November 17, 2016

Miami-Dade declares Asencio finished ahead by 53 votes, but Rivera challenges result

via @glenngarvin

The recount of the nip-and-tuck legislative race between Democrat Robert Asencio and Republican David Rivera ended Thursday with Asencio 53 votes ahead — but even before the last ballot was checked, Rivera officially contested the election, a move that will likely delay the naming of a victor for weeks or even months.

After 10 hours counting ballots, the Miami-Dade County elections department declared that Asencio finished with 31,412 votes and Rivera 31,359 — a margin 15 votes closer than when the recount began.

The race was so close it actually triggered two recounts — the first by machine, and the second a hand-examination of ballots the machines thought were marked with votes for too many candidates or too few.

And it may get even tighter. Rivera’s lawyers asked elections officials to impound about 300 disputed ballots — mostly absentee ballots on which the voter’s signature was either missing or ruled not to match signatures in elections department records.

“We’ve already got affidavits from 59 of those voters saying they legitimately voted by mail and cast their ballots for me,” said Rivera, noting that would be enough to tip the election the other way.

More here.

Dwight Bullard and Millie Herrera could compete for Miami-Dade Democratic Party chair

@amysherman1

Millie Herrera, a former appointee of President Barack Obama to the U.S. Department of Labor, will run for chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, a challenge to the current chair Sen. Dwight Bullard of Cutler Bay.

If Bullard wins the chair post Dec. 6th, he may run for chair of the Florida Democratic Party -- one of several candidates who are vying to replace Allison Tant who announced after Hillary Clinton's defeat that she won't run again in January.

"I want to get back to getting out the vote and the grassroots level," said Herrera, who lives in the Kendall area and is president of a marketing and public affairs firm. "I don't want to run for anything else. I'm not using it as a springboard to anything." 

Bullard, a teacher at Coral Reef Senior High School, was first elected to the state house in 2008 and the state senate in 2012 and has also chaired the Florida Legislative Black Caucus. His name is well-known in county politics where both his parents previously served in the state Legislature. On Nov. 8, Bullard lost a race to State Rep. Frank Artiles, a Republican, in a heavily Hispanic district.

Herrera, who was born in Cuba and is a former chair of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida, says the party needs more outreach to Cuban-American and young voters.

 

 

 

 

November 14, 2016

Dwight Bullard's position on Israel could cost him support of Jewish Democrats for state party chair

Bullard_cropAP

@amysherman1

Sen. Dwight Bullard, who wants to run for Florida Democratic Party chair, is facing resistance from some Jewish Democrats after he was accused of meeting with a man linked to a terror group in Israel earlier this year. 

Bullard says that the accusation lacked “merit” and that he is a supporter of the Jewish community.

Bullard is one of multiple  candidates who are considering the state party position after Allison Tant announced Friday that she would not seek re-election in January. That could set off an intraparty fight about who would be the best person to lead the Democrats after it suffered crushing defeats including Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in Florida.

The Bullard name is a longtime fixture in Miami-Dade politics because both of his parents served in the state Legislature. But he could face an uphill battle for state party chair due to his position on Israel.

A political committee for Florida Senate Republicans ran an ad this summer accusing Bullard of spending time with a "terrorist" during a trip to the Middle East.

NBC6 Miami reported that Bullard was photographed with a tour guide affiliated with the anti-Israel BDS movement, a pro-Palestinian group with ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, designated by the State Department as a terrorist group.

Bullard told the station the man was a "tour guide in old Jerusalem" and he "had no idea" of his political affiliations.

He told NBC6 that he is "pro-Israel, but I'm also pro-Palestine in that people can co-exist. ... My position is co-existence."

Bullard also faced heat for his vote in October 2015 against a bill that would ban the state of Florida from entering contracts with companies that boycott Israel. But when it reached the full Senate in January he voted for it and it passed unanimously.

“A number of folks called me concerned over my committee vote,” he told the Miami Herald. “For the sake of not being the thorn in anyone’s side I decided to vote for it on the floor.”

He told the Miami Herald that he shared the same concerns as the ACLU of Florida which wrote in a letter to Gov. Rick Scott that the bill “is a clear violation of of long established First Amendment law.” The ACLU urged Scott to veto the bill but he signed it into law.

Bullard told Colorlines, an online news site about race and culture, that boycotts are protected free speech: "We look back now in hindsight and say, '[Fighting] for the boycott and divestment movement against the South African government was the right thing to do.' How that is somehow different as it pertains to Palestinian rights is really inexplicable."

Fort Lauderdale lawyer Mike Moskowitz, who raised $1 million for Clinton and is a frequent contributor to Democrats, said he will actively work against Bullard if he runs for chair and will call activists and members of Congress to urge them to oppose Bullard.

“I will discontinue all financial support if he becomes the chair; and will call around to all financial donors in the entire state and ask that they commit to do the same,” he said.

Former state Sen. Steve Geller, who was elected to the Broward County Commission Nov. 8, said Jewish Democrats won’t support Bullard.

“I think he is just wrong on this issue,” he said. “Did the Republicans take it a little too far? Yes. Do I think Dwight is a terrorist? Not at all."

But Geller said that Bullard should have disassociated himself with the anti-Israel BDS group.

Geller and Moskowitz don’t get to vote on the chair position -- that decision lies with state committeemen and women in January. But those who have a vote are likely to listen to input from prominent fundraisers and elected officials who could play a role in the 2018 races for governor and U.S. Senate. Committeemen and women in South Florida play a major role in selecting the chair because they get votes based on a formula that takes into account the number of registered Democrats in their county.

Bullard told the Miami Herald that he will seek re-election as county party chair Dec. 6th and then run for state chair.

He said that Jewish Democrats should not be swayed by the attack on him about his Middle East trip.

“I would hope they would hear me out and not fall victim to a political smear campaign that has no merit,” he said.  “I never met with a terrorist. Did I take a trip to Israel and the West Bank? Absolutely. The notion that I am anti-Israel and pro-terrorism, that was all orchestrated unfortunately by my opponent. I’ve never been any of those things. I continue to be a strong supporting of the Jewish community.”

Bullard lost his state senate race to Republican State Rep. Frank Artiles in a heavily Hispanic Miami-Dade district. The attack ad about Bullard’s trip to Israel was in Spanish.

Evan Ross, a member of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party and a political consultant who is Jewish, also raised concerns about Bullard.

“Having a party chair who supports BDS and speaks out against Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state would do irreparable harm to the relationship with the more than two-thirds of Jewish Floridians that consistently support Democrats,” Ross said. “We need a chair who will unite people at this critical time for our party, state and nation.”

Democratic activists do not appear to have coalesced around any single candidate so far for chair and many of them have lost previous races including Annette Taddeo, who most recently lost a Miami-Dade primary for Congress; Alan Clendenin, who lost to Tant in 2013 and recently lost a bid for a Hillsborough County School Board seat and former state Sen. Dan Gelber who lost a race for attorney general against Pam Bondi in 2010.

Photo by the Associated Press

Big Miami donor says he 'might' want to head Florida Democratic Party

@PatriciaMazzei IMG_Bittel_7_1_VT9NK7SB_L269015500

Throw a big-name donor into the growing list of potential new chairs of the Florida Democratic Party: Stephen Bittel

The Coconut Grove businessman, who heads Terranova Corp., picked up the phone Monday night when a Miami Herald reporter called to ask if he's thinking of seeking the position. A couple of local Democrats had floated his name.

"I might be," Bittel said. "I care very deeply about our community, state and country, and if enough of our party leadership and grassroots think that I'm the one that can do the best job, I think service to my country is really important."

Bittel faces the same challenge as several other possible contenders whose names have surfaced in recent days: He's not a Miami-Dade County precinct committeeman for the party -- a requisite post to run for county chairman or committeeman and, later, state chairman. Allison Tant, who currently occupies the Florida job, said Friday she won't try for another term following last week's disappointing election results for Democrats.

"We have some special rules in our state party," Bittel acknowledged, "but we have in the past elected people to leadership positions who didn't naturally fill all the roles, and we figured out a way to get it done. If we get to the place that enough people coalesce in support of me, we'll figure it out."

Bittel, who raised serious dollars for Hillary Clinton and Patrick Murphy, noted he's served as the Democratic National Committee's national finance co-chairman and has been involved with the national and state parties for a long time.

"I'm the story that requires me to pinch myself all the time: I was born at Jackson Memorial Hospital, I went to public schools, and I've been very fortunate," he said. "This is giving back.... We have, in two years, some really important elections."

Phuoto credit: C.W. Griffin, Miami Herald file

Broward Democrats to brainstorm about Florida Democratic Party chair election

Allisontanttbt

@amysherman1

The last time Florida Democrats elected their own chair, it was a drawn out battle with pressure from on high: U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the national party chair, and Sen. Bill Nelson pushed for lobbyist Allison Tant who beat Tampa activist Alan Clendenin in January 2013.

This time, one of the key power brokers in the decision to elect Tant’s replacement -- Broward state committeeman Ken Evans -- says that Democrats should start the process by listening to fellow activists first.

While some of the candidates vying for the chair position have contacted Evans seeking his support, he says he isn’t ready to commit to any candidate yet.

Evans will host a listening session on Thursday evening to begin the process of brainstorming the type of qualities that activists want in their next chair.  

“It's for me to take notes, see what they want,” he said. “Do they want a party in Tallahassee that is going to be money people like it was? Do they want to work on grassroots? How do we bring that to work together. I think people need be heard right now -- they are upset and hurt.”

Evans said he invited a few dozen active Democrats in Broward including activists who supported Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, club presidents and members of the Democratic Executive Committee to meet at Duffy’s restaurant in Plantation.

Evans said he doesn’t want Democrats forced into making an early decision. The election for the four-year position will be held in January.

“Let’s just wait, not rush into things,” said Evans, who was a leader for Clinton on LGBT outreach. “We saw what happened with the DNC and that. Let’s just be fair and let people run, let’s do the right thing. That’s why I want to have communication with the local people, I want to get some guidance from people who are going to elect me."

(For the record, Evans has no interest in seeking the state party chair position although he will seek re-election from Broward Democrats in December as state committeeman.)

State committeemen and committee women elect the chair based on a formula that gives weight to the number of registered Democrats in their county which means that Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach hold the bulk of the power. We don't yet know for certain who those people will be since county party groups will hold their elections before the state party election in January.

Broward has about 600,000 Democrats -- the highest number in the state -- followed by Miami-Dade which has about 585,000 Democrats and Palm Beach with 384,000.

Tant announced last week that she would not seek re-election, setting off a long list of potential candidates who are interested in the seat.

In addition to Clendenin, other names in the mix include former Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chairwoman Annette Taddeo; Susannah Randolph, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson’s former district director; state Rep. Ed Narain of Tampa, who narrowly lost a state Senate race in the August primary; Miami political consultant Christian Ulvert; former state Sen. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach; and state Sen. Dwight Bullard of Cutler Bay, who heads the Miami-Dade party and lost his seat Tuesday.

(Tampa Bay Times photo of Allison Tant, left, when she beat Alan Clendenin, right, for state party chair in 2013.)

November 11, 2016

With state order, machine recount for Asencio-Rivera House race set for Monday

@ByKristenMClark

As expected, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner has ordered a machine recount in a tight race between Democrat Robert Asencio and Republican David Rivera for Miami-Dade County's House District 118 seat.

In unofficial results, Asencio edged Rivera by just 68 votes -- a tenth of a percentage point. State law requires automatic recounts when results are within a half of a percentage point.

More here.

 

November 10, 2016

In the end, Mike Fernandez didn't vote for Clinton or Trump

Bizmon 18 Two PAB
@PatriciaMazzei

After declaring he'd cross party lines and endorsing Hillary Clinton, Miami healthcare executive and Republican donor Mike Fernandez said Thursday he ultimately didn't vote for her -- or for Donald Trump, whom he'd campaigned against and called "abysmally unfit."

Trump "has a stink of a dictator," Fernandez told the Miami Herald in an email Thursday, citing the president-elect's past contention that only he can fix the country's problems.

"But at the end, I wrote in JEB BUSH!"

Fernandez emailed Republican friends Thursday morning to mention an anecdote about George Washington making way for newly sworn-in successor, John Adams.

"The people have spoken; the politics of the election are over," he wrote, without saying he'd written-in Bush. "Donald Trump is now our elected President. In our system of a Constitutional Republic, regardless of what the different choices might be, the nation goes on functioning. That is the beauty of our democracy."

Among the reply-all responses came one from Bush, who has declined to disclose how he voted after saying he wouldn't support Clinton or Trump, either.

"Well said," he wrote. "Very well said."

Photo credit: Peter Andrew Bosch, Miami Herald file

November 07, 2016

Justice Department sends poll watchers to 5 Florida counties

via @VeraMBergen

The U.S. Justice Department is dispatching more than 500 monitors and observers to watch polling sites in 28 states on Election Day, it announced on Monday.

“We will work tirelessly to ensure that every eligible person that wants to do so is able to cast a ballot,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.

The number is a reduction of about a third from the more than 780 monitors who were deployed during the 2012 election. On Tuesday they will be stationed in 67 jurisdictions across the country to keep track of any voting irregularities. They will be watching for voting rights violations, such as whether voters are discriminated against because of their race or language.

“As always, our personnel will perform these duties impartially, with one goal in mind: to see to it that every eligible voter can participate in our elections to the full extent that federal law provides,” Lynch said on Monday.

Of the 500 people who will be deployed, those sent to Alaska, California, Louisiana, New York and Alabama will be election “observers” will full access to the polls. Those dispatched to the other 24 states will be “monitors,” meaning they don’t have the statutory authority to access polling sites, which will have to be granted by state and local authorities.

Among the monitored counties will be five in Florida: Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Orange, Hillsborough and Lee.

--with Patricia Mazzei

How many people voted at Lemon City library during extended hours?

@PatriciaMazzei

The answer: Not a lot.

Forced by a judge to make up for two hours of morning road closures, the Miami-Dade County Elections Department kept the Lemon City public library early-voting site open until 9 p.m. Sunday, two hours past the 7 p.m. closing time.

There were no lines and few people at the library, which is at a predominantly black Miami neighborhood. But the department says some people -- 42, to be exact -- did cast their ballots there between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

November 06, 2016

Sunday turnout shatters records in Miami-Dade and Broward

IMG_2664
@PatriciaMazzei

There’s really no other way to say it: Early voting went absolutely gangbusters in Florida’s two most populous counties on Sunday, during the last day the polls were open before Election Day.

Miami-Dade County Elections Supervisor Christina White reported 53,095 ballots cast, a number that shattered the county’s previous record of 42,810, set Friday.

Before that, Miami-Dade had never exceeded 39,400 in-person early voters in a single day; 40,051 voted Saturday, when much of the county was drenched in rain. Bad weather typically drives down turnout.

“This has no doubt been a record breaking election. Both in terms of overall turnout and because we broke the daily record today by more than 13,000 voters,” White said in a statement to the Miami Herald. “This coupled with minimal wait times has made early voting in Miami-Dade a success.”

In Broward County, 44,216 people voted Sunday, the highest total from the two weeks of early voting this year. The previous 2016 high, from Friday, was 36,276. On Saturday, 35,905 Broward residents voted, also despite persistent rain.

The day brought Broward’s total number of early votes over two weeks to 426,498. Another 188,489 people had cast ballots by mail, for a total of 614,987. Compared to 2012 totals, that’s a nearly 47 percent jump.

Miami-Dade saw 475,864 in-person early votes during the two-week 2016 period, and 287,224 mail votes, for a total of 763,088. That’s a 61 percent increase from 2012. Four years ago, there were only eight days of in-person early voting, and no voting on the Sunday before Election Day.

More here.