October 17, 2016

Miami Republicans Artiles and Bileca diverge in supporting Donald Trump

@ByKristenMClark & @MaryEllenKlas

Whether to continue supporting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is a decision that continues to divide Republicans in Miami-Dade County.

Miami Republicans state Rep. Michael Bileca and state Senate candidate and current state Rep. Frank Artiles gave nearly identical comments in separate interviews with the Miami Herald's editorial board on Monday in admonishing Americans' top choices for president this year.

"I can tell you right now that I think that both candidates are the most horrible candidates that have ever been put up for the president of the United States," Artiles said.

"I think we have the two worst candidates that either party has ever put up in the history of presidential elections," Bileca said.

But there's a big difference between the two legislators beyond that: Artiles supports Trump for president, while Bileca doesn't.

Continue reading "Miami Republicans Artiles and Bileca diverge in supporting Donald Trump" »

October 14, 2016

Both parties have a lot at stake in Miami-Dade's state Senate races

Miami dade districts@ByKristenMClark

With an already narrow balance of power at stake in the Florida Senate — and the political futures of several incumbents on the line — some of Miami-Dade County’s state Senate races have turned increasingly ugly as Election Day draws closer.

In one race, a Democratic incumbent has been accused of consorting with a Middle Eastern terrorist, and in a couple of others, the candidates have sparred passionately over their policies and potential conflicts of interest.

Voters are already casting ballots in the county’s five races, four of which are competitive. Democrats hope an anti-Donald Trump wave will help boost their candidates’ prospects even further, while Republicans have poured millions of dollars into helping their contenders retain — or in one case, gain — seats.

While Democrats hope Senate seats in Tampa and central Florida could also be pick-ups for them, Miami-Dade County has the highest concentration of consequential races. They are in play this year because of redrawn Senate districts that could affect the Republicans’ 26-14 chamber majority.

Current Republican Sens. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Anitere Flores and Democratic Sen. Dwight Bullard all want voters to send them back to Tallahassee, but each is fighting an aggressive opponent angling to unseat them.

More here.

October 13, 2016

GOP ad featuring 9/11 footage accuses Dwight Bullard of meeting with 'terrorist'


@ByKristenMClark & @PatriciaMazzei

A political committee for Florida Senate Republicans has been running a Spanish-language ad on Miami TV for several weeks now that accuses incumbent state Sen. Dwight Bullard of spending time with a "terrorist" during a trip to the Middle East earlier this year.

The mostly black-and-white ad features footage from the 9/11 terrorist attacks -- specifically, of the second plane erupting into a ball of fire as it strikes the South Tower of the World Trade Center -- as well as news clips from the San Bernardino shooting last year and last month's explosion in Manhattan. It also shows men with cloths over their faces holding guns and waving flags with Arabic script on them.

"If images used in this ad are offensive or extreme, it's probably because meeting with terrorists in the Middle East is both offensive and extreme," said Erin Isaac, a spokeswoman for the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which paid for the ad and is backing Bullard's opponent.

Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, is in a competitive fight for re-election this fall against Miami Republican state Rep. Frank Artiles in District 40 -- a central Miami-Dade County seat that is heavily Hispanic. The FRSCC's ad tries to persuade voters that Bullard has "radical ideas" and "irresponsible conduct" because of his recent trip to Palestine and Israel.

In a recent Herald/Times interview, Bullard dismissed the ad as "a desperation tactic" and called it "a bit far-fetched."

The ad's claims stem from information reported by NBC6 Miami in late August. The station said Bullard, while on a trip to Palestinian areas of Israel, was photographed with "a man linked to a terror group." Bullard told the station the man was a "tour guide in old Jerusalem" and he "had no idea" of his political affiliations.

"Do you know Dwight Bullard?" the FRSCC's ad begins, while showing a 2012 image of Bullard wearing a hoodie covering his head -- something he did as a state representative at the time to show solidarity for Trayvon Martin.

"While the world suffers from terrorism, Dwight Bullard traveled to Palestine and met with an organization listed on the state department's terrorist list," the narrator continues in Spanish. "Members of his own party denounced the trip. We can't remain silent while an elected Florida official meets with a terrorism group. Dwight Bullard: When you get to know his ideas and his conduct, they're more than alarming."

At one point, the ad shows a photo of Bullard's tour group, with a red arrow pointing to him -- "Bullard" -- and one pointing to another man -- labeling him "terrorist."

Asked for his thoughts on the ad, Artiles said in a statement: "As a former U.S. Marine and someone who put on the uniform and served to protect Americans from terror, I am offended that a public official would meet with a terrorist leader and unapologetically challenge Israel’s right to exist."

Bullard had told NBC6 that he is "pro-Israel, but I'm also pro-Palestine in that people can co-exist. ... My position is co-existence."

Bullard told the Herald/Times he's "not going to spend a whole lot of time trying to counter or answer" what he called the ad's "misinformation."

"What we are going to do is make sure people know who we're are, who the campaign is, who I am, what I've been about and highlight some positives," he said.

October 12, 2016

Daphne Campbell sends, retracts fundraising email on official House account



Prematurely describing herself as "New Senator Elect Daphne Campbell," the Miami Democratic state representative now seeking a state Senate seat accidentally sent out a fundraising invitation Wednesday afternoon on her official Florida House email account.

Campbell sent a follow-up email two hours later -- from a campaign email -- saying: "Please Ignore previous Email/Flyer which was sent by error from the State email by a Staff. See the corrected email ... Sorry for the error."

Both of Campbell's emails invited the recipient to join "the only Democratic nominee" for Senate District 38 for a fundraiser Wednesday night in Tallahassee. The event for Campbell was to be hosted by Oscar Braynon -- a Miami Gardens senator who will be the Senate Democrats' next leader.

At this point in the election cycle, all races have only one candidate from any political party. Florida's Aug. 30 primary determined party contenders for the general election.

With 31 percent of the vote, Campbell won a six-way primary to become the Democratic nominee in the District 38 race. But she's not guaranteed to be the "New Senator Elect" yet, as she called herself in the "From" line at the top of both emails.

Campbell faces former Democratic state Rep. Phillip Brutus on the Nov. 8 ballot. Brutus, of North Miami, is running as a no-party affiliated candidate in this election.

Neither candidate has raised much money this cycle, compared to other Miami-Dade state Senate races, which have attracted hundreds of thousands of dollars. As of Sept. 30 -- the most recent reporting date -- Campbell had raised about $100,000 so far this cycle and had about $4,400 in the bank. Meanwhile, Brutus had raised $12,300 -- in addition to $12,500 he's loaned his campaign -- and he'd spent about $11,400.

The winner will replace longtime state Sen. Gwen Margolis, who is retiring. The newly redrawn coastal District 38 roughly stretches from the MacArthur Causeway to the Broward County line and from the ocean to I-95.

Photo credit: State Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami, in 2015. myfloridahouse.gov

*This post has been updated to correct Brutus' fundraising figures.

October 05, 2016

Carlos Trujillo says Democrat endorsed him, Pereira disagrees, and party threatens legal action

In the increasingly mixed up world of party allegiances in Miami-Dade County, the handshake between state Rep. Carlos Trujillo and the Democrat he defeated in 2014 to keep his job, Carlos Pereira, has turned into a bitter three-way feud that is dividing Democrats.

The question: Did Pereira, a candidate for the Doral City Commission and a member of the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee, endorse Trujillo when he accepted $1,000 from Trujillo's political committee in June and posed for a pleasant handshake in front of the Doral City Hall?

Trujillo, one of the Miami delegation's most conservative Republicans, says he did and he posted the photo on his state legislative Facebook page, a symbolic victory over the Democrat he defeated in his 2014 statehouse race.

But endorsing a Republican against a Democrat -- in this case Patricio Moreno of Doral, this year's Democratic offering to defeat Trujillo -- is a violation of the DEC's loyalty oath and a firing offense. 
Trujillo FacebookHours after the Facebook post, Miami-Dade Democratic Party Executive Director Juan Cuba issued a press release announcing that Pereira had been suspended. 

At a meeting before the executive committee on Friday, Pereira denied he had endorsed Trujillo. The executive committee demanded that he put that in writing. 

 "Under penalty of perjury, I hereby state that I have never endorsed Carlos Trujillo and never did so in writing,'' reads the statement Pereiro signed on Tuesday. 

Pereira didn't respond to requests for comment but his campaign manager, Sam Feldman, called the episode "a big misunderstanding." 

"Somebody obviously made an error on Carlos Trujillo's web site and posted that Carlos Periero endorsed him,'' Feldman said. "Carlos never endorsed anybody but the DEC has taken on it upon itself to go on a crusade against Carlos.'

While Pereira agreed to sign the letter, he refused their request to call Trujillo a "liar" or to endorse Moreno, Feldman said. He said he didn't know if Pereira asked Trujillo to remove the "endorsement" from the web site. Pereira letter

"The bylaws don't require us to endorse Patricio Moreno,'' Feldman explained. "We have some differences with him and, you know, even though Carlos has never admitted to that before, he doesn't want to endorse somebody he doesn't get along with."

Cuba concedes there is no requirement for DEC members to endorse, but he remains unhappy with Trujillo, whom he believes exploited Pereira to try to win over Democrats.

On Wednesday, Cuba sent an email to Trujillo, demanding he "cease and desist" and remove the endorsement claim from his Facebook page or show that he has Pereira's written consent.

Trujillo laughed at the suggestion. "The letter didn't come from Pereira and he (Cuba) isn't a lawyer,'' he said Wednesday. "It makes no sense."

UPDATE: Late Wednesday, Miami lawyer Ben Kuehne sent Trujillo a second "cease and desist" letter, demanding he prove the endorsement in writing or remove it.  Download BPK Letter to Trujillo.Cease and Desist.10-5-2016

Meanwhile, if Trujillo doesn't take the "endorsement" language down, Cuba said the DEC would file a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission, alleging he is violating the law sanctioning endorsements.

"Someone's not telling the truth here,'' Cuba said. "If it's Trujillo, it's a campaign violation. If not, it's a violation of the loyalty oath."

Trujillo said the whole thing is a misguided attempt to "find a bogeyman" to compensate for the Democratic party's "lack of leadership."

He said the agreement began innocently when, after their 2014 race, he and Pereira "developed a good relationship over the past two years." Pereira invited Trujillo to appear on the his webcast video program to discuss issues and Trujillo "asked him for his help, especially in getting Hispanic Democrats in Doral, and he offered his help,'' Trujillo said.

Trujillo, who then posted the announcement on his web page, calling it an endorsement, said the Democratic colleagues "turned it into a witchhunt" and convened meetings that operated like "kangaroo courts, calling me a liar and bad-mouthing me." 

Feldman is also not happy with the way it was handled.

"I think it was a set-up against Carlos,'' he said, referring to his candidate. "They are wasting their valuable time 34 days before the election. It is almost high schoolish."


October 04, 2016

Miami Democrat, with support from Republican congressman, wants local roadway tolls suspended for Hurricane Matthew



UPDATE: 5:45 p.m. -- In Gov. Scott's latest press release providing updated information on preparedness efforts for Hurricane Matthew, his office said: "If evacuation orders are given, the Florida Turnpike Enterprise is prepared to suspend tolls."


With Hurricane Matthew threatening South Florida this week, Miami Democratic state Rep. Kionne McGhee says the Florida Department of Transportation and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority should immediately stop collecting tolls on Miami-Dade roadways.

And McGhee has a high-profile Republican ally for his idea: Miami U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

McGhee issued his ask to FDOT and MDX through a Twitter video late this morning. "Alleviating this burden for those of us who are in the cone path of Hurricane Matthew will assist the great people of Miami-Dade County," he said.

A little over two hours after that message, Curbelo retweeted McGhee's video, saying "good call" and tagging Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera to get their attention.

"Our people shouldn't be forced to choose candles or tolls," McGhee replied in a tweet of thanks back to Curbelo.

McGhee was re-elected to a third term in the Florida Legislature this year when no one filed to run against him in House District 117. Curbelo, meanwhile, faces a competitive re-election this fall against Democrat Joe Garcia in Florida's 26th Congressional District.

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez also endorsed McGhee's proposal on Twitter, saying: "Yes to that and anything that helps our commuters, emergency vehicles and visitors."

 Photo credit: State Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, in 2015. myfloridahouse.gov

Traffic tolls become issue in Bullard-Artiles Senate race



A Miami Republican state representative seeking to be promoted to the Florida Senate this fall says he’s “taking a stand against tolls” — tapping into a popular consumer issue that puts him at odds with some in his own party.

Frank Artiles, who’s running against incumbent Democratic Sen. Dwight Bullard in Miami-Dade’s District 40, says he wants to fight back against “excessive and abusive tolls” that South Florida commuters face on a daily basis.

But Bullard, of Cutler Bay, has his own plans to reduce Miami-Dade commuters’ toll bills, and he argues his plan is more feasible than the one by moderate-sounding Republicans like Artiles, whose solution Bullard said is “to just get rid of the tolls.”

Full story here.

Photo credit: El Nuevo Herald file photo

Hispanic voters in play for new central Miami-Dade Senate district

Miami dade districts@ByKristenMClark

Both Democratic incumbent state Sen. Dwight Bullard and Republican state Rep. Frank Artiles are trying to gain the support of Hispanic voters for Miami-Dade's newly redrawn District 40 Senate seat.

With 75 percent of the district's voting age population Hispanic as of 2010, earning the favor of that voting bloc will be key to either Bullard or Artiles edging out a victory.

The Republican Party of Florida has helped Artiles -- the son of Cuban refugees -- in this effort by airing a Spanish-language ad for him recently on Miami TV. It features Artiles' mom touting how Artiles is a former Marine and is "a very good son, good husband and good father."

"Frank was raised with our Hispanic values and he shows it every day of his life," his mom says in Spanish.

Meanwhile, Bullard, who is black, said he has plans to tailor his campaign advertising to Hispanics, too. He told the Herald/Times that he'll be sending out his first mailers this week in English and in Spanish, focusing on his record of public service. And he also has plans for ads on Spanish-language radio.

The new District 40 in central Miami-Dade County is competitive ground for both candidates. It went for President Obama in 2012 with 54.8 percent of the vote.

Miami Herald political writer Patricia Mazzei contributed to this report.

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.