June 30, 2016

Hialeah Gardens mayor, council endorse Manny Diaz Jr.

@ByKristenMClark

Incumbent Republican state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. has earned the endorsement of Hialeah Gardens Mayor Yioset De La Cruz and the entire city council, Diaz's campaign announced today.

“We need Manny Diaz’s leadership in Tallahassee,” De La Cruz said in a statement provided by the campaign. “He is a trusted partner at the state level for our community. We look forward to continuing to work with him to improve our schools and to support policies that will increase economic growth and opportunity in our area.”

Joining De La Cruz in supporting Diaz are Councilmen Luciano “Lucky” Garcia, Rolando Piña, Jorge Merida, Jorge Gutierrez, and Elmo Urra.

“Manny Diaz knows our community and is committed to making it even better,” Gutierrez said. “We can depend on him to listen to the constituents he serves and make wise choices in Tallahassee. We can’t afford to be without him as our representative in the Florida House.”

Diaz, of Hialeah, is seeking re-election to a third term in the Florida House, representing District 103. He was first elected in 2012. If re-elected, Diaz is in line to be either House Education Committee chairman or education budget committee chairman in 2017.

Diaz faces Democrat Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich in the November general election. Neither candidate has a primary challenger.

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

June 29, 2016

Florida Senate candidate has not voted since 2008

@alextdaugherty

Jason Pizzo, a Democrat running for a Miami-Dade County state Senate seat, wants voters’ support in the Aug. 30 primary. But he's had trouble making it to the polls himself over the last few years.

Pizzo has not cast a ballot since the 2008 presidential election, Miami-Dade records show. He chose not to participate in 17 elections at the municipal, county, state and federal level since he last voted.

"On Election Day for the 2012 Presidential Election, my family was dealing with a very difficult situation and had to leave our home," Pizzo told the Miami Herald in a statement. "My entire family was on high alert following threats to our safety and my focus was on keeping my wife and sons safe."

He did not elaborate on the safety threat.

Pizzo says he skipped the other 16 elections that he could have voted in because he was fed up with politics. He declined to be interviewed.

"Additionally, like many Floridians who don’t vote during non-presidential elections, I was disenchanted with the political process," Pizzo said. "This disenchantment and frustration is what ultimately led me to run for office to represent the residents of Florida Senate District 38."

Candidates who don’t have a history of voting sometimes come under attack from rivals who can argue infrequent voting shows a lack of civic engagement.

Pizzo wasn't even eligible to vote in the March 15 presidential primary, which means he was either not registered as a Democrat or a Republican, or briefly not registered at all.

Pizzo is a former Miami-Dade prosecutor. He describes himself in campaign literature as a "compassionate" assistant district attorney who "focused on crimes involving exploitation of the elderly, animal cruelty, and violent crimes, while seeking to address their contributing factor."

Pizzo is currently a land development and zoning lawyer with the Stearns Weaver firm. The 40-year-old graduated from University of Miami law school in 2010 and also holds degrees from Columbia University and New York University.

The District 38 race has nine candidates. Seven Democrats will compete for their party's nomination. 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." Pizzo was "some lawyer."

June 24, 2016

Census shows Miami-Ft. Lauderdale media market now majority Hispanic, thanks to Broward County

@PatriciaMazzei

The expensive Miami-Fort Lauderdale media market is now made up of more Hispanics than any other demographic, according to an analysis of new U.S. Census numbers by Tallahassee Democratic strategist Steve Schale.

Schale dove into the figures, which show that Hispanic growth in Broward County has fueled the shift in the media market. Miami-Dade County has already majority Hispanic and became even more so, he found. The bi-county area tipped from 48.1 percent to 50.3 percent Hispanic in the 2015 Census numbers, he said.

Dade went from 65 percent to 66.7 percent Hispanic. Broward went from 25 percent to 28 percent. 

Political operatives care deeply about media markets -- known as "Designated Market Areas," or DMAs -- because that's how they divide their buys for TV advertising, usually the most expensive part of election campaigns.

Other interesting tidbits from Schale:

The latest Census estimates show Miami-Ft. Lauderdale has retaken the lead as the biggest DMA in Florida. Earlier estimates, from 2010, had Tampa leading the Florida list. The difference is small, though -- less than 5,000 people.

Miami-Dade remains the most diverse county in the state, Schale found. "Only 14.4 percent of Dade County residents are non-Hispanic white now," he wrote in an email to the MIami Herald.

His full blog post on the Census numbers is worth a read.

Miami-Dade Democrats boast of challenging every Republican on the ballot, again

@PatriciaMazzei

For the second consecutive election, Miami-Dade County Democrats have decided to challenge every single Republican on the congressional or state legislative ballot.

Juan Cuba, the local party's executive director, noted in a statement Friday after the candidate qualifying deadline elapsed that Democrats are running in all districts held by Republicans: three in Congress, four in the Florida Senate and nine in the Florida House.

"The party of Trump will not get a free pass this year," Cuba said. "We welcome these brave Democrats for stepping up and giving voters a choice between progress and hate."

The party employed a similar strategy in 2014, when then-Chairwoman Annette Taddeo recruited candidates for every local seat. (Its current chairman is state Sen. Dwight Bullard of Cutler Bay, who is facing a contested re-election.) Taddeo, now a congressional candidate herself, drew critics who argued putting so many Democrats on the ballot gave an incentive to Republicans who otherwise wouldn't have campaigned to bring out conservative voters. The effect, they said, was to hurt the handful of Democrats who had a real shot in truly competitive seats.

"Not only did it not work out all that well for them last time -- it produced the most votes for [Republican Gov.] Rick Scott than any other county in the state of Florida," Miami-Dade Republican Party Chairman Nelson Diaz said. "None of candidates had any money or any sort of campaign, and our candidates ran serious, hard campaigns that generated actual votes."

But Cuba countered then and now that flooding Miami-Dade with Democrats boosted Charlie Crist's numbers by a small margin when he ran against Scott in 2014. That gap can only improve in a presidential-election year when more Democrats are expected at the polls, according to Cuba.

Marco Rubio will kick off Senate fundraising Sunday in Miami

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@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio's donors have gotten back together to collect checks for the Florida Republican again, now that Rubio is running for re-election to the U.S. Senate.

They will launch their fundraising campaign Sunday just outside South Miami, a little more than three months after Rubio ended his bid for the presidency.

The reception is scheduled for 4 p.m. at the home of Claudia and Bernie Navarro, close friends of Rubio's who hosted donors several times during the presidential campaign.

At first, Rubio backers had hoped to turn a Friday night event for Carlos Lopez-Cantera's Senate campaign into a Rubio cocktail instead. But not all Lopez-Cantera donors -- such as Jeb Bush loyalist Jorge Arrizurieta -- are supporting Rubio. And a Rubio event would have required separate notice from a Lopez-Cantera one.

So Lopez-Cantera scrapped his reception -- and Rubio planned one of his own.

Suggested contributions are $10,800 per couple for the highest level of support. A "general attendee" is asked to give $2,700.

A new, pro-Rubio super PAC is churning out attacks against likely Democratic nominee and Jupiter U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. Rubio has one Republican foe remaining, Manatee County developer Carlos Beruff.

An earlier version of this post and its headline incorrectly stated the city in which the fundraiser will be located.

Spanish-language ad for Hillary Clinton -- featuring a Miami woman -- will air during Copa America final

@PatriciaMazzei

Democrat Hillary Clinton's first Spanish-language TV ad of the general election will air during Sunday's Copa America final -- and it will feature a Miami woman.

"At 8 years old, we moved to the United States," Luisa Santos says in the 60-second spot. "My mom left everything behind to give my sister and I a new opportunity." (Her mother, Ruth Castillo, stands with Santos in the ad.)

Santos, who was born in Colombia, owns Lulu's Ice Cream on Biscayne Boulevard. The ad also includes other Hispanics pushing Clinton's message to reject divisiveness from Republican Donald Trump.

In an interview with the Miami Herald, Santos said she became a U.S. citizen in April. The November election will be her first time casting a ballot -- for Clinton.

"She is most aligned with my hopes for this country," said Santos, who got involved with the campaign in Marc after actress Eva Longoria -- a Clinton supporter -- held a campaign event focused on women entrepreneurs at Lulu's Ice Cream.

The Copa America final will be played in New Jersey between powerhouse teams Argentina and Chile.

 

This post has been updated.

Anitere Flores does have a Democratic challenger, so does Rene Garcia

Miami dade districts@ByKristenMClark

Of course, Democrats wouldn't have just let Miami Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores coast to re-election.

After some re-shuffling this week when Flores' previous Democratic challenger qualified in a neighboring district instead, Democrats were under the gun to find a candidate to put up against Flores in District 39. The deadline for candidates to file for this year's primary and general elections is noon today.

They found one: Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

Mucarsel-Powell, of Pinecrest, filed her candidacy for District 39 on Thursday, but it doesn't appear - as of 9 a.m. - that her qualifying papers have been processed yet by the Florida Division of Elections. (That's not uncommon; there's usually a lag between when candidates submit their papers and when their affirmed to be "qualified" in the candidate list online.)

According to Miami Herald archives and her LinkedIn page, Mucarsel-Powell was named senior vice president of development at Jackson Health Foundation in November 2014. Before that, she spent more than eight years working at Florida International University -- first as director of development from 2003-2007, then as associate vice president for advancement for FIU's Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine from 2007 to July 2011.

Mucarsel-Powell helps run her own business, D. Mucarsel-Powell & Associates, LLC -- which was registered with the state in 2012. According to state records, she and her husband, Robert Powell, are managers of the business. Mucarsel-Powell's LinkedIn page lists her as current president of the firm, also known as DMP Associates.

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.

A write-in candidate, Brent Artz of Big Pine Key, also qualified Thursday. An independent candidate, Sheila Lucas George, filed previously in the race but had not yet qualified as of 9 a.m. today.

Mucarsel-Powell fills the void left by Miami Democrat Andrew Korge, who left the District 39 race on Wednesday for what he viewed as better prospects in District 40, which is in central Miami-Dade County.

Korge set up a three-way Democratic primary there between sitting Sen. Dwight Bullard and former state legislator Ana Rivas Logan.

A fourth Democrat entered that race on Thursday: Missalys Perez, of Hialeah. (Her qualifying papers have not yet been processed.)

Unless there are any more late-filing candidates today, the winner of that August primary among those four will take on Miami Republican Rep. Frank Artiles in the fall. Independent Mario Jimenez also qualified for the November election.

Korge is under fire this week -- accused of offering Bullard money to move to a different race. Rivas Logan says Korge also approached her last month about swapping races (but offered no money). Both say they declined Korge's offers. Korge denies he offered Bullard "$25,000 cash," but wouldn't say whether he, instead, might have offered campaign help or fundraising support.

Elsewhere in Miami-Dade County, Republican Sen. Rene Garcia, of Hialeah, also drew a last-minute challenger. Until yesterday, he'd been the only candidate to file for the District 36 seat -- which meant he would've been re-elected without opposition.

But Democrat Anabella Grohoski, of Miami Springs, filed her candidacy, setting up a general election campaign.

District 36 includes north-central Miami-Dade County, including Doral and Hialeah.

Miami-Dade Senate candidates say challenger tried to get them out of District 40 race

@ByKristenMClark

Miami Democratic state Senate candidate Andrew Korge is so ambitious for public office that he’s willing to go to extremes, his primary opponents say.

In the past month, Korge tried to pay a state senator to switch districts in Miami-Dade County, and he tried to persuade his other competitor to swap races with him, Korge’s two Democratic opponents in District 40 each told the Herald/Times.

Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, said Korge approached both him and his political consultant within the past two weeks and offered $25,000 if Bullard left the District 40 race for the open, coastal seat in District 38 — now being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Gwen Margolis.

In a campaign statement, Korge — who on Wednesday switched from the District 39 race to the District 40 contest — said: “I unequivocally deny the accusation that I offered Dwight Bullard $25,000 cash to move to the District 38 Senate race.”

But he wouldn't say whether he offered Bullard the money in campaign support or fundraising help.

And the other Democrat in the August primary -- former state Rep. Ana Rivas Logan -- says Korge also tried to persuade her not to run in District 40, by offering to swap with her for the District 39 race he was previously in.

More here.

David Rivera, millionaire? So says his latest financial disclosure

@PatriciaMazzei

In the three years since former U.S. Rep. David Rivera left Congress -- unceremoniously, after a single term and under the cloud of a federal criminal investigation -- he’s managed to significantly grow his personal wealth, even as what he does for a living has remained a mystery.

He’s worth more than $1.5 million, according to a financial disclosure form he filed this week to qualify as a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. The last time he publicly declared his finances, in a 2012 congressional form that didn’t require a net-worth estimate, he listed just two assets -- neither of which suggested he had the makings of a millionaire.

Most of Rivera’s newfound wealth lies outside the U.S., in a pair of overseas bank accounts in Mexico and Taiwan each worth more than $300,000, his disclosure shows. He also owns three properties in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula worth $250,000, $100,000 and $50,000, respectively.

How Rivera acquired the money and the properties is unknown. He did not respond to questions a Miami Herald reporter emailed him Thursday afternoon.

For years, Rivera has claimed to be a business development consultant, an amorphous profession with unidentified clients. The only income source listed in his latest disclosure, for calendar year 2015, is $104,000. The money came from Xemma Holdings S.A. de C.V., a company in Merida, Mexico, “in partnership” with Interamerican Consulting, Rivera’s corporate entity registered at his Doral home.

More here.

Read Rivera's latest disclosure.