August 09, 2017

Democrats on Curbelo: 'His town hall schedule doesn't exist'


National Democrats are using the August recess -- Congress' longest break of the year -- to campaign against the lawmakers the part plans to target in 2018, including Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Democrats' familiar line of attack: that Republicans aren't holding enough town-hall style meetings.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has created websites it plans to promote on Google ads purportedly linking to (in this case) Curbelo's town hall schedule. When users click on, they're taken to a page set to look like a 404 web error.

"Whoops! His town hall schedule doesn't exist!" 

There's then a countdown clock saying Curbelo, a sophomore, hasn't held a town hall in "707 days."

Curbelo, however, would likely point this periodic "tele-town halls," which allow constituents from his Westchester-to-Key West district to call in at a set time and take turns asking the congressman questions. Those conference calls, of course, aren't open to the broader public -- and so can't draw protests or other potentially negative attention.

"Congressman Curbelo's vote to rip away healthcare from Miami families shows he's heartless, his refusal to hold a town hall and answer for the Washington-Republican agenda he's supporting shows he's a coward," DCCC spokesman Cole Leiter said in a statement.

UPDATE: Curbelo campaign spokesman Chris Miles countered that the congressman often holds private meetings in person with people who want to ask him questions:

"Carlos is one of the hardest working representatives and regularly meets with his constituents," Miles said in a statement. "Just last week he hosted many residents at our district offices in Key West and Miami. All this in addition to his tele town halls which have reached tens of thousands of constituents."

August 07, 2017

Florida Democrats go after 'Trumpcare' in special Miami Senate election

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Florida Democrats are attempting to tie Republican Senate candidate Jose Felix Diaz to President Donald Trump through Obamacare.

Repealing or replacing Affordable Care Act is not under the purview of the Florida Legislature, though state legislators did choose not to expand Medicaid under the law.

But campaign fliers sent over the past few days to Democratic Senate District 40 voters in Miami accuse both Diaz, a sitting state representative, and Trump of trying to worsen healthcare coverage. South Florida has some of the highest rate of enrollment in the ACA's federal insurance exchanges.

"Jose Felix Diaz would bring Trumpcare to Florida (and cost millions of Floridians their health care)," reads the flier from the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, accusing them of pushing a plan that would increase premiums and leave people uncovered.

Democrats had signaled they would go after Diaz's personal Trump connection: He was once a contestant on Trump's "The Apprentice" reality TV show.

Diaz is running in a special Sept. 26 general election against Democrat Annette Taddeo. They're vying to replace former Republican Sen. Frank Artiles.

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August 03, 2017

Trump meets in Oval Office with Rubio and Bay of Pigs vets


Here's something that wasn't on President Donald Trump's public schedule Thursday: a private Oval Office gathering with Cuban-American Bay of Pigs veterans.

The six men got their picture taken with Sen. Marco Rubio and Trump, seated behind the Resolute Desk, according to a photo tweeted by Rubio's office.

Last time Trump was in Miami, tightening U.S. policy toward Cuba, he met for a few minutes backstage at the Manuel Artime Theater in East Little Havana with Brigade 2506 veterans. The brigade issued its first-ever presidential endorsement last year, for Trump, a fact he has since repeatedly mentioned as important to his campaign.

Photo courtesy Rubio's office 

Another Democrat files against Curbelo, citing health care


A young Democrat filed to run against Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo this week, saying he was persuaded to go "from canvasser to candidate" after the Republican incumbent voted to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Ricky Junquera, 31, worked as a field organizer in past campaigns for former Rep. Joe Garcia, Curbelo's 2016 opponent. He planned to help Garcia again if he ran. But Garcia appears uninterested -- so Junquera himself jumped in.

"I know the district just as good, if not better, than most people," he said. "I've knocked on those doors."

Junquera, the deputy press secretary for the Sierra Club in the Upper Midwest, recently moved back to Miami to help care for his mother, who has multiple sclerosis.

"When Carlos voted to repeal the ACA, the ramifications don't affect him and his family, but they affect mine, and they affect mine pretty harshly," he said.

Junquera becomes the third Democrat to declare a candidacy against Curbelo. The only one with serious experience as a candidate is Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who ran for state Senate last year and has also attacked Curbelo on health care. Steven Machat is also running.

Curbelo's district, which leans Democratic though he won it by 12 percentage points last year, has one of the highest rates of Obamacare enrollment in the country.

Junquera, who like Curbelo is Cuban-American, accused the congressman of being a lackey of House Speaker Paul Ryan and said if he were elected, he'd better represent working people. For now, he plans to campaign after work and on weekends to see if his candidacy takes off.

"We need leaders who know what it's like to face a mountain of student debt, who have seen firsthand the toll a devastating illness can have on a proud family, and who value programs like the ACA because they provide a helping hand up and hope for a better tomorrow," he said.

NRCC targets potential swing Miami voters in mobile ads about health care


National Republicans are wading into the 2018 race to replace retiring GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, launching a mobile ad campaign targeting potential swing voters in Florida's 27th congressional district.

The new National Republican Congressional Committee ad, which will also go out in seven other states, is intended to grab users' attention. The narrator adopts a frightening tone in warning voters Democrats might want to pursue single-payer healthcare system. 

One of the Democrats who has filed for Ros-Lehtinen's Democratic-leaning seat, state Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach, has said in a fundraising email that he backs a single-payer system. When the latest candidate, Matt Haggman, declared his candidacy Tuesday, the NRCC quickly called on him to take a position on the issue, which the GOP wants to use to paint Democrats as radical.

"Now that Obamacare is in a death spiral, their latest and greatest idea is to impose a European style single-payer system on Americans," NRCC spokeswoman Maddie Anderson said in a statement. "This could mean trillions in higher taxes and full government control over all of our medical decisions. We’d like to hear from Florida Democrats themselves -- do David Richardson, José Javier Rodríguez, and Matt Haggman support single-payer for all?"

PolitiFact has ruled that a past "death spiral" claim about the Affordable Care Act was false. Ros-Lehtinen voted against the House GOP's Obamacare replacement, the American Health Care Act, which later failed in the Senate.

In addition to Haggman, Richardson and Rodríguez, four other Democrats are also running so far. Naming them in a statement suggests the NRCC considers them to be potential front-runners.

When it rains in Miami, the politicians pour it on

MF 01 MHD SBB@joeflech & @NewsbySmiley

What's a torrential downpour in Miami, replete with serious flooding in Brickell and South Beach, without a little politics? On Wednesday, the mayors of Miami and Miami Beach wasted no time in using Tuesday's floods as a call to action in the face of impending sea rise spurred by climate change.

In Miami Beach, pumps in Sunset Harbour lost power for about 50 minutes during the storm — enough to cause flooding in several neighborhood businesses. Mayor Philip Levine, a potential 2018 gubernatorial candidate who has made anti-flooding projects a priority during his four-year tenure, immediately demanded the city expedite its normal procurement process to quickly get backup generators installed at the Sunset Harbour pumps.

But the mayor forgot that more than a year ago, an engineer who helped develop the city's philosophy on stormwater drainage warned him, the rest of the commission and high-level city staff that they ought to put permanent generators at each pump station in case a storm knocks out the power.

Engineer Dwight Kraai sent the commission and top Beach officials an email in May 2016 advising that the city consider backup generators to prevent precisely what happened Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Miami, Tomas Regalado called a press conference to launch a campaign for a $400 million general obligation bond, nearly half of which would to go toward flooding and sea rise projects. Only in his last year in office has the mayor placed an emphasis on flood prevention and sea rise, even though Miami leaders knew five years ago that the city needs at least a quarter-billion in drainage improvements.

Regalado defended his recent attention to sea-rise and drainage, noting that 11 pumps have been built during his tenure and his administration hasn't had the money to fund anti-flooding projects without raising taxes.

Read more.

August 02, 2017

Taddeo settles AmEx lawsuit


Democratic Florida Senate candidate Annette Taddeo said she settled a lawsuit Wednesday with American Express over what the company had claimed were nearly $38,000 in unpaid charges.

The terms of the lawsuit were kept private. In a statement, Taddeo's campaign spokesman said the lawsuit "has been amicably resolved by both parties." AmEx sued Taddeo and her translation business, LanguageSpeak, in Miami-Dade Circuit Court last month. 

"As mentioned earlier, LanguageSpeak worked diligently to resolve this matter in short order and speaks to Annette Taddeo's well respected record as a longtime successful business owner of nearly 25 years," spokesman Christian Ulvert said. "Further, unlike her opponent, Annette has disclosed more than needed as this matter pertains to company matters, not personal credit cards."

At the time she was sued, Taddeo claimed the suit was politically motivated. She's running for Senate District 40 in a special Sept. 26 election against Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.

An AmEx attorney did not immediately respond to a emailed request for comment late Wednesday.

Ulvert used the lawsuit settlement to urge Diaz, an attorney who does lobbying work, to "offer a complete and full account of his clients, retainers paid, issues that were before the Legislature that conflicted with his public service and any activity he engaged in as lobbyist in Miami-Dade County."

In bipartisan show of support, Democrats plan to host fundraiser for Curbelo. He's also got Rubio lined up.


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A group of well-known local Democrats will collect campaign cash later this month -- for a Republican.

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo will attend an Aug. 23 fundraising reception hosted by nine Democrats, including former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter and Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace, according to an invitation to the event.

Curbelo drew his first Democratic opponent with national party backing, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, on Wednesday.

The sophomore congressman has campaigned as a moderate -- an image that can only be bolstered with Democratic financial support. Among the Democrats co-hosting the fundraiser are Ira Leesfield, a major Hillary Clinton donor, and attorney Roland Sanchez-Medina. Last year, Sanchez-Medina served as campaign treasurer for Curbelo's Democratic rival, Joe Garcia

"While we don't agree with him on every issue, he is a voice of reason in an increasingly unreasonably partisan world, he works hard to represent Miami-Dade County in Washington, and, in particular, he is trying to bring both parties together for the good of the country," Sanchez-Medina said in an email to the Miami Herald. "We are proud to support Carlos."

Some Democrats on the list, including Porter, Wallace, political consultant Freddy Balsera and lobbyist Brian Mayhave also supported Curbelo in the past.

National Democrats consider Curbelo's 26th congressional district, which extends from Westchester to Key West, to be one of the most competitive in the country.

If Republicans worry Democratic support could hurt Curbelo's GOP bona fides: Republican Sen. Marco Rubio also plans to host a fundraiser for Curbelo later in August, the Herald has learned. 

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

August 01, 2017

Rubio delivers speech in Spanish on independent Venezuelan TV station



In an unusual move possible only for a bilingual U.S. senator, Florida Republican Marco Rubio got to make a speech late Monday night on an independent Venezuelan TV news channel in which he expressed solidarity for opponents of President Nicolás Maduro, who was sanctioned by the Trump administration Monday as a "dictator."

"There is no U.S. economic blockade on Venezuela. Yet the economy of a rich nation is in shambles, because the Maduro government has given away your oil and much of your sovereignty to Cuba," said Rubio, who is fluent in Spanish. "For Nicolás Maduro, who I am sure is watching, the current path you are on will not end well for you."

The address, taped in Washington, aired on Globovisión, which is expected to continue playing the speech Tuesday.

"While the people of Venezuela struggle each day to feed their families, have you noticed how many of your leaders have gained weight?" Rubio said, pointing to periodic food shortages that have plagued the oil-rich South American nation.

Hours after the speech's initial airing, Venezuelan state security agents took two political prisoners who were under house arrest into custody. On Sunday, Maduro's government carried out a violent-marred election widely seen as fraudulent for a new all-powerful constituent assembly.

"Go ahead," Maduro said in a televised speech Monday evening. "Bring on your sanctions, Donald Trump."

Rubio noted in a Tuesday statement that Vice President Mike Pence had spoken to one of the prisoners, high-profile opposition leader Leopoldo López, by phone Friday. The other prisoner is former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma.

 “There should be no doubt that his arrest is a direct challenge to President Trump," Rubio said.

Rubio brought Lilian Tintori, López’s wife, to the Oval Office to meet Trump in February. Last week, López posted an online video urging Venezuelans to boycott Sunday’s constituent assembly vote and remain in the streets protesting. The terms of his house arrest prohibited him from speaking to reporters.

July 31, 2017

Blaming ‘mudslinging,’ Michael Grieco drops bid for Miami Beach mayor

Grieco+01+EKM@joeflech & @NickNehamas

Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco held a news conference Monday to confirm what many top backers already knew: He has abandoned his embattled bid for mayor.

“This year’s proven to be exceptionally challenging for me, my family and the community, forcing all of us to deal with distractions and political attacks that have no purpose but to cloud my service to the people of Miami Beach,” Grieco said.

He read a prepared statement flanked by his family and about 30 supporters in a public park around the corner from his South Beach home. The crowd cheered as he approached through a light rain.

Grieco will continue campaigning, however: He’s now running for a second term as commissioner.

Last week, Grieco began calling supporters to let them know he would drop out of a competitive mayoral race against former state Sen. Dan Gelber. Word spread quickly around the Beach over the weekend, with many wondering how this would impact an already-crowded race for his commission seat, in which four other candidates were also in the running.

One candidate, attorney Joshua Levy, immediately suspended his campaign following Grieco’s announcement.

Read more.