April 21, 2017

ARTILES RESIGNS

Artiles
@PatriciaMazzei @MaryEllenKlas

TALLAHASSEE -- Sen. Frank Artiles resigned from the Florida Legislature on Friday, consumed by a scandal that erupted three days earlier over a diatribe of insults the Miami Republican unleashed against two lawmakers at a Tallahassee bar.

In a letter to Senate President Joe Negron, Artiles said he was stepping down for the sake of his family and of the institution of the Senate, whose work ground to a near halt this week as Republican leaders grappled with Artiles’ political future.

“My actions and my presence in government is now a distraction to my colleagues, the legislative process, and the citizens of our great State,” Artiles wrote. “I am responsible and I am accountable and effective immediately, I am resigning from the Florida State Senate.

More here.

Artiles expected to resign Friday

Artiles
@PatriciaMazzei @MaryEllenKlas

TALLAHASSEE -- Sen. Frank Artiles is expected to resign from the Florida Legislature on Friday, consumed by a scandal that erupted three days earlier over a diatribe of insults the Miami Republican unleashed against two lawmakers at a Tallahassee bar.

Word about Artiles’ impending resignation began to spread Friday morning in Tallahassee and Miami. Several sources confirmed to the Herald/Times that the senator intends to step aside.

Senate President Joe Negron forced Artiles to apologize on the Senate floor Wednesday for his alcohol-fueled racist and sexist Monday night tirade against Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville. But black lawmakers outraged at Artiles for calling Gibson a “bitch” and a “girl” — and for referring to some Republicans as “niggas” — said saying sorry was not enough: They formally sought his expulsion from the Senate.

Negron, whom Artiles had derided in his rant as a “pussy,” ordered an investigation. Artiles, an ex-Marine known for his combative style, hired a sharp-elbowed Tallahassee lawyer and vowed to fight.

But by Thursday afternoon, even Artiles’ friends in the state Capitol, convinced he couldn’t possibly redeem himself, had begun to say privately that Artiles had to go. The most evident sign of his looming exit: Political hounds started chatting about his competitive seat soon becoming open. 

“Frank has acted honorably in his decision, and my prayers are with him as he moves on from this process,” future House Speaker Jose Oliva of Miami Lakes, a longtime Artiles friend, said in an interview Friday morning.

More here.

April 20, 2017

Artiles controversy engulfs Florida Senate with two weeks left of session

ARTILES PROTEST0011 JAI
@PatriciaMazzei @stevebousquet @ByKristenMClark @MaryEllenKlas

TALLAHASSEE -- Controversy raged in the Florida Capitol for a second day Thursday over Sen. Frank Artilesracist and sexist tirade, distracting and slowing down the Legislature just two weeks before the end of the annual lawmaking session and building pressure on the Miami Republican to resign — or risk the potential career-ending condemnation of the Senate.

The Senate abruptly canceled formal meetings Thursday afternoon as leaders scrambled to find a quick resolution to Artiles’ political future. As a Senate lawyer began taking sworn statements about Artiles’ Monday-night verbal assault on two black colleagues at a bar near the Capitol, the senator hired a defense attorney who argued Artiles’ use of the n-word and other insults are constitutionally protected free speech.

Meanwhile, the two black lawmakers Artiles targeted in his alcohol-laced rant got national attention as they demanded that he resign or be removed from office.

“They’re not trying to protect him,” Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, said of Senate leaders. “But Frank is the type you have to drag out kicking and screaming. He’s not the type to surrender.”

Thurston was with Sen. Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat, at the Governors Club Lounge on Monday night when Artiles, unhappy that Gibson opposed one of his bills, let loose with a barrage of racially tinged profanity. He referred to Gibson as a “bitch” and a “girl,” and dropped the phrase “fucking asshole.” Artiles denied none of the language when he apologized Wednesday on the Senate floor. 

If Artiles hoped his apology would end the controversy, it had the opposite effect. Protesters picketed his Miami office and crowded his Tallahassee office, where security ensured they were not disruptive. Artiles was nowhere to be found.

More here.

Photo credit: José A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

April 19, 2017

Artiles apologizes on Senate floor as resignation calls mount

IMG_frank_artiles.JPG_4_1_P048AU4D_L110075579 (1)
@PatriciaMazzei @stevebousquet @ByKristenMClark

Miami Republican Sen. Frank Artiles stood on the Florida Senate floor Wednesday morning and told his colleagues he was sorry for insulting them in private using curse words and a racial slur.

“I extend a heartfelt apology to my colleagues and to all those I have offended,” Artiles began.

He offered a direct apology to Sen. Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat he had called a “bitch.”

“My comments to you were the most regretful of all, because they injured you personally,” Artiles said. “No one deserves to be spoken to like that.”

Gibson did not look at him even once.

Artiles acknowledged that his comments, made in private Monday night and revealed Tuesday, reflected poorly on him. He also apologized to Sen. Perry Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat who witnessed Artiles’ exchange with Gibson and tried to get Artiles to reconsider his crass language before the conversation got out of hand.

Artiles’ refusal to apologize to Gibson in person prompted Senate leaders to get involved. They forced Artiles to say sorry in person late Tuesday. By then, his remarks to Gibson and Thurston — including deriding Republican Senate President Joe Negron as a “pussy” and lamenting that “niggas” in the GOP caucus elected him — had been made public. Both Gibson and Thurston are black.

Wednesday morning, Negron stripped Artiles of his chairmanship of the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee.

More here.

April 18, 2017

Secret 2014 recording caught Artiles using 'hajis' slur

Python Hunters
@PatriciaMazzei

In 2014, when then-state Rep. Frank Artiles was running for reelection in Miami-Dade County, someone secretly recorded him at a polling place — and caught him using a slur for Middle Easterners or Muslims: “hajis.”

That was three years ago, long before Monday night, when now-state Sen. Artiles deployed the n-word in a conversation with two African-American senators. The Republican Artiles now faces pressure from Florida Democrats to resign.

Artiles is expected to publicly apologize on the Senate floor Wednesday for calling Democratic Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville a “fucking asshole” and a “bitch” on Monday — and for referring to fellow Republicans who elected Senate President Joe Negron of Stuart as “niggas.” Artiles also called Negron a “pussy.”

Back in August 2014, Artiles was campaigning unopposed in the primary ahead of a general election race against a largely unfunded, first-time Democratic candidate named Omar Rivero that hardly made headlines. But at some point Rivero posted the secret recording to his YouTube channel. The following March, after Artiles denied he had punched a college student at a downtown Tallahassee bar, the audio made the rounds in Miami political circles.

It resurfaced Tuesday, after Artiles’ private exchange at the Governors Club in downtown Tallahassee with Gibson and Sen. Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale was made public.

More here.

Photo credit: Steve Cannon, Associated Press

In tirade, Artiles also called Negron, his own party's Senate president, a 'pussy'

@PatriciaMazzei @stevebousquet

During his tirade to a pair of Democratic senators Monday night, Miami Republican Sen. Frank Artiles referred to Senate President Joe Negron as a "pussy," according to one of the senators present.

Artiles was railing against Negron's leadership, which he considers weak.

"He called Joe Negron a pussy," said Democratic Sen. Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale.

Artiles then blamed Negron's rise to power on "six niggas" -- fellow Republicans who had backed his bid for the Senate's top job.

The racial slur, following curse words uttered by Artiles to Democratic Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville -- who, like Thurston, is African American -- prompted calls from Democrats for Artiles to resign. And Negron, who initially tried to stay out of the fracas, issued a strongly-worded statement Tuesday night saying Artiles will publicly apologize to Gibson on the Senate floor Wednesday.

Negron: Artiles will apologize to Gibson on Senate floor

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Senate President Joe Negron said late Tuesday he was "appalled" by Miami Republican Sen. Frank Artiles' cursing and use of a racial slur in conversation with other lawmakers -- and announced that Artiles will formally apologize to Jacksonville Democratic Sen. Audrey Gibson on the Senate floor Wednesday.

Negron's much harsher statement -- compared to his initial response -- came after the Black Caucus scheduled an emergency Wednesday meeting to deal with the Artiles fallout.

“Senator Braynon reported this incident to me earlier today, and I was appalled to hear that one Senator would speak to another in such an offensive and reprehensible manner," Negron said in a statement. "My first priority was to ensure that this matter was promptly addressed between the two Senators involved, which occurred this evening.  Racial slurs and profane, sexist insults have no place in conversation between Senators and will not be tolerated while I am serving as Senate President. Senator Artiles has requested a point of personal privilege at the beginning of tomorrow’s sitting, during which he intends to formally apologize to Senator Gibson on the Senate Floor.”

Negron's original statement: “It is my understanding that this matter has been resolved by the Senators involved.”

Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano of Bradenton, who escorted Artiles to privately apologize to Gibson, also issued a statement Tuesday:

 

"Senator Audrey Gibson is an admired colleague and a personal friend, and under no circumstances should ever have been spoken to in such a reprehensible manner. I understand that President Negron is allowing Senator Artiles to formally apologize on the Senate floor tomorrow. Such comments cannot be repaired by a formal apology, but I trust that it is an appropriate step to be taken by the President and the Florida Senate to handle this matter, and to ensure that this behavior is not tolerated and does not happen again."

Florida Democratic Party calls on Artiles to resign following tirade

@PatriciaMazzei

The Florida Democratic Party called on Miami Republican Sen. Frank Artiles to resign late Tuesday over his use of curse words and a racial slur in reference to fellow lawmakers.

Johanna Cervone, a party spokeswoman, said Artiles "must resign now."

"His use of horrific racist and sexist slurs towards his colleagues is disgusting, unacceptable and has no place in our democracy or our society," Cervone said in a statement. "This is just the latest in a string of violent, hateful incidents in which Artiles blames his 'temper'. There is never an excuse for racism or misogyny and the people of Florida aren't buying it. Resign now."

The Miami Herald reported earlier in the day that Artiles had an African-American Democratic senator in a private conversation late Monday. He then referred to other Republican senators -- who are not black -- as "niggas."

Florida Strong, a liberal independent advocacy group, also asked for Artiles to step down.

"It is time for Senator Artiles to bring his embarrassing tenure to an end," Charly Norton, the group's executive director, said in a statement. "Artiles has proven time and again that he lacks the judgment, decency and maturity needed to properly serve his constituents and the people of Florida, and as such, must resign immediately. Our elected officials ought to serve as role models for how we treat one another, not as bullies and buffoons. His hateful actions clearly prove he is not fit to lead."

Miami lawmaker curses at black senator -- and refers to fellow Republicans as 'niggas'

IMG_frank_artiles.JPG_4_1_P048AU4D_L110075579
@PatriciaMazzei

TALLAHASSEE -- Miami Republican Sen. Frank Artiles dropped the n-word to a pair of African-American colleagues in private conversation Monday night — after calling one of them a “fucking asshole,” a “bitch” and a “girl,” the two senators said.

Over drinks after 10 p.m. at the members-only Governors Club just steps from the state Capitol, Artiles told Sens. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville and Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale that Senate President Joe Negron of Stuart had been risen to his powerful GOP leadership role because “six niggers” in the Republican caucus had elected him.

Artiles later told Gibson and Thurston that he’d used the word “niggas,” suggesting the slang term was not meant to be insulting, Gibson and Thurston said. It’s unclear whom Artiles was referring to, since the only black senators in the state Senate are all Democrats — and none of them backed Negron’s bid to lead the chamber.

Artiles apologized to Gibson late Tuesday afternoon, after he’d been reported to Republican leaders and reporters started asking questions.

“In an exchange with a colleague of mine in the Senate, I unfortunately let my temper get the best of me,” Artiles said later in a statement. “There is no excuse for the exchange that occurred and I have apologized to my Senate colleagues and regret the incident profusely.”

To Gibson and Thurston, it was clear Artiles wasn’t referring to them or to any other Democrats as “niggas” but apparently to six Republicans who favored Negron for the job over Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater.

The discussion began Monday night after Artiles approached Gibson at the Governors Club to suggest that a series of questions he’d asked of one of her bills earlier in the day were payback for questions she’d asked before of one of Artiles’ bills.

At one point, Artiles referred to Gibson as “this fucking asshole” and “this bitch,” Gibson said.

More here.

Florida House budget chief's absence stokes rumors of ambassador appointment by Trump

IMG_donald4_trump_lnew_c_2_1_C19FUL02_L260724525
@PatriciaMazzei @MaryEllenKlas

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Trujillo was conspicuously absent Tuesday morning from a meeting of the Florida House budget committee he leads.

The reason? Word in the state Capitol was that Trujillo is away in Washington -- interviewing with President Donald Trump's administration for a potential ambassadorship to Latin America.

Reached Tuesday afternoon, Trujillo declined to comment.

The powerful budget chief was an early Trump supporter, one of only a handful of state elected officials to back his long-shot candidacy early. He's been under consideration to be ambassador to Argentina or Panama.

Another Miami lawmaker who campaigned for Trump, Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, a former contestant on "The Apprentice" TV show Trump once hosted, is one of several candidates being considered to be South Florida's top federal prosecutor.

On Monday, two days after Politico reported Diaz was a finalist for the position of U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, the legislator declined to answer questions about vying for the job.

"I can't talk about that," he said.

This post has been updated.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald