December 08, 2016

Miami-Dade GOP chairman says he's running again

Chairman Diaz serious JAI@PatriciaMazzei 

Nelson Diaz, the chairman of the Miami-Dade County Republican Party, said Thursday he's running for reelection to another two-year term.

In an interview with the Miami Herald, Diaz said he's proud of how Republicans did in the Nov. 8 election but "there's some unfinished business that we need to take care of."

"We need to make sure we get a Republican governor and Cabinet back in 2018," he said. "We need to send a Republican senator to help Marco Rubio. And there are a few state House seats we need to win back in Miami, and two state Senate seats we need to defend."

In an email to party members Thursday, Diaz outlined Republicans' 2016 wins.

"Presidential years are always tougher for Republicans, but together we proved we could survive and do better than everyone expected," he wrote, adding that the local GOP's annual Lincoln Day fundraisers brought in about $200,000 each over the past two years.

Diaz, who has already served two terms, said a third term would be his last. He faces no opposition yet for the Dec. 22 election, but at least one early Donald Trump supporter, party member Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck, sounds eager to recruit a Trump loyalist for the job -- or perhaps to run himself. Diaz remained neutral in the presidential primary, though he's a friend of Rubio's.

"Miami-Dade needs a new direction," Palomares-Starbuck, who is traveling out of the country, said in a text message to the Herald. "Marco Rubio lost Miami-Dade. So did Trump."

Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 300,000 in Miami-Dade, so it's unrealistic for any Republican running statewide to hold out hope for a win here.

This year, Rubio, who is from West Miami, nearly matched his level of MIami-Dade support from 2010, a year that heavily favored Republicans. He received about 45 percent support in 2010 and 43 percent support in 2016. In raw numbers, that amounted to about 200,000 more Miami-Dade votes for Rubio in 2016 than in 2010.

Photo credit: Jose A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

Stephen Bittel quietly became a Miami-Dade Democratic precinct captain this week

@PatriciaMazzei  IMG_Bittel_7_1_VT9NK7SB_L269015500

In the latest twist in the political saga over who will be the next Florida Democratic Party chief, Miami fundraiser Stephen Bittel quietly became eligible earlier this week to potentially seek the position.

Bittel was one of 131 people formally sworn in as a member of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Executive Committee late Tuesday night when the local party approved a motion to accept applications submitted during the course of the four-hour meeting. Meeting minutes list Bittel as a new DEC member in precinct 586, though he was never spotted in the room. No attendance was required.

Bittel declined to comment in any detail to the Miami Herald on Thursday.

"I hope I'll have more to say in the future," he said. "I care very deeply about the future of our community, state and country."

He wouldn't say who turned in his form. Some Democrats speculated he had funded the Pizza Hut delivery that arrived mid-meeting, after the arroz con pollo from earlier was mostly gone. ("I'm a pizzaholic," Bittel said, without confirming his involvement.)

Because Bittel's Coconut Grove precinct didn't have a captain -- most precincts are vacant -- he automatically became his precinct committeeman. (Another man from the same precinct who also became a member Tuesday hadn't signed his application, so Bittel got dibs on being named captain.)

That matters because it means Bittel is now eligible to run for a local party position next time there's an election. His allies are pushing behind the scenes for one of three Miami-Dade officers elected Tuesday to step aside precisely so that a new election is called and Bittel can run. That's the only way the wealthy developer can vie for the state party chairmanship in January.

Newly elected Miami-Dade DEC Chairman Juan Cuba -- who has said there's "zero circumstances" under which he'd step aside for Bittel to join the leadership ranks -- noted that the long list of new members also includes many former Bernie Sanders supporters and other Democrats previously uninvolved in party politics.

"We're glad to be growing the Democratic Party so quickly already," he said.

An earlier version of this post suggested new DEC members had to attend Tuesday's meeting in person to submit their applications. They did not.

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

After missing chance to sign letter to Trump, Miami-Dade mayor says he backs DACA


Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez missed his chance to sign on to a letter from big-city mayors to President-elect Donald Trump asking him to protect President Barack Obama's program to protect young immigrants brought into the country illegally from deportation.

But the mayor, a Republican, said in a statement Thursday he backs the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and hopes it is extended until when Congress passes comprehensive immigration reform -- essentially what the mayors asked of Trump on Wednesday.

"This morning, I was briefed on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)," Gimenez's office said in a statement. "I fully support the extension of DACA until Congress can approve and our next President can sign comprehensive immigration reform which addresses the status of our Dreamers and the millions who lack legal status throughout the country. Miami-Dade County is home to thousands of young people who through no fault of their own were brought to the United States by their parents and are currently undocumented. They deserve an opportunity to achieve the American Dream. I encourage the next Congress to prioritize common sense immigration reform."

The letter to Trump was delivered by the mayor who organized it, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Gimenez would have been the only Republican on the list.

December 07, 2016

Chicago mayor asked Miami-Dade mayor to sign DACA letter to Trump


The office of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez got a request late last week from an aide to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel asking him to ink his name to a letter asking President-elect Donald Trump to protect young immigrants under President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

But Gimenez's name didn't appear on the list of mayors in the letter Emanuel handed Trump on Wednesday -- because Gimenez didn't respond to Emanuel in time.

On Friday, Gimenez asked for a policy briefing to help make up his mind on whether to sign the letter. But the briefing didn’t take place before the letter was printed and handed to Trump.

Gimenez traveled to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta on Monday to learn about the latest efforts to combat the Zika virus. He sat through a county commission meeting Tuesday. He flew to Washington on Wednesday to ask members of Congress for money to pay for public transportation projects.

“Mayor Gimenez supports comprehensive immigration reform,” said his spokesman, Michael Hernández.

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado wasn't asked to sign the letter -- but said as soon as he learned of it Wednesday that he would, "in a heartbeat."

More here.

Miami mayor: I'd sign Rahm Emanuel's DACA letter to Trump


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a surprising visit Wednesday to Trump Tower, where the Democrat and former White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama hand-delivered to President-elect Donald Trump a letter signed by a total of 18 big-city mayors around the country.

The subject: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program Obama created by executive action protecting immigrants brought into the country illegally as children, often called Dreamers.

"DACA makes our communities and country safer -- both in terms of national security and public safety," says the letter, signed by Emanuel and mayors such as Bill de Blasio of New York, Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Marty Walsh of Boston and Sylvester Turner of Houston.

Notably absent: any mayor from South Florida, one of the most immigrant-rich regions in the country.

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said that's because he wasn't asked to sign.

Regalado, a Republican, did not back Trump.

Emanuel told reporters at Trump Tower that young people protected by DACA shouldn't be targeted after having notified the federal government in good faith of their identity and whereabouts -- one of the top concerns among DACA recipients.

"They're trying to achieve the American Dream. It's no fault of their own their parents came here," Emanuel said. "We should embrace them, rather than do a bait-and-switch."

Emanuel said he also defended sanctuary cities to Trump, who has pledged to do away with federal funding for municipalities that fail to cooperate with federal immigration detentions. Miami-Dade acts as a de facto sanctuary county, though Mayor Carlos Gimenez has tried to argue that the county is not formally a sanctuary because it's only trying to save money, not make a political statement.

A full story on the letter and Regalado and Gimenez has been posted here.

December 06, 2016

Miami-Dade Democrats pick leaders amid political drama over Florida party

IMG_IMG_bullard_2_1_2Q9NPIEJ_L269366158@PatriciaMazzei @AmySherman1

The most momentous election in recent memory for Miami-Dade County Democratic Party ended late Tuesday after more than three hours of political wrangling that could determine the future of the Florida Democratic Party.

At stake at the reorganization meeting were not only the reins of Miami-Dade’s Democratic Executive Committee — but also the chances that a deep-pocketed donor might find a way to run for the far more powerful position of chairman of the state party, which has been reeling since its drubbing in the Nov. 8 election.

Juan Cuba, until recently the local party’s executive director, won the Miami-Dade chairman’s post. Dotie Joseph, a former North Miami Beach assistant city attorney, became vice-chairwoman. Business consultant Bret Berlin was reelected state committeeman without opposition. Francesca Menes, policy director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, became the new state committeewoman.

Outgoing chairman and state Sen. Dwight Bullard, who chose not to seek reelection to his party post after losing his state seat last month, wanted the vice-chair position. But party rules require the vice-chair to be a woman if the chair is a man (and vice versa), so Bullard’s bid was made moot by Cuba’s win. Bullard was nominated for the committeeman post, too, but lost to Berlin.

The biggest intrigue, however, was over a man who wasn’t even listed on the ballot: Stephen Bittel, a Coconut Grove developer and major Democratic fundraiser.

Bittel wants to head the Florida Democratic Party. The wrinkle: Only party members elected to county posts are eligible to run for state chairman. And Bittel wasn’t eligible for a county post because party rules make those seats available only to precinct chairmen — and Bittel wasn’t one of them.

So what’s a well-heeled donor quietly backed by big-name Democrats to do? Hope he can cut a deal.

More here.

Photo credit: Steve Cannon, AP

Stephen Bittel says he hasn't struck deals with Miami Dade Democratic candidates


Stephen Bittel said he hasn't asked any Democrats running for leadership positions in Miami-Dade to agree to step aside if they win to make way for him to run for a county position, a prerequisite to run for Florida Democratic Party chair.

"I don't even know who is going to win," he said Tuesday afternoon, a couple hours before the vote for several leadership positions within the Miami-Dade Democratic Party. "It would be an exercise in frustration at this point."

However he said if the county leadership can create a path for him "I am willing to serve."

Bittel said he spoke to Sen. Bill Nelson several weeks ago about his interest in the state chair position. He said they discussed if there was a path for Bittel to run that they would have a conversation about it at that time.

"Until I become eligible there is not a lot to talk about," he said.

Nelson, the only statewide Democrat, hasn't said publicly who he will support for state chair but it's likely he will weigh in at some point after Miami-Dade activists vote for their leaders tonight.

Bittel, a Coconut Grove developer, is a major contributor to federal, state and local races and political groups. After the Nov. 8th election, Florida Democratic Party chair Allison Tant announced she wouldn't run again in January setting off a long list of interested candidates. 






Annette Taddeo Goldstein says if she wins Miami-Dade Democratic Party spot she won't step aside for Stephen Bittel



Annette Taddeo Goldstein says she is running for Miami-Dade Democratic Party vice chair tonight and says if she win she won't step aside for Stephen Bittel, the wealthy Coconut Grove developer some Democrats want to run for state party chair.

Taddeo Goldstein quietly withdrew from the race for state committeewoman a few days ago and didn't respond to questions about her plans until today when she confirmed she will run for vice chair.

There were rumors that Taddeo Goldstein planned to run and had agreed that if she won she would drop out to allow for a new election to fill a vacancy which would allow Bittel to run. According to the rules, he isn't eligible to run for Florida Democratic Party chair since he holds no position with the county party right now. 

But Taddeo Goldstein, a past county party chair, said that Bittel had not asked her to step aside.

"There is no deal," she said. "Nobody asked me to step aside."

In an email to fellow Democrats Tuesday afternoon, Taddeo Goldstein wrote:

"During the time that it is most critical for us to work together to defeat the GOP’s hateful agenda, I have instead seen infighting, backstabbing and lies being spread to manipulate our State and local party’s elections. There’s been lies about my not running for state committeewoman because of some kind of deal.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The truth is I decided not to run for committeewoman because I was sickened by all of this. If we want our party to be successful, we have to stop the infighting, the backstabbing, etc. We have to start focusing our efforts on defeating the GOP, instead of defeating our fellow democrats."

Taddeo Goldstein, an unsuccessful candidate for Congress and lieutenant governor, said she may run for Florida Democratic Party chair.

"I have not ruled that out," she said. 

About 200 Democrats in Miami-Dade will elect a chair, vice chair, and state committeeman and woman tonight. The election has created much turmoil and drama as various candidates have dropped in and out of races and activists have battled on social media and in emails. 

It's unclear if any of the candidates have agreed to drop out for Bittel. Bret Berlin, the current state committeeman seeking re-election, and Juan Cuba, one of nine chair candidates, both said if they win they will remain in the position.

The outcome in Miami-Dade matters statewide because the committeemen and women in each county get to vote on the Florida Democratic Party chair in January. The activists vote based on a formula set according to the number of registered Democrats in each county which means that Miami-Dade and Broward have a powerful voice.

There are a long list of potential candidates for the Florida Democratic Party chair including Dwight Bullard, who lost his re-election for state Senate and Susannah Randolph, former district director for U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson.


December 04, 2016

Annette Taddeo Goldstein drops out of Miami Dade Democratic Party race



Annette Taddeo Goldstein is no longer running for a Miami-Dade Democratic Party leadership position.

Taddeo's name is no longer on the online roster of candidates for the election Tuesday. She had previously said she would run for state committeewoman, a position that holds a powerful vote in the selection of the next Florida Democratic Party chair in January.

Taddeo didn't respond to a text message or voicemail today asking why she is no longer running and if this means she has ruled out running for Florida Democratic Party chair. Taddeo lost a Democratic primary for Congress to former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia in August and in 2014 was former Gov. Charlie Crist's running mate for governor in his unsuccessful attempt to defeat Gov. Rick Scott.

On Tuesday, about 200 county Democratic activists will elect a new chair, state committeeman and committee woman and other leaders. The key question on Tuesday will be what sort of maneuvering Democrats may do in an attempt to make it possible for Stephen Bittel, a prolific fundraiser and Coconut Grove developer, to run for state chair. (Multiple candidates are considering running for chair.)

Currently Bittel is not a precinct committeeman, a prerequisite for the statewide position. Bittel told the Miami Herald in November that he "might" run but he has been working the phones among Democrats which suggests that he will run if it's possible. Democrats are eager to elect a new chair who can bring in big bucks and increase turnout in 2018 to protect Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida's only statewide Democrat.

So far, Nelson has been publicly mum about his pick for state chair but look for him to possibly weigh in after Miami-Dade elects its leaders. Since Nelson could face millionaire Scott, he will certainly want a chair who can help him compete with fundraising.

State committeemen and women across Florida will elect a new chair in January to replace Allison Tant. They vote according to a formula based on the number of registered Democrats in their county which means that Miami-Dade and Broward get the highest number of votes.

Broward Democrats elected new leaders Saturday.





December 02, 2016

Nine Democrats to compete for Miami-Dade Democratic Party chair



Sen. Dwight Bullard won’t run for chair again of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party but still plans to run for Florida Democratic Party chair.

Bullard will run for county party vice chair against activist Rubin Young

On Tuesday, about 200 members of the county party who represent their precincts will gather to elect a chair, vice chair and other leaders. (Here is the full roster of who is running.)

The outcome has ramifications for the state’s party leadership. The county party will also elect a state committeeman and committee woman and those two individuals will get to vote on the Florida Democratic Party chair in January. Across the state, the committeemen and women vote according to a formula based on the number of registered Democrats in the county which means that Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach carry considerable weight.

Here’s a look at the candidates running for positions in Miami-Dade:

State committeeman:

  • Bret Berlin: A business consultant, Berlin has served as the chair for 12 years and is former Miami-Dade chairman and supported Hillary Clinton during the primary. He says he hasn’t seen the DEC membership this low. “It's disappointing so few people are engaged -- it means we have to do much better job as a party to regain trust miami dade electorate and rebuild this party.”

(Any voting member can nominate himself or herself from the floor so it is possible he will face a competitor.)

State committeewoman:

  • Francesca Menes: She lost a race for state house in 2016 and is running for a state house race in 2018.
  • Annette Taddeo Goldstein: She has lost multiple races, most recently for Congress to former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia. Taddeo Goldstein has been mentioned as a potential state party chair candidate but didn’t respond to the Herald this week about whether she will definitely run. She is currently vice chair of the Florida Democratic Party and a past chair of the Miami-Dade party.
  • Elizabeth Judd: A retired AFSCME union business agent, Judd is a longtime DEC member.
  • Bess McElroy: A retired city of Miami personnel administrator, she unsuccessfully ran for state house twice. In the past she has served as vice chair and was the interim chair a few times.

The other two candidates are Mae Christian, Elizabeth Rodriguez and Elizabeth Washington-Wells who are also running for chair.

The other candidates for chair are:

  • Dr. Leonarda Duran: She is president of the Miami-Dade Democratic Hispanic Caucus and works as a therapist/life coach.
  • Tony Diaz: He runs an ad agency and is running for Miami City Commission in 2017.
  • Millie Herrera: She is a former appointee of President Barack Obama to the U.S. Department of Labor and a former chair of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida. She owns a public relations firm.
  • Rafael Velasquez: He lost a race for state house in 2002. Velasquez, a real estate broker, said he was on the national finance committee for Clinton.
  • Juan Cuba: He resigned as director of the Miami-Dade Democrats after the Nov. 8th election.
  • Fred Frost: Former president of the South Florida AFL-CIO and works for CWA International Union.
  • Ernesto Fernandez

This post has been updated to reflect additional candidates who signed up to run or switched races.