people here know that I have always been and will continue to be a fighter who has always stood up and stood for them." 

"Unlike other candidates and/or potential candidates, my level of commitment to District 40 spans more than 30 years. I've gone to elementary school in this District, graduated high school in this District, and I continue to work in this District. The people of District 40 have a clear choice in August and November as to who they choose to represent District 40. It is my hope they would choose someone who has always been here and not someone who merely shows up tomorrow. Home is where my heart is and home is where my heart has always been." 

June 15, 2016

Former North Miami Mayor Kevin Burns to run for Gwen Margolis state senate seat

Former North Miami Mayor Kevin Burns said he filed paperwork today to run for the state Senate after Sen. Gwen Margolis dropped out of the District 38 race in Miami-Dade County

Burns served two terms as mayor from 2005-2009 and was the city’s first openly gay mayor. Burns, a real estate broker, lost a legislative race to Margolis in 2010.

The musical chairs may not be over following Margolis’ decision to drop out last week after she took heat for dismissing some of her Democratic opponents as “Haitians.”

Sen. Dwight Bullard says he is considering switching districts to run for District 38.

“It has been mentioned by party leaders and other electeds about it potentially being a good move for me,” Bullard told the Miami Herald Tuesday. “The demographics speak to the possibility of an African-American candidate more easily winning the seat than the current seat I am in.”

About one-third of the voters in the newly drawn district are black including Haitians and African-Americans.

“Without Haitian support I would have never been elected mayor,” said Burns who is white.

Democrats say Andrew Korge is taking a look at the seat. Bay Harbor Islands Mayor Jordan Leonard said he is also considering a bid.

Other candidates already in the race are small business owner Anis Blemur, former state Rep. Philip Brutus, teacher Don Festge, lawyer Jason Pizzo and state Rep. Daphne Campbell.

Campbell has raised the most through donations -- about $28,000 -- but Pizzo has the largest total pot due to a $200,000 loan.

All of the candidates are Democrats in the left-leaning district.

The five-day qualifying period starts Monday for the Aug. 30 primary.

June 14, 2016

Republicans troll Miami-Dade legislative candidate for not living in district

@ByKristenMClark

A Democratic newcomer who's challenging an incumbent Republican lawmaker in Hialeah is under attack for not currently living in the district that she's seeking to represent.

In a 30-second online ad, the Republican Party of Florida says "Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich doesn't live in Hialeah, but she thinks she can represent Hialeah."

The ad capitalizes on comments Gonzalez Petkovich made to Politico Florida last month, when the website reported that she and her husband, Alex, live in an area of Doral that's just outside House District 103 -- where she's challenging state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah.

But Gonzalez Petkovich, an attorney with her own Coral Gables-based law firm, said Tuesday it's "laughable" for Republicans to paint her as someone unfamiliar with the district since she was born and raised there.

District 103 includes Miramar, Hialeah, Hialeah Gardens, Medley and part of Doral.

Continue reading "Republicans troll Miami-Dade legislative candidate for not living in district" »

Anitere Flores leads Andrew Korge in internal campaign poll

@ByKristenMClark

About five months before Election Day, Miami Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores leads Democratic newcomer Andrew Korge, according to a recent internal Republican poll of the District 39 contest.

The state Senate battle between Flores and Korge is one of the most closely watched and expensive legislative races this year.

In a survey of 302 likely general election voters three weeks ago, Flores had a 9 percentage-point advantage over Korge in a head-to-head matchup. Flores drew 40 percent support, compared to 31 percent for Korge. About 29 percent of respondents were undecided in the contest.

After hearing more about the two candidates, Flores' lead over Korge grew among respondents -- with 62 percent favoring her, 16 percent favoring Korge and 17 percent undecided.

The Florida Republican Senatorial Committee had the poll done May 20-22 as a $19,500 in-kind contribution to Flores' campaign, which she reported in her May campaign finance report.

Information about the poll was provided to the Herald/Times by a political consultant working with Flores' campaign and Sarah Bascom, on behalf of the FRSC. Specific questions asked of respondents and raw data of the poll results was not available.

The margin of error for the results is plus or minus 5.7 percentage points.

The poll also found that Flores -- a lawmaker who has represented parts of Miami-Dade County since 2004 -- has stronger name recognition than her opponent. Korge is a first-time candidate, whose father, Chris Korge, is a prominent Democratic fundraiser in South Florida. More than 80 percent of respondents said they didn't know who Andrew Korge was, compared to about 60 percent who didn't know Flores.

The District 39 seat, newly redrawn because of redistricting, leans Democratic and Hispanic. The seat spans western and southern Miami-Dade County and Monroe County, including the Florida Keys. The area overlaps slightly with Flores' current district, but most of it is new territory for her.

District 39 is one of three hotly contested state Senate seats in Miami-Dade County that could help determine how strong the Republican majority in the chamber is next session. Democrats want to pick up a couple seats and narrow the gap. (The Senate currently has 26 Republicans and 14 Democrats.)

The FRSC poll asked respondents in District 39 which party they would vote for if the election were held now; about 44 percent said they'd pick a Republican candidate, 39 percent said they'd support a Democrat and 18 percent were undecided.

June 13, 2016

AFSCME endorses Jason Pizzo in Miami senate race

AFSCME union has endorsed lawyer Jason Pizzo in the District 38 state Senate race.

Initially, the union endorsed Sen. Gwen Margolis but AFSCME considered yanking the endorsement after Margolis dismissed some of her Democratic rivals as "Haitians." But Margolis dropped out last week before the union had to officially decide about whether to withdraw the endorsement. 

Today AFSCME announced that it has endorsed Pizzo, a former prosecutor.

"Although he has never run for office before, he had a solid grasp of the issues and presented himself in a way that impressed our members," said Andy Madtes, union executive director.

Miami Beach lawmaker will continue re-election bid, won't seek state Senate

@ByKristenMClark

HousePhotoSized5952State Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, won't jump in the race for a now-open state Senate seat representing coastal Miami-Dade County.

In a statement this morning, Richardson said he's "humbled and honored by the many calls encouraging me to consider a run in the now open Senate District 38," but he's "committed more than ever to earn my re-election in (House District) 113 and continue to serve as a member of the Florida House of Representatives."

The District 38 seat became open last week, after longtime Democratic Sen. Gwen Margolis announced her political retirement. Her decision to drop her re-election campaign came a couple days after she publicly disparaged her five opponents as “three Haitians, some teacher and some lawyer.”

Richardson, a two-term state House member, praised Margolis for her service.

"I commend and congratulate Senator Gwen Margolis on her leadership and service to Miami-Dade County," he said. "She is a trailblazer in her own right and someone who helped pave the way for so many others and me."

While Richardson filed for Senate early last year, redistricting affected the boundaries of Miami-Dade's various Senate districts. Richardson acknowledged that factored into his decision, saying: "The newly drawn SD38 is vastly different from the previous SD35."

"I am honored that the people of HD113 have allowed me to be their voice in Tallahassee for the past four years," Richardson said, affirming his commitment to seek re-election. "With the support of my constituents and my Democratic caucus colleagues, I hope together we can break new barriers in the upcoming years. The journey ahead can once again be history-making and I am excited by the opportunity to be a uniting force as our community and state continue to be challenged."

Photo credit: Florida House of Representatives