June 15, 2016

Former North Miami Mayor Kevin Burns to run for Gwen Margolis state senate seat

Former North Miami Mayor Kevin Burns said he filed paperwork today to run for the state Senate after Sen. Gwen Margolis dropped out of the District 38 race in Miami-Dade County

Burns served two terms as mayor from 2005-2009 and was the city’s first openly gay mayor. Burns, a real estate broker, lost a legislative race to Margolis in 2010.

The musical chairs may not be over following Margolis’ decision to drop out last week after she took heat for dismissing some of her Democratic opponents as “Haitians.”

Sen. Dwight Bullard says he is considering switching districts to run for District 38.

“It has been mentioned by party leaders and other electeds about it potentially being a good move for me,” Bullard told the Miami Herald Tuesday. “The demographics speak to the possibility of an African-American candidate more easily winning the seat than the current seat I am in.”

About one-third of the voters in the newly drawn district are black including Haitians and African-Americans.

“Without Haitian support I would have never been elected mayor,” said Burns who is white.

Democrats say Andrew Korge is taking a look at the seat. Bay Harbor Islands Mayor Jordan Leonard said he is also considering a bid.

Other candidates already in the race are small business owner Anis Blemur, former state Rep. Philip Brutus, teacher Don Festge, lawyer Jason Pizzo and state Rep. Daphne Campbell.

Campbell has raised the most through donations -- about $28,000 -- but Pizzo has the largest total pot due to a $200,000 loan.

All of the candidates are Democrats in the left-leaning district.

The five-day qualifying period starts Monday for the Aug. 30 primary.

June 14, 2016

Republicans troll Miami-Dade legislative candidate for not living in district

@ByKristenMClark

A Democratic newcomer who's challenging an incumbent Republican lawmaker in Hialeah is under attack for not currently living in the district that she's seeking to represent.

In a 30-second online ad, the Republican Party of Florida says "Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich doesn't live in Hialeah, but she thinks she can represent Hialeah."

The ad capitalizes on comments Gonzalez Petkovich made to Politico Florida last month, when the website reported that she and her husband, Alex, live in an area of Doral that's just outside House District 103 -- where she's challenging state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah.

But Gonzalez Petkovich, an attorney with her own Coral Gables-based law firm, said Tuesday it's "laughable" for Republicans to paint her as someone unfamiliar with the district since she was born and raised there.

District 103 includes Miramar, Hialeah, Hialeah Gardens, Medley and part of Doral.

Continue reading "Republicans troll Miami-Dade legislative candidate for not living in district" »

Anitere Flores leads Andrew Korge in internal campaign poll

@ByKristenMClark

About five months before Election Day, Miami Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores leads Democratic newcomer Andrew Korge, according to a recent internal Republican poll of the District 39 contest.

The state Senate battle between Flores and Korge is one of the most closely watched and expensive legislative races this year.

In a survey of 302 likely general election voters three weeks ago, Flores had a 9 percentage-point advantage over Korge in a head-to-head matchup. Flores drew 40 percent support, compared to 31 percent for Korge. About 29 percent of respondents were undecided in the contest.

After hearing more about the two candidates, Flores' lead over Korge grew among respondents -- with 62 percent favoring her, 16 percent favoring Korge and 17 percent undecided.

The Florida Republican Senatorial Committee had the poll done May 20-22 as a $19,500 in-kind contribution to Flores' campaign, which she reported in her May campaign finance report.

Information about the poll was provided to the Herald/Times by a political consultant working with Flores' campaign and Sarah Bascom, on behalf of the FRSC. Specific questions asked of respondents and raw data of the poll results was not available.

The margin of error for the results is plus or minus 5.7 percentage points.

The poll also found that Flores -- a lawmaker who has represented parts of Miami-Dade County since 2004 -- has stronger name recognition than her opponent. Korge is a first-time candidate, whose father, Chris Korge, is a prominent Democratic fundraiser in South Florida. More than 80 percent of respondents said they didn't know who Andrew Korge was, compared to about 60 percent who didn't know Flores.

The District 39 seat, newly redrawn because of redistricting, leans Democratic and Hispanic. The seat spans western and southern Miami-Dade County and Monroe County, including the Florida Keys. The area overlaps slightly with Flores' current district, but most of it is new territory for her.

District 39 is one of three hotly contested state Senate seats in Miami-Dade County that could help determine how strong the Republican majority in the chamber is next session. Democrats want to pick up a couple seats and narrow the gap. (The Senate currently has 26 Republicans and 14 Democrats.)

The FRSC poll asked respondents in District 39 which party they would vote for if the election were held now; about 44 percent said they'd pick a Republican candidate, 39 percent said they'd support a Democrat and 18 percent were undecided.

June 13, 2016

AFSCME endorses Jason Pizzo in Miami senate race

AFSCME union has endorsed lawyer Jason Pizzo in the District 38 state Senate race.

Initially, the union endorsed Sen. Gwen Margolis but AFSCME considered yanking the endorsement after Margolis dismissed some of her Democratic rivals as "Haitians." But Margolis dropped out last week before the union had to officially decide about whether to withdraw the endorsement. 

Today AFSCME announced that it has endorsed Pizzo, a former prosecutor.

"Although he has never run for office before, he had a solid grasp of the issues and presented himself in a way that impressed our members," said Andy Madtes, union executive director.

Miami Beach lawmaker will continue re-election bid, won't seek state Senate

@ByKristenMClark

HousePhotoSized5952State Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, won't jump in the race for a now-open state Senate seat representing coastal Miami-Dade County.

In a statement this morning, Richardson said he's "humbled and honored by the many calls encouraging me to consider a run in the now open Senate District 38," but he's "committed more than ever to earn my re-election in (House District) 113 and continue to serve as a member of the Florida House of Representatives."

The District 38 seat became open last week, after longtime Democratic Sen. Gwen Margolis announced her political retirement. Her decision to drop her re-election campaign came a couple days after she publicly disparaged her five opponents as “three Haitians, some teacher and some lawyer.”

Richardson, a two-term state House member, praised Margolis for her service.

"I commend and congratulate Senator Gwen Margolis on her leadership and service to Miami-Dade County," he said. "She is a trailblazer in her own right and someone who helped pave the way for so many others and me."

While Richardson filed for Senate early last year, redistricting affected the boundaries of Miami-Dade's various Senate districts. Richardson acknowledged that factored into his decision, saying: "The newly drawn SD38 is vastly different from the previous SD35."

"I am honored that the people of HD113 have allowed me to be their voice in Tallahassee for the past four years," Richardson said, affirming his commitment to seek re-election. "With the support of my constituents and my Democratic caucus colleagues, I hope together we can break new barriers in the upcoming years. The journey ahead can once again be history-making and I am excited by the opportunity to be a uniting force as our community and state continue to be challenged."

Photo credit: Florida House of Representatives

$1.9M raised since Feb. 1 in contested Miami-Dade Senate races

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@ByKristenMClark

Miami-Dade County is proving more and more why it's a battleground for the Florida Legislature this year.

Candidates for the four competitive Florida Senate seats in Miami-Dade have raised about $1.9 million over the past four months, an analysis of newly filed campaign finance reports showed.

Current Miami Republican Sens. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Anitere Flores raised almost $600,000 between them in May alone in their bids for re-election in newly redrawn districts.

And that's not counting lucrative help that's starting to pour in from an arm of the state party, which would like to keep as many Republicans in the Senate as possible.

Because of redistricting, several Miami-Dade County seats are in play in November. Democrats see an opening to win potentially a few more seats in the Senate and narrow the Republican's 26-14 majority.

But despite fielding competitive candidates, Democrats are falling behind in the fundraising game.

From Feb. 1 -- after which time most candidates filed for their current races once the redrawn districts were set -- through May, Republican state Senate candidates together have raised three times as much as the Democrats across three of Miami-Dade's four competitive races. That's a valuable advantage because the cost to advertise on radio and TV in Miami is among the most expensive in the state.

Continue reading "$1.9M raised since Feb. 1 in contested Miami-Dade Senate races" »

June 12, 2016

Miami politicians to hold vigil for Orlando in Miami Beach

The City of Miami Beach will host a 7 p.m. candlelight vigil tonight to honor the victims, family and friends affected by the Orlando shooting.

The vigil will be held at SoundScape Park, 500 17 St.

"I know I speak for the entire City of Miami Beach when I say we are all deeply saddened by the act of senseless violence suffered by our neighbors in Orlando," Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said in a statement. "My deepest heartfelt condolences go out to the families and friends of those killed and injured at the 'hands of hate'. Especially troubling is that the LBGTQ community was targeted, a group we very much support in Miami Beach. We ask for tolerance and love during these very difficult times.”

In addition to Levine, other politicians expected to join in the vigil include U.S. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, State Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Giménez, Miami-Dade County Chairman Jean Monestime and City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado.

Broward officials held a similar vigil at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors earlier today.

June 10, 2016

Gwen Margolis: A look back at her legacy

The night was Nov. 6, 1990 and Gwen Margolis nervously awaited election results in the president’s suite off the Florida Senate chamber.

If the Democrats held on to the majority, she would become the first female Senate president and only the second from Miami-Dade County. The day before, she showed confidence in the outcome by replacing the furniture and paintings of the outgoing president.

Days later, Margolis who had been known to play poker and go hunting with her male colleagues, downplayed the significance of her gender. “My colleagues just treat me as a colleague, except they hug me,” she said.

Although Margolis was proud of her ascent as a woman in male-dominated Tallahassee, it was not about gender alone: She had put in the hard work of learning the ropes and cultivating relationships to make that happen.

Margolis, 81, ultimately served four decades in politics before her career screeched to a halt this week when she made comments dismissing her opponents as “Haitians” in a newly drawn district where blacks make up one-third of the voters. It was an unfortunate bookend to a remarkable political career for a hard-working, intelligent and passionate public servant who trailblazed for other female politicians.

Keep reading here.

DLP vs. JJR contest in Miami-Dade begins as a tie, Democratic poll says

@ByKristenMClark

A competitive Miami-Dade state Senate seat is a toss-up with almost a third of potential voters undecided about five months ahead of the general election, according to an internal Democratic poll obtained by the Herald/Times.

In the race for the newly redrawn District 37 seat, Republican state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla is up two percentage points on Democratic state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez -- a statistical tie, since it's within the margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

The two candidates, both of whom live in Miami, officially launched their campaigns in May, though they filed for the race several months ago.

About 37 percent of those surveyed said they preferred Diaz de la Portilla, 35 percent supported Rodriguez and 29 percent were undecided, according to the polling memo. Raw data from the poll, including a list of specific questions asked, was requested but not provided.

From June 1-6, Tampa-based SEA Polling & Strategic Design surveyed 540 district voters expected to vote in the legislative contest. The poll was paid for by the Florida Democratic Party as an in-kind contribution to Rodriguez's campaign.

District 37 represents much of the city of Miami and stretches south along the coast to include Coral Gables, Key Biscayne and Cutler Bay. It leans Democratic and is heavily Hispanic.

It's one of a few Miami-Dade state Senate seats that Florida Democrats hope to win in November, which would help them narrow the Republican majority in the chamber.

But it'll be a rough battle between Diaz de la Portilla and Rodriguez.

Heading into May, Diaz de la Portilla had considerably stronger fundraising numbers than Rodriguez. (The campaigns' reports for May are due today and not available yet.)

And the sitting senator also picked up a valuable endorsement this week from the Florida chapter of AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. It's rare for labor unions to endorse Republican candidates. (AFSCME Florida also endorsed Miami Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores this week in her close contest against Democrat Andrew Korge for District 39.)

The Democratic poll for District 37 showed potential voters' party preference leans in Democrats' favor. In general, 39 percent of respondents said they would support a Democratic candidate, 35 percent said they would support a Republican candidate, 22 percent had no preference and 4 percent said they didn't know.

"We know that Miami-Dade continues to change and the poll confirms what we’ve known all along," Christian Ulvert, a campaign adviser to Rodriguez, said in a statement. "Despite almost 30 years of a Diaz de la Portilla in office in Miami-Dade, Jose Javier Rodriguez starts the race tied with Miguel Diaz de la Portilla. The residents in SD37 are very much aligned with the values and principles of Jose Javier Rodriguez and he is well-positioned to carry the district with their support."

Diaz de la Portilla found optimism in the poll, too, and was critical of his opponent.

"The reason Mr. Rodriguez can't even win in his own paid push poll is the same reason why he won't win this election: People here know he parachuted into our community a few short years ago to run for office," Diaz de la Portilla said in a text message. "My constituents will ask themselves: If he doesn't know us and doesn't share our values, how can he represent us?"

June 09, 2016

State Sen. Gwen Margolis drops out of re-election race after disparaging rivals

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@PatriciaMazzei @AmySherman1

Miami state Sen. Gwen Margolis will no longer seek re-election and instead retire in November after four decades in politics, the Democrat announced Thursday, three days after she publicly disparaged her five opponents as “three Haitians, some teacher and some lawyer.”

“My passion has been to serve the people of Florida and my commitment from day one was to make our community a better place for all,” Margolis said in a statement to the Miami Herald. “I look back at 40 years of public service with great humility and joy as I reflect on all the work we accomplished to empower people’s lives. It has been a remarkable journey and one that has allowed me to see how our county, state and nation evolved on so many issues.”

The Herald reported Tuesday that Margolis derided her rivals at a Monday night meeting of the Sunny Isles Beach Democratic Club. The executive director of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party, Juan Cuba, called on Margolis to apologize.

She didn’t — which on Wednesday prompted one of her competitors, former state Rep. Phillip Brutus, who is Haitian-American, to urge other Democratic leaders to denounce Margolis’ remarks. He also asked his fellow candidates to consider a “unity” news conference against Margolis.

Thursday morning, Margolis bowed out of the race with a retirement announcement that included praise from Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant and incoming Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens. Margolis, 81 and the longest-serving senator currently in the Florida Legislature, because the first female Senate president in 1990.

More here.

Photo credit: Steve Cannon, Associated Press