July 07, 2016

Immigration advocates urge Versailles to reconsider hosting Trump


United Families, a Miami immigration advocacy group, publicized an open letter Thursday evening urging Versailles Cuban restaurant to reconsider hosting Donald Trump's roundtable with Hispanic leaders Friday.

The same organization, whose members are immigrants in the country illegally, said it organized protesters at Trump's previous Miami event, a rally at Trump National Doral golf resort in October.

"Versailles restaurant has been for years a refuge where immigrants have come together to express our disagreement and opposition against events that have affected our community and your doors have always been open to immigrants who look for a place to share their experiences," the group wrote Versailles owner Felipe Valls. "It is for that reason that we are very disappointed that your restaurant is welcoming a person who does not sympathize with our community and effectively has used us as scapegoats in his path for power."

Trump's lunch is private, but political events at Versailles regularly draw curious onlookers, supporters and protesters. The restaurant has long opened its doors to both Republicans and Democrats, though Versailles is perhaps best known as a gathering place for hardline Cuban exiles.

Read the group's full letter below:

Continue reading "Immigration advocates urge Versailles to reconsider hosting Trump" »

Carlos Curbelo tries to attach no-fly, no-buy provision to House gun bill


On Thursday, Republican leaders in Congress indefinitely delayed a hearing on gun-control legislation spurred by last month's massacre in Orlando.

The "anti-terrorism" bill was slowed by disagreements among House Republicans over how much gun control, if any, they might accept.

Democrats staged a sit-in two weeks ago clamoring for votes on gun bills. Some Republicans want to vote too -- even if gun-control proposals have little chance of passing.

Among those is Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo. He sponsored a House companion to a Senate bill pushing so-called "no-fly, no-buy," which would prohibit people on terrorist watch lists from purchasing firearms.

After House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy filed the leadership bill, however, Curbelo turned his own proposal into an amendment to attach to McCarthy's legislation.

Just because Curbelo filed the amendment doesn't mean it will be heard, though. And with GOP infighting over gun control, it's unclear if the idea will go anywhere. Stay tuned.

Daphne Campbell's son will face Medicaid fraud retrial after August primary


Democratic state Rep. Daphne Campbell is running for Florida Senate, and she won't need to worry about her son's Medicaid fraud trial until after her primary election. 

Gregory Campbell recently had his retrial hearing pushed back to Sept. 19, a little less than three weeks after the District 38 primary election on Aug. 30.

Gregory Campbell's defense attorney, Richard Gregg, said the trial was not moved for political reasons. Campbell had a trial hearing scheduled for June 17 but court records show the defense was granted a continuance until September.

"We were looking for new evidence and into bringing in a new additional counsel," Gregg said. "It had absolutely nothing to do with Ms. Campbell." 

Gregg argued that the actual political motivations in the case lie with Attorney General Pam Bondi's office. He claimed prosecutors are trying to make an example out of Gregory Campbell because they did not find enough evidence to charge his mother.

"Years ago when [Daphne] Campbell first got elected, [Bondi] investigated her for same type of fraud," Gregg said.

Bondi is a Republican. Campbell is a Democrat. The attorney general's office declined to comment since the case is active.

In February, an appeals court ordered a new trial for Campbell after determining that a judge did not allow the jury -- which returned a guilty verdict -- to deliberate properly. That prompted an outburst by Daphne Campbell on the floor of the Florida House of Representatives. 

Gregory Campbell was initially convicted in 2013. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and forced to pay $460,893.58 in restitution. His new trial could overturn that ruling. One of his conspirators, Percival Wignall, pleaded guilty to related fraud charges. The other alleged conspirator, Enid Salmon, remains a fugitive.

"Right now we are looking for additional witnesses who will bolster our claim of innocence," Gregg said.

Both Gregory Campbell and Daphne Campbell did not respond to requests for comment.

Daphne Campbell was investigated by Bondi's office for Medicaid fraud -- and by the IRS after business associates claimed Campbell and her husband, Hubert Campbell, swindled them. Her home healthcare business was shut down by the state after three patients died. 

District 38 is a heavily Democratic seat that includes Miami Beach and North Miami. Six Democrats will compete for their party's nomination on August 30. Longtime Sen. Gwen Margolis was originally running, but she dropped out after referring to her Democratic opponents as "three Haitians, some teacher and some lawyer." Former Miami-Dade commissioner Bruce Kaplan also dropped out after incorrectly assuming he was eligible to run as a Democrat.

Trump invites Hispanic leaders to lunch at Miami's Versailles

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The question has lingered in Florida politics since Donald Trump swept the March presidential primary: How would the presumptive Republican nominee make nice with Hispanics in Miami-Dade County, the only place in the state where he lost?

The answer — or at least the beginning of it — comes Friday, when Trump will hold his first Miami campaign events in more than eight months. They will be aimed broadly at Latinos — and specifically at Cuban Americans, who have historically voted Republican but have yet to fully embrace Trump.

The New York developer has invited a group of 20-30 Hispanic community leaders — elected politicians, business people and pastors — to a casual lunch Friday at the iconic Versailles Cuban Restaurant on Southwest Eighth Street. Later, Trump will speak to a larger audience of invited guests at the DoubleTree Hotel Miami Airport & Convention Center.

Neither event is open to the general public. Trump’s goal is to start winning over Latino luminaries willing to sit down with him — and perhaps influence their circles of friends and co-workers to give Trump a chance.

“This is an opportunity for him to listen,” Karen Giorno, Trump’s senior political adviser and Florida campaign chief, said in an interview with the Miami Herald. “There are some people that, I’m not gonna lie, they don’t know him. So they only know what they’ve heard. This is their opportunity to get to know the candidate.”

More here.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, el Nuevo Herald

Trump to deliver speech Friday in Miami

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Donald Trump will deliver a speech Friday in his first visit to Miami in more than eight months.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee will speak at 2:30 p.m. at the Royal Poinciana ballroom of the DoubleTree Hotel Miami Airport & Convention Center at 711 NW 72nd Ave. His campaign posted the event on the schedule portion of Trump’s website.

“This event is closed to the general public,” the site says.

Originally billed as a “policy speech,” with its topic unclear, the campaign later updated its site to say Trump will offer “remarks.”

Earlier, Trump plans to meet with a small group of local community leaders, including politicians and fundraisers, the Miami Herald has learned.

Trump’s trip comes a little more than a week before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. He hasn’t been in Florida, the nation’s largest swing state and a key battleground for Republicans to win the presidency, since June 11, when he rallied supporters in Tampa.

The last Trump campaigned in Miami was in October, when he held a well-attended rally at his Trump National Doral golf resort.

More here.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

This post and its headline have been updated to reflect Trump's campaign is no longer billing Friday's event as a "policy" speech.

July 06, 2016

Clinton campaign manager to attend Miami office opening


Hillary Clinton's campaign manager plans to inaugurate the presumptive Democratic nominee's first Miami office.

Robby Mook will be in Wynwood on Saturday for the opening, which will take place at 11 a.m. at 2215 NW 1st Pl.

He will also be meeting privately with local leaders. Among the people his campaign has reached out to is Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a Republican in a non-partisan post who has said he won't endorse Clinton or rival Donald Trump. Gimenez has not confirmed he'll attend.

Miami gunfire victim, others push Congress to pass controls


Gun violence victims from Miami and other cities rallied outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday and demanded that Congress act on pending legislation to limit firearms sales in the wake of the Orlando massacre last month.

Wearing orange T-shirts to commemorate the 49 people murdered in Orlando and others shot to death, the activists heard rousing remarks from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. John Lewis trying to continue the momentum for gun controls sparked by an unusual overnight sit-in the civil rights icon led on the House floor two weeks ago.

“The American public deserves so much more from our nation’s leaders than constant arguing,” Antwan Reeves, a Miami-Dade Schools employee who survived an automatic-rifle attack on him and his cousin in Miami Gardens last November, told reporters and spectators at the rally.

Saying “it’s a miracle that I’m here today,” Reeves told a riveting story of how he and his cousin, St. Louis Rams receiver Stedman Bailey, were sprayed with gunfire Nov. 24 while they sat in a car at Northwest 199th Street and 38th Place. Another vehicle pulled up alongside them, and an occupant opened fire as Reeves shielded two of his children in the backseat of their car.

Reeves took 11 bullets while Bailey was shot twice in the head, but both men survived after Reeves somehow drove to Aventura Hospital and Medical Center and each underwent emergency surgery.

“The weapons used during that night of madness left behind 40 shell casings,” Reeves said at Wednesday’s demonstration. “These types of weapons should not be in possession of ordinary citizens.”

Rep. Frederica Wilson, Reeves’ representative in the House, also attended the protest.

“We’re going to need the American public and pressure from the people of this nation to help us in this battle,” Wilson told reporters after the rally.

She added: “I am tired of burying little black boys (in my community), and I even have a foundation set aside to pay for their funerals. So we’re going to fight. I’ve been in this battle for a long time, and I do not intend to give up now.”

Since the June 12 tragedy in Orlando, Republicans who control the Senate and the House have blocked mainly Democratic efforts to pass “No Fly, No Buy” legislation that would make it more difficult for people on FBI terror watch lists to purchase guns.

Reps. Carlos Curbelo of Miami-Dade and David Jolly of Indian Shores, Fla., are among a small number of Republicans who have broken with their party and pushed for those limited controls.

July 01, 2016

Donald Trump plans Miami swing as early as next week


Word's out among Miami Republicans that Donald Trump plans to campaign here soon, perhaps as early as next week.

It's unclear exactly when Trump would be in town. Karen Giorno, his newly named senior political advisor who has been heading Trump's Florida campaign, said details of the event are still in the works.

"He'll be coming back to the Miami region, probably next week," she said.

Two dates have been under consideration, July 8 and July 11, according to several local party members. It's also unclear if Trump would give a speech or hold a fundraiser -- or both.

Trump hasn't campaigned in Miami since October, when he held a well-attended, Friday-night rally at his Trump National Doral golf resort. He subsequently held a handful of events around the March 15 primary at his two other South Florida properties, Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach and Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter. Trump trounced the primary competition.

The presumptive presidential nominee last campaigned in Florida on June 11 in Tampa.

Lawsuit argues Bruce Kaplan cannot run for Florida Senate 

via @alextdaugherty

It didn't take long for someone to file a complaint against Bruce Kaplan.

Switching parties a day before the end of qualifying -- as Kaplan did -- is a no-no when it comes to running for office, and now Kaplan faces a lawsuit to get him off the ballot.

Christian Ulvert, a Democratic political consultant working for Kaplan rival Jason Pizzo, filed the lawsuit in the 11th Circuit Court of Florida on Thursday afternoon.

"On information and belief, Kaplan only changed his voter registration from Republican to Democrat in the days before filing and qualifying to run for State Senate, District 38," the suit says. "As Kaplan does not meet the requirements of 12. § 99.021 of the Florida Statutes, he can not run for State Senate as a Democrat and must be removed as a candidate."

Kaplan, 56, filed to run as a Democrat in the District 38 state senate race even though he was registered as a Republican until June 23. Election law in Florida requires candidates to switch parties one year before the start of qualifying.

"By lying on his party loyalty oath and failing to disclose that he was not a member of the Democratic Party until the day before the qualifying period ended, Bruce Kaplan has shown a clear disregard for the law and complete disrespect to all the voters in Senate District 38," Ulvert said in a statement.

Kaplan, a former Miami-Dade county commissioner, is one of seven Democrats who qualified for the heavily Democratic seat that includes Miami Beach and North Miami.

He resigned from his commission seat in 1998 after pleading no contest to charges of falsifying his financial disclosure forms in 1993 and 1994. Kaplan's wife, Janitza Kaplan, unsuccessfully ran in the special election to replace her husband.

"In order to cause as little disruption to our Supervisor of Elections as possible, I have instructed my attorney to move swiftly in order to ensure this matter is resolved before the ballots are printed and further harm is inflicted on our voters," Ulvert said.


June 30, 2016

Hillary Clinton's campaign makes Miami hires


Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign has hired a couple of staffers in Miami familiar with local Democratic politics, the Miami Herald has learned.

Raul Martinez Jr. will work as Clinton's Florida director of coalitions, and Johanna Cervone as her Miami regional press secretary, according to a campaign source. Other Florida staffers are expected to join the campaign in coming weeks.

Martinez is former chief of staff for ex-U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia. Prior to that, he worked as Florida Hispanic vote director for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. He is the son of former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez.

Cervone was most recently communications director for Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, whose 2014 election was one of local Democrats' biggest recent wins. Before getting into politics and community organizing, Cervone taught Spanish and Portuguese at the university level. She grew up in Miami and is originally from Argentina.

No word yet on where Clinton will open a local campaign office for her Miami staff.