August 03, 2017

NRCC targets potential swing Miami voters in mobile ads about health care


National Republicans are wading into the 2018 race to replace retiring GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, launching a mobile ad campaign targeting potential swing voters in Florida's 27th congressional district.

The new National Republican Congressional Committee ad, which will also go out in seven other states, is intended to grab users' attention. The narrator adopts a frightening tone in warning voters Democrats might want to pursue single-payer healthcare system. 

One of the Democrats who has filed for Ros-Lehtinen's Democratic-leaning seat, state Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach, has said in a fundraising email that he backs a single-payer system. When the latest candidate, Matt Haggman, declared his candidacy Tuesday, the NRCC quickly called on him to take a position on the issue, which the GOP wants to use to paint Democrats as radical.

"Now that Obamacare is in a death spiral, their latest and greatest idea is to impose a European style single-payer system on Americans," NRCC spokeswoman Maddie Anderson said in a statement. "This could mean trillions in higher taxes and full government control over all of our medical decisions. We’d like to hear from Florida Democrats themselves -- do David Richardson, José Javier Rodríguez, and Matt Haggman support single-payer for all?"

PolitiFact has ruled that a past "death spiral" claim about the Affordable Care Act was false. Ros-Lehtinen voted against the House GOP's Obamacare replacement, the American Health Care Act, which later failed in the Senate.

In addition to Haggman, Richardson and Rodríguez, four other Democrats are also running so far. Naming them in a statement suggests the NRCC considers them to be potential front-runners.

When it rains in Miami, the politicians pour it on

MF 01 MHD SBB@joeflech & @NewsbySmiley

What's a torrential downpour in Miami, replete with serious flooding in Brickell and South Beach, without a little politics? On Wednesday, the mayors of Miami and Miami Beach wasted no time in using Tuesday's floods as a call to action in the face of impending sea rise spurred by climate change.

In Miami Beach, pumps in Sunset Harbour lost power for about 50 minutes during the storm — enough to cause flooding in several neighborhood businesses. Mayor Philip Levine, a potential 2018 gubernatorial candidate who has made anti-flooding projects a priority during his four-year tenure, immediately demanded the city expedite its normal procurement process to quickly get backup generators installed at the Sunset Harbour pumps.

But the mayor forgot that more than a year ago, an engineer who helped develop the city's philosophy on stormwater drainage warned him, the rest of the commission and high-level city staff that they ought to put permanent generators at each pump station in case a storm knocks out the power.

Engineer Dwight Kraai sent the commission and top Beach officials an email in May 2016 advising that the city consider backup generators to prevent precisely what happened Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Miami, Tomas Regalado called a press conference to launch a campaign for a $400 million general obligation bond, nearly half of which would to go toward flooding and sea rise projects. Only in his last year in office has the mayor placed an emphasis on flood prevention and sea rise, even though Miami leaders knew five years ago that the city needs at least a quarter-billion in drainage improvements.

Regalado defended his recent attention to sea-rise and drainage, noting that 11 pumps have been built during his tenure and his administration hasn't had the money to fund anti-flooding projects without raising taxes.

Read more.

August 02, 2017

Taddeo settles AmEx lawsuit


Democratic Florida Senate candidate Annette Taddeo said she settled a lawsuit Wednesday with American Express over what the company had claimed were nearly $38,000 in unpaid charges.

The terms of the lawsuit were kept private. In a statement, Taddeo's campaign spokesman said the lawsuit "has been amicably resolved by both parties." AmEx sued Taddeo and her translation business, LanguageSpeak, in Miami-Dade Circuit Court last month. 

"As mentioned earlier, LanguageSpeak worked diligently to resolve this matter in short order and speaks to Annette Taddeo's well respected record as a longtime successful business owner of nearly 25 years," spokesman Christian Ulvert said. "Further, unlike her opponent, Annette has disclosed more than needed as this matter pertains to company matters, not personal credit cards."

At the time she was sued, Taddeo claimed the suit was politically motivated. She's running for Senate District 40 in a special Sept. 26 election against Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.

An AmEx attorney did not immediately respond to a emailed request for comment late Wednesday.

Ulvert used the lawsuit settlement to urge Diaz, an attorney who does lobbying work, to "offer a complete and full account of his clients, retainers paid, issues that were before the Legislature that conflicted with his public service and any activity he engaged in as lobbyist in Miami-Dade County."

In bipartisan show of support, Democrats plan to host fundraiser for Curbelo. He's also got Rubio lined up.


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A group of well-known local Democrats will collect campaign cash later this month -- for a Republican.

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo will attend an Aug. 23 fundraising reception hosted by nine Democrats, including former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter and Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace, according to an invitation to the event.

Curbelo drew his first Democratic opponent with national party backing, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, on Wednesday.

The sophomore congressman has campaigned as a moderate -- an image that can only be bolstered with Democratic financial support. Among the Democrats co-hosting the fundraiser are Ira Leesfield, a major Hillary Clinton donor, and attorney Roland Sanchez-Medina. Last year, Sanchez-Medina served as campaign treasurer for Curbelo's Democratic rival, Joe Garcia

"While we don't agree with him on every issue, he is a voice of reason in an increasingly unreasonably partisan world, he works hard to represent Miami-Dade County in Washington, and, in particular, he is trying to bring both parties together for the good of the country," Sanchez-Medina said in an email to the Miami Herald. "We are proud to support Carlos."

Some Democrats on the list, including Porter, Wallace, political consultant Freddy Balsera and lobbyist Brian Mayhave also supported Curbelo in the past.

National Democrats consider Curbelo's 26th congressional district, which extends from Westchester to Key West, to be one of the most competitive in the country.

If Republicans worry Democratic support could hurt Curbelo's GOP bona fides: Republican Sen. Marco Rubio also plans to host a fundraiser for Curbelo later in August, the Herald has learned. 

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

August 01, 2017

Rubio delivers speech in Spanish on independent Venezuelan TV station



In an unusual move possible only for a bilingual U.S. senator, Florida Republican Marco Rubio got to make a speech late Monday night on an independent Venezuelan TV news channel in which he expressed solidarity for opponents of President Nicolás Maduro, who was sanctioned by the Trump administration Monday as a "dictator."

"There is no U.S. economic blockade on Venezuela. Yet the economy of a rich nation is in shambles, because the Maduro government has given away your oil and much of your sovereignty to Cuba," said Rubio, who is fluent in Spanish. "For Nicolás Maduro, who I am sure is watching, the current path you are on will not end well for you."

The address, taped in Washington, aired on Globovisión, which is expected to continue playing the speech Tuesday.

"While the people of Venezuela struggle each day to feed their families, have you noticed how many of your leaders have gained weight?" Rubio said, pointing to periodic food shortages that have plagued the oil-rich South American nation.

Hours after the speech's initial airing, Venezuelan state security agents took two political prisoners who were under house arrest into custody. On Sunday, Maduro's government carried out a violent-marred election widely seen as fraudulent for a new all-powerful constituent assembly.

"Go ahead," Maduro said in a televised speech Monday evening. "Bring on your sanctions, Donald Trump."

Rubio noted in a Tuesday statement that Vice President Mike Pence had spoken to one of the prisoners, high-profile opposition leader Leopoldo López, by phone Friday. The other prisoner is former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma.

 “There should be no doubt that his arrest is a direct challenge to President Trump," Rubio said.

Rubio brought Lilian Tintori, López’s wife, to the Oval Office to meet Trump in February. Last week, López posted an online video urging Venezuelans to boycott Sunday’s constituent assembly vote and remain in the streets protesting. The terms of his house arrest prohibited him from speaking to reporters.

July 31, 2017

Blaming ‘mudslinging,’ Michael Grieco drops bid for Miami Beach mayor

Grieco+01+EKM@joeflech & @NickNehamas

Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco held a news conference Monday to confirm what many top backers already knew: He has abandoned his embattled bid for mayor.

“This year’s proven to be exceptionally challenging for me, my family and the community, forcing all of us to deal with distractions and political attacks that have no purpose but to cloud my service to the people of Miami Beach,” Grieco said.

He read a prepared statement flanked by his family and about 30 supporters in a public park around the corner from his South Beach home. The crowd cheered as he approached through a light rain.

Grieco will continue campaigning, however: He’s now running for a second term as commissioner.

Last week, Grieco began calling supporters to let them know he would drop out of a competitive mayoral race against former state Sen. Dan Gelber. Word spread quickly around the Beach over the weekend, with many wondering how this would impact an already-crowded race for his commission seat, in which four other candidates were also in the running.

One candidate, attorney Joshua Levy, immediately suspended his campaign following Grieco’s announcement.

Read more.

U.S. to sanction Venezuelan president following ‘sham’ vote

@PatriciaMazzei @FrancoOrdonez

The Trump administration will freeze assets, ban travel and forbid business transactions Monday for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, accusing him of undermining democracy after he carried out an election Sunday for an all-powerful new legislative assembly in defiance of warnings from the U.S. and international community.

As part of what are expected to be a series of escalating sanctions, the Treasury Department will add Maduro to its growing list of sanctioned current and former members of the Venezuelan government and military. Administration officials began informing members of Congress of their plan early Monday afternoon.

The U.S. has yet to settle on steeper economic sanctions President Donald Trump threatened ahead of Sunday’s Venezuelan election for a new constituent assembly with the power to dissolve the opposition-held parliament, effectively wiping out the remnants of Venezuela’s democracy. On Sunday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called the vote a “sham election.”

The Trump administration has threatened to sanction all 545 constituent assembly members once they are seated. That would include Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flores, and powerful congressman Diosdado Cabello, as well lowly socialist party members with no foreign assets to speak of. The new assembly is supposed to take over in the next two days. It’s unclear what U.S. assets, if any, Maduro might hold.

The administration had been debating whether to make a big sanctions splash Monday or roll out the measures in sequence over the next couple of weeks. 

The U.S. plans to refrain from deploying its harshest sanction — a ban on Venezuelan oil imports — though it had raised that possibility ahead of Sunday’s election. Instead, the Trump administration is considering Russian-type financial sanctions to limit U.S. companies from trading in sovereign debt on primary or secondary markets. The sanctions could even be retroactive, affecting Goldman Sachs’ widely criticized May purchase of $2.8 billion worth of bonds issued by Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, according to a former U.S. official who is familiar with the discussions.

More here.

Photo credit: Miraflores press office via AP

July 29, 2017

Following fundraising scandal, Miami Beach commissioner expected to drop mayoral bid

Miami Beach Grieco@NickNehamas & @joeflech

After a fundraising scandal tarnished his populist campaign, Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco is privately telling supporters he will give up his bid for mayor, three sources with knowledge of his thinking told the Miami Herald on Saturday.

Grieco would instead run for his current commission seat, potentially throwing that race into disarray, one of the sources said.

“He’s following his heart,” said a donor to his campaign who asked not to be named. The donor said that he heard the news directly from Grieco and that the decision seemed to be final.

Read more.

July 28, 2017

Miami-Dade mayor welcomes Real Madrid but may need soccer refresher

via @NickNehamas

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is a big fan of bringing a David Beckham-led soccer team to Miami, but he may need a refresher course on the beautiful game.

During an interview at an event held Friday in anticipation of Saturday's Clásico between Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, Gimenez referred to Real star Cristiano Ronaldo as "Rolando" and struggled to pick out his favorite soccer match.

"The best U.S. soccer victory in a World Cup, whatever that was," he said with a smile.

Soccer purists will debate whether he was referring to the U.S.'s famous 1-0 win over England in the 1950 World Cup -- or a 2-0 victory over arch-rival Mexico that propelled it into the quarterfinals of the 2002 tournament, its best-ever showing.

Gimenez also remarked that el Clásico is bringing more attention to Miami than the recent Major League Baseball all-star game, calling it bigger "than a Super Bowl." Tickets are selling for hundreds of dollars a pop -- and some are listed for more than $1,000.

Real Madrid stars including Sergio Ramos and Marcelo attended the event, held at the Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key, to unveil plans for a Real Madrid-branded cafe set to open in Miami.

Ramos and Marcelo were teammates with Beckham at Real a decade ago. Reporters weren't allowed to ask questions, and Ramos smiled apologetically when asked if he wanted to play for Beckham in Miami someday.

Gimenez said he expects the former England captain's franchise to win a long-hoped for Major League Soccer approval within two months.

He and other guests lined up to take photos with Real's European Champions League trophy, earned this spring after a victory over Italian side Juventus.

The mayor will attend Saturday's match at the Hard Rock stadium with Dolphins owner Steve Ross. He also watched Juventus defeat Paris Saint-Germain 3-2 on Wednesday.


July 27, 2017

American Express lawsuit dogs Taddeo going into Miami Senate election


Democratic Florida Senate candidate Annette Taddeo and her translation business owe American Express nearly $38,000, according to a lawsuit the credit card company filed last month.

American Express sued Taddeo and her company, LanguageSpeak, in Miami circuit court June 29, seeking payment for an unpaid balance of $37,794 due since December. In a statement, Taddeo said she was "blindsided" by the lawsuit and said she has "disputed" some $15,000 in charges.

She claimed the suit, first reported by Politico, was politically motivated. She won the Democratic primary Tuesday for Senate District 40 -- and was served with the lawsuit Wednesday.

"My team was working to get this resolved in short order prior to the lawsuit, and believe it will be by the end of the week," she said. "I have no doubt that this suit is timed with my campaign for state senate given the over $300,000 in attacks waged by Tallahassee special interests against me over the last five weeks."

Taddeo has campaigned -- in this race and her past candidacies -- as a successful small-business owner. She faces Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in the Sept. 26 primary. Democrats have already started to attack Diaz as a lackey of President Donald Trump, despite Diaz's reputation in Tallahassee as a moderate. The lawsuit gives Republicans fresh fodder to go after Taddeo.

Taddeo's May 24 state financial disclosure lists LanguageSpeak's value at $1 million. She drew a salary of $17,111 from the business in 2015 but listed none in 2016, when she was campaigning for Congress. Her federal financial disclosure from May 2016 also reported 2015 income of between $100,001 and $1 million from her husband's psychology practice.

Taddeo hasn't loaned herself any money for the special Senate race. But she is still owed nearly $400,000 from her 2016, congressional campaign, in which she lost the Democratic primary to Joe Garcia. Taddeo says she written off that money as a loss.