August 30, 2016

That time a Florida legislative race was decide by a single vote

We've dug up a gem from the Miami News archives, first published on Oct. 7, 1988, by Heather Dewar, under the headline, "'One vote counts,' Valdes says after winning House tally":

It took four ballot counts over three days to pick a winner in the state House District 112 Republican runoff, and that made Carlos Valdes' margin of victory seem appropriate. He won by a single vote.

That "gives a clear message to voters that one vote does count, " Valdes said yesterday after an unusual hand count of the ballots gave him the nomination by 2,062 votes to Miguel DeGrandy's 2,061.

DeGrandy held a nine-vote lead election night. That was transformed Wednesday into a tie after a tally of the absentee ballots, and then a two-vote loss by a computer recount later that day. Yesterday's special hand count settled the matter, and DeGrandy said he will drop his court challenge to the vote tally.

"I am absolutely satisfied, " DeGrandy said after the final tally restored the one vote DeGrandy lost in the computer recount. DeGrandy promised to back Valdes in the November general election against Democrat Manuel Arques.

Yesterday's hand count was authorized by Dade's three- member election canvassing board after DeGrandy filed a protest with the board and a motion in Dade Circuit Court. DeGrandy objected to the results of the computerized recount, in which he lost one vote and Valdes gained one.

Elections Department Director David Leahy said the variation in results probably was caused by a tiny chip of paper still clinging to one of the ballots.

Leahy said that because of the nature of the computer system, such errors could occur in any election, but "for Dade County there's no better system available yet."

August 29, 2016

Rubio sounds like he's itching for the general election


On Monday night, Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera tried to keep the Republican faithful focused on the primaries at stake in Tuesday's state election.

"We can't take anything for granted," he implored to volunteers gathered at the Republican Party of Florida's Miami field office.

But for the activists assembled, one race was a foregone conclusion.

"I feel really good about it," U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio told one volunteer who gave him a hug and a kiss.

Rubio is expected to breeze through the primary against challenger Carlos Beruff. His likely Democratic opponent is U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter. And Rubio sounds like he's itching for the general election.

"He's incredibly unaccomplished," Rubio said of Murphy, dismissing him as "a guy who's done nothing in four years in Congress."

In another preview of Rubio's upcoming attacks, he characterized Murphy as the entitled son of a wealthy developer: "He's not going to have the U.S. Senate seat handed to him," Rubio said. He also accused Murphy of "never" mentioning issues of Latin America or Puerto Rico -- an obvious nod at Central Florida's pivotal Puerto Rican voters.

Rubio spent the last day of the primary campaign traveling to Cape Coral, Lynn Haven (near Panama City) and Pensacola, before wrapping up in Miami. Before dropping into the RPOF office -- which almost looked like a Rubio campaign office, given the overwhelming number of Rubio signs -- he gave a Spanish-language television interview in which he didn't even mention rival Beruff's name.

"There are three individuals who are running, and forgive me that I don't remember all the names now," Rubio said on América TeVé's "Ahora Con Oscar Haza." "One of them is a gentleman of Cuban origin. And they have all the right in the world to run. This is a free country. This seat doesn't belong to me."

What you need to know for Tuesday’s primary election


@alextdaugherty and @doug_hanks

Planning to vote in Tuesday’s primary election? We’ve provided answers to a list of frequently asked questions.

Numerous races are on the ballot, notably the election for Miami-Dade County mayor, along with Republican and Democratic primaries for U.S. Senate. Various state legislative, school board, county commission and judicial seats are also up for grabs in Miami-Dade and Broward.

I’m not a registered Republican or Democrat. Should I bother to vote?

For some offices, like U.S. Senate and Congress, only registered members of a specific party may vote. But in Miami-Dade County, all registered voters can cast a ballot for mayor, school board, county commissioner and judge. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election will be held in November for the top two finishers.

In Broward, independents can vote in non-partisan races, including contests for judge, state attorney and school board. Voters in both counties are also voting on a constitutional amendment about solar energy.

So is the mayor’s race in Miami-Dade ending Tuesday or not?

That depends. If one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the race ends. If not, the race heads for a November run-off on Election Day between the top two finishers.

That’s just for the mayor’s race?

No, that’s the rule for all non-partisan primaries, which is how most county-level and city-level races are decided. So school board races, judge races and other local posts could wind up on the November ballot if no winner is declared Tuesday.

What about the races for Miami-Dade County Commission?

Those three races would be eligible for a run-off, except each contest only has two candidates. A run-off is only a possibility with more than two candidates.

August 27, 2016

Kaine visits Miami Lakes event-production company


Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine stopped by a Miami Lakes event-production company Saturday afternoon, in an effort to draw attention to Hillary Clinton's plans for small businesses.

Kaine toured Design South Florida, which is owned by the husband-and-wife team of Tangela and Harold Cummings. Cummings is a city of Miami police officer at night. During the day, he designs lighting and sound -- his wife deals with graphics and the web -- for the likes of former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning, the Miami Dolphins and rapper Flo Rida.

Earlier Saturday, the company had produced an event in Pembroke Pines where Kaine met with a group of local mayors.

"It's amazing. It's quite an honor," Tangela Cummings said. "Of course, without a doubt, we are Hillary supporters. We are Democrats by heart."

Inside the company's warehouse, Kaine stopped by various workstations. He seemed particularly intrigued by sound engineer Tony Morales, who told him he realized he was interested in the work when he went to a concert and was more interested in what was going on in the sound booth than on stage.

Also greeting Kaine were former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, whose family founded Miami Lakes, and his wife, Adele; U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens.

August 26, 2016

Judge throws out lawsuit in Miami-Dade judicial race

via @DavidOvalle305

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jason Bloch’s effort to boot his opponent from Tuesday’s ballot failed.

Another judge on Friday threw out Bloch’s lawsuit against challenger Marcia del Rey over her disclosure of income from a motel she owns in Puerto Rico.

Circuit Judge Jerald Bagley ruled that Bloch should have first complained to Florida’s ethics commission. And Bagley agreed with del Rey’s lawyer that kicking the candidate off the ballot “would disenfranchise the citizens of Miami-Dade County from voting for their candidate of choice.”

Bloch’s lawsuit was unusual because Florida judicial races are normally uneventful affairs. Candidates are limited in what how they campaign – and del Rey’s lawyer attacked the legal challenge as nothing more than “politial mudslinging disguised as lawsuit.”

More here.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

August 25, 2016

Mystery flier tries to link Miami-Dade mayoral challenger to Trump

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Donald Trump's name won't be on the Miami-Dade County ballot Tuesday. But he's popping up in the county mayor's race anyway -- this time, in an attack flier against challenger Raquel Regalado.

"Miami doesn't need its own Donald Trump!" says the piece, which pictures Regalado's face on one end of the flier and Trump's on the other.

In the middle, it cites the Miami Herald editorial board's endorsement of Regalado's opponent, Mayor Carlos Gimenez. The editorial characterized Regalado as making "over the top" charges against Gimenez "much like Donald Trump's."

Regalado has no known ties to Trump. She has said that, even though she's a Republican, she won't vote for him. It's Gimenez -- who also won't vote for Trump -- who has met Trump, golfed with him and tried to work out a deal for Trump to run a county-owned golf course. Gimenez's son Carlos J. Gimenez also lobbies on behalf of Trump National Doral.

Regalado's political committee has highlighted Gimenez's Trump connection in a flier of its own. Both sides appear certain Trump's name is so unpopular in liberal, Hispanic Miami-Dade -- the only county Trump lost in the March 15 presidential primary -- that they are trying to use him to drag each other down.

The group behind the anti-Regalado mailer, however, is a mystery.

A disclaimer on the piece says it was paid for by Committee for Integrity, Inc., a corporation registered in Tampa. But corporate records don't reveal who's behind it; the entity, created in June, is listed to a Daniel Silverman of Tampa. The organization isn't registered as a state or county political committee.

Committee for Integrity has also put out a robocall against Regalado.

Regalado characterized the flier attack as a sign Gimenez's allies fear she has gained ground on him and could force him into a November run-off.

"Despite the rhetoric desperation is clearly setting it at [the] Gimenez campaign as they focus on Stopping Raquel Regalado," she said in a text message.

--with Douglas Hanks

August 24, 2016

Enter the mosquito: Miami candidates debut fliers on Zika



Miami voters have seen an uptick of mosquitoes over the past few days -- in their mailboxes.

Candidates on Tuesday's primary election ballot have raced to campaign on the local outbreak of the Zika virus. 

In one flier, Democrat Scott Fuhrman, who's hoping to challenge Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, shows off photos of his wife and infant daughter. "My wife is pregnant and we live just a few miles of south of Wynwood, where the first cases of Zika were reported," the mailer says. "Like so many families, we're terrified, but Congress refuses to act."


Another flier, for Democrat Jason Pizzo, an attorney running for state Senate, screams, "Fight the bite!"

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And then there's a mystery flier, shown atop this post, from a group named Stay Safe Coalition, apparently working on behalf of Republican state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla. "Zika awareness tips from Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla," the piece says. "Hang this letter on your fridge to make sure your family stays safe!"

Stay Safe Coalition isn't registered as a political organization with either the state or the county, or in state corporate records. It lists an office building on Miami's Coral Way as its address.

Miami's Zika politics: Lots of talk, little action

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One by one, the politicians sat before a flock of TV cameras and went around the table, commending each other for their arduous work to fend off the Zika virus.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott lauded the state’s “very good coordination” with the Miami-Dade County health department. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam praised the “extraordinary job” of local mosquito control. “Thank you on behalf of the citizens of the state of Florida,” Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera told Miami-Dade health administrator Lillian Rivera.

It all sounded very Kumbaya. But to some people waiting for their turn to speak Monday, the words seemed to ring a bit hollow.

“This roundtable that we’re sitting at now is really what we would’ve liked to have seen several weeks ago,” said Joseph Furst, chairman of the business improvement district in Wynwood, the Miami neighborhood hardest-hit by the mosquito-borne virus.

Politicians have seized on Miami’s Zika outbreak this election year to get their faces on TV camera and show hands-on involvement in a crisis. It’s a role public-health experts say elected leaders need to play, keeping the virus in the news and helping educate constituents on what to do about it.

Yet the talk has done little to help municipal leaders tasked with battling Zika day to day. And it’s led to zero action in Congress to fund a long-term Zika response — suggesting Florida, the nation’s largest swing state, may not wield any serious legislative clout.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

A Gables fundraiser for Rubio, five days before the primary


Five days ahead of Florida's U.S. Senate primary, incumbent Republican Marco Rubio will be in Coral Gables -- raising money for the next phase of the election.

A phalanx of top, longtime Rubio donors will host the senator at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Riviera Country Club, according to an invitation host Bernie Navarro published on Twitter. The minimum contribution is $2,700, with $10,800 required to co-host the event.

Rubio is so confident he'll defeat primary rival Carlos Beruff next Tuesday that he's hardly campaigning in public this week. The fundraiser is another sign that the senator is mostly focused on the Nov. 8 general election, when he's likely to face off against Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter.

Recent polls show Rubio leading Murphy, but the potential race has gotten tighter, as expected, and the Florida electorate during presidential years leans Democratic.

The intriguing storylines of Miami-Dade's judicial races

via @DavidOvalle305

One judicial candidate is suing his opponent over her ownership in Miami erotic motels. A prospective judge has a résumé that includes being suspended from practicing law for three years. One incumbent judge is fighting for his seat against a former Florida House representative.

Though Florida judicial elections feature normally dry campaigns, next week’s races in Miami-Dade nevertheless offer some tantalizing story lines.

In all, 10 seats — six in Miami-Dade circuit court, four in county court — are up for grabs in the Aug. 30 election. Another 18 judges earned reelection in May when no one chose to run against them.

In Florida, candidates are limited in how they campaign. They can’t make promises other than to be fair and impartial, can’t commit to positions about the law and can’t personally solicit donations.

But allegations laid out in a lawsuit have elevated the interest in the race of incumbent circuit judge Jason Bloch, who earlier this month sued his opponent, Marcia del Rey, saying discrepancies in financial disclosures and credentials should bar her from being on the ballot.

More here.