June 08, 2016

Miami Dade College trustee asks activists to drop petition against GOP Hispanic spokeswoman

@PatriciaMazzei

An ally of Helen Aguirre Ferré defended the Republican Party's new Hispanic spokeswoman on Miami television Wednesday, asking a group of activists to drop their petition that Aguirre Ferré resign her post as chairwoman of the Miami Dade College board of trustees.

The activists, both undocumented immigrants with ties to the university, refused.

Aguirre Ferré, a former Jeb Bush adviser, is under pressure from immigration activists who argue she will be forced to defend presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump -- who says he wants to deport immigrants in the country illegally and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Marili Cancio, like Aguirre Ferré a Republican and MDC trustee, told Spanish-language América TeVé that Aguirre Ferré's position as the Republican National Committee's Hispanic communications director shouldn't preclude her from leading the trustees.

"Who better than her" to speak to GOP leaders about immigrants, Cancio said on A Fondo (In Depth). "She has an impeccable reputation when it comes to DREAMers," immigrants brought into the country illegally as children.

But Maria Bilbao, of the Miami Dade College DREAMers, said on the same program that Aguirre Ferré didn't represent immigrants like her when she backed Republican Mitt Romney for president in 2012, "when he talked about self-deportation."

Student Roberto Benavides said he didn't know if Aguirre Ferré, in a paid position for the GOP, would side with immigrants or the party in future matters of policy.

"It's a paid position in which she doesn't have an opinion with the Republican Party -- other than promote the candidate," he said.

Cancio stressed Aguirre Ferré would also be speaking for other candidates who support giving DREAMers a path to U.S. citizenship.

"Attacking her is a grave error," she said.

Rival called 'Haitian' wants Democratic action against state Sen. Gwen Margolis

@PatriciaMazzei

One of the rivals whom state Sen. Gwen Margolis referred to as "Haitian" earlier this week said Wednesday all five of Margolis' opponents should unite to denounce her "ugly rant."

Former state Rep. Phillip Brutus also urged rallies to protest Margolis, who apparently called her opponents "three Haitians, some teacher and some lawyer." He further asked the city of North Miami to consider removing Margolis' name from a local community center.

Brutus wants Margolis to be denounced by Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The Miami-Dade County Democratic Party's executive director has asked for Margolis to apologize.

Thanks to her widespread name recognition and robust campaign fundraising, Margolis is well-positioned to hold onto her seat, despite the challenges from Brutus, state Rep. Daphne Campbell, businessman Anis Blémur, teacher Don Festge and attorney Jason Pizzo.

Margolis, who is 81, "needs to take a break and enjoy a well-deserved retirement," Brutus said in a statement.

After shake-up, Annette Taddeo hires new finance director

@PatriciaMazzei

Congressional candidate Annette Taddeo has hired a new finance chief following a big campaign shake-up in which she fired her campaign manager, finance director and communications director.

The new finance director is Erin Jarbo, according to Taddeo's new campaign manager, James Stretch. Jarbo last worked in the same job for Jamie Raskin, a Maryland state senator who won a Democratic congressional primary in April.

A new communications director hasn't been hired yet, but Taddeo said it will be Gricel Gonzalez, a former local Univision reporter who handled Spanish-language media for Taddeo in 2014, when she was Charlie Crist's running mate for Florida governor.

Labor union backs Miami Republican state senator

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida labor unions don't usually go out of their way to endorse Republican candidates -- especially when they're running in contested races against Democratic challengers.

But that's what the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees did earlier this week. It backed state Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, on Monday.

Flores is seeking re-election to a newly redrawn seat that now leans Democratic. Last time Flores had a contested race, in 2010, AFSCME sat out the race. This time she's facing a well-funded Democrat, Andrew Korge. (A third candidate running without party affiliation, Sheila Lucas George, has also filed to run. Qualifying ends June 24.)

The senator attributed the endorsement to bucking the GOP on issues like Miami-Dade County's wage-theft protection ordinance, which some Republican lawmakers tried to ban in Tallahassee. "I went against party lines because it was the right thing to do," Flores said.

She'll have to try to win over independents and Democrats in a presidential-election year when more liberal-leaning voters head to the polls. The district extends from Westchester to Key West; Flores, who lives in Kendall, said she plans to move to the district.

Another Miami GOP state senator says 'jury's still out' on voting for Trump

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@PatriciaMazzei

State Sen. René García can't say yet if he will vote for Donald Trump, his Republican Party's presumptive nominee for president.

"The jury's still out for me," García told the Miami Herald on Wednesday. 

Late Tuesday, the Hialeah Republican issued a statement blasting Trump's comments on the federal judge handling the Trump University case as "blatantly racist." 

"The Republican Party is much bigger than that," García said. "Much more inclusive."

Hialeah is a heavily Cuban American -- and heavily Republican -- city. South Florida has been a cradle of Republican skepticism, with Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado and two members of Congress, Reps. Carlos  Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, saying they don't plan to vote for him.

García is the second Miami-area Republican state senator on the fence about Trump. His longtime colleague and fellow Cuban American Anitere Flores told the Herald last month that she's waiting to see how Trump campaigns in the general election. 

Even during the interview, García seemed to struggle with the Trump question. "He's the nominee of the party right now," said García, an early supporter of Marco Rubio for president. 

"I'm waiting to see the tenor of his conversation and the tenor of his debate and if he evolves as a candidate," García concluded on Trump. "I don't think that these racial undertones belong anywhere in politics, Republican or Democratic. I really believe it in my core."

Photo credit: Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times

June 07, 2016

Miami state Sen. Gwen Margolis refers to rivals as ‘Haitians’

IMG_A_01_4_1_JG7FPEMU_L203282730@PatriciaMazzei @AmySherman1

Miami state Sen. Gwen Margolis apparently disparaged three of her opponents as “Haitians” and dismissed two others as “some teacher and some lawyer” at a local Democratic meeting Monday night, according to the only one of her rivals who was present.

“It’s reprehensible that three Haitians, some teacher and some lawyer think that they have the right to run against me,” Margolis said, according teacher Don Festge.

“I’ve been in office for over 40 years,” Margolis continued, according to Festge. “What does some teacher know about Tallahassee and how to run the Senate?”

Margolis went on to refer to her Haitian-American competitors — businessman Anis Blémur, former state Rep. Phillip Brutus and state Rep. Daphne Campbell — as “Haitians” four more times, Festge said. He added that Margolis later concluded: “I have unlimited funds, and I’m going to spend every penny, and I’m not going to lose to those three Haitians or some teacher or lawyer.”

The lawyer in question is Jason Pizzo. All the candidates running in the Aug. 30 primary are Democrats. About 33 percent of the district’s voters are black.

Festge — who, like Margolis and Pizzo, is white — recounted the scene to the Miami Herald on Tuesday.

“I have a lot of friends, I have students, that are of Haitian descent. For me to hear her say that right off the bat I was like, OK, this isn’t right,” said Festge, a hospitality teacher at Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School in North Miami. “I was hoping it just might have been once — it might have been a slip of the tongue or something like that. And then she continued.”

More here.

Photo credit: Steve Cannon, Associated Press

Helen Aguirre Ferré pressured to drop college board post due to RNC gig

via @alextdaugherty

Helen Aguirre Ferré, the newly minted Hispanic communications chief for the national Republican Party, should step down from her position as chair of the board of trustees at Miami Dade College, Miami-Dade GOP chairman Nelson Diaz said on Monday.

Diaz said if he faced the same circumstances, he would step down to avoid increased scrutiny from Democrats and activists. It’s up to Aguirre Ferré, he said, to decide what she wants to do.

Diaz first made his comments on Prohibido Callarse (Silence Banned), a local Spanish-language television show, on Monday night.

“I support Helen 100 percent and what she is doing,” Diaz told the Miami Herald on Tuesday. “I personally wouldn’t serve as both, and I don’t think there is an actual conflict in any shape or form. I think she should step down to avoid the conflict that results from Democrats and activists.”

That conflict reared its head Monday morning when a number of Miami Dade College students and parents started a petition calling for the removal of Aguirre Ferré from the college’s board. The national group United We Dream created a similar petition.

More here.

June 05, 2016

Rubio blocks confirmation of judge he nominated

via @jayhweaver

After his failed run for the Republican presidential nomination, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio returned to Washington with a pledge to “finish strong” and complete his work in Congress.

But the Florida lawmaker, who is leaving Congress in early January, has conspicuously left undone one legislative item: clearing the way for the Senate confirmation hearing of Miami lawyer Mary Barzee Flores. She is a former state judge who was nominated by President Barack Obama to a vacancy on South Florida’s federal bench more than a year ago.

This past week, his office made it abundantly clear for the first time that Rubio — who along with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson had recommended her for the judgeship — is blocking her nomination for reasons critics say boil down to “extreme political partisanship.”

Rubio’s office told the Miami Herald that he recently issued so-called blue slips triggering confirmation hearings for three Obama-nominated federal judges in Central and North Florida with Republican backgrounds. But the senator refuses to do the same for Barzee Flores, calling her the “wrong person” for the South Florida federal judgeship, without providing specific reasons about her legal credentials.

“Senator Rubio recently returned the blue slip for three judges to fill other vacancies throughout Florida, but he will not return the blue slip on Ms. Barzee Flores,” Rubio’s office said in a statement, which was released to other news media after the Herald requested an update on Barzee Flores’ confirmation hearing.

More here.

June 03, 2016

Obama to Democrats: 'I want us to run scared'

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@PatriciaMazzei

President Barack Obama might have thought that, by this point, Democrats would have already settled on a nominee to try to follow him into the White House. That way, Obama would be free to traverse the country to defend his legacy and support his preferred successor.

Instead, it’s the first week of June, and Hillary Clinton is still fending off Bernie Sanders, at least until Tuesday, when she’s expected to reach the magic number of delegates to make her the party’s choice.

So when Obama traveled to Miami on Friday to raise money for Democrats, he couldn’t devote himself to bragging about a specific presidential candidate who will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.

What he did instead was boast about his own record, particularly on the economy.

“If what you’re deeply concerned about is the state of the middle class and the ability of people to work hard and get ahead and pass on opportunities to your kids and your grand-kids — if that’s what you’re concerned about, then this election shouldn’t be close,” Obama said at a fundraiser held at the Coconut Grove home of attorney Robert Rubenstein.

Republicans, he continued, have not offered a “coherent economic theory” but rather rhetoric that “is feeding resentments.”

“So being able to say that it’s immigrants or it’s gays or it’s somebody that is taking something away from you — that’s the essence of the message that the Republican nominee is delivering, and frankly has been the message that’s been delivered by this Republican Congress for too long,” he said. “And it’s divisive, and it’s factually wrong.”

More here.

Photo credit: Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

In Miami, Obama praises Wasserman Schultz

@PatriciaMazzei

President Barack Obama gave a shout-out in Miami on Friday to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, who faces a contested primary election.

Wasserman Schultz is chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, which hosted Obama for a fundraiser at the Coconut Grove home of attorney Robert Rubenstein. Her opponent, Tim Canova, has been endorsed by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Obama described Wasserman Schultz as "somebody who I don't know how she does it, because she's everywhere all the time, non-stop, and she's a mom and a wife and has been just incredibly supportive of my agenda."

"She's taken tough votes when they're the right thing to do, and she's somebody who I have counted on consistently," Obama said. "She's had my back. I want to make sure we have her back."

The about 90 donors gathered at the dinner gave her a standing ovation.

Obama also gave shout-outs to several other attendees, including former Gov. Charlie Crist, who is now running for Congress in St. Petersbur ("a great friend," Obama said). And he praised a candidate who wasn't there: U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter. Earlier Friday, Obama attended a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser for Murphy on Miami Beach.

"I think he's going to be outstanding in the United States Senate," Obama said.

Photo credit: Andrew Harnik, Associated Press