Donna Shalala losing momentum as primary election approaches


w/ @AlexTDaugherty

Things seem to be heading the wrong direction for Donna Shalala.

Not only has the frontrunner in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 27th congressional district watched her lead shrink this summer, but the former Health and Human Services secretary also seen her closest competitor nearly triple her fundraising over the last month.

Newly filed pre-election campaign finance reports show that, during the five weeks between July 1 an Aug. 8, Shalala raised $134,983.53.

Not bad.

But state Rep. David Richardson pulled in $364,712.65 over the same period.

Richardson’s July haul suddenly gives him more money to spend over the final two weeks before election day. Though Shalala reported $723,319.44 in cash-on hand (compared to Richardson’s $566,476.64), more than $300,000 of that amount was earmarked for the general election.

A breakdown of the fundraising totals shows that Shalala, as of Aug. 8, had about $420,000 left to spend on the primary. Richardson had about $500,000. Matt Haggman, who raised $67,806.71 in July, had $280,000 to spend since close to a quarter-million of his money is reserved for the general election.

Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Michael Hepburn lag far behind in the money race.

Dollars aren’t the same as votes. But internal polls released by Richardson and Haggman last month suggest that the two candidates are gaining on the former University of Miami president. And if you compare Shalala’s end-of-primary fundraising totals to the $1.17 million she touted raising during her first three weeks as an official candidate (neglecting in a press release to mention that she loaned herself $500,000), it looks like her campaign is losing momentum.

As Richardson celebrated his fundraising numbers Friday, he was also campaigning in Miami with Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Pocan sees a competitive primary in a seat that favors Democrats as an opportunity to expand the power of liberal Democrats in Congress. 

"This is one of the best chances for a pickup in the country," Pocan said. "You do not take a majority in Congress if you don't pick this seat up. We've got a really, really great candidate in David Richardson, if you look at his background, it's the path he took as a state legislator where I see some of the most successful members of Congress coming from."
Pocan noted Richardson's work on prison reform in the Florida legislature as an example of someone who can make an impact even when the public's attention is elsewhere. 
"People don't become major advocates of prison reform to get ahead, it's the kind of issues people work on when no one's looking that kind of tells you who is a good candidate. It shows that he’s very woke to what’s going ton and Shalala is trying to wake up to what’s going on."

Richardson says his campaign is intensely focused on the ground game with a week and a half remaining in the primary, now that they've spent money on mailers and television ads to build up his name ID. His campaign estimates that about half of undecided voters are going his way, with the other half split between Shalala and Matt Haggman, Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Michael Hepburn

"I don’t believe in going to the doors too early," Richardson said. "I think its much more impactful to be at the door after they’ve seen the mail, TV messaging."

And Richardson said he isn't afraid to bring up Shalala's name and experience when talking with voters, adding that most already know who she is and he can use her well-known career as the former Secretary of Health and Human Services and tenure as the University of Miami president as a jumping off point to discuss their differences.

Pocan said he isn't worried that a Richardson victory in the primary would give Republicans more of a chance to win in November, arguing that the issues Richardson advocates for like Medicare for all are the issues that interest independent voters.

"I'm from Wisconsin. Honestly, if this was the decision to pick the next football coach, (Shalala) would be great, she made a great pick with Barry Alvarez at the University of Wisconsin," Pocan said. "But if it's to be the next member of Congress, it's got to be David."

This article has been updated to correct information regarding the candidates' primary election money. A previous version of this article lumped general election money in with primary election money.

August 16, 2018

Joe Carollo and Little Havana club owner in spat that led to ethics complaint



The owner of Little Havana nightclub Ball and Chain, Bill Fuller, has accused Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo making false code violation complaints and staking out the bar late at night.

Fuller took his accusations to the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust earlier this year, claiming Carollo was targeting his club for code violations as retaliation for Fuller's support of Carollo's opponent in last year's commission race, Alfonso "Alfie" Leon

But at a ethics commission meeting Wednesday, Fuller asked to withdraw the formal complaint. After it was withdrawn, the complaint was made public. Miami New Times detailed Fuller's complaint Thursday morning, including allegations that Carollo followed Ball and Chain's valet employees and once tried to have Fuller's holiday shut down by accusing Fuller of handing out illegal drugs at the party. 

Fuller's attorney, Alexander Orlofsky, wrote in a letter to the commission that Fuller wished to withdraw the complaint because "it was too narrowly drafted," not because the allegations were untrue. Fuller might take "further legal action" or file another ethics complaint.

Without mentioning names, Carollo has referenced his ire for Fuller in public meetings since he is election in November 2017. He's asked the city administration to up code enforcement across his district, which covers much of Little Havana, and griped about certain business owners getting off easy without scrutiny from code compliance officers. He's also mentioned multiple late-night tours of the area with city officials, including City Manager Emilio Gonzalez

July 03, 2018

Miami commissioner makes counter-proposal for strong mayor government



Miami Commissioner Manolo Reyes has offered his own proposal for reorganizing the city government, a counter-proposal to Mayor Francis Suarez's strong-mayor initiative.

Reyes presented his pitch for making the mayor the most powerful elected official in the city, a strong mayor who would essentially be the chief executive officer in charge of City Hall's bureaucracy.

Suarez wants to be Miami's top administrator, the individual who controls the city's billion-dollar budget, makes recommendations for awarding city contracts and oversees public employees. So he's pushing to place a question on the November ballot so voters can decide if they want to make him a strong mayor. His campaign is gathering signatures in order to get the question on the ballot.

At Thursday's commission meeting, Reyes handed the other commissioners his proposal, describing it as a "template" commissioners could use to develop an alternative plan negotiated by commissioners and placed on a the ballot through a commission vote. The Reyes proposal has a few notable differences to Suarez's initiative. Under the Reyes plan, Suarez would not get an immediate raise. The mayor's $97,000 salary would remain and any raises would be determined by the commission.


Under Suarez's plan, he would get an immediate bump to $112,500 because he would be paid no less than 75 percent of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez's salary.

Reyes also wants to have the commission elect its own chair. Suarez is proposing he be the nonvoting chair of the commission. And while Suarez wants to have broader power to appoint high-level city officials — the city attorney, city clerk and the independent auditor general — Reyes wants the commission to make those appointments.

On Thursday, Suarez said he was open to more talks with Reyes and other commissioners to negotiate a consensus version of the strong mayor plan. He noted that the new proposal resembles his previous attempts to create a strong mayor in 2011 and 2016. In both cases, he failed to convince fellow commissioners to put a referendum on the ballot. 

Whether it comes from the City Commission through a vote or from Suarez's camp through a petition, a referendum to reshape Miami's government would have to be placed on the ballot by August 7, the deadline set by Miami-Dade's elections department.

Suarez's strong-mayor campaign is helmed by political consultant Jesse Manzano-Plaza, a partner at Miami Beach-based firm LSN Partners and the campaign aide who led Gimenez's re-election effort. 

June 19, 2018

Miami, Miami Gardens mayors heading to Texas border to protest 'tent city' with other U.S. mayors



Amid growing backlash against President Donald Trump's policy to separate immigrant children from their parents — including uproar over an immigrant children center in their own backyard — Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert are joining a group of other U.S. mayors on a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border to protest at shelters housing unaccompanied migrant children.

The nonpartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors is paying to fly the mayors out to Tornillo, Texas, to join Stephen K. Benjamin, mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, to tour the tent city that has been erected to house children of immigrants.

Benjamin is president of the national mayor's group, which passed a resolution condemning the policy. The mayors of Los Angeles; Augusta, Georgia; Gary, Indiana and Rochester Hills, Michigan, are among the other municipal leaders who will attend.

Suarez said Benjamin called him Tuesday to ask him to join him and other U.S. mayors on the trip.

"Hopefully, they will give us access," Suarez said Tuesday evening. "The images we are seeing are very troublesome and appalling."

Suarez, a Republican, echoed bipartisan calls to end the separation of children from their parents. 

"It's contrary to our core values as a country," he said.

As Suarez prepared for the trip, controversy continued to swell in his own county Tuesday as U.S Sen. Bill Nelson and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz were blocked from entering a Homestead shelter housing as many as 1,000 immigrant children.

The mayor, who will return to Miami late Thursday, said he attempted to arrange a visit to the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children but was told he wouldn't be allowed.

June 05, 2018

Miami mayor has a new job, but he won't say where it is



UPDATED: After the Miami Herald published this article Tuesday afternoon, Greenspoon Marder announced they had hired Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. Read more.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is joining a new law firm after leaving Carlton Fields last week, but he won’t say where he’s headed.

In his seventh month as mayor, Suarez has left Carlton Fields — a firm he joined two months before being elected. One reason for his departure: A conflict of interest stemming from the fact that an attorney for Carlton Fields represents a company suing city hall.


May 11, 2018

Joe Carollo likens Ken Russell's appearance to Kim Jong-un after haircut, sparking racism debate



A joke likening a Japanese-American a commissioner's appearance to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sparked anger and accusations of racism in the halls of power in Miami, a town where politicians love to heave comparisons to foreign dictators at rivals like spears.

Commissioner Joe Carollo made the joke about Commissioner Ken Russell's recent haircut at the end of an 11-hour commission meeting late Thursday night.

"I've been meaning to say this, but I wanted to wait til the end. Through the day, the more I look at you, I'm becoming fond of the 'Kim Jong-un,'" Carollo said, referencing Russell's haircut. "I was just wondering if that's in favor of the nuclear negotiations with Trump or showing your protest against Trump and his negotiations with Kim."

Russell later decried the joke as racist on Twitter, which Carollo denied Friday morning in an interview with the Miami Herald.

"If it was racist, I don't think anybody there would have been laughing," he said.

Read more.



April 19, 2018

Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo compares Mayor Francis Suarez to Maduro over strong mayor initiative



Recently-elected Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has long wanted to see his position turned into the city's chief administrator. He's launched an ballot petition effort to convince voters to change the city charter so he could run the city's day-to-day operations, as opposed to a mayor-appointed city manager.

But right on cue, recently-returned Commissioner Joe Carollo has issued his sharpest criticism yet of the young mayor. He compared Suarez's effort to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's consolidation of power through a pro-government assembly he created last year that effectively supersedes the opposition-led congress.

Carollo's barbs in a Miami Herald interview Tuesday underscored what onlookers expect from the relationship between the longtime Miami politician and the new mayor — friction.

"You look at what Maduro did with the Constituyente," Carollo said. "This is the Miami version."

Suarez believes the change will bring more transparency, efficiency and accountability to a municipal government with a reputation for dysfunction. He tried twice before to get a strong mayor question on the ballot through the commission, both times finding little support on the dais. Now he's going to the ballot petition route. 

Read more.

April 16, 2018

A second Republican emerges in the race to replace Ros-Lehtinen



Miami broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar looks like she could force a competitive Republican primary in the race to replacing retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Former Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barreiro was largely running a one-man money race among Republicans since he entered the primary shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement, but Salazar bested his fundraising numbers in her first fundraising quarter since she officially jumped into the race in March. 

Salazar raised $303,115 from January 1 to March 31 and she has $287,612 left to spend, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Barreiro raised $264,778, his best haul since entering the race shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement last year. He maintains a cash on hand advantage over his new rival, with $420,978 left to spend. 

The pair have separated themselves from the rest of the Republican pack, though newcomers Stephen Marks and Michael Ohevzion have six figures left to spend. Marks loaned himself $200,000 while Ohevzion loaned himself $100,000 and directly contributed $35,000 to his own campaign. Angie Chirino, the daughter of Miami singer and songwriter Willy Chirino, hasn't had her fundraising totals processed yet by the FEC. 

Republicans are not favored to keep Ros-Lehtinen's seat in 2018, as the district voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by more than 19 percentage points. Multiple election prognosticators rate Ros-Lehtinen's district as "lean Democratic" and former University of Miami president Donna Shalala headlines a Democratic field that narrowed in the past week after two contenders dropped out after choosing to keep their current elected offices over making a run for Congress.

State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez's departure leaves Democrats without a Hispanic candidate in a majority Hispanic district. State Rep. David Richardson, former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman, former circuit court judge Mary Barzee Flores and Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez are among the remaining Democrats seeking Ros-Lehtinen's seat. 


April 11, 2018

Miami Beach commissioner decides against run for county commission


@joeflech and @doug_hanks

Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Góngora will not run for the open seat on the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners.

The District 5 seat, left open after Bruno Barreiro resigned March 31 to run for Congress, is up for grabs after the Miami-Dade commission decided to call a special election for May 22 to replace Barreiro. Barreiro, a Republican, is running for the the District 27 seat in Congress, the seat Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is leaving when she retires this year.

Góngora flirted with a run for the Miami-Dade commission, and he had until the end of Saturday to file to run, but he made the call Wednesday.

"I'm staying put," he told the Miami Herald.

He had been waiting on the results of some polling to gauge his chances. He said on Wednesday he hasn't received results, but he made his decision after hearing from voters who ushered him onto the Miami Beach City Commission in November.

"I did some soul searching, and I decided to stay here and finish the job I was elected to do," he said. "The county seat wasn’t in my plans for 2018, and I decided not let someone else’s decision impact my decision and life. And my voters and supporters have reached out in the dozens asking me to stay."

Three candidates have entered the sprint for the county commission post.

Zoraida Barreiro, wife of the former commissioner, has filed to run. So have Eileen Higgins, president of Miami's Downtown Dems, and Carlos Martinez Garin, who lists income as an Uber driver and art and acting teacher.

Former state senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla said he was interested, but has not filed.

Because of a recently-enacted resign-to-run law, Barreiro was forced to step down in order to campaign for the Congressional seat. But even though the law was crafted in a way that would've allowed Barreiro to make delay his effective date through the fall, the commissioner stepped down early. He denied resigning early in order to give his wife an advantage amid a tight timeline in the run up to a May special election, saying his Congressional campaign has to be a priority as he eyes the Republican nomination ahead of the August primary.

April 05, 2018

Nineteen months before election, open Miami City Commission seat attracts candidate



Well before voters in Miami's District 1 select a new representative, an active civic figure has announced his intention to run for City Commission.

Horacio S. Aguirre, chairman of the Miami River Commission and member of the Civilian Investigative Panel, announced on Thursday he will run for District 1 seat on the Miami City Commission.

The election isn't until November 2019, but Aguirre is already jumping in. The current District 1 representative, Commissioner Wilfredo "Willy" Gort, is term-limited next year.  

Aguirre, son of the founder of Spanish-language newspaper Diario de las Américas, told the Miami Herald he wants to use the experience from serving on municipal boards to service on the commission.

"I think I can translate all of that into something tangible for District 1," he said. 

District 1 includes Allapattah, Grapeland Heights, parts of Little Havana and the area around Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Another district 1 candidate has already begun fundraising. Miguel Angel Cabela, who has twice lost to Gort, opened his campaign account in February and has raised about $4,600. 

March 06, 2018

After dramatic rejection of New York job, Carvalho gets the royal treatment in Miami



At his first major public appearance since turning down a job as head of New York City schools, Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho got the royal treatment — literally.

“So Alberto, Mister Superintendent, Your Highness,” joked moderator Steve Clemons, Washington Editor at Large for The Atlantic. “I know the top three or four reasons why I would choose Miami over New York, but what were yours?”

Clemons’ reference to last week’s dramatic school board meeting in which children and adults begged Carvalho not to leave Miami-Dade was met with laughter from the audience at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium. But it also elicited a new explanation from the superintendent, and one that was decidedly less kingly than the reasons he gave for his decision last week.

“I am a true believer that if you want me to land the championship ring, if you want to win the Super Bowl, but I have a field that I’m not going to be able to necessarily pick my quarterback … that the plays will be called, co-consulted, then that may be a deal breaker for me,” Carvalho said.

The superintendent also repeated his earlier explanations that he was dedicated to Miami-Dade and that he had been moved by the response from local teachers, parents and students to his appointment as New York City schools chancellor. The football metaphor, however, appears to confirm a Politico report that Mayor Bill de Blasio wasn’t going to let Carvalho pick his own chief of staff or human resources director and that retiring Chancellor Carmen Fariña would have had a continuing influence on the school district. Read more here.