Incumbent Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is retiring.
An unexpected guest is headlining an upcoming fundraiser for Miami Democratic Senate candidate Annette Taddeo: one-time 2016 presidential candidate Martin O'Malley.
O'Malley, the former Maryland governor, will join other Taddeo supporters Tuesday at the posh Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. Taddeo is running in a special Sept. 26 Senate Districit 40 election against Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.
O'Malley dropped out of the 2016 race after a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses, but he may still have future presidential ambitions -- which explains why he's trying to be helpful to a Democrat in swing-state Florida.
Also hosting the reception are a slew of state and local elected Democrats, activists, attorneys and donors, according to an invitation obtained by the Miami Herald.
Taddeo raised more than $152,000 from July 21-Aug. 18, the latest campaign-finance reports show. But that still lagged behind Diaz, who raked in more than $382,000. The primary was July 25.
Republicans expect to spend $3 million in the expensive race to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles, a Republican who resigned in scandal in April.
Christian "He-Man" Schlaerth is also running, without party affiliation.
Vice President Mike Pence hinted Wednesday at soon-to-come economic sanctions against the Venezuelan government, but he offered little in the way of specifics of what a more robust U.S. response might look like or when it might come, choosing instead to deliver a broader message of hope to increasingly despondent Venezuelans.
Pence indicated the Trump administration intends to further punish Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his loyalists for undermining the South American country’s democracy. Broader sanctions, perhaps aimed at restricting trade in Venezuelan debt in dollars, could come as early as this week, the Miami Herald has learned. But Pence did not detail any potential penalties.
“Our resolve is unwavering,” Pence told a few hundred people at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Doral, Miami’s Venezuelan immigrant hub. “You may be assured: Under the leadership of President Donald Trump, the United States of America will continue to bring the full measure of American economic and diplomatic power to bear until democracy is restored in Venezuela.”
The crowd, which had waited hours for Pence, responded with enthusiastic bursts of applause. Women with the tricolor Venezuelan flag draped over their shoulders appeared to be channeling energy built up over months of worry about their country’s prolonged political crisis.
“Libertad!” they chanted.
Pence spent the day in Doral to bookend his recent swing through Latin America, where regional U.S. allies pledged to also pressure Maduro. The vice president noted with satisfaction that Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela announced Tuesday that Venezuelans will be soon be required to obtain travel visas into his country — a move denounced by Maduro’s government.
It's August 2017 and Democrats competing in a crowded field for a Miami congressional seat are already trying to one-up each other in the endorsement game, a full year ahead of the 2018 primary election.
To wit: Candidate Matt Haggman said Wednesday he's been backed by former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz.
Haggman's announcement followed state Rep. David Richardson, who said Tuesday he's secured the support of former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson.
Richardson's announcement followed state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, who said earlier Tuesday he's won the endorsement of South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard.
So, why the rush to reveal endorsements when few people are paying attention?
Rodríguez, who has been reluctant to bash President Donald Trump, was shoring up his liberal bona fides. Richardson, who's positioned himself as the most left-leaning candidate of the bunch, was showing his establishment support. Haggman, one of several non-Hispanic white candidates in the race, was signaling he has Hispanic support. (Haggman named Diaz a campaign co-chair along with six others in a diverse group: Adriana Cisneros, Brian Bilzin, Al Dotson, Darlene Boytell-Perez, Felecia Hatcher and Marta Viciedo.)
Mostly, though, the candidates need to attract donors early on in the race. There are seven -- possibly eight -- people vying for the nomination in Florida's Democratic-leaning 27th district. All are tapping much of the same local Democratic donor pool.
But if Trump's victory last year proved anything in politics, it's that endorsements might not matter much at all. The only exceptions might be if the endorser can attract new donors, bring organized grassroots supporters, or serve as surrogates in, say, Spanish-language media outlets for non-bilingual candidates.
Whether the endorsements announced this week do any of that probably won't be obvious until...next year. Or at least the next fundraising quarter.
The other candidates running are former state Judge Mary Barzee Flores, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn and Mark Anthony Person. Miami Commissioner Ken Russell is also considering a run.
Sen. Marco Rubio will help raise campaign money for Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Thursday in Bal Harbour.
The evening reception will be held at the home of the Falic family, which has been politically active for years, particularly on issues related to Israel. In the past, family members have supported conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz -- as well as Weston Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine , a Democrat in a nonpartisan post.
An invitation to the fundraiser obtained by the Miami Herald shows contribution levels ranging from $2,700 to $10,400 a person.
Curbelo, a prolific fundraiser, has been ramping up his money efforts ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. He's got a fundraiser scheduled for Wednesday with several well-known local Democrats.
Democratic Senate candidate Annette Taddeo has denounced as false an explosive Spanish-language radio ad from Florida Republicans casting her as — wait for it — a tax-hiker, job-offshorer, Colombian-guerrilla sympathizer and Fidel Castro apologist.
The ad reflects a tried-and-true campaign tack in Miami politics: paint your opponent as soft on Cuba, or soft on Communism.
Particularly offensive to Taddeo is the suggestion that she wanted to “legitimize” the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Taddeo was born in Colombia and fled as a teenager after the FARC captured her father, an American military veteran, at the family ranch.
“How dare my opponent, lobbyist Jose Felix Diaz, use our community’s painful history for political gain?” Taddeo said in a statement. “My father was kidnapped by the FARC and my family had to flee Colombia because of our safety.”
She will face Diaz, a state representative, and independent candidate Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth in the special Sept. 26 Senate District 40 election to replace Republican Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned in disgrace in April.
The ad claims that “when [former President Barack] Obama insisted on a peace plan in Colombia that would legitimize the FARC, Taddeo put partisanship over everything else to support it.”
Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff
Everybody agreed: When Gladys Coego covertly filled in other people’s absentee ballots while working at the Miami-Dade elections headquarters, she chipped away at the integrity of the voting system.
But at 74 years old, Coego is elderly, diabetic and depressed, her relatives told a judge on Wednesday.
She had no previous criminal record. And nobody – not detectives, prosecutors and or even Coego herself – could say why she filled in the ballots. She had no known ties to any campaign, there was no evidence anyone paid her and she illegally filled only a few ballots before being spotted. Yet her small-time case led to bigly national headlines, coming as then-candidate Donald Trump railed about widespread national voter fraud.
“Emotionally, I am destroyed,” Coego said in Spanish. “I have no explanation for what I have done .... no one offered me anything in exchange for what I did.”
For those reasons, a Miami-Dade judge on Wednesday declined to sentenced Coego to jail, instead ordering her to serve two years of house arrest, plus three years of probation.
Circuit Judge Alberto Milián acknowledged “there is a perception in this community that there is a lack of integrity in the election process, especially in the issue of absentee ballots.”
“This appears to be an isolated incident,” Milián said, adding: “I don't want to make this defendant a poster child or scapegoat for the perceived inequities of the system.”
Florida Democrats are trying to attach President Donald Trump to the Republican in a Miami state Senate race seen as a crucial battleground.
Millions of dollars are expected to be spent on the race between former Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democrat Annette Taddeo for Senate District 40. The Sept. 26 special election was called to replace Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned after using sexist and racist language.
The Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the state Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, released a new TV ad featuring Taddeo. It links Diaz to Trump’s support for repealing Obamacare — using a photo of Diaz and Trump together at the inauguration as more proof of their lockstep bond.
"Jose Felix Diaz supports Trump's every move including his plan to slash Medicare, charge older Americans an age tax and cut coverage for pre-existing conditions," states the ad.
The ad is referencing Trump’s plan to repeal Obamacare and is a nod to efforts in the U.S. House and Senate to repeal and replace the law.
Diaz was a consistent vote against the Affordable Care Act as a statehouse member, even though his actions could not influence the federal law. But the ad exaggerates the support Diaz lent to the U.S. House and Senate legislation this year. He has mostly been quiet on the issue.
More here from PolitiFact Florida.