December 07, 2016

Miami mayor: I'd sign Rahm Emanuel's DACA letter to Trump


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a surprising visit Wednesday to Trump Tower, where the Democrat and former White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama hand-delivered to President-elect Donald Trump a letter signed by a total of 18 big-city mayors around the country.

The subject: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program Obama created by executive action protecting immigrants brought into the country illegally as children, often called Dreamers.

"DACA makes our communities and country safer -- both in terms of national security and public safety," says the letter, signed by Emanuel and mayors such as Bill de Blasio of New York, Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Marty Walsh of Boston and Sylvester Turner of Houston.

Notably absent: any mayor from South Florida, one of the most immigrant-rich regions in the country.

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said that's because he wasn't asked to sign.

Regalado, a Republican, did not back Trump.

Emanuel told reporters at Trump Tower that young people protected by DACA shouldn't be targeted after having notified the federal government in good faith of their identity and whereabouts -- one of the top concerns among DACA recipients.

"They're trying to achieve the American Dream. It's no fault of their own their parents came here," Emanuel said. "We should embrace them, rather than do a bait-and-switch."

Emanuel said he also defended sanctuary cities to Trump, who has pledged to do away with federal funding for municipalities that fail to cooperate with federal immigration detentions. Miami-Dade acts as a de facto sanctuary county, though Mayor Carlos Gimenez has tried to argue that the county is not formally a sanctuary because it's only trying to save money, not make a political statement.

A full story on the letter and Regalado and Gimenez has been posted here.

December 06, 2016

Miami-Dade Democrats pick leaders amid political drama over Florida party

IMG_IMG_bullard_2_1_2Q9NPIEJ_L269366158@PatriciaMazzei @AmySherman1

The most momentous election in recent memory for Miami-Dade County Democratic Party ended late Tuesday after more than three hours of political wrangling that could determine the future of the Florida Democratic Party.

At stake at the reorganization meeting were not only the reins of Miami-Dade’s Democratic Executive Committee — but also the chances that a deep-pocketed donor might find a way to run for the far more powerful position of chairman of the state party, which has been reeling since its drubbing in the Nov. 8 election.

Juan Cuba, until recently the local party’s executive director, won the Miami-Dade chairman’s post. Dotie Joseph, a former North Miami Beach assistant city attorney, became vice-chairwoman. Business consultant Bret Berlin was reelected state committeeman without opposition. Francesca Menes, policy director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, became the new state committeewoman.

Outgoing chairman and state Sen. Dwight Bullard, who chose not to seek reelection to his party post after losing his state seat last month, wanted the vice-chair position. But party rules require the vice-chair to be a woman if the chair is a man (and vice versa), so Bullard’s bid was made moot by Cuba’s win. Bullard was nominated for the committeeman post, too, but lost to Berlin.

The biggest intrigue, however, was over a man who wasn’t even listed on the ballot: Stephen Bittel, a Coconut Grove developer and major Democratic fundraiser.

Bittel wants to head the Florida Democratic Party. The wrinkle: Only party members elected to county posts are eligible to run for state chairman. And Bittel wasn’t eligible for a county post because party rules make those seats available only to precinct chairmen — and Bittel wasn’t one of them.

So what’s a well-heeled donor quietly backed by big-name Democrats to do? Hope he can cut a deal.

More here.

Photo credit: Steve Cannon, AP

Stephen Bittel says he hasn't struck deals with Miami Dade Democratic candidates


Stephen Bittel said he hasn't asked any Democrats running for leadership positions in Miami-Dade to agree to step aside if they win to make way for him to run for a county position, a prerequisite to run for Florida Democratic Party chair.

"I don't even know who is going to win," he said Tuesday afternoon, a couple hours before the vote for several leadership positions within the Miami-Dade Democratic Party. "It would be an exercise in frustration at this point."

However he said if the county leadership can create a path for him "I am willing to serve."

Bittel said he spoke to Sen. Bill Nelson several weeks ago about his interest in the state chair position. He said they discussed if there was a path for Bittel to run that they would have a conversation about it at that time.

"Until I become eligible there is not a lot to talk about," he said.

Nelson, the only statewide Democrat, hasn't said publicly who he will support for state chair but it's likely he will weigh in at some point after Miami-Dade activists vote for their leaders tonight.

Bittel, a Coconut Grove developer, is a major contributor to federal, state and local races and political groups. After the Nov. 8th election, Florida Democratic Party chair Allison Tant announced she wouldn't run again in January setting off a long list of interested candidates. 






Annette Taddeo Goldstein says if she wins Miami-Dade Democratic Party spot she won't step aside for Stephen Bittel



Annette Taddeo Goldstein says she is running for Miami-Dade Democratic Party vice chair tonight and says if she win she won't step aside for Stephen Bittel, the wealthy Coconut Grove developer some Democrats want to run for state party chair.

Taddeo Goldstein quietly withdrew from the race for state committeewoman a few days ago and didn't respond to questions about her plans until today when she confirmed she will run for vice chair.

There were rumors that Taddeo Goldstein planned to run and had agreed that if she won she would drop out to allow for a new election to fill a vacancy which would allow Bittel to run. According to the rules, he isn't eligible to run for Florida Democratic Party chair since he holds no position with the county party right now. 

But Taddeo Goldstein, a past county party chair, said that Bittel had not asked her to step aside.

"There is no deal," she said. "Nobody asked me to step aside."

In an email to fellow Democrats Tuesday afternoon, Taddeo Goldstein wrote:

"During the time that it is most critical for us to work together to defeat the GOP’s hateful agenda, I have instead seen infighting, backstabbing and lies being spread to manipulate our State and local party’s elections. There’s been lies about my not running for state committeewoman because of some kind of deal.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The truth is I decided not to run for committeewoman because I was sickened by all of this. If we want our party to be successful, we have to stop the infighting, the backstabbing, etc. We have to start focusing our efforts on defeating the GOP, instead of defeating our fellow democrats."

Taddeo Goldstein, an unsuccessful candidate for Congress and lieutenant governor, said she may run for Florida Democratic Party chair.

"I have not ruled that out," she said. 

About 200 Democrats in Miami-Dade will elect a chair, vice chair, and state committeeman and woman tonight. The election has created much turmoil and drama as various candidates have dropped in and out of races and activists have battled on social media and in emails. 

It's unclear if any of the candidates have agreed to drop out for Bittel. Bret Berlin, the current state committeeman seeking re-election, and Juan Cuba, one of nine chair candidates, both said if they win they will remain in the position.

The outcome in Miami-Dade matters statewide because the committeemen and women in each county get to vote on the Florida Democratic Party chair in January. The activists vote based on a formula set according to the number of registered Democrats in each county which means that Miami-Dade and Broward have a powerful voice.

There are a long list of potential candidates for the Florida Democratic Party chair including Dwight Bullard, who lost his re-election for state Senate and Susannah Randolph, former district director for U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson.


December 04, 2016

Annette Taddeo Goldstein drops out of Miami Dade Democratic Party race



Annette Taddeo Goldstein is no longer running for a Miami-Dade Democratic Party leadership position.

Taddeo's name is no longer on the online roster of candidates for the election Tuesday. She had previously said she would run for state committeewoman, a position that holds a powerful vote in the selection of the next Florida Democratic Party chair in January.

Taddeo didn't respond to a text message or voicemail today asking why she is no longer running and if this means she has ruled out running for Florida Democratic Party chair. Taddeo lost a Democratic primary for Congress to former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia in August and in 2014 was former Gov. Charlie Crist's running mate for governor in his unsuccessful attempt to defeat Gov. Rick Scott.

On Tuesday, about 200 county Democratic activists will elect a new chair, state committeeman and committee woman and other leaders. The key question on Tuesday will be what sort of maneuvering Democrats may do in an attempt to make it possible for Stephen Bittel, a prolific fundraiser and Coconut Grove developer, to run for state chair. (Multiple candidates are considering running for chair.)

Currently Bittel is not a precinct committeeman, a prerequisite for the statewide position. Bittel told the Miami Herald in November that he "might" run but he has been working the phones among Democrats which suggests that he will run if it's possible. Democrats are eager to elect a new chair who can bring in big bucks and increase turnout in 2018 to protect Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida's only statewide Democrat.

So far, Nelson has been publicly mum about his pick for state chair but look for him to possibly weigh in after Miami-Dade elects its leaders. Since Nelson could face millionaire Scott, he will certainly want a chair who can help him compete with fundraising.

State committeemen and women across Florida will elect a new chair in January to replace Allison Tant. They vote according to a formula based on the number of registered Democrats in their county which means that Miami-Dade and Broward get the highest number of votes.

Broward Democrats elected new leaders Saturday.





December 02, 2016

Nine Democrats to compete for Miami-Dade Democratic Party chair



Sen. Dwight Bullard won’t run for chair again of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party but still plans to run for Florida Democratic Party chair.

Bullard will run for county party vice chair against activist Rubin Young

On Tuesday, about 200 members of the county party who represent their precincts will gather to elect a chair, vice chair and other leaders. (Here is the full roster of who is running.)

The outcome has ramifications for the state’s party leadership. The county party will also elect a state committeeman and committee woman and those two individuals will get to vote on the Florida Democratic Party chair in January. Across the state, the committeemen and women vote according to a formula based on the number of registered Democrats in the county which means that Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach carry considerable weight.

Here’s a look at the candidates running for positions in Miami-Dade:

State committeeman:

  • Bret Berlin: A business consultant, Berlin has served as the chair for 12 years and is former Miami-Dade chairman and supported Hillary Clinton during the primary. He says he hasn’t seen the DEC membership this low. “It's disappointing so few people are engaged -- it means we have to do much better job as a party to regain trust miami dade electorate and rebuild this party.”

(Any voting member can nominate himself or herself from the floor so it is possible he will face a competitor.)

State committeewoman:

  • Francesca Menes: She lost a race for state house in 2016 and is running for a state house race in 2018.
  • Annette Taddeo Goldstein: She has lost multiple races, most recently for Congress to former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia. Taddeo Goldstein has been mentioned as a potential state party chair candidate but didn’t respond to the Herald this week about whether she will definitely run. She is currently vice chair of the Florida Democratic Party and a past chair of the Miami-Dade party.
  • Elizabeth Judd: A retired AFSCME union business agent, Judd is a longtime DEC member.
  • Bess McElroy: A retired city of Miami personnel administrator, she unsuccessfully ran for state house twice. In the past she has served as vice chair and was the interim chair a few times.

The other two candidates are Mae Christian, Elizabeth Rodriguez and Elizabeth Washington-Wells who are also running for chair.

The other candidates for chair are:

  • Dr. Leonarda Duran: She is president of the Miami-Dade Democratic Hispanic Caucus and works as a therapist/life coach.
  • Tony Diaz: He runs an ad agency and is running for Miami City Commission in 2017.
  • Millie Herrera: She is a former appointee of President Barack Obama to the U.S. Department of Labor and a former chair of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida. She owns a public relations firm.
  • Rafael Velasquez: He lost a race for state house in 2002. Velasquez, a real estate broker, said he was on the national finance committee for Clinton.
  • Juan Cuba: He resigned as director of the Miami-Dade Democrats after the Nov. 8th election.
  • Fred Frost: Former president of the South Florida AFL-CIO and works for CWA International Union.
  • Ernesto Fernandez

This post has been updated to reflect additional candidates who signed up to run or switched races.

November 28, 2016

Miami Lakes councilman opens campaign account for 2018 state House bid


Miami Lakes Councilman Frank Mingo will seek a seat in the Florida Legislature in two years.

Mingo filed paperwork last week with the Division of Elections to run as a Republican for the House District 103 seat. Current Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, is in his third term and plans to run for state Senate in 2018.

Although Mingo is the first to file for the seat, he is likely to have the backing of powerful House Republicans. He works as the supply chain manager for the Oliva Cigar Company -- the business of Miami Lakes Republican Rep. Jose Oliva, who is in line to take over as House speaker in 2018.

Mingo has lived in Miami Lakes since 1986 and has been a town councilman since 2013. Launching a campaign account now allows Mingo to begin raising money.

Photo credit:

November 26, 2016

With Castro's death, Miami politicians spy opening for Trump to adopt Cuba hard line

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@PatriciaMazzei @doug_hanks

In Miami, the city where candidates built their careers on stridently resisting the Cuban dictatorship, Fidel Castro’s death marked the end of a political era — and, Cuban-American members of Congress hoped, the start of a new one, with reinvigorated support for a hardline policy under President-elect Donald Trump.

Republican politicians, some of them still uneasy about a Trump presidency, confidently declared Saturday that his incoming administration, set to begin less than two months from Castro’s unexpected demise, represents the best hope for the Cuban opposition — assuming Trump fulfills his campaign promise to sever the Cuba ties reestablished by President Barack Obama.

“President-elect Trump has correctly stated that Obama’s overtures to the Castro regime were one-sided and only benefited the Cuban regime,” said U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, who wrote in Jeb Bush’s name for president instead of voting for Trump.

“I hope that the new administration, under the leadership of President Trump, seizes this moment as an opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to the Cuban people that it will pressure the Castro regime by rolling back these executive actions of the Obama administration.”

Trump’s candidacy had managed to pull together a majority of Cuban-American voters, according to exit polls — but not necessarily their elected leaders, who denounced Trump’s rhetoric on immigrants, especially Hispanics, and reported business interest in Cuba. Castro’s death late Friday appeared to do more to consolidate his standing among Miami’s Cuban-American political establishment than anything he said during the campaign.

More here.

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

November 21, 2016

Oscar Braynon, Lauren Book named Florida Senate Democrats' top leaders



A longtime legislator from Miami Gardens will lead the Democrats of the Florida Senate for the next two years.

Sen. Oscar Braynon’s ascension to Senate minority leader was made official Monday evening in advance of Tuesday’s organizational session for the 2016-18 Legislature. He’s now in charge of a 15-member Democratic caucus, of which 11 are newly elected senators.

“I’m happy to be taking on that role,” Braynon said. “We’re going to have a bunch of blank slates when it comes to what happens in the Senate. There’s a lot of potential there.”

One of those newcomers is freshman Broward County Sen. Lauren Book, whom the Democratic caucus also unanimously elected as Braynon’s No. 2 in the role of Senate Democratic leader pro tempore.

Book, of Plantation, is a prominent advocate for victims of childhood sexual abuse and the founder and CEO of Aventura-based Lauren’s Kids. She is also the daughter of powerful Tallahassee lobbyist Ron Book, whom she called “her best friend, rock and mentor.”

Although the Republican majority in the Senate will drive the agenda, Braynon said his goal as minority leader is to continue pushing for Democratic priorities, such as equal pay for women and raising the minimum wage, protecting the environment, improving access to health care and strengthening public education.

Read more.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

Florida Republicans to launch conservative coalition for immigration reform


A group of Florida Republicans including two who were critical of Donald Trump will launch a conservative coalition that will make an economic argument in favor of immigration reform.

Floridians for Immigration Solutions will hold their kickoff event at Hialeah City Hall at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

“The effort is one of a dozen statewide conservative coalitions calling for a responsible solution to the country’s broken immigration system that secures the border, grows the economy, and recognizes that America cannot and should not engage in mass deportations of millions of productive members of society,” states a press release.

Trump made a series of immigration-related promises including that he would turn off the “jobs and benefits magnet” that attracts immigrants who come to the United States illegally. His  immigration plan also includes building a wall on the Mexican border, deporting criminals and ending Obama’s executive actions including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Trump has something in common with some Florida business owners: he has used H-2B visas to import temporary foreign workers at his Mar-A-Lago resort.

The coalition leaders include four Republican past or present politicians: Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez, State Sen. René García, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Juan Zapata and former State Rep. J.C. Planas. The coalition also includes business leaders Julio Fuentes, CEO of the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Mandy Llanes, chair of the Hialeah Chamber of Commerce.

Planas backed libertarian Gary Johnson but said on election day he wrote in former Gov. Jeb Bush’s name. He said the coalition will make an economic case about the need for immigration reform.

“The message of this is immigrants are not just an important part of our country -- immigrants are an important part of the economy,” Planas told the Miami Herald. “For all Americans to prosper and for us to keep the economy growing we have to make any immigration solution be as positive for economy as possible. We cannot let any sort of xenophobic feelings cause us to harm the economic recovery of the country.”

Garcia criticized Trump after he said that a judge in the Trump University case couldn’t be fair because the judge was of Mexican descent and Trump wants to build a border wall.

"These demeaning words seek to divide the country among racial lines, and that is simply contrary to the American values that have made our country great,” Garcia said in June. “It is shameful that Mr. Trump is using his public profile to force pressure on a reputable member of the federal judiciary to affect the outcome of a private civil matter. Republican or Democrat, black or white, we must stand in solidarity and denounce these blatantly racist remarks."

Hernandez, who told the Miami Herald that he voted for Trump, said he wants a path to legal status for certain undocumented immigrants. He said he wants the Trump administration to pursue: "a path to securing our border, restructuring the U.S. immigration system in a manner that supports economic growth, discourages illegal immigration, and creates a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants who are not a threat and are productive members of society."

The coalition is an initiative of the New American Economy, a bipartisan effort calling for immigration reform. The New American Economy is working toward having similar coalitions nationwide -- this is the first one in Florida.

“Our basic reason for being is to make the case of how immigration helps America and helps the economy,” said Jeremy Robbins, executive director of the New American Economy. “We want diverse political voices. It’s no secret the Republicans control everything, that is the reason why we are lifting up conservative voices now.”