August 20, 2017

Lopez-Cantera won't run for Congress

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@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has decided not to run for Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat in Congress, though he may seek another office in 2020.

“We have decided that being a candidate in 2018 is not what’s best for our family,” Lopez-Cantera, who is married and has two young daughters, said in a statement.

He pledged to remain involved in politics and suggested he could launch a future candidacy for an unnamed position. He’s considered a possible contender to become Miami-Dade County’s next mayor.

“There is still a lot of work to be done and I will continue to look for ways to be a part of the solution,” he said. “I may run for public office again, but not in 2018.”

Instead of jumping into the race for Florida’s 27th congressional district, Lopez-Cantera said he will complete his term as lieutenant governor, which ends next year. He’s No. 2 to Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

“I will also be supporting candidates and causes that lower the cost of government on our citizens, such as the upcoming constitutional amendment for an additional homestead exemption,” said Lopez-Cantera, the former Miami-Dade property appraiser.

More here.

Photo credit: Walter Michot, Miami Herald file

August 19, 2017

What the 2018 congressional campaign looks like in 2017

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@PatriciaMazzei

The exasperated man answered the door of his West Kendall home, annoyed at being interrupted from work and hollering at his furry little dog, Sacha, who had rushed to sniff out the unexpected visitors: a pair of high school volunteers holding clipboards and a stack of political fliers.

The volunteers promised they had only three questions. Had he heard of his congressman, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo? (He had.) Which issue — tax reform, the economy, the environment — mattered most to him? (Lower taxes.) Was he familiar with Curbelo’s efforts to combat climate change?

“I don’t believe in that,” the man said in Spanish. “That’s a lie. That’s just normal, in nature.”

The volunteers said thank you. The man picked up his dog and shut the door.

This is what the 2018 campaign looks like — in 2017.

Fifteen months before next year’s congressional midterm elections, political organizations are already involved in field operations, making calls to voters and knocking on their doors in what has become a never-ending campaign cycle.

And in this case, the volunteers sweltering under the summer sun don’t even work for Curbelo.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

Taddeo denounces GOP ad that casts her as apologist for Castro, FARC

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@PatriciaMazzei @AmySherman1

Democratic Senate candidate Annette Taddeo has denounced as false an explosive Spanish-language radio ad from Florida Republicans casting her as — wait for it — a tax-hiker, job-offshorer, Colombian-guerrilla sympathizer and Fidel Castro apologist.

The ad reflects a tried-and-true campaign tack in Miami politics: paint your opponent as soft on Cuba, or soft on Communism.

Particularly offensive to Taddeo is the suggestion that she wanted to “legitimize” the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Taddeo was born in Colombia and fled as a teenager after the FARC captured her father, an American military veteran, at the family ranch.

“How dare my opponent, lobbyist Jose Felix Diaz, use our community’s painful history for political gain?” Taddeo said in a statement. “My father was kidnapped by the FARC and my family had to flee Colombia because of our safety.”

She will face Diaz, a state representative, and independent candidate Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth in the special Sept. 26 Senate District 40 election to replace Republican Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned in disgrace in April. 

The ad claims that “when [former President Barack] Obama insisted on a peace plan in Colombia that would legitimize the FARC, Taddeo put partisanship over everything else to support it.”

More here.

Listen to the radio ad here.

Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff

August 16, 2017

Ex-Miami-Dade elections worker will get house arrest for voter fraud

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via @DavidOvalle305

Everybody agreed: When Gladys Coego covertly filled in other people’s absentee ballots while working at the Miami-Dade elections headquarters, she chipped away at the integrity of the voting system.

But at 74 years old, Coego is elderly, diabetic and depressed, her relatives told a judge on Wednesday.

She had no previous criminal record. And nobody – not detectives, prosecutors and or even Coego herself – could say why she filled in the ballots. She had no known ties to any campaign, there was no evidence anyone paid her and she illegally filled only a few ballots before being spotted. Yet her small-time case led to bigly national headlines, coming as then-candidate Donald Trump railed about widespread national voter fraud.

“Emotionally, I am destroyed,” Coego said in Spanish. “I have no explanation for what I have done .... no one offered me anything in exchange for what I did.”

For those reasons, a Miami-Dade judge on Wednesday declined to sentenced Coego to jail, instead ordering her to serve two years of house arrest, plus three years of probation. 

Circuit Judge Alberto Milián acknowledged “there is a perception in this community that there is a lack of integrity in the election process, especially in the issue of absentee ballots.”

“This appears to be an isolated incident,” Milián said, adding: “I don't want to make this defendant a poster child or scapegoat for the perceived inequities of the system.”

More here.

In Florida senate race, Democrats mislead in attack on GOP candidate and Trump's Obamacare repeal plan

DiazTrumpselfie

@amysherman1

Florida Democrats are trying to attach President Donald Trump to the Republican in a Miami state Senate race seen as a crucial battleground.

Millions of dollars are expected to be spent on the race between former Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democrat Annette Taddeo for Senate District 40. The Sept. 26 special election was called to replace Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned after using sexist and racist language.

The Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the state Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, released a new TV ad featuring Taddeo. It links Diaz to Trump’s support for repealing Obamacare — using a photo of Diaz and Trump together at the inauguration as more proof of their lockstep bond.

"Jose Felix Diaz supports Trump's every move including his plan to slash Medicare, charge older Americans an age tax and cut coverage for pre-existing conditions," states the ad.

The ad is referencing Trump’s plan to repeal Obamacare and is a nod to efforts in the U.S. House and Senate to repeal and replace the law.

Diaz was a consistent vote against the Affordable Care Act as a statehouse member, even though his actions could not influence the federal law. But the ad exaggerates the support Diaz lent to the U.S. House and Senate legislation this year. He has mostly been quiet on the issue.

More here from PolitiFact Florida.

August 15, 2017

Curbelo: After Charlottesville, Trump should marginalize Bannon, Miller

@PatriciaMazzei

President Donald Trump should stop listening to two top White House aides who want to "accommodate" white nationalist groups, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo said after the weekend's deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Curbelo did not go as far as to call for Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist and senior counselor, and Stephen Miller, Trump's senior adviser for policy, to be fired. But he told CNN the two men should be "marginalized," and the president should give more weight to other advisers, such as new Chief of Staff John Kelly.

"'Alt-right' is about white nationalism. It's about racism. It is about dividing this country," Curbelo said on CNN's "Out Front" with Erin Burnett on Monday. "And regrettably, there are members of the president's staff who at least believe that this movement should be accommodated."

Curbelo named Bannon and Miller and blamed them for Trump's initial "lack of clarity" in his response to the Charlottesville clashes.

"I'm not saying these people are racists," Curbelo said. "I'm not saying they want to advance a racist agenda. But it is pretty clear they think these people should be accommodated." 

Curbelo was one of many Republicans to slam Trump for failing to forcefully denounce white supremacists Saturday. Trump only did so, with apparent reluctance, on Monday.

"Better late than never," Curbelo told CNN. "I'm glad the president came out and called evil by name." But he said he remained "concerned with that glaring omission from Saturday."

"He needs to take steps to make sure things like this never happen again," Curbelo said.

On Wednesday, Trump went back to blaming the violence on "both sides:" neo-Nazis and white supremacists and racists but also their counter-protesters.

He left Bannon's future in question.

"He is not a racist, I can tell you that," Trump told reporters. "We'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon. But he's a good person" who gets treated "unfairly" by the press, he said.

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen began calling for Bannon's ouster in April.

Curbelo heads to Reagan Ranch in California to make tax-reform pitch

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@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo is headed to a storied site for Republicans -- former President Ronald Reagan's California ranch -- to help the House GOP make its tax-reform pitch.

Curbelo will join Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas and other lawmakers at Rancho del Cielo in Santa Barbara on Wednesday. Brady chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax policy. Curbelo is the only South Florida legislator on the panel -- which makes him the most prominent local voice on the issue.

It's not the sexiest of political topics, Curbelo readily acknowledges: "It's easy for this issue to become a technical issue."

Republicans intend to return from their August congressional recess and push tax reform, moving on from their failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. A super PAC tied to House Speaker Paul Ryan is already running ads in Curbelo's district urging a tax-code rewrite. His votes will be closely watched by Democrats, who consider Curbelo's Westchester-to-Key West 26th district a top 2018 target.

The most contentious tax question for Republicans so far has been whether to support a 20 percent tax on imports into the country -- the so-called Border Adjustment Tax. Ads have asked Curbelo to oppose it.

Curbelo said tax reform already taken up most of his time in Washington this year, in part because he's had to master the complexities of tax policy.

"Most of what I knew about taxes was how to file them," he said.

Since then, he's tried to simplify the issue by filming YouTube videos in English and Spanish outside a Miami coffee window -- a ventanita. His line? "Tax reform is about people."

Wednesday's event is intended to recall tax reform passed under Reagan, the last major overhaul of the code. Curbelo's piece will be proposing more targeted child tax credits and a larger standard deduction, two changes the GOP says will save families money. Curbelo has also filed legislation to permanently extend IRS tax-prep services for low-income filers, and and to allow marijuana businesses to benefit from tax deductions and credits.

Ahead of Wednesday's talk, Curbelo tried to frame the discussion as a big-picture economic question.

"I actually look at a lot of the pessimism and anger and even some of the violence in our country, and I attribute at least part of it to the fact that we've been growing at a very slow rate for the last decade-plus," he said. "People are hopeless. A lot of people feel like they don't have the opportunities, or have a prosperous future in this country, so they are resentful and they look for scapegoats."

"My big goal in tax reform is to make people happy in this country," he said. "I think we achieve that by getting to 3 percent growth through tax reform and tax simplification and tax reduction."

Photo credit: José A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

August 13, 2017

Venezuelan lawmaker may have issued death order against Rubio

Trump Russia Probe
@PatriciaMazzei

One of Venezuela’s most powerful leaders may have put out an order to kill Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a fervent critic of the South American country’s government, according to intelligence obtained by the U.S. last month.

Though federal authorities couldn’t be sure at the time if the uncorroborated threat was real, they took it seriously enough that Rubio has been guarded by a security detail for several weeks in both Washington and Miami.

Believed to be behind the order: Diosdado Cabello, the influential former military chief and lawmaker from the ruling socialist party who has publicly feuded with Rubio.

At a July 19 Senate hearing, the same day he was first spotted with more security, Rubio repeated his line that Cabello — who has long been suspected by U.S. authorities of drug trafficking — is “the Pablo Escobar of Venezuela.” A week ago on Twitter, Cabello dubbed the senator “Narco Rubio.”

The death threat was outlined in a memo to several law enforcement agencies disseminated last month by the Department of Homeland Security. The memo, designated “law enforcement sensitive” but not classified, was obtained by the Miami Herald.

More here.

Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

August 10, 2017

Florida Democrats release first TV ad for Taddeo in Miami Senate race. It's all about Trump

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Democrats are going up on TV first in a special Miami Senate election, trying to portray Republican Jose Felix Diaz as a lackey of President Donald Trump.

The spot by the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee begins with Trump on the TV -- and Democrat Annette Taddeo turning it off.

"Families are too busy to worry about this drama," she says, rattling off a list of education and especially health care issues she argues are more important to voters. "But Jose Felix Diaz supports Trump's every move."

Ballots don't go out til later this month for the Sept. 26 election for Senate District 40. But Republicans far outraised Democrats in the primary, and got more of their voters to the polls -- suggesting Democrats had some catching up to do ahead of the general. 

"This is going to be a close race," incoming Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Clemens said in a statement.

During the primary, all three Republicans vying for the GOP nomination campaigned on their Trump connections to appeal to base voters with whom the president remains quite popular. But that left Diaz, the eventual winner, vulnerable to Trump attacks in the general.

August 09, 2017

Jeb Bush ends joint pursuit to by Miami Marlins baseball team

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via @flasportsbuzz

Former New York Yankees star Derek Jeter and Miami businessman Jorge Mas have made progress in assembling the financing needed to buy the Marlins, but the Wayne Rothbaum/Jeb Bush group has quietly exited the race, multiple industry sources told the Miami Herald over the past three days.

The reason for Rothbaum’s decision to stop his pursuit of the team was not immediately clear, but an associate indicated he grew impatient with the process after bidding $1.17 billion for the team.

His remaining investors - including Bush and Shoney’s CEO David Davidpour - could not go on without him because Rothbaum was the primary money man. Another of their partners, Massachusetts businessman Tagg Romney, previously left their group.

Rothbaum, a billionaire with homes in New York and Delray Beach, declined to comment.

His departure leaves Jeter and Mas as the only remaining bidders for the Marlins.

More here.

Photo credit: Phil Coale, AP file