October 01, 2016

Ties to 'hemp honey dust,' cannabis lubricants have Miami-Dade Democrat under fire

Gonzalez petkovich


A Democratic legislative candidate in Miami-Dade County was previously a legal adviser to a company called Canna Teaze that marketed cannabis-infused sexual wellness products — like “hemp honey dust” and lubricants — but Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich says it’s a “dirty mischaracterization” for her Republican critics to use that job experience as a way to question her values.

Gonzalez Petkovich, an attorney from Doral who’s running for Florida House District 103, told the Miami Herald’s editorial board that she’s “very proud of the work and the help that I offered” to Canna Teaze but said she no longer represents the company because its founder, Misty Lee, moved out of state.

Gonzalez Petkovich said she met Lee two years ago when Gonzalez Petkovich was advocating for a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. Gonzalez Petkovich — who is the registered agent and a board member of the Florida-based awareness group, CannaMoms — said she passionately supports the use of medical marijuana because “I really and truly believe that this is medicine.”

Her involvement in Canna Teaze “was just in my capacity as an attorney helping [Lee] seek investment for this particular project that she wanted to pursue,” Gonzalez Petkovich told the editorial board Thursday.

More here.

Photo credit: Gonzalez Petkovich campaign

September 29, 2016

Gonzalez Petkovich challenges Diaz to debate in Miami-Dade House race


Democrat Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich says Republican incumbent state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. should debate her before voters start casting ballots in their District 103 House race.

Gonzalez Petkovich sent a letter to Diaz this week, challenging him to a "series of open debates to ensure that the people of District 103 have a full opportunity to hear our viewpoints and understand the real differences in our visions for the future of this state." Read the letter here.

Gonzalez Petkovich's campaign said the only scheduled debate is supposed to be Friday night but Diaz declined the invitation.

"His actions subvert the intent of having an informed electorate and hurts his constituents’ abilities to know where he stands on the issues when voters go the polls on Election Day," her campaign said Thursday evening, when announcing Gonzalez Petkovich's challenge to Diaz.

Diaz's campaign declined to comment.

Gonzalez Petkovich -- an attorney who lives in a part of Doral that lies just outside District 103 -- is making her first bid for public office. Diaz, of Hialeah, is seeking re-election to a third term in the Florida House and could be among House leadership, if he's re-elected.

District 103 is heavily Hispanic with a moderate voting bloc. The district includes parts of Hialeah, Miramar, Doral, Miami Lakes, Medley and Hialeah Gardens.

Vote-by-mail ballots go out Oct. 4.

Hialeah Republican: Who I support for president is not important to Florida House race

Manny diaz 2016 flhouse


Add Manny Diaz Jr. to the list of Miami-Dade Republicans who are reluctant or noncommittal about supporting Donald Trump when they have their own political campaigns to win this fall.

During an interview with the Miami Herald's editorial board this morning, Diaz -- an influential state representative from Hialeah -- wouldn't say whether he's voting for Trump in November.

Like some other area Republicans have, Diaz pivoted on the topic by saying he's "not involved in the presidential campaign" and is, instead, focused on his own bid for re-election.

"Either way, I just think we make the mistake too many times of turning these races into a proxy war and it's not," said Diaz, who's in line to be among House leadership next session if he wins his competitive re-election fight against Democratic newcomer Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich.

"I represent the people of District 103 at the state level with state issues," Diaz said. "And it doesn't matter if either one of these people wins the presidency, I'm going to have to do the same job and it's not going to make my job any easier or harder when it comes to representing my community."

The District 103 seat is heavily Hispanic with a moderate voting bloc. The district includes parts of Hialeah, Miramar, Doral, Miami Lakes, Medley and Hialeah Gardens.

"I don't think my vote -- whether I'm voting for Trump or not -- is important in this race," Diaz told the editorial board. "I just think it's important that my constituents know what I'm going to do, where I stand for them and not where I stand on the presidential race. I think it's up to them to make up their mind, clearly, on who they think their best choice for president is -- but my race is different and it has different issues that we need to deal with."

Diaz is one of the House Democrats' prime targets this fall, because if re-elected, he could wield significant power over either education policy or education spending in the 2017 session. An administrator at Doral College, Diaz is a staunch supporter of charter schools and other school-choice policies, which many Democrats argue take resources away from traditional public schools.

Photo credit: myfloridahouse.gov

Diaz de la Portilla drops 'conservative' from political committee name

Miguel dlp 020816


Miami Republican state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla changed the name of his political committee last month to remove mention of "conservative values" and replace it with something he said would better reflect his focus for the future.

Diaz de la Portilla updated the name of his committee on Aug. 2 to the "Foundation for Human Values" from the previous "Foundation for Conservative Values," state records show. (As of Wednesday evening, though, the website for the committee still held the original "conservative" name.)

The subtle name change comes as Diaz de la Portilla faces a contentious battle for re-election this fall in a newly redrawn, Miami-based district that leans Democratic. State Rep. José Javier Rodríguez, D-Miami, is challenging him for what's now the District 37 seat.

Diaz de la Portilla told the Herald/Times that when he first started his fundraising committee a few years ago he wanted its name to reflect his fiscal conservatism and other similar political philosophies.

But "a lot has happened in the last 18 months," he said -- referencing terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice, France, the shooting of police in Dallas, and mass shootings in San Bernardino and Orlando.

"I wanted to have a much broader term that really encapsulates the issues I think we should focus on," Diaz de la Portilla said. "I'm just worried about the lack of respect and human values we're seeing in our country and all over the world."

By "human values," Diaz de la Portilla said he means values like "respect, solidarity, acceptance, brotherhood, compassion (and) love."

MORE: "New districts draw big Miami battle for Florida Senate"

Diaz de la Portilla, who was first elected to the Florida Senate in 2010, has gained a reputation for being one of the chamber's more moderate conservatives.

During the 2015 session, he killed a controversial, NRA-backed measure to allow concealed guns on public college and university campuses.

Then, after new Senate districts were approved in court, Diaz de la Portilla further cultivated his moderate image in the 2016 session by single-handedly killing campus-carry again and also halting another NRA-approved proposal to allow the open-carrying of firearms statewide with some exceptions.

During a meeting with the Miami Herald's editorial board on Wednesday, Rodríguez accused Diaz de la Portilla of running to the middle in order to curry favor and win the new Democratic-leaning seat.

"He has been governed by political calculation rather than political courage," Rodríguez said, pointing to the gun bills as an example.

Diaz de la Portilla, who met separately with the Herald also Wednesday, told the editorial board: "I don't make decisions on a partisan basis. ... I make decisions as a free-thinker based on the merits of the issues before me."

Independent candidate Mercedes Christian is also on the ballot in the District 37 race. The coastal district represents parts of Miami south to Cutler Bay.

September 20, 2016

Manny Diaz Jr. running TV ads for re-election to Florida House



School-choice proponent and influential incumbent Hialeah state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. is running English- and Spanish-language ads on Miami-area TV to promote his re-election bid for state House District 103.

Highlighting his work on education policy, the Republican spent more than $87,000 on TV ad buys in late August and early September, according to his most recent campaign finance disclosure to the state.

"Improving our education system and creating new jobs are my priorities. I'm working to make Florida better for my family and yours," Diaz said in a statement.

Diaz, who's seeking a third and final term in the Florida House, is a prime target for Democrats this fall. Democrat Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich is challenging him in November.

Democrats want to unseat Diaz because doing so would prevent him from having even further influence on school choice policies, which Democrats say undercut traditional public schools.

Diaz was the House Choice & Innovation Subcommittee chairman in the 2016 session and is on track to be either House education policy chairman or education budget chairman, if he's re-elected.

Gonzalez Petkovich hasn't bought TV ad time yet, according to her available campaign finance records.

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

Image credit: Manny Diaz Jr. for State Representative / Facebook

June 30, 2016

Hialeah Gardens mayor, council endorse Manny Diaz Jr.


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


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


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."