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July 21, 2016

Police, hospital unions add to Regalado's labor backing in Miami-Dade mayoral race


Miami-Dade mayoral challenger Raquel Regalado is set to expand her labor backing Thursday with endorsements from unions representing police, port workers, and hospital employees, along with the non-profit that has been a leading critic of her opponent: the Pets' Trust. 

Her planned announcement event at the Police Benevolent Association's union headquarters in Doral mostly makes official endorsements that campaign watchers already expected. PBA president John Rivera has been a top foe of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, and Pets' Trust leaders already have been generating anti-Gimenez ads to support Regalado's challenge of the incumbent. Also backing Regalado on Thursday: Miami-Dade's teachers union, which played a key role in her winning the endorsement last month from the AFL-CIO, an umbrella group representing a string of public-sector unions in the county. 

The union representing about 5,000 employees at the county-owned Jackson hospital system also is announcing its endorsement of Regalado at the 10 a.m. event. The group was part of the AFL-CIO endorsement announced last month, though that backing did not guarantee member unions would go along. Gimenez later won the endorsements from some AFSCME chapters representing county workers. 

Gimenez took office in 2011 on the promise of a property-tax cut, and used austerity budgets to pay for  it before rising property values allowed for restored spending and higher worker pay. Union leaders contend years of cuts during the recession and slow recovery have left Miami-Dade short-staffed and unable to provide adequate services. 

A Regalado spokeswoman said unions representing private-sector port workers (known as longshoremen), and skilled construction employees (known as craftworkers) also will endorse Regalado. Both are part of the AFL-CIO coalition. Rivera, the police union president, said in a statement that the broad backing shows strong support for Regalado's challenge to Gimenez. 

"It is historic for so many groups to unite in such a public way.  Raquel Regaldo is committed to providing real solutions to real problems in Miami-Dade County, problems which have been ignored or not given the proper attention under the current administration," Rivera said.  "Miami-Dade County deserves better and that is why we are all standing together behind Raquel Regalado."



Joe Biden to campaign with Patrick Murphy in Tallahassee


05122016_141257_bidenmurphy2_0512_8colVice President Joe Biden is headed to Florida's capital in early august to campaign for U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy's Senate bid.

The two Democrats will campaign in Tallahassee, Murphy's campaign confirmed. Details about the event -- including the date -- aren't being made public yet.

“I’m very excited that my friend Vice President Joe Biden will join us on the campaign trail in our state’s capital,” Murphy said in a statement. “The vice president and I share the same rock-solid commitment to strengthening America’s middle class. I’m proud to fight alongside him as we work to grow our economy, raise the minimum wage for hardworking families, and protect Social Security and Medicare for seniors.”

The vice president has campaigned with Murphy twice already, in Orlando and Miami.

Florida's Senate race is a top priority for both major parties, who see it as a key to winning a majority in the chamber. Murphy faces U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary.

Grayson has previously said that he believes Biden may have mistakenly endorsed Murphy, thinking he was a different Patrick Murphy, a former congressman from Pennsylvania.

Undoubtedly, the vice president's appearance could help Florida's Murphy, whose electoral odds are far from secure in the primary or general election, polls show.

Photo by Kristen M. Clark, Times/Herald.

GOP experiences growing pains to grow party among Hispanics



The email hit reporters’ inboxes at 3 p.m. Sunday. The Republican National Convention had added a news briefing for reporters at 5:15 p.m. that afternoon — in Spanish.

Except no one told the GOP staffers who were supposed to conduct the brefing.

When the 4:30 p.m. English-language press conference ended, Spanish-language reporters clamored for their turn. The Republican National Committee’s Hispanic communications director, Helen Aguirre Ferré of Miami, who had been standing in the back of the room, kept her cool and made her way to the podium to translate the English-language remarks from the previous briefing on the fly.

These are the growing pains of growing the Republican Party.

“The party is coming together,” Aguirre Ferré insisted Wednesday morning at a briefing, this time planned well in advance.

Over the past four days in Cleveland, the GOP has accentuated its efforts to communicate with Hispanic voters, dedicating a daily time slot to Latino media so they could disseminate messages from Spanish-speaking surrogates for presidential nominee Donald Trump.

More here.

Photo credit: Carolyn Cole, Los Angeles Times via TNS

July 20, 2016

Ted Cruz steals Mike Pence's show at GOP convention's unofficial Florida night



CLEVELAND -- Mike Pence was the marquee name at the Wednesday at the Republican National Convention. But Ted Cruz stole the show.

The Texas senator, the last candidate to lose to Donald Trump in the GOP presidential primary, used his prime-time speaking slot not to endorse the nominee, but to lay out a methodical, ideological vision that sounded like the foundation for a potential Cruz candidacy in 2020.

“To those listening, please, don’t stay home in November,” Cruz said. “Stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”

Thousands of Trump delegates assembled on the floor of Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena did not take it well. By the time Cruz concluded, the riled-up audience jeered and booed him off stage.

It was astonishing political theater.

The night had been intended to celebrate Pence, the Indiana governor Trump selected as his running mate.

“You know, I’m new to this campaign, and honestly, I — I never thought I’d be standing here,” Pence said, pivoting to Trump. “He’s a man known for a large personality, a colorful style and lots of charisma — and so I guess he was just looking for some balance on the ticket.”

Wednesday was also Florida’s unofficial night in the spotlight.

More here.

Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

Rick Scott's misleading claim about the economy at Republican convention

Republican Gov. Rick Scott likes to be known as the "jobs governor" in Florida.

Opening the third night of the Republican National Convention, Scott said the United States is struggling on the economic front, and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump knows how to make it strong again.

"Let me tell you why this is the time for Donald to be president," Scott said. "A lot of politicians like to give speeches where they say ‘We are at a crossroads.’ That’s not really where we are today. Today America is in a terrible world, record-high debt. Our economy is not growing. Our jobs are going overseas. We’ve allowed our military to decay and we project weakness on the international stage."

Trump made a similar statement about the economy at a Miami debate in March. Trump said, "GDP was zero essentially for the last two quarters," which rated False.

Our fact-check will focus on Scott’s statement that the economy is "not growing." Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Bondi's 'lock her up' talk gives critics new ammunition

Attorney General Pam Bondi followed Gov. Rick Scott to the national stage Wednesday to give Florida an unusual 1-2 punch at the Republican National Convention. She said Trump will secure America's borders, roll back President Barack Obama's executive orders, and appoint conservatives to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Winning this election means reclaiming something to which I’ve dedicated my entire career: the rule of law," said Bondi, a former Hillsborough assistant state attorney and Florida's first two-term attorney general since Democrat Bob Butterworth left office in 2002.

Bondi, the state's chief legal officer, said of Hillary Clinton: "'Lock her up.' I love that. Stay with me."

The crowd loved that chunk of red meat, but she also sought to temper Trump's talk of building a wall and mass deportations of immigrants that has alienated Hispanic voters. As she told the Cleveland crowd: "He will enforce immigration laws to keep us safe, while allowing legal immigrants to bless this nation with their talents and their dreams ... Donald Trump will take control of our borders because we must stop the influx of cocaine and heroin coming into our country and my state, killing our kids."

Bondi has official and personal Twitter accounts, and her fiery rhetoric sent her critics racing to social media to rehash a number of her own controversies, from a $25,000 Trump University campaign donation to her testy exchange with CNN's Anderson Cooper over her past opposition to same sex marriage. Twitter critics called Bondi "corrupt," a "dumpster human," and worse.

The liberal group Progress Florida electronically sent a petition it said was signed by more than 6,000 Floridians, asking U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate Bondi's acceptance of a $25,000 check from a Trump foundation in 2013 at a time when her office was reviewing a citizen's complaint about Trump University's practices. The group's Mark Ferrulo said Bondi has shown "a disturbing pattern" of siding with lobbyists and donors over Florida citizens.

A leading LGBT group in South Florida, SAVE, is using the convention appearances of Bondi, Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio as fodder to raise money for its Team Equality 2016 Victory Fund.

"Is it a surprise that any of these career politicians would cozy up to an angry homophobe, woman-hater, and racist like Donald Trump?" SAVE said in an email blast, citing Bondi's "crusade against marriage equality in 2014."

Bondi and Scott were among the night's first speakers. Bondi is the only woman who holds statewide office in Florida and is expected to play a high profile role in Trump's Florida campaign.

"I know Donald. And I’m proud to know Donald," Bondi said. "He will appoint conservative justices who will defend, rather than rewrite, our Constitution."

In a Fox News appearance on Tuesday, Sean Hannity asked Bondi if she would work in a Trump administration, and she replied that she would do anything to help Trump. Bondi's term expires in 2018 and she can't run again because of term limits.

Scott starts Day 3 with focus on terror: 'How many more Orlandos?'

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off the third night of the Republican National Convention Wednesday by calling on Americans to elect Donald Trump president because he's the only candidate who can defeat terrorism.

He began on a personal note, by thanking Americans everywhere for their sympathy and support for the families of the victims at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando in which 49 people were killed on June 12.

"How many more Orlandos, San Bernardinos or Fort Hoods will happen until President Obama decides to be honest?" Scott asked. "I cried with the grieving moms and dads and brothers and sisters of the 49 people slaughtered by the ISIS-inspired terrorist. This war is real. It is here in America, and the next president must destroy this evil. Donald Trump is the man for that job."

Scott said he has known Trump for about 20 years, dating to a time when Trump was building luxury hotels and casinos and Scott was building Columbia/HCA into the country's largest for-profit hospital system. 

"This election is about the very survival of the American dream," Scott said. "Vote for Donald Trump."

In hewing closely to Trump's campaign script, however, Scott must have had to swallow hard, because he uttered a line that has contradicted nearly every one of his own pronouncements since he took office in January 2011: "Our economy is not growing," Scott said. "Our jobs are going overseas." Hardly a day has gone by that Scott hasn't touted the growth and new jobs in Florida, the nation's third largest state.

Near the end of his speech, Scott bashed Democrat Hillary Clinton: "She fails, she fails, she fails," which brought chants of "Lock her up! Lock her up!" from the crowd at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Unlike most convention speakers, Scott introduced himself ("My name is Rick Scott") as he began his six-minute speech, which was carried live on CNN and MSNBC but not on the Fox News Channel. It was a brief but coveted turn on the national stage for a leader widely viewed as a likely candidate for U.S. Senate in Florida in 2018.

President Obama speaks to Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Zika


The White House said Wednesday President Barack Obama had spoken by phone to Florida Gov. Rick Scott about a suspected case of locally transmitted Zika virus in Miami-Dade County.

Scott has criticized the Obama administration over its Zika response.

Here's what the White House said about the call:

The President spoke by phone today with Governor Rick Scott of Florida regarding the suspected case of mosquito transmission of Zika announced by the Florida Department of Health. This case would be the first documented Zika infection caused by a mosquito in the Continental United States.  The President recognized Florida's strong record of responding aggressively to local outbreaks of mosquito-borne viruses like Zika, and offered Federal support and technical assistance for Florida's ongoing case investigation and mosquito control efforts. He acknowledged Florida's close coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC for Zika preparedness. The President also noted during the call that in addition to the $2 million that CDC has provided to Florida for Zika preparedness, CDC is anticipating it will award Florida $5.6 million in Zika funding through a CDC grant to be awarded this week.

Take a peek at what Rick Scott and Pam Bondi plan to say at GOP convention


CLEVELAND -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott gets first billing Wednesday at the Republican National Convention, followed a bit later in the night -- when likely more viewers will be watching -- by Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Here are excerpts of what they plan to say, provided by convention organizers:

Scott will speak about the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando "and the growing worldwide threat of Islamic extremism":

“I cried with the grieving moms and dads and brothers and sisters of the 49 people slaughtered by an ISIS-inspired terrorist. This war is real. It is here in America. And the next president must destroy this evil. Donald Trump is the man for that job.”

“Today, America is in terrible, world-record-high debt. Our economy is not growing. Our jobs are going overseas. We have allowed our military to decay, and we project weakness on the international stage. Washington grows while the rest of America struggles. The Democrats have not led us to a crossroads, they have led us to a cliff.”

Bondi will focus on "restoring the rule of law":

“Hillary will stack the Supreme Court with liberal justices who will allow government to continue its rampage against our individual rights with utter contempt for our Second Amendment.

“I know Donald, and he will appoint conservative justices who will defend, rather than rewrite, our Constitution. Are you ready to send ISIS a message that we’re really coming after them? When Donald Trump is president, he will.”

South Florida congressional hopefuls spar over Big Sugar donations, agree on Cuba


Taddeo GarciaAnnette Taddeo is now going after former rep. Joe Garcia's campaign donors, alleging that he received "maxed-out" contributions from Big Sugar in yesterday's Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations forum.

The Democrats will face off in the Aug. 30 primary in a district that stretches from Westchester to Key West.

“Both my opponents have taken money from the sugar industry,” Taddeo said, in reference to Garcia and incumbent Republican Carlos Curbelo.

Garcia’s campaign responded to Taddeo’s claim.

“Joe has never been beholden to special interests and has a long Democratic record of standing up to polluters and protecting South Florida's environment,” Garcia spokesman Javier Hernandez said in a statement. “"This is just another made-up conspiracy theory that Republicans are famous for.”

On the issue of Cuba, Taddeo said she and Charlie Crist — who ran for governor in 2014 with Taddeo as running mate — were ahead of the curve when it came to loosening sanctions against the island.

“When I ran with Charlie we were the first ones in Florida to say ‘You know what? It’s time to change things,’” she said. “Barely a few weeks after the election, the president announced his new changes, to which I approve.”

Garcia acknowledged that his attitudes toward Cuba have changed over the years.

“I thought a hard policy in Cuba made a difference. It didn’t,” Garcia said. “The president didn’t get there by himself, he got there because people like myself were pushing that policy.”

The winner of the Aug. 30 primary will take on Curbelo in the general election.

Read more here: South Florida congressional hopeful spar over Obamacare, Big Sugar