October 01, 2016

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

Gonzalez petkovich

@ByKristenMClark

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Herald’s editorial board that she’s “very proud of the work and the help that I offered” to Canna Teaze but said she no longer represents the company because its founder, Misty Lee, moved out of state.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 30, 2016

In Miami race, Democrats mislead in attack on Carlos Curbelo about climate change, oil drilling

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@amysherman1

While Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo portrays himself as an environmentalist, the Democratic Party says he is no treehugger and is aligned with Donald Trump.

"Republican Carlos Curbelo and Donald Trump's ideas about the environment are more alike than you think. Curbelo talks about protecting the environment," says aTV ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The ad then shows a clip of Curbelo talking about protecting the environment and then pivots to a clip of him on an oil rig.

The narrator continues: "Curbelo supports drilling offshore just like Trump, and Curbelo repeatedly voted against President Obama's ability to fight pollution and combat climate change."

Curbelo represents a Democratic-leaning Westchester-to-Key West district. He faces a rematch Nov. 8 with former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Miami. (Curbelo does not support Trump but said he won’t vote for Hillary Clinton, either.)

We found that Curbelo supports current drilling but opposes an expansion near Florida’s coasts. And while Curbelo has taken some votes related to pollution and climate change that Democrats criticize, he has been one of the more outspoken Republicans about combating climate change.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida

September 29, 2016

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

@ByKristenMClark

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.

Miami lawmakers boast about finally passing Zika funding

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@PatriciaMazzei

Three Miami lawmakers were so excited about Wednesday night's late U.S. House vote approving funding to fight the Zika virus that they convened reporters to assemble at Miami International Airport when their Washington flight landed Thursday morning.

An aide taped a big, mock check -- for $1.1 billion and made out to "Miami-Dade County and other Zika affected areas -- on a lectern.

"I hope you made note of the check that is attached to the podium," Miami Gardens Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson said, "because this is a victory."

"It's taken too long, and we get that," Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said. "But I am exceedingly proud of what the Florida -- and particularly the South Florida -- delegation could do."

The legislation gives members of Congress something to run on ahead of the Nov. 8 election -- even if some of them, like Diaz-Balart and Wilson, only have token opposition.

A third legislator, Republican Carlos Curbelo, who is in a tough reelection race against Democrat Joe Garcia, also called the vote a bipartisan win. He and Diaz-Balart praised Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who was on her way to Israel for the late President Shimon Peres' funeral, and Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

"We needed to get something done for this community," Curbelo said.

In a statement, Garcia said he was "pleased to see that after seven months of pressuring, demanding and pleading, obstructionists like Carlos Curbelo finally decided to do what they should have done long ago."

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

Manny diaz 2016 flhouse

@ByKristenMClark

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-Balart gives Trump benefit of doubt on report Trump broke Cuban embargo

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said Thursday he needs further evidence to know whether Donald Trump's hotel and casino company violated the U.S. trade embargo by trying to do business in Cuba in 1998.

The congressman, an anti-Castro hardliner who's said he plans to vote for "the Republican nominee," told reporters he hopes Trump will answer questions raised by the report published Thursday by Newsweek.

"They're very serious allegations," Diaz-Balart said. But he added that "up to now, it looks like there wasn't business" done in Cuba.

Newsweek reported that Trump's company reimbursed a consulting firm for spending more than $68,000 exploring doing work on the communist island -- and that the consultant later suggested Trump's company cover up the expenditure by saying it went to a Catholic charity.

"What we have so far are unnamed sources," Diaz-Balart cautioned, calling the Newsweek report "preliminary." "It's important to see what the facts are."

He conceded that "doing business in Cuba is illegal, absolutely" -- while getting in a jab at former President Bill Clinton, whose administration in 1998 loosened some of the sanctions against the island. Proving that Trump himself approved spending in Cuba in violation of the embargo would be politically "decisive," Diaz-Balart said, without elaborating on what he meant.

Diaz-Balart also gave Trump credit for traveling to Miami in November 1999 to denounce Fidel Castro and endorse the embargo. Rather than seeing that as a sign that Trump might have been playing politics with the issue, Diaz-Balart said he interpreted Trump's 1999 remarks to mean that Trump decided to steer clear of Cuba despite facing business pressure to do otherwise.

Though Diaz-Balart said he continues to wait for "clarification" from Trump on where he stands on various foreign-policy issues, the congressman lauded Trump's recent Miami visits, where he bashed President Barack Obama's Cuba reengagement policy. 

He might not know exactly where Trump stands on nuanced Cuba policy, Diaz-Balart admitted -- but Hillary Clinton would be worse, he argued.

"On all fo those issues," he said, "Mrs. Clinton's position has been frankly unacceptable."

 

Miami-Dade commission chair to host Clinton fundraiser with Kaine

FullSizeRender (16)@PatriciaMazzei

Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Jean Monestime will host Tim Kaine at his North Miami home for a fundraiser to benefit Hillary Clinton.

Kaine is scheduled to attend an evening reception on Saturday, Oct. 15, according to an invitation obtained by the Miami Herald.

Donors are asked to contribute or raise between $1,000 and $33,400 -- a hefty amount that gets them into a private reception with Clinton's VP nominee.

The Clinton campaign tapped Monestime, Miami-Dade's first Haitian-American county commission chairman, as a key local supporter last year. He was a delegate at the Democratic National Convention in July, and the Clinton team sees him as an influential messenger to the Haitian community, which remains skeptical about the Clinton family's past involvement in Haiti.

Clinton rival Donald Trump tried to take advantage of that wariness by recently meeting with a group of Haitian Americans in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood.

Kaine, a U.S. senator from Virginia, has made frequent South Florida trips since Clinton named him her running mate at Florida International University in July.

Ana Navarro on being an anti-Trump Republican

via @learyreports

Miami's Ana Navarro is featured in the New York Times Magazine's weekly interview.

You and the other anti-Trump Republicans have been embraced by a lot of liberals because of the gusto with which you’ve gone after Trump. Does that feel a little strange for you?

Navarro: It’s very mercurial. The liberals love you until you say something critical about Hillary Clinton. People have a complete inability to see the flaws in their candidates. God forbid you criticize the blurred lines between the Clinton philanthropy business and political worlds.

But the stuff that she’s done, or even has the appearance of impropriety about, is just a different category from being an unstable demagogue.

Navarro: Yes, agreed. Her flaws are within the boundaries of the human race. Donald Trump’s flaws are somewhere in the Martian category.

What do you find so personally valuable about the party?

Navarro: I fled communism as a child. That’s an experience that can shape you forever. The Republican Party that I recognize and that I’m a part of fought communism and totalitarianism, and it just marked me with a loyalty toward those values that I can’t just simply let go of. You don’t leave bad relationships unless you’re in love with somebody else, and Hillary Clinton doesn’t fill my love tank.

That is a terrible piece of relationship advice.

Navarro: To each his own.

More here.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Rubio calls report that Trump broke Cuba embargo 'troubling'

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@PatriciaMazzei

Donald Trump’s hotel and casino company secretly spent money trying to do business in Cuba in violation of the U.S. trade embargo, Newsweek reported Thursday in a story that could endanger the Republican presidential nominee’s Cuban-American support in South Florida.

Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts paid at least $68,000 to a consulting firm in late 1998 in an attempt to give Trump’s business a head start in Cuba if the U.S. loosened or lifted trade sanctions, according to the front-page Newsweek report, titled “The Castro Connection.” The consulting firm, Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp., later instructed the casino company on how to make it look like legal spending for charity.

The following year, Trump flirted with a Reform Party presidential run, giving a November 1999 speech to the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami where he cast himself as a pro-embargo hardliner who refused to do potentially lucrative business on the communist island until Fidel Castro was gone.

Neither Trump nor Richard Fields, the head of Seven Arrows consulting, responded to Newsweek’s requests for comment. Trump later sued Fields, and former Trump adviser Roger Stone suggested to Politico Florida that Fields might have acted on his own, without Trump’s approval, in exploring doing business in Cuba. Newsweek cited an anonymous former Trump executive who claimed “Trump had participated in discussions about the Cuba trip and knew it had taken place.” Trump hired the same consulting firm to try to develop a Florida casino with the Seminole Tribe.

When Seven Arrows billed Trump’s company to reimburse its Cuba work, according to Newsweek, it suggested using “Carinas Cuba” as charitable cover to get an after-the-fact Cuba license from the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control. OFAC doesn’t issue licenses after companies have already gone to Cuba, and the Catholic charity is actually named Caritas Cuba.

The report comes as Trump has worked to shore up Hispanic support in Miami-Dade County, where Cuban Americans comprise about 72 percent of registered Republicans. Hemet with a group of mostly Cuban Americans Tuesday in Little Havana, and earlier this month in Miami he blasted President Barack Obama’s reengagement policy with the island, after sounding OK with it last year.

Trump’s most prominent local Cuban-American supporter, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, called the Newsweek report “troubling.”

“The article makes some very serious and troubling allegations,” he said in a campaign statement. “I will reserve judgment until we know all the facts and Donald has been given the opportunity to respond.”

More here.

Photo credit: Tim Chapman, Miami Herald file

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

Miguel dlp 020816

@ByKristenMClark

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.