July 17, 2017

Hard-charging Diaz de la Portilla finally debates in Miami Senate race


For 12 minutes Sunday, voters in Miami-Dade's state Senate District 40 finally got to see all three Republican candidates face off, for the first time, just nine days before the special July 25 primary election.

Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and attorney Lorenzo Palomares had participated in forums during the campaign. But former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla waited until Sunday to make his debut. And he picked the biggest stage to do so: WPLG-ABC 10's "This Week in South Florida," which hosted the only televised candidate forum in the race.

Diaz de la Portilla made the most of his air time, landing a couple of zingers directed at younger lawmakers -- read: Diaz.

"Tallahassee and the Florida Senate needs some maturity," said Diaz de la Portilla, who has decried what he calls the "House-ification" of the Senate. "We've seen a lot of petulant children: The Florida House members have messed things up."

Even when put on the defensive, Diaz de la Portilla attacked. When co-anchor Michael Putney mentioned political action committees engaging in negative campaigning, Diaz de la Portilla noted his own campaign account funds his ads -- a jab at Diaz, who's been backed by outside groups.

"I put my name on it," Diaz de la Portilla said. "I don't hide behind special-interest groups. I do it like men do it."

Asked about his 2012 misdemeanor arrest in Boston, which the Miami Herald reported earlier this month, Diaz de la Portilla called the incident "a mistake that happened five years ago, totally irrelevant to this campaign."

"I've proven my temperament and my judgment over all those years serving the public," he said. "There are much more important issues in this campaign that we have to deal with."

Diaz, his chief opponent, agreed.

"He raised taxes," Diaz said. "People care more about that than personal issues."

"That's an outright lie," Diaz de la Portilla shot back. "I never voted to raise taxes."

Palomares, who could barely get a word in, cut in.

"Nobody has attacked me!" he said.

Diaz was the lone candidate on stage to defend his vote this lawmaking session for House Bill 7069, controversial legislation signed by Gov. Rick Scott that among other things directed more public dollars to privately managed charter schools.

"It was a bill that came in at the last point," Diaz said. "The only alternative was to vote against it, but there were good things."

Palomares questioned the constitutionality of assisting for-profit charter schools and said he would've voted against. 

"It was terrible," Diaz de la Portilla declared. "It was a 276-page bill dropped on the desk of all legislators two days before session ended. They promised us transparency. They promised us open government. They promised to tell us the truth. What they did is, they did it in the shadows."

Diaz got one jab in: He accused Diaz de la Portilla of allowing Tallahassee to end the "district cost differential" aid to public schools that benefited Miami-Dade. Diaz de la Portilla denied his involvement, though he was a close lieutenant of former Senate President Jim King, whose political legacy was in part eliminating the DCD.

An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated in the headline that the Senate race is for a House seat.

Jeb Bush cuts radio ad for Miami House candidate


Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is featured in a new Spanish-language radio ad for Jose Mallea, a former Bush aide running for state House in Miami.

"Jose Mallea is a trusted friend that's going to defend us," Bush, who is bilingual, says. "Jose will use his Republican values to work for you in the Florida Legislature. That's why I am asking you yo vote for Jose on July 25."

Mallea, a brewery owner who faces attorney Daniel Perez in the Republican primary, a nasty affair riddled with accusations and even a lawsuit between the two candidates.

Bush endorsed Mallea early in the race.

Listen to the ad.

Biden to appear at Miami Book Fair

Joebidenvia @OgleConnie

At last year’s Miami Book Fair, the impossible ticket to get was the one that got you in to see 2016 presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders.

This year, another politician promises to be the fair’s rock star: Former Vice President Joe Biden will make an appearance.

Biden will be in town for his American Promise Tour, during which he’ll talk about his memoir “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose” (Flatiron, $27). The book, due out Nov. 14, will not only touch on the big political moments of Biden’s life, including his work with President Barack Obama, but will also deal with the loss of his son Beau, who died at 46 of brain cancer, and how Biden is finding new purpose in a troubled political time.

Details about Biden’s appearance and ticket sales haven’t been formalized yet, but there is one thing we know: the former vice president is not the fair’s opening night speaker. This year the fair kicks off with journalist Dan Rather, who will talk about his new book with Elliot Kirshner, “What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism” (Algonquin, $22.95). Last year’s opening night speaker was “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah.

The annual “Evenings With...” programs aren’t entirely fleshed out yet, but a few names are confirmed: MSNBC’s Laurence O’Donnell, singer and National Book Award winner Patti Smith and novelist Isabelle Allende.

Other confirmed authors for the week include Armistead Maupin, Edwidge Danticat, Richard Blanco, Bill McKibben, Michael Eric Dyson, Lisa See, Min Jin Lee, Gene Yang, Robert Haas, Victor Hernandez Cruz and Pete Souza, President Obama’s official photographer.

No word on when tickets will go on sale, but as always the best way to get first crack at them is to become a member of the fair, which runs Nov. 12-19 at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave. in downtown Miami.


Photo credit: David Lienemann, The White House

July 12, 2017

In Miami senate race, mailer says Donald Trump endorsed Jose Felix Diaz -- but read the fine print

Diaz Trump mail

Diaz mailingone


A mailer in a Miami senate race says that Donald Trump has only backed one of the candidates, but voters will have to read the fine print to figure out when Trump supported state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.

It appears that Trump supported Diaz in his previous bids for state house years before Trump's successful bid for president.

"Only one candidate in Senate District 40 has been endorsed twice by Donald Trump," states one side of the mailer, showing a photo of Trump and Diaz smiling together giving the thumbs up sign. 

The other side of the mailer states "Jose Felix Diaz supports Donald Trump" and shows a photo of Diaz, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. The mailer displays a note written by Trump on an invoice: "Jose -- Good Luck -- we are all proud of you -- you will win!" 

If you read the fine print of the invoice, it shows a date of June 2012. State campaign finance records show that Trump donated $500 to Diaz's house race in July 2012 (as well as an earlier race in March 2009.)

Note that the mailer doesn't say President Donald Trump but only says Donald Trump -- another sign that as president, Trump isn't supporting any candidates in the Miami senate race.

The White House didn't want to weigh in on this mailer, but it would be unusual for a president to endorse in a state legislative race even though Diaz and Trump know each other.

Diaz was once a contestant on Trump's "The Apprentice" reality show. Also, Diaz was interviewed as a potential Miami U.S. attorney candidate for Trump's administration. Earlier in the race, Diaz deleted a twitter photo of himself with President Trump after he was aggressively trolled online.  

Diaz faces former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and attorney Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck in the special July 25 Republican primary election to replace State Sen. Frank Artiles. If Diaz wins, Democrats will emphasize his ties to Trump in the Democratic-leaning Senate District 40. 

Diaz could not be immediately reached to answer questions about when Trump supported him and if he officially endorsed him when he gave him money in state house races.


July 10, 2017

Miami senate district forum will be skipped by at least one major Republican candidate

Senate_District_40_MJO_1 (1)


Former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, one of the Republican rivals in the race to replace Sen. Frank Artiles, will not appear at a candidate forum at Miami Dade College's Kendall campus Wednesday night.

"I spend my time with my voters not with elites," he told the Miami Herald in a text confirming that he won't attend.

State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz said he will try to attend part of the forum, but it is scheduled the same evening when he will appear at a Univision event about the condo reform bill that he shepherded through this session along with a few other Miami-Dade lawmakers. 

Diaz and Portilla didn't appear at a forum June 1 due to scheduling conflicts. The forums provide the rare opportunity for voters to hear multiple candidates at once before the July 25 primary in District 40.

Republican Lorenzo Palomares, a lawyer, will attend the forum along with Democrats Annette Taddeo, a frequent candidate and owner of a translation business, and former state Rep. Ana Rivas Logan

The format is not a debate -- the candidates will be asked the same set of questions. Generally, the candidates are not going to be given the opportunity to rebut each other unless a candidate attacks another candidate.

Likely topics include the health care legislation, gun safety, restoring felons' voting rights, the environment, and public education. The forum will be moderated by WLRN morning anchor Luis Hernandez

The event is sponsored by the League of Women Voters. Additional event partners include the Miami Herald, ACLU Florida, Women’s Fund Miami-Dade, YWCA, Kendall Federation of Homeowners, Engage Miami and National Council of Jewish Women Kendall.

Partners have submitted questions in advance but the public can also submit questions on written cards at the forum. 

The forum will be held at MDC’s Kendall Campus, Room 6120, 1011 SW 104 St.

Miami Herald photo from left to right: Lorenzo Palomares, Ana Rivas Logan, Steve Smith, Christian "He-Man" Schlaerth, and Annette Taddeo participate in a Florida Senate District 40 Forum at the Second Baptist Church in Richmond Heights on Thursday, June 1, 2017. 




Former Doral council member may run for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's seat



Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, a former Doral city council member and Republican, said she is seriously considering a bid for U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's seat in 2018.

Rodriguez Aguilera was a council member from 2012 to 2014 when she lost to former councilman Pete Cabrera. She previously worked as the city's economic development director.

Rodriguez Aguilera owns Bettinara Enterprises, a company that assists people in understanding how government works. She also created a women's leadership certificate program which she teaches at Miami Dade College.

Democrats view Ros-Lehtinen's retirement as a chance to pick up a left leaning seat. Ros-Lehtinen, who did not vote for President Donald Trump, has often disagreed with her own party including her vote against the GOP health care plan.

Rodriguez Aguilera said she voted for Trump.

"I am a Republican -- I had to look at the choices," she said. "I voted for who I believed at that point was the person that I needed to vote for but I would like to consider the issues and problems that the community has. Money and economic development do not have a Republican or Democratic stamp on it."

Asked about the GOP health care plan that narrowly passed the House in May, Rodriguez Aguilera said she is still "studying the different options." 

Other Republicans who have said they are running including former School Board Member Raquel Regalado and Miami Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro. Maria Peiro, who ran against Ros-Lehtinen in the 2016 primary, is also running.

On the Democratic side, the candidates include state Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach, state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn and Mark Anthony Person.




Boston police called Alex Diaz de la Portilla 'belligerent' in 2012 misdemeanor arrest

IMG_districtelALEX_2_1_KQ5I3SGGvia @newsbysmiley

A former Miami lawmaker hoping to return to the state Senate this summer was arrested in Boston nearly five years ago after police say he and a guest ignored orders by hotel security to stop smoking cigarettes in their room and then became “belligerent” when told to pack their bags and leave.

Alex Diaz de la Portilla was charged with trespassing and taken into police custody, according to an incident report and booking form obtained by the Miami Herald. Police also arrested Tania G. Cruz, the daughter-in-law of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, on the same charge.

The Oct. 19, 2012, misdemeanor cases were dismissed prior to arraignment at the request of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, according to the Central Division of the Boston Municipal Court. Diaz de la Portilla brushes the incident aside as a non-event.

But the police description of the previously unreported incident is unflattering. And the details are coming to light just days ahead of a July 25 Republican primary election to decide whether Diaz de la Portilla, State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz or attorney Lorenzo Palomares will represent the party in the race to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles in serving District 40.

Full story here.

Photo credit: Miami Herald file photo

July 06, 2017

New TV ad attacks GOP Miami house candidate over residency



A new TV ad accuses a Miami house candidate of lying about where he lives because he identified his residence as a home under construction.

The ad by Jose Mallea attacks Daniel Perez, his Republican rival competing in the House District 116 primary.

"He said his opponent Jose Mallea didn't live in the district," the ad narrator says. "Lie. It's actually Perez who doesn't live in the district -- unless he lives in a house with no roof."

The Kendall home where Perez says he lives has no roof and is under construction, the Miami Herald reported. Perez listed the home on campaign documents and his voter registration and gets a homestead exemption on the property.

Perez previously told the Herald that while the home is under construction he is staying in an apartment with his father in the district but wouldn't provide the address.

Florida requires legislators to live in the districts they represent by Election Day. If Perez wins the July 25 primary, he would then advance to the Sept. 26 general election. Perez previously told the Herald he's unsure if construction on his new home will be finished by Sept. 26.

Perez previously debuted a TV ad attacking Mallea for not living in the district -- though Mallea says he moved into a Doral rental apartment within district boundaries on June 15.

The ad, which starts running on TV Friday, also attacks Perez for a trip he took to Cuba

Perez, a lawyer, and Mallea, a former aide to Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, are competing in the district being vacated by Jose Felix Diaz who is running for state senate.




July 05, 2017

Miami-Dade Democratic lawyers to challenge Trump voter fraud commission



A newly formed group of Miami-Dade Democratic lawyers plans to challenge President Donald Trump's voter fraud commission's request for Florida and other states to provide voter roll data.

The Presidential Advisory Commission for Voter Integrity sent a June 28 letter to the Florida Division of Elections asking officials to hand over voter data by July 14. The commission wants voters' names, registration status, political party affiliation, voting history, social security numbers and other information.

Ben Kuehne, a lawyer who formed the new Miami-Dade Democratic Lawyers Council, said the council is planning to file a court challenge against the commission and to stop Florida from turning over "private voter information."

"We are actively involved in analyzing the Presidential Commission to challenge its legality and oppose any attempt by Florida officials to comply with the collection efforts on constitutional and privacy grounds," Kuehne said.

In the majority of states, officials have said they won't comply with all or part of the request, CNN reported. But so far, Florida's Secretary of State Ken Detzner hasn't made it clear how he will respond.

Detzner's spokeswoman Sarah Revell said Detzner is reviewing the request by Kris Kobach, chair of the commission. It would be surprising if Detzner didn't comply at least partially with Kobach's request because Detzner is an appointee of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a Trump ally.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle, who is considering a bid for governor or attorney general in 2018, spoke at the first meeting of the lawyers Council June 26 at Seasons 52 restaurant in Coral Gables. Both offices are currently held by Republicans who are term limited.

In June, the Miami-Dade Democratic Party passed a resolution calling for Fernández Rundle to resign related to how she handled the case of Darren Rainey, a mentally ill inmate who died five years ago at the Dade Correctional Institution. Rainey was locked in a prison shower for 90 minutes.Fernández Rundle has defended her decision not to charge guards.

Kuehne said the council won't make endorsements in races. 

"This is an active lawyers' group organized to protect voter eligibility and election compliance," he said.

However the council gave Fernández Rundle  a platform to talk about two hot topics for Democratic voters: restoration of civil rights for nonviolent felons and protecting Dreamers, illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children.

She told the group of 75 lawyers that "as officers of the Court you have a have a special obligation to protect people's Constitutional voting rights," according to a press release from the council.

She told Democrats that "you have an additional obligation to protect the rights of such groups as the 'Dreamers,' children brought to the United States by their parents who may not enjoy legal status, and who have been threatened by the Trump administration after being protected under the Obama administration."

Miami Herald file photo of voters at the Coral Gables library during March 2016 primary.





July 03, 2017

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to fundraise for Jose Felix Diaz's senate race



Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is the special guest at a fundraiser for Rep. Jose Felix Diaz's state senate campaign at the Biltmore Hotel July 18th.

Diaz is running in the July 25th primary for the special election in District 40 created by the resignation of Sen. Frank Artiles

Diaz will face attorney Lorenzo Palomares and former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla in the Republican primary.