August 04, 2016

Florida GOP to open Miami field office Saturday, with Rubio in tow

@PatriciaMazzei

The Republican Party of Florida will open a Miami campaign office Saturday, featuring an appearance by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

The field office, at 7032 Coral Way, is one of several the party plans to inaugurate in coming days, starting with an event Friday in Panama City -- also with Rubio, who is running for re-election.

Privately, some Republicans have grumbled that a rift between the Florida GOP and Gov. Rick Scott -- who's got his own, separate political apparatus -- might hurt get-out-the-vote efforts, particularly without a robust Donald Trump presidential campaign in place.

"I'm very excited for an RPOF Victory Office right in my backyard," Rubio said in a statement. "Miami volunteers will have a central location to work hard for candidates up and down the ballot here in Florida as we all work to ensure conservative wins across the state in 2016."

"Our new Victory Office in Miami will empower our volunteers and grassroots leaders with a location to continue registering voters, training new volunteers, and spreading our message of greater economic opportunity for all Floridians," RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in the statement. "Together, we will ensure Republicans are successful in November."

August 03, 2016

Maybe Trump will talk Zika in Florida on Wednesday, Rubio says

Zika Florida
@PatriciaMazzei

For months, even before he decided to seek re-election, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has sounded the alarm on Zika.

Now there’s an outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus in Rubio’s hometown of Miami. And while Rubio is still holding news conferences about the public-health threat, his political party’s presidential nominee has remained mum.

“Hopefully that will change today, and the campaign will communicate and say something,” Rubio told reporters outside his Doral office Wednesday, sending a clear signal to Donald Trump’s campaign to speak up.

Trump plans to campaign later Wednesday in Daytona Beach and Jacksonville. Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival, has talked about Zika and the importance of funding prevention efforts. On Tuesday in Daytona, her running mate, Tim Kaine, accused Trump of ignoring the virus.

“It’s like, crickets,” he said.

Why won’t Trump talk about Zika?

“You’ll have to ask the Trump campaign,” Rubio said. “I’m not a spokesperson for their campaign.”

More here.

Photo credit: Lynne Sladky, Associated Press

August 02, 2016

Florida members of Congress ask CDC for more Zika money

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida needs far more money to fight the Zika virus spreading in Miami than the federal government has set aside, according to the state's congressional delegation.

Twenty-six of Florida's 27 members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday asking for additional funding to combat the mosquito-borne virus. Earlier Tuesday, the CDC promised $720,000 to combat the disease, which has been locally transmitted to at least 14 people in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood.

That's not nearly enough, the lawmakers wrote CDC Director Thomas Frieden, noting that there's a $16 million pot to divide among 40 states and territories. The $720,000, they said, "amounts to a paltry 4.5% of funding made available, despite the fact that almost half of all confirmed non-travel cases of the disease in the continental United States have now been linked to mosquito transmission in Florida."

The lawmakers thanked the CDC for its work with Florida authorities, and more distributing more than $8 million in "Zika-specific funding" to the state already.

"However, because of the potential for explosive spread of the virus via mosquito transmission through heavily-populated regions of the state, we urge you, in accordance with all applicable rules and regulations, to reconsider the current allocation formula for Zika-specific funds," they wrote. "If funds are truly allocated based on the risk of Zika virus transmission and population need, the State of Florida must receive a far greater share of available funds given the concerning developments linking new cases of the virus to local mosquitoes in Miami-Dade County."

They don't specify how much more money they want.

The letter was spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican whose Miami district begins just south of Wynwood. Among the co-signers is U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, the Miami Gardens Democrat whose district includes Wynwood, and every other delegation member except U.S. Rep. Dan Webster of Winter Garden.

UPDATE: Webster has now signed the letter.

July 27, 2016

Trump met with Hispanic leaders in Doral Tuesday night

Donald Trump, his running mate Gov. Mike Pence and a few members of his staff met with about 10 South Florida Hispanic, religious and civic leaders at the Doral golf resort Tuesday night. Trump spoke for a few minutes about his campaign and a range of issues and then listened to the participants in the group.

State Rep. Carlos Trujillo said that participants asked Trump to expand on if he is able to secure the border then what happens to the 11 million undocumented immigrants already here.

“One thing all Hispanics want to see is immigration reform,” Trujillo said. “He is still forming the solution.”

Trujillo described the meeting with Trump as more of a listening session and not a speech.

The general tenor was “how can we work together to accomplish goals?”

Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck, an early Miami-Dade supporter of Trump and a Miami lawyer, said they talked about several issues of high importance to Florida hispanics.

“We talked about the issues of Cuba, Miami as a gateway to Latin America and commerce, the Cuban Adjustment Act and how we felt about it,” he said. “We discussed activities we need to do to bring more HIspanic in to support Trump including Puerto Ricans in Orlando.”

Trump has been trying to hold a Hispanic roundtable in Miami but has scrapped it twice -- the first time after the Dallas shooting. The event is expected to be rescheduled.

July 22, 2016

Miami mayor has cameo appearance on HBO's 'Ballers'

via @ReneMiamiHerald

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado has had a long and storied career: He’s worked as a reporter, was a member of the White House Press Corps, served as city commissioner and was even a candidate for NASA’s Journalists in Space program.

But Regalado, 69, is still up for trying new things. On Sunday, he made his Hollywood debut on the second season premiere of HBO’s “Ballers,” which is shot in South Florida and stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a retired NFL superstar who now works as a financial manager for professional football players.

At the start of the episode, Johnson is helping Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh open his new restaurant — Suh Casa — at a fancy VIP reception. While addressing the crowd, Johnson gives Regalado a shout-out. “Mayor Regalado! Thank you, Mayor, for everything!” The mayor flashes a thumbs-up.

Regalado says his professional acting debut is just his way of keeping his options open when his second and final term as mayor ends in 2017.

“I come from TV and radio, and since I’m term-limited, I have to be looking for the next thing,” he said, laughing. “I was very excited when they invited me to come, because The Rock and Andy Garcia [who plays a rival financial manager this season] have such strong connections to Miami. They were showcasing a new restaurant on the river, so I thought that this was a great opportunity to market Miami for free.”

Another perk of the cameo was getting to meet “Ballers” cast member Richard Schiff, who played White House communications director Toby Ziegler on “The West Wing.”

“I loved that show, and I got to sit next to Richard in that scene and meet him. It was a pretty great day.”

Regalado was told the entire thing would take two hours, but he wound up having to spend seven hours on the set, because the scene required 10 takes.

More importantly, he was not paid for his time.

“They didn’t have to pay me anything, because I didn’t have any dialogue,” he says. “Next time, I’m going to ask them to give me some lines.”

--RENE RODRIGUEZ

July 20, 2016

July 19, 2016

Miami delegate becomes media darling at GOP convention

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@PatriciaMazzei

Celebrity, if such a thing exists among delegates who make up the geeky fest of Americana that is the Republican National Convention, looks like this: a young, Hispanic, conservative woman from the country’s biggest swing state making an appearance on Telemundo. And Univision. And The Washington Post. Fusion. The BBC. The Financial Times.

Such has been the life of Miami-Dade County delegate Jessica Fernandez since she arrived in Cleveland on Monday. On Tuesday, she cast her ballot to nominate Donald Trump for the White House. He wasn’t her preferred candidate — which was one of the reasons so many reporters found her interesting.

“I checked all those magical unicorn boxes: Female. Republican. Hispanic. Under 40,” she said.

She’d just finished lunch outside the Quicken Loans Arena, trying a pierogi for the first time (“It’s like a dumpling with mashed potatoes inside.”) Sipping a Blue Moon, she showed off her convention selfies: with actor Billy Baldwin (she wasn’t sure which Baldwin he was), with Texas Gov. Rick Perry (she ran into him in an elevator), with NBC News and Telemundo anchor José Díaz-Balart (she posed after he interviewed her).

“I am taking regular pictures, too, guys, but I just think it’s funny to get selfies,” she clarified.

This is why Fernandez, 31, makes for a compelling voice of Miami’s Young Republicans, the organization she leads.

More here.

Photo credit: Natalie Fertig, McClatchy

Miami state House candidate gets shout-out from high-profile GOP senator -- his college buddy

160719_RNCTuesday_TomCottonsized

@PatriciaMazzei

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a potential GOP presidential candidate in four or eight years, steered clear of mentioning presumptive 2016 nominee Donald Trump at a Tuesday breakfast with Florida convention delegates. But he did name another Republican, one far well known and seeking a much more modest seat: John Couriel.

Couriel is running for Florida House seat 114 in central Miami-Dade County. Couriel, who ran for state Senate and lost in 2012, also happens to be know Cotton from when they were students. Both graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

"John is a very good man," Cotton said. "I'm very excited that he's running again, and I hope that the people of South Florida choose to elect him this year, because he'll be a tireless advocate for them in the state Legislature."

Couriel told the Miami Herald in a message he "didn't have a closer friend in college or law school than Tom."

"Fatefully, we were sitting together in Charlie Nesson's evidence class on 9/11," Couriel said. Cotton attended Couriel's Key West wedding, and Couriel and his wife sent Cotton care packages when Cotton -- after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 -- joined the Army and served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cotton, one of the prime-time convention speakers Monday night, said he'll campaign for Couriel and other Republicans in Florida in the fall. He dismissed chatter about his own future presidential ambitions: "The future's a long way away."

"We don't even have nominees this year yet," he said. "This is a rare occasion for Republicans from all 50 states to get together," he added, asked about his appearances before swing-state delegations like Florida and Ohio. "I'm the senator from Arkansas, but I can't serve Arkansas as effectvely in a Democrat-controlled Senate as I can in a Republican Senate."

Photo credit: Natalie Fertig, McClatchy

July 18, 2016

Miami billionaire Mike Fernandez tries to publish anti-Trump ad in Cleveland

Scorpion@PatriciaMazzei

CLEVELAND -- Imagine delegates to the Republican National Convention opening the local newspaper Tuesday and finding an image of a stylized scorpion — wearing a signature red hat with white lettering. The hat reads: “The Donald.”

That’s how billionaire Miami healthcare magnate Mike Fernandez wanted to portray his political party's presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump, in the GOP convention’s host city, Cleveland.

But he won't get a chance to — not in Cleveland, at least.

The Plain Dealer newspaper asked Fernandez to remove Trump’s name from the ad copy for publication. They wanted Fernandez to call Trump “the nominee” or “the candidate” — and to do away with the red hat.

Fernandez, who helped bankroll Jeb Bush’s Republican presidential campaign and who has made a habit of publishing anti-Trump ads in newspapers across the country, said no.

“I cannot believe that it was rejected because they would not allow me to have the name Donald Trump in the ad itself,” Fernandez told the Miami Herald in an email. “But where there is a will there is a way. I will be placing in every search engine within 20 miles of the convention center the pop up directing people to the ad that the Cleveland newspaper did not want them to see.”

The Plain Dealer could not be immediately reached for comment. Fernandez provided the Miami Herald with an email from the newspaper’s advertising department asking for the changes to the ad. The full-page ad will run in the Herald on Tuesday.

In December, a Trump attorney threatened to sue Fernandez over an earlier anti-Trump piece. No suit has been filed.

More here.

July 16, 2016

Handful of delegates felt snubbed by Trump ahead of Miami trip

@PatriciaMazzei

When Donald Trump planned to come to Miami, his campaign contacted its local finance chairmen, supportive politicians and business people and the county Republican Party chief.

But it apparently failed to invite Miami-Dade County delegates to the Republican National Convention. And they weren't happy about it.

Here's a snippet from our story about skeptical Miami Republicans headed to Cleveland:

Amid rumors that a small but dedicated group of national delegates might try to rebel against Trump in Cleveland, a Trump backer recently telephoned Miami delegates to ensure they didn’t plan to stray, several delegates said.

A few days later, Trump’s campaign announced its Miami trip. Delegates outside of local party and Trump campaign leadership felt snubbed: They learned about Trump’s events on the news No one from the campaign reached out to them, they said, and the delegates were only invited to one of the events after they complained.

Trump ultimately canceled his trip. He plans to return to Miami for a fundraiser after the RNC, on July 26.