June 13, 2016

$1.9M raised since Feb. 1 in contested Miami-Dade Senate races

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@ByKristenMClark

Miami-Dade County is proving more and more why it's a battleground for the Florida Legislature this year.

Candidates for the four competitive Florida Senate seats in Miami-Dade have raised about $1.9 million over the past four months, an analysis of newly filed campaign finance reports showed.

Current Miami Republican Sens. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Anitere Flores raised almost $600,000 between them in May alone in their bids for re-election in newly redrawn districts.

And that's not counting lucrative help that's starting to pour in from an arm of the state party, which would like to keep as many Republicans in the Senate as possible.

Because of redistricting, several Miami-Dade County seats are in play in November. Democrats see an opening to win potentially a few more seats in the Senate and narrow the Republican's 26-14 majority.

But despite fielding competitive candidates, Democrats are falling behind in the fundraising game.

From Feb. 1 -- after which time most candidates filed for their current races once the redrawn districts were set -- through May, Republican state Senate candidates together have raised three times as much as the Democrats across three of Miami-Dade's four competitive races. That's a valuable advantage because the cost to advertise on radio and TV in Miami is among the most expensive in the state.

Continue reading "$1.9M raised since Feb. 1 in contested Miami-Dade Senate races" »

June 10, 2016

Gwen Margolis: A look back at her legacy

The night was Nov. 6, 1990 and Gwen Margolis nervously awaited election results in the president’s suite off the Florida Senate chamber.

If the Democrats held on to the majority, she would become the first female Senate president and only the second from Miami-Dade County. The day before, she showed confidence in the outcome by replacing the furniture and paintings of the outgoing president.

Days later, Margolis who had been known to play poker and go hunting with her male colleagues, downplayed the significance of her gender. “My colleagues just treat me as a colleague, except they hug me,” she said.

Although Margolis was proud of her ascent as a woman in male-dominated Tallahassee, it was not about gender alone: She had put in the hard work of learning the ropes and cultivating relationships to make that happen.

Margolis, 81, ultimately served four decades in politics before her career screeched to a halt this week when she made comments dismissing her opponents as “Haitians” in a newly drawn district where blacks make up one-third of the voters. It was an unfortunate bookend to a remarkable political career for a hard-working, intelligent and passionate public servant who trailblazed for other female politicians.

Keep reading here.

DLP vs. JJR contest in Miami-Dade begins as a tie, Democratic poll says

@ByKristenMClark

A competitive Miami-Dade state Senate seat is a toss-up with almost a third of potential voters undecided about five months ahead of the general election, according to an internal Democratic poll obtained by the Herald/Times.

In the race for the newly redrawn District 37 seat, Republican state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla is up two percentage points on Democratic state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez -- a statistical tie, since it's within the margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

The two candidates, both of whom live in Miami, officially launched their campaigns in May, though they filed for the race several months ago.

About 37 percent of those surveyed said they preferred Diaz de la Portilla, 35 percent supported Rodriguez and 29 percent were undecided, according to the polling memo. Raw data from the poll, including a list of specific questions asked, was requested but not provided.

From June 1-6, Tampa-based SEA Polling & Strategic Design surveyed 540 district voters expected to vote in the legislative contest. The poll was paid for by the Florida Democratic Party as an in-kind contribution to Rodriguez's campaign.

District 37 represents much of the city of Miami and stretches south along the coast to include Coral Gables, Key Biscayne and Cutler Bay. It leans Democratic and is heavily Hispanic.

It's one of a few Miami-Dade state Senate seats that Florida Democrats hope to win in November, which would help them narrow the Republican majority in the chamber.

But it'll be a rough battle between Diaz de la Portilla and Rodriguez.

Heading into May, Diaz de la Portilla had considerably stronger fundraising numbers than Rodriguez. (The campaigns' reports for May are due today and not available yet.)

And the sitting senator also picked up a valuable endorsement this week from the Florida chapter of AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. It's rare for labor unions to endorse Republican candidates. (AFSCME Florida also endorsed Miami Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores this week in her close contest against Democrat Andrew Korge for District 39.)

The Democratic poll for District 37 showed potential voters' party preference leans in Democrats' favor. In general, 39 percent of respondents said they would support a Democratic candidate, 35 percent said they would support a Republican candidate, 22 percent had no preference and 4 percent said they didn't know.

"We know that Miami-Dade continues to change and the poll confirms what we’ve known all along," Christian Ulvert, a campaign adviser to Rodriguez, said in a statement. "Despite almost 30 years of a Diaz de la Portilla in office in Miami-Dade, Jose Javier Rodriguez starts the race tied with Miguel Diaz de la Portilla. The residents in SD37 are very much aligned with the values and principles of Jose Javier Rodriguez and he is well-positioned to carry the district with their support."

Diaz de la Portilla found optimism in the poll, too, and was critical of his opponent.

"The reason Mr. Rodriguez can't even win in his own paid push poll is the same reason why he won't win this election: People here know he parachuted into our community a few short years ago to run for office," Diaz de la Portilla said in a text message. "My constituents will ask themselves: If he doesn't know us and doesn't share our values, how can he represent us?"

June 01, 2016

Ana Rivas Logan officially enters Florida Senate race

Rivas logan@ByKristenMClark

Former state lawmaker and Miami-Dade School Board member Ana Rivas Logan is officially running for state Senate.

The Republican-turned-Democrat filed her paperwork Wednesday to seek the District 40 seat — which current state Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, and state Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, are also vying for.

Rivas Logan had been weighing a bid for several weeks. The Herald/Times confirmed her decision to run last week.

“The stakes are too high to stay on the sidelines in this race, which is why I’ve decided to embark on a continued journey of public service,” Rivas Logan said in a statement Wednesday. “My community has encouraged me to be their voice in Tallahassee and I am ready to campaign hard to earn the support of voters in August and November.”

Jumping in the District 40 race gives Miami-Dade Democrats an alternative contender to take on Artiles in November, but it also divides the party since Bullard is seeking re-election.

More here.

May 27, 2016

Ana Rivas Logan will run for state Senate, challenging Dwight Bullard

Rivas logan@ByKristenMClark

Ana Rivas Logan is in.

After weeks of mulling a bid for the Florida Senate, the former state lawmaker and Miami-Dade School Board member plans to file her candidacy next week for the District 40 seat, Democratic sources close to Rivas Logan confirmed to the Herald/Times.

An announcement is planned around June 1.

Rivas Logan's entrance into the state Senate race means she will challenge current state Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Culter Bay, in the Aug. 30 party primary.

Rivas Logan said earlier this month that she had reservations about running against Bullard, but said "I do not want Frank Artiles to win either."

Artiles, a Republican state representative from Miami, is also running for the District 40 seat. He's campaigning hard and has racked up significant fundraising this spring to unseat Bullard.

Bullard told the Herald/Times today that he hopes Rivas Logan doesn't run. He said he plans to meet with her before the end of the month and "hopefully, we can come to an understanding."

"Anyone else is entitled to throw her hat in the race, but I just think to be fully transparent: To leave a well-funded Republican with nothing to do while two Democrats go toe-to-toe all summer puts undue pressure on a Democratic establishment that’s already strained," Bullard said, referencing other contentious state Senate races in Miami-Dade County that the party hopes to win.

"It weakens the field when you have to have a primary among Democrats, especially when one is a sitting elected official," Bullard added.

In April, Bullard raised just $2,600, compared to the $39,200 Artiles raised. Heading in to May, Artiles had $238,000 in cash on hand, while Bullard had less than $22,000.

While Rivas Logan and others have expressed concerns about Bullard's lack of fundraising, he said it's not going to be an issue. June is normally when state legislative campaigns ramp up, Bullard said, because in a normal year, the legislative session would have just ended in mid-May.

Bullard also pointed to endorsements he's already gotten from major unions, political advocacy groups and elected officials.

District 40 includes parts of central Miami-Dade County. It's heavily Hispanic and favors a Democrat. Almost 55 percent of the district voted for Barack Obama in 2012.

Rivas Logan served on the Miami-Dade School Board from 2004 to 2010. She was then elected to the Florida House in 2010 but lost her re-election race in 2012, after redistricting drew her into the same district as Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.

photo credit: Twitter

May 14, 2016

Miguel Diaz de la Portilla had special guests at his state Senate campaign launch, too

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@ByKristenMClark

The contentious Florida Senate race for District 37 in Miami-Dade County has attracted big guns for both the Democratic and Republican candidates.

Last week, Democratic state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez had help from both U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, at his kick-off fundraiser.

But just three days later, it turns out, his Republican opponent -- current state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla -- quietly had many special guests of his own at a similar event.

Diaz de la Portilla's campaign announced Friday that it had held a kick-off party for the senator's re-election bid on May 6.

The campaign said it was held at Casa Juancho, a Spanish restaurant in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, and featured a "standing room-only crowd comprised of more than 200 friends and family."

Among the guests in attendance, the campaign said: Miami Republican U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart; state Sens. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton; outgoing state Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami; Miami-Dade County Commissioners Barbara Jordan, Rebeca Sosa, Xavier Suarez, Javier Souto, Steve Bovo and Sally Heyman; and City of Miami Commissioner Frank Carollo.

Image3"Miguel has shown a unique ability to effectively represent our entire community. We need him in Tallahassee, fighting and delivering results for all of us," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement provided by Diaz de la Portilla's campaign.

District 37 represents much of the city of Miami and stretches south along the coast to include Coral Gables, Key Biscayne and Cutler Bay. It leans Democratic and is heavily Hispanic.

Diaz de la Portilla and Rodriguez, both of Miami, officially launched their campaigns a couple months ago, but their fundraisers marked the start of what's expected to be a heated election season this summer and fall. The race is already starting to bring in a lot of cash, with Diaz de la Portilla holding the edge over Rodriguez, as of April 30.

Diaz de la Portilla, one of the Florida Senate's more moderate Republicans, hopes to hold on to his seat. But through Rodriguez, Democrats are eyeing District 37 as one of a few seats they could pick up in November to narrow the Republican majority in the chamber.

"If you're from this diverse community, you get it: We work together for the common good," Diaz de la Portilla said in a statement Friday. "I am thankful for all the support I have received and look forward to continuing to work in Tallahassee for the entire community."

Photos courtesy of Miguel Diaz de la Portilla's re-election campaign

May 12, 2016

Competitive South Florida state Senate seats bring in more big bucks

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@ByKristenMClark

Three contested state Senate seats in Miami-Dade County are continuing to attract a lot of cash, new campaign finance reports released this week show.

The fierce battle between current Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and Democrat Andrew Korge in District 39 -- already the most expensive Senate race in the state by March -- continued to produce significant fundraising for both candidates in April.

But it was Miami Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla who had the strongest fundraising among the county's most competitive races last month.

Continue reading "Competitive South Florida state Senate seats bring in more big bucks" »

May 10, 2016

Ana Rivas Logan could run for state Senate in Miami-Dade district

@ByKristenMClark

Former state lawmaker and Miami-Dade School Board member Ana Rivas Logan said she's considering coming out of political retirement because she doesn't want to risk Florida Democrats losing a Senate seat in Miami-Dade County to, what she called, a "Trump Republican."

Rivas Logan -- a former Republican who switched to the Democratic Party in 2014 -- is mulling a run for Senate District 40, where current Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, is facing state Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami. Independent Mario Jimenez is also running for the seat.

Rivas Logan says she doesn't expect to make a final decision on her potential candidacy for a couple weeks, but right now "I'm leaning 'yes,'" she said Tuesday.

"I'm very comfortable with what I'm doing now" such as spending time with her family and staying involved in education issues and community activities, Rivas Logan said. "To get back in the game would be a total change of my lifestyle. But I’m so strongly opposed to Trump Republicans, that it just turns my stomach."

Continue reading "Ana Rivas Logan could run for state Senate in Miami-Dade district" »

May 04, 2016

Miami Rep. Frank Artiles 'won't be bullied,' might sue over attack ads

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@ByKristenMClark

As part of an ongoing direct-mail campaign to highlight what it deems as unethical behavior by Florida elected officials, the independent advocacy organization FloridaStrong has gone after several Republican Miami-Dade legislators in recent months.

But one is now fighting back.

State Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, says he plans to sue FloridaStrong because the group's organizers refuse to correct claims they made in a mailer that went out to Artiles' constituents recently and which his attorney said depicts Artiles "in an unfavorable light."

(View the mailer here.)

Artiles, a three-term House member, is currently campaigning for a seat in the Florida Senate, where he wants to represent District 40, which includes part of central Miami-Dade County. He faces current Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, and independent Mario Jimenez in that contest.

"My reputation is very important to me and I will not allow any organization or person to defame, slander and libel me because they think nobody’s going to fight back," Artiles told the Herald/Times. "I truly believe these organizations -- which are funded nationally through special interests -- that if you don't stand up or correct them, you're acquiescing to their bullying. I won’t be bullied by some political hacks."

FloridaStrong's most recent mailer against Artiles alleges that he is a "property appraiser by trade," "voted to raise property taxes on Florida families by $427 million," "received thousands in campaign contributions from the insurance industry" and "voted to privatize Citizens Property Insurance and protect insurance industry profits."

But, in a letter dated April 21, a Tallahassee attorney for Artiles said the claims aren't true. Emmett "Bucky" Mitchell offered point-by-point rebuttals and accused FloridaStrong of making "false statements ... that should be corrected." Or else.

(Read the full letter here.)

Continue reading "Miami Rep. Frank Artiles 'won't be bullied,' might sue over attack ads" »

May 01, 2016

Daniel Horton says it's 'best decision' to drop Senate bid, seek House seat in Keys instead

Horton@ByKristenMClark

After talking with his primary opponent and Democratic Party officials in recent weeks, Democrat Daniel Horton said Sunday he is dropping his bid for a competitive Senate seat in South Florida and is turning his ambitions to a state House seat.

Horton announced his bid for state Senate less than a month ago.

The 30-year-old FIU law school graduate aimed to challenge Democrat Andrew Korge in the August primary for the District 39 Senate seat, which represents parts of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. The winner of that contest would have faced state Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, who's seeking re-election.

Flores and Korge had already been embroiled in a bitter race when Horton jumped in the fray.

But in a press release Sunday afternoon, Korge said Horton was bowing out of that contest and planning to, instead, challenge incumbent state Rep. Holly Raschein for the District 120 House seat.

In an interview with the Herald/Times, Horton confirmed his decision to switch legislative races.

"At the end of the day, I figure this is the best decision for the people that live in District 39, I think it's the best decision for the Democratic Party, and I think it's the best decision for myself," Horton said.

Continue reading "Daniel Horton says it's 'best decision' to drop Senate bid, seek House seat in Keys instead" »