July 21, 2017

Diaz de la Portilla loses Miami-Dade GOP seat before Senate primary


The Miami-Dade County Republican Party kicked state Senate candidate Alex Diaz de la Portilla from his party seat Thursday, five days before he competes in a special GOP primary Tuesday.

Diaz de la Portilla lost his Republican Executive Committee seat after failing to attend four party meetings, Chairman Nelson Diaz said. Three absences are enough for disqualification under party rules.

"Everyone's treated the same," Diaz said Friday. 

A total of nine REC members got removed Thursday, as first reported by the Florida Politics blog. The list included state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. of Hialeah. But as a sitting lawmaker, Diaz Jr., no relation to Diaz, will remain an REC member -- just not representing one of 40 party districts.

Diaz de la Portilla, who represented REC District 20, missed four meetings and an organizational meeting in December, when members were sworn in and party officers were elected. That meeting wasn't counted against anyone as an absence, Diaz said. 

When members request excused absences, they're usually granted, Diaz added. But Diaz de la Portilla never did.

"I resigned from that post 4 months ago," Diaz de la Portilla said in a text message to a Miami Herald reporter Friday. Asked for proof of his resignation, he didn't respond. Diaz said the REC had never received any such notice from Diaz de la Portilla.

Diaz de la Portilla accused Diaz of bias.

"Nelson Diaz is in violation of party rules that require that he remain neutral during the primary," Diaz de la Portilla said.

Diaz rejected the notion that booting Diaz de la Portilla from the party days before the election could make it look like the local GOP was favoring one of Diaz de la Portilla's opponents.

"We're not taking sides at all," Diaz said. "This is not the party's fault, that Alex failed to show up to any meeting in the last seven months."

Diaz de la Portilla is campaigning for Senate District 40, in a nasty primary against state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz (no relation to the party chairman) and attorney Lorenzo Palomares.

This post has been updated.

July 20, 2017

Florida insiders: Republican will win Miami Senate race

via @adamsmithtimes

Our latest Florida Insider Poll asked most of the smartest and most experienced politicos in Florida about the race to succeed former state Sen. Frank Artiles in Miami-area Florida Senate District 40. Among the more then 190* participants (56 percent of them Republicans, 38 percent Democrats), more than two thirds expect the GOP to hold onto that competitive seat.

"The problem for Democrats in the SD40 Special is that the electorate that will show up will be disproportionally older Cuban compared to normal midterms or presidential cycles," said on Democrat. "This is a group that still votes GOP down ballot and has no trouble splitting their ticket."

We did not not ask for predictions for who will be nominated. Former state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and attorney Lorenzo Palomares are running on the Republican side, and state Rep. Ana Rivas Logan and businesswoman Annette Taddeo on the Demoratic side.

From a Republican:  "Republicans would do best to nominate Diaz in order to keep Senate District 40.  Diaz de la Portilla would likely lose to Annette Taddeo.    Diaz already HAS beaten Rivas-Logan and would likely beat Taddeo as well.  The Democrats are already starting to attack Diaz which is a sign they have polled and know where this is going."

Another Democrat: "SD 40 isn't as Democratic as my Democratic friends think, and I don't see Taddeo beating Diaz.  Her best hope is DLP winning the primary.  Until they prove they can win these kind of seats, it is advantage GOP." 

We allow people to weigh in on our utterly unscientific Florida Insider Polls anonymously to encourage honest assessments from people. This month's Florida Insiders included:

Continue reading "Florida insiders: Republican will win Miami Senate race" »

July 19, 2017

Miami Beach commission candidate taking heat for involvement with World OutGames



Miami Beach commission candidate Michael Góngora has had trouble remembering how long he served on the board of the ill-fated World OutGames Miami, an LGBTQ-themed sports and cultural event that canceled most of its athletic competitions at the last minute because of serious financial shortcomings.

In June, he told the Miami Herald he had resigned from the board in 2015. Turns out he was off by about a year.

A video from May 2016 showing Góngora identifying himself as an OutGames board member has surfaced in a new political attack ad by his opponent, Adrian Gonzalez, owner of South Beach Cuban eatery David’s Café.

This week, Gonzalez launched a web campaign criticizing Góngora for his connection to the OutGames, an event he helped recruit to the Beach. Gonzalez created a Facebook page and website blasting Góngora.

“What did Góngora know and when did he know about the OutGames?” reads a large headline on the site.

Góngora, a former Beach commissioner who lost a 2013 bid for mayor, said in June that he had not been on OutGames’ board of directors since 2015. But in a May 2016 YouTube video posted by the official OutGames account, Góngora promotes the games and identifies himself as a board member.

“Michael Góngora brought the OutGames to Miami Beach, served on the OutGames board, appeared in their promotional material and when it turned into a disaster for the city left the residents holding the bag,” said Gonzalez in an email blast Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Góngora told the Herald he had made a mistake remembering the date of his resignation.

“The only mistake from when I answered the question previously is that the resignation apparently was not until September 2016,” he wrote in an email. “I apologize for this discrepancy in my memory as I thought it was sooner. The State of Florida corporate listing still should have been updated and apparently was not.”

He provided the Herald his resignation, which he sent to OutGames organizers in an email on Sept. 16, 2016.

“I am thrilled to have been part of World OutGames since we first flew to Antwerp, Belgium to compete for the opportunity to present the games and continue to remain a supporter,” he wrote in his resignation. “Unfortunately, as you know, I was unsuccessful in my recent bid for State Senate. As a result, I am back at work and having to re-focus on my legal career and limit my public service for the time being. As such, I regretfully am resigning as a board member but welcome the opportunity to remain a friend and supporter of the games.”

Apart from apologizing for his memory, Góngora boasted about his fundraising lead and cited an online poll on a blog that has him ahead of Gonzalez. He also said that Gonzalez’s Facebook page attacking him is a violation of state campaigning laws because it does not have a disclaimer explaining that it is a paid political advertisement.

On Wednesday, Gonzalez responded by pointing out Góngora never sounded alarms when he served on the OutGames board. Góngora previously said the board never received financial updates or had decision-making power.

“His only defense is that the Facebook page laying out the facts against him needs a disclaimer,” Gonzalez said. “That will be fixed but it would sure be nice if he had used that attention to detail to help prevent the OutGames debacle from costing the taxpayers over $200,000.”

The OutGames fiasco cost Beach taxpayers $200,000 in public money contributed to the event, and it disappointed athletes who had come to Miami from all over the world to compete. The debacle has prompted an investigation by Miami Beach police into what happened. City auditors are also reviewing the OutGames’ finances.

A third candidate, attorney Zachary Eisner, is running for the same seat commission seat as Góngora and Gonzalez.

Diaz de la Portilla debuts 1st TV ad, 6 days before Miami Senate election


Alex Diaz de la Portilla began campaigning on television Wednesday, launching a Spanish-language ad that touts him as the reliable, experienced Republican in next week's special state Senate primary.

"My trajectory speaks for itself," Diaz de la Portilla, a former senator, says into the camera, characterizing his voting record as one of cutting taxes, protecting seniors and fighting for more jobs and better education. Then he appears with his brothers, former Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and former Rep. Renier Diaz de la Portilla, and their families.

"You already know me and my whole family," Alex Diaz de la Portilla says. "We're Republicans with conservative values."

Diaz de la Portilla is going on the air six days before the election. Thousands of mail ballots have already been cast. In-person early voting opened Saturday.

Diaz de la Portilla's chief opponent, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, has been on TV for weeks. Diaz de la Portilla refers to a single opponent in his ad, but a third candidate, attorney Lorenzo Palomares, is also running (though not advertising on TV).

Miami Beach commissioner running for Congress accepts money from developers, lobbyists and city contractors



Miami Beach commissioner and congressional candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, popular for being a vocal critic of the large influence of developers and lobbyists in the seaside city, doesn't seem to mind taking those folks' money for her campaign to fill Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's open District 27 congressional seat.

Rosen Gonzalez, one of several Democrats looking to flip the seat, told the Miami Herald last week that her campaign contributors "reflect a diverse group of people who believe in me, especially Miami Beach, where I currently serve." Her campaign reports raising $184,411 in the second quarter of 2017.

Indeed, the donor list includes many Beach residents and business people, but it also lists some powerful lobbyists, prominent developers and businesses that have contracts with City Hall. These donors are not prohibited from contributing to her congressional campaign, but they would not be allowed to give to any candidate for City Commission, due to Miami Beach's ethics regulations tailored to prevent the appearance of pay-to-play politics.

Rosen Gonzalez has branded herself as a populist voice in City Hall who opposes over-development, particularly if it could displace cost-burdened renters in a city that has seen steep rent increases in recent years — a significant issue for members of the Beach's tourism workforce who cannot afford to live on the island.

Among her contributors is Adam Walker, who runs a real estate company that last year purchased a large portfolio of Art Deco apartment buildings in South Beach and stated the buildings would be renovated and rents would be raised by 35 to 50 percent. Rosen Gonzalez's campaign received $5,400 from Walker, which is the maximum amount one can give to a federal campaign. Another manage from Walker's company, Boardwalk properties, gave the same amount.

On Wednesday, Rosen Gonzalez told the Herald her position has not changed on development and complimented Boardwalk for its work in South Beach.

"I took a tour with Boardwalk Properties and I am really impressed with their renovations," she said. "They take buildings in the historic districts and upgrade them. This is the kind of development we want in the city of Miami Beach, upgrading and changing infrastructure in existing structures without building more or increasing density."

She also received maximum contributions from two executives of a construction company working on major drainage improvements in one the Beach's most flood-prone neighborhoods and $2,700 from a company that has a city contract to rent out umbrellas and chairs on the beach.

Rosen Gonzalez defended her campaign finances.

"The people who have the most interests in Miami Beach have watched me work hard as a commissioner and are supportive of my congressional run," she said. "They know me best, and they know I am qualified for Congress. They recognize my skills, and my voting record speaks for itself."

She declared her candidacy in April, before Ros-Lehtinen announced her intention to retire at the end of her term in 2018. Other Democrats in the running include state Rep. David Richardson, state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, academic adviser Michael A. Hepburn and Mark Anthony Person. Miami Commissioner Ken Russell has formed an exploratory committee that has already raised six figures.

More on the shadowy money in Miami's Democratic Senate primary


The Sun-Sentinel's Dan Sweeney built Wednesday on our story Tuesday about mysterious money doings in the state Senate District 40 Democratic primary.

Sweeney writes about a $35,000 contribution to Floridians for Accountability, a political committee run by Broward consultant Amy Rose that has been attacking Annette Taddeo, who's running against Ana Rivas Logan:

The money came from another committee called the Florida Alliance for Better Government, a new committee that received its first $50,000 in June and has thus far only given $35,000 to Rose's committee. Florida Alliance for a Better Government is controlled by Screven Watson, who was executive director of the Democratic Party at the turn of the century and is now a lobbyist in Tallahassee, where his clients include U.S. Sugar and some related subsidiaries, Florida Power and Light, the firefighters union and many more. 

Last I saw him, he was appearing before the Sun Sentinel's editorial board back before the 2016 election as part of a group pushing the utility-industry-backed solar-energy amendment that went down to defeat.

The $50,000 to his committee came from Floridian's United for our Children's Future (the apostrophe is part of the title, and makes searching for the committee a little difficult. (Type "Floridians" in the search bar at the Division of Elections website, and the committee doesn't come up). And Floridian's for our Children's Future has raised more than $2 million over the years, mostly from U.S. Sugar and Florida Power and Light -- Watson's clients in Tallahassee.

More here in Sweeney's daily Power Lunch newsletter.

Protesters to Rubio: Healthcare ‘not just for the rich’

via @sydneyp1234

The Republican replacement bill for Obamacare seems dead, at least for now. Even so, protesters showed up Tuesday outside the Doral office of Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been firmly in the party’s repeal-and-replace camp.

Despite the apparent victory for the Affordable Care Act supporters, many in the group of about 40 people said they remain concerned about the uncertainty of the ACA’s future — particularly the protections for people with preexisting conditions.

Rose Williams, a 59-year-old mother, said she has lupus, and that her 25-year-old son has cerebral palsy and coverage for both illnesses would have potentially skyrocketed under GOP plans.

She and her son are currently insured under the ACA, she said, because her husband’s employer does not offer family insurance. Even with the ACA, she said, the costs are already “sky-high.” Her deductible is $14,000, which does not include prescriptions — but at least she and her son are assured coverage.

Healthcare “is not just for the rich,” said Williams, who drove 40 minutes from Fort Lauderdale while her son was at work. “We’re the people. Their job is to represent us. That’s supposed to be a democracy, right?”

More here.

July 18, 2017

Miami House candidate decries 'lies and fake news'


A Miami Republican candidate appears eager to adopt some of President Donald Trump's political rhetoric a week before a special Florida House primary election.

Jose Mallea released a TV ad Tuesday decrying "falsehoods" lobbed against him in the House District 116 race. His opponent is attorney Daniel Perez, whose name is unmentioned in the ad.

"Like our President Donald Trump, the special interests attack anyone not on their side with lies and fake news," Mallea says, as the ad shows a photo of Trump signing his new Cuba policy directive last month in East Little Havana.

Mallea appears to be trying to tie himself to the president while Perez, a first-time candidate, has been questioning his Republican bona fides.

Mallea ran Marco Rubio's underdog U.S. Senate campaign in 2010, but backed Jeb Bush -- his former boss -- in the 2016 presidential election. Rubio has disapproved of Mallea's featuring him in a campaign flier, a sign that the presidential race bruised their friendship.


Is Miami's next Democratic congressional candidate preparing to announce?


Matt Haggman has resigned from his prominent role in Miami's Knight Foundation. Will his next move be a run for Congress?

Haggman, Knight's program director since 2011, wouldn't say Tuesday after the foundation announced his departure, which is effective Friday.

"Stay tuned," he told the Miami Herald.

But his name has been mentioned for a few months as a potential Democratic contender for retiring Republican Rep. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's seat -- or even as a possible challenger to Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo. Haggman, a Coconut Grove resident, lives in Ros-Lehtinen's 27th district, which leans more Democratic than Curbelo's neighboring 26th district.

"It's something I've been actively thinking about for a while now," Haggman said in April about maybe running for Ros-Lehtinen's seat.

The Democratic field in FL-27 is already crowded with hopefuls, including state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, state Rep. David Richardson and Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez. Curbelo has yet to draw an opponent.

Before joining the Knight Foundation, Haggman was a Herald reporter, covering real estate and Miami-Dade County Hall.

Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald 

In final stretch, Democratic primary for Miami Senate seat gets heated

@PatriciaMazzei @CrossingBordas

The Democratic primary in a special Miami state Senate race has gone from cordial to contentious, with Ana Rivas Logan getting help from an outside political group going after her better-funded opponent, Annette Taddeo.

Floridians for Accountability has pounded Taddeo in mailed campaign fliers, comparing her to President Donald Trump — perhaps the biggest bogeyman in a Democratic primary — over her family’s investments.

“What do Donald Trump and Annette Taddeo have in common?” one flier reads. “Annette Taddeo’s dirty money is a family affair,” reads another.

That, in turn, has prompted Taddeo to also compare Rivas Logan, a former Republican, to the Republican president.

“It’s Republicans who are funding the attacks [against me],” Taddeo said Sunday on WPLG-ABC 10’s “This Week in South Florida.” “That in itself speaks volumes.”

The two rivals have escalated their attacks over the past week, ahead of next Tuesday’s primary. Early voting by mail and in person is already under way. The winner of the Sept. 26 general election will replace Republican Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned in April.

For much of the Senate District 40 campaign, it was the Republican primary among Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and attorney Lorenzo Palomares that drew the most headlines. Rivas Logan, a former state representative, with $10,425 in the bank as of June 8, trails far behind Taddeo’s $45,559 .

But last month, Floridians for Accountability, which had reported no political activity for two years, disclosed $147,000 in contributions — and started going after Taddeo, a translation business owner who’s lost four previous elections.

More here.