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June 19, 2016

Taddeo touts her grassroots support


Progressive Democrats were noticeably more active at yesterday's Leadership Blue Gala, and District 26 candidate Annette Taddeo was eager to attach herself to the party activists in attendance. 

"I've always been one of the grassroots," Taddeo said. "What you are seeing is what you should see at the party meeting." 

While the Democratic primary between Tim Canova and Debbie Wasserman Schultz presents a clear clash of establishment and progressive interests, both Taddeo and Joe Garcia, her Democratic primary opponent, have deep ties to party elites.

Taddeo served as chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic party, ran for lieutenant governor with Charlie Crist in 2014 and has the blessing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which irked Garcia's allies in Congress. Garcia previously represented the 26th District in Congress and has the support of multiple sitting representatives.  

"It's grassroots activism that got the establishment behind me," Taddeo said. "We have thousands and thousands of donors who have given to our campaign and our average contribution is $90 or less." 

Taddeo believes the newly redrawn 26th District, currently represented by Republican Carlos Curbelo, is ripe for the taking due to changing attitudes among young Cuban voters. 

"Charlie and I were the first ones in the history of Florida to come out and say, 'You know what, the embargo hasn’t worked,'" Taddeo said. "We won the Cuban-American vote. More people than not agree with our point of view and the changes the president made after our election." 

Taddeo emphasized the after in her remarks, hinting that if Barack Obama chose to lift the embargo sooner it could have played a role in the Florida gubernatorial race, which she and Crist ultimately lost.

National Democrats have identified Curbelo's seat as a prime opportunity for a pickup, and the race will be one of the most expensive in the country. 

Pro-Clinton super PAC attacks Donald Trump over foreign policy statements

Priorities USA, a pro Hillary Clinton super PAC, unveiled a new TV ad today attacking Donald Trump for statements he has made about foreign policy and security.

The ad includes clips of Trump saying he "I love war," consults with himself and knows "more about ISIS than the generals do."

The ad is running in Florida as well as multiple other states.




Wasserman Schultz and Canova spar over labor endorsements


U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz broke down in tears Saturday with almost three dozen union members flanking her at a press conference, attempting to highlight her support among organized labor groups after the Florida AFL-CIO declined to endorse her last week.

“When I could choose to work in Florida, unfortunately a right-to-work state, I chose to join a labor union and I was very proud to do that,” Wasserman Schultz said.

The Democratic National Committee chairwoman’s opponent as she seeks re-election, Nova Southeastern law professor Tim Canova, was quick to label the non-endorsement a “rejection” of Wasserman Schultz and her labor policies.

But Canova did not get an endorsement either, and Florida AFL-CIO President Mike Williams referred to Canova’s position as a “little bit of a reach.”

“If that’s the case, then every candidate who got a no endorsement has been rejected by the AFL-CIO, and I certainly don’t see it that way,” Williams said.

Read more here: Wasserman Schultz and Canova spar over labor endorsements

June 18, 2016

Progressive and black caucuses back Bullard at Leadership Blue Gala


State Senator Dwight Bullard (D-Cutler Bay) was feeling the love at the Leadership Blue Gala on Saturday, as progressives applauded his decision to stay in the District 40 senate race and not run for Gwen Margolis’ now vacated seat in District 38.

“I shun identity politics,” Bullard said in response to calls that his new district is too Hispanic for him to win. “It’s embarrassing when Democrats stab each other in the back.”

The Democrat faces a primary challenge from former Miami-Dade school board member Ana Rivas Logan, who is backed by state party establishment supporters, after Bullard struggled to fundraise.

“Fundraising is always important but as Democrats we talk about the nature of money in politics so if zeroes in a bank account is going to be a litmus test for who’s a good candidate and who’s not then we’re heading down a very, very unfortunate path,” Bullard said in response to his fundraising numbers.

Multiple black caucus leaders, including chair Henry Crespo Sr., were fiercely critical of Democrats who ignore black voters because they are seen as reliable votes that don’t need to be won.

“In our [majority-minority] districts you got one person and we don’t vote because there’s not an option,” Crespo said.

Crespo pointed out that it’s never an issue when a white or Hispanic politician represents a heavily black district but that black politicians like Bullard are seen as liabilities in districts without a large African-American voter base.

Bullard was warmly received at the black and progressive caucus meetings and Rivas Logan did not make an appearance at either meeting. The Leadership Blue Gala is an annual event for South Florida Democrats and was held at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood on Saturday.

“Only the wealthy, only folks of means, or folks who have connections to means become the standard-bearers for the party,” Bullard said. “The notion of that is troubling.”

Bullard said his support comes from voters that can’t give large donations but instead use grassroots efforts to get out the vote.

Marco Rubio is 'most homophobic' senator, Patrick Murphy says


Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy says it's "appalling" that Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio could be using the Orlando shooting massacre to re-consider his decision to seek re-election this year, especially when Rubio is "the most homophobic senator" in the country, Murphy said.

Although he'd publicly said for months he wouldn't seek re-election, Rubio said on Monday -- the day after the shooting -- that he was "deeply impacted" by the tragedy and that it "gives me pause" to re-evaluate his political future. Then on Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera -- a current Republican U.S. Senate candidate and Rubio's friend -- told Politico that he'd urged Rubio to run for re-election while the two were sitting in Rubio's pick-up truck on Sunday evening, hours after the shooting.

Rubio has said he would take this weekend to think about his options.

Murphy initially avoided a firm answer when asked Saturday whether Rubio was using the terrorist attack as an excuse to run for re-election but Murphy then grew more direct in his answer.

"That's up to the voters ... but I cannot tell you how many phone calls I've received just in the last 48 hours about how appalled people are, especially, especially my friends -- our friends -- in the LGBT community," Murphy said.

"Many of which are actually Republican, right now calling me and saying, 'this is atrocious, this is despicable' that a senator who is one of the most homophobic senators in this country, someone who voted to keep this terrorist gun loophole open, who has a 100 percent voting record with the NRA, I think -- and now all of a sudden is going to use this horrific mass shooting, this act of terrorism, this hate crime to decide to run for the U.S. Senate? "

When pressed for his personal opinion, Murphy said he "certainly" agreed with those callers' assessment that Rubio is the most homophobic senator.

Continue reading "Marco Rubio is 'most homophobic' senator, Patrick Murphy says" »

Patrick Murphy presents criminal justice reform plan



Surrounded by two nationally known lawmakers, a couple Florida legislators and almost a dozen community leaders, Florida Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy released on Saturday his policy proposal for criminal justice reform.

Murphy called for laws to "ban the box" on job applications and restore voting rights for ex-felons, improved funding for law enforcement agencies to buy body cameras and other reforms aimed at reducing incarceration rates and helping those who've done time to become productive members of society, instead of returning to crime.

"I'm running for the U.S. Senate because I know we can make a difference on these issues," Murphy said. "We must reduce recidivism by creating a better pathway back into society for formerly incarcerated individuals."

Democratic U.S. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey joined Murphy to announce his proposal during a press conference Saturday afternoon at the Florida Democratic Party's "Leadership Blue" gathering at The Diplomat hotel in Hollywood.

Booker -- who is rumored to be among Hillary Clinton's possible choices for a vice presidential candidate -- is the keynote speaker at the Democrats' fundraising gala Saturday evening. Booker endorsed Murphy more than a year ago.

Also there to support Murphy were Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Fort Lauderdale state Sen. Chris Smith and West Park state Rep. Shevrin Jones.

Photo credit: Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy presents his criminal justice reform plan during a press conference June 18, 2016 at the Florida Democratic Party's "Leadership Blue" gala in Hollywood, FL. He was joined by more than a dozen Democratic supporters, including South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn (left) and (from right) New Jersey U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Florida state Sen. Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Florida Democrats say Orlando massacre makes this perfect time for politics

via @adamsmithtimes

Less than a week after the massacre at a gay club in Orlando, hundreds of Florida Democratic activists are gathering at The Diplomat in Hallandale Beach today for the state party's fundraiser gala. Emotions remain raw, and at an LGBT caucus meeting today sprinkled with cheers, tears, and jeers, Democrats made clear they had no sympathy for those arguing that politics should be put aside in the aftermath of such a tragedy.

"It's only not a good time for politics, if your on the other side of these issues," said Bob Poe, former state Democratic Chairman and now a congressional candidate in Orlando. "They use that like Kryptonite -- 'Oh, don't raise that now because it's not the time. It's tawdry to do that now.' Well, when is time? When the emotions die down and people start to forget?" I'd like to ask (Attorney General) Pam Bondi, if not now, when?"

At a state party LGBT Caucus meeting Saturday, people sounded as angry as they did sad.

"Across the country the same politicians who've offered thoughts and prayers for the Orlando victims are pushing anti-transgender bathroom bills and so-called religious freedom laws.These actions not only disparage people, they fuel anti LGBT sentiment and serve as an inspiration for someone like Omar Mateen to go into a gay club and kill people," said Terry Fleming of Gainesville, president of the Florida Democratic Party's LGBT Caucus, who said the caucus also stands with "Our Muslim brothers and sisters" and will speak out against effort to paint an entire religion as dangerous.

Alan Clendein, vice chairman of the state party and candidate for Hillsborough School Board, singled out several Florida politicians who converged in Orlando after the shooting,

"I'm angry when I turn on the TV and see Gov. Rick Scott hogging the camera. I'm angry at Pam Bondi going on TV pretending to be a friend to our community. I am angry when I saw Marco Rubio hogging that camera and doing the same thing," shouted Clendenin, who is gay. "We cannot give them a pass for the rhetoric and the hatefulness that they have spread though our state for years, They cannot do that for years and come in on Sunday and pretend that they're our friends. Because they are not. Never forget how you felt Sunday morning."

Florida Democratic Chairwoman Allison Tant tried to hold back tears. "This has been an attack on part of my family," said Tant, likening it to the Charleston church shooter killing African-Americans -- another loyal Democratic constituency.

"I will stand with you, I will be with you until the last day," she said, recalling that her uncle committed suicide after being outed as gay.

Two contenders for governor in 2018, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Tallahassee U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, also paid their respects, with Graham breaking into tears as she urged everybody simply to love one another.

Buckhorn said any community in Florida could have had to endure what Orlando has, and that Florida and individual community progress when they embrace diversity.

"As a community we are so much better, we are so much stronger, we are so much more competitive when we value the worth of everybody. I'm my community we don't ever demonize anybody for any reason," Buckhorn said. "I don't care if it's the color of your skin, the origin of your birth, the language that you speak, the god that you worship, or who you love. We're not doing it. Not on my watch. Not ever."

Two other Democratic gubernatorial prospects, State Sen. Jeremy Ring and Miami Beach Philip Levine, also are expected to attend, and Levine is hosting a reception for city officials.

James Clyburn in Florida to campaign for Patrick Murphy


The Florida Democratic Party's annual "Leadership Blue" gathering today in Hollywood, Fla., has an unannounced guest: U.S. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina.

Clyburn told the Herald/Times he's been in Florida since Thursday, in part, to help with fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy's campaign for U.S. Senate today and also attend a couple other events over the weekend.

Clyburn said he's an enthusiastic supporter of Murphy's and was "part of those recruiting Patrick to this race way back when we were looking at this race and who we thought could win this race."

"Patrick's one of the ones I lobbied, asked to get in it," he said. "I'm committed to doing everything I can for him. ... I'm all for Patrick."

Clyburn said he and the Jupiter congressman "have been pretty close friends" since Murphy's first House race in 2012 against then-Republican incumbent Allen West.

"I thought he would be a great improvement over Allen West and he was -- and still is," Clyburn said.

Clyburn said he flew down from Washington, D.C. with Murphy on Thursday. He attended his daughter's doctoral graduation from Nova Southeasten University on Friday, and on Sunday, he'll be at a Bethel AME church in Lakeland for a ceremony remembering last year's church shooting in Charleston.

Clyburn said he knew Murphy was running against fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary, but he was unaware of the third contender, Pam Keith.

This afternoon, Clyburn attended a meeting of the Florida Democrats' women's caucus as a surrogate for Murphy, but he was unable to address the crowd as only the actual candidates were permitted to speak. Both Keith and Grayson spoke, though.

June 17, 2016

Primary battles for some Florida Senate seats already over $1 million


The wide-open battle to represent Sarasota County in the Florida Senate is already certain to cost over $1 million - and that is just for the Aug. 30 primary.

The five Republicans in the battle to replace State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, have combined to amass more than $1.2 million in their battle to represent a district that includes all of Sarasota County plus a portion of Charlotte County.

The financial edge, according to the latest campaign finance reports released earlier this month, so far goes to former state Rep. Doug Holder, a Sarasota Republican who has raised $232,000 in his main campaign account, but also socked away $248,000 in a political action committee he controls. After him, State Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, has amassed $283,000 in his main campaign account and $130,000 in a political action committee poised to help his effort.

Longtime Sarasota County commissioner Nora Patterson is next with almost $180,000 raised in her campaign account, while state Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, has $122,000. Sarasota businessman Rick Levine has raise just over $3,000.

The $1.2 million primary for District 23 puts it in select company. Only three other state senate seats out of 40 have seen more than $1 million raised through a combination of campaign accounts and political committees just for a primary.

Two of those other races are Republican contests. In District 28, which includes mostly Collier County, state Reps Matt Hudson and Kathleen Passidomo have combined to raised more than $1.5 million. In Brevard County, in District 17, state Reps Ritch Workman and Debbie Mayfield and Republican activist Michael Thomas have also surpassed $1.1 million.

On the Democratic side, the only primary with more than $1 million is in Senate District 34 in Broward County.  Gary Farmer, Jim Waldman and Gwendolen Clarke-Reed have combined to raise just over $1 million.

All that money and the winner of each of the seats will make $29,697 a year. 

All four districts have something else in common. In each the party registration advantage is so lopsided that the winner of the primary will be heavily favored to win the seat in November in the general election.

Feds send $500K to help pay for police overtime in wake of Orlando shootings

The U.S. Department of Justice has agreed to send $500,000 to Florida to help pay for police overtime and equipment associated with the mass shooting in Orlando on Sunday.

That money is in addition to $520,000 that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has set aside to help Orlando and Orange County pay for overtime and equipment.

Gov. Rick Scott said he's still looking for more federal help. He's requested an additional $1.5 million to help cover law enforcement costs related to the shootings at Pulse night club.

"I look forward to DOJ quickly providing the remaining $1.5 million so we can ensure the City of Orlando and Orange County have every resource they need to assist their community,” Scott said in a statement to the media.