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August 22, 2016

House-backed GOP super PAC plans $1.7M in ads to help Curbelo


A super PAC backed by House Republicans plans to spend at least $1.7 million to help Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo get re-elected, whose 26th congressional district now leans Democratic.

The Congressional Leadership PAC said Monday it has set aside the money to start airing TV and web ads on Oct. 23, two weeks before the Nov. 8 general election between Curbelo and the winner of the Aug. 30 Democratic primary. In the running are Annette Taddeo and former Rep. Joe Garcia.

"We're proud to support Republicans like Carlos Curbelo, who is running on providing conservative, solutions-based leadership in the House. From the airwaves to the ground game, Democrats will have no place to hide from their support of the failed Obama-Clinton agenda," Congressional Leadership Fund PAC spokeswoman Ruth Guerra said in a statement, in which she also referred to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. "Voters need to look no further than the Iran deal ransom and Hillary's email scandal to know they don't want more dishonest Democrats in Congress."

The super PAC has pledged to spend $10 million on 12 competitive House races. In 2014, an allied political nonprofit, American Action Network, which can keep its fundraising secret, spent $1.3 million to help Curbelo oust Garcia in one of the most expensive races of the election cycle. Last month, Congressional Leadership Fund unveiled a website trying to link Taddeo and Garcia to Clinton's email scandal.

Curbelo himself has already far outraised Garcia and Taddeo.

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Miami Herald

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen goes up on TV

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen_2

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen isn't taking any chances.

The Miami Republican is expected to comfortably defeat her novice primary opponents on Aug. 30. She's not seen as being in much more danger in the Nov. 8 general election, even though her district is now more Democratic and her likely opponent, political newcomer Scott Fuhrman, has said he'll put his own wealth into the campaign.

Nevertheless, Ros-Lehtinen is on the air on South Florida television, in an apparent get-out-the-vote effort that could also help keep her favorable opinion ratings and name ID up through November.

Here's the ad:


Photo credit: Jose A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

Lagging Rubio, Patrick Murphy takes in $1M ahead of August primary



Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy took in about $1 million between July 1 and Aug. 10 and went on a spending spree during those five and half weeks that reduced his cash on hand by about half.

Murphy reported spending $4.2 million in the pre-primary period -- leaving him with about $4 million available to spend heading in to the home stretch of the Aug. 30 primary, a new FEC filing shows. (He had entered July with $7.2 million in the bank.)

The fundraising figures allow him to maintain a strong financial advantage over his Democratic primary opponents but leave him trailing the Republican favorite, incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio, if both should advance to the general election as they're likely to.

Rubio -- who declared his re-election bid in late June -- raised more than triple what Murphy did during the pre-primary period and came out several hundred thousand dollars ahead in cash on hand. Rubio reported raising $3.2 million and having nearly $4.7 million in the bank, as of Aug. 10, according to his latest FEC report.

Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, is viewed as the front-runner in the Democratic primary against Pam Keith, a Miami labor attorney and former naval officer, and fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson.

MORE: "Patrick Murphy's dad dumps $1M into Senate Democrats' super PAC"

Murphy's campaign has been buoyed by consistently strong fundraising and high-profile endorsements from the Democratic establishment. In the latter half of the summer, he's largely ignored his primary competitors and focused his message on Rubio -- indicating Murphy's confidence that he has the Aug. 30 election in the bag.

Another sign? Murphy's campaign said in a statement today that it had pre-paid more than $800,000 worth of TV advertising for the fall in preparation for challenging Rubio, who's expected to easily win his primary against challenger Carlos Beruff.

Most of Murphy's expenses reported in the pre-primary period were for TV time. The FEC report showed several ad buy payments to Screen Strategies Media, totaling more than $3.1 million since mid-July.

Of the $1 million Murphy took in last period, $78,000 came by way of transfers from joint fundraising committees, which are aiding Murphy's campaign. Of the $918,000 his campaign raised on its own, $43,000 came from special interest group, the FEC report showed.

By comparison, Rubio spent just $582,000 in the pre-primary period. Of the $3.2 million Rubio raised in that time, $334,000 came from special interest groups and $39,000 was transferred from joint fundraising committees.

Both Murphy and Rubio also have independent super PACs aiding their Senate campaigns. Super PACs are barred from coordinating with candidates' campaigns and aren't subject to contribution limits.

A super PAC supporting Rubio raked in $1.7 million ahead of the primary, more than half of which came from contributions gifted from a super PAC that previously supported Rubio's presidential run.

Meanwhile, Murphy's father, Thomas Murphy Jr., gave $1 million to a Democratic super PAC last month, which turned around and launched a $1 million ad buy in support of Patrick Murphy. 

Photo credit: Walter Michot / Miami Herald

Tim Canova attacks Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Big Sugar, DNC role in TV ads

Tim Canova has released two new TV ads attacking U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, over her positions on Big Sugar and payday loans and related to her resignation as chair of the Democratic National Committee.

The ads are running on local cable and broadcast outlets. The Democrats are competing in a Broward/Miami-Dade district in the Aug. 30 primary.

Here are the ads:



Rubio in Panhandle, Beruff in Sarasota



It's just about a week until the biggest moment in Republican Carlos Beruff's fledgling political carrier, but don't expect to see him on the campaign trail today.

Beruff's bid for what would be one of the biggest political upsets ever will take a back seat to his job as the chairman of the Sarasota Bradenton Airport Authority. At 1 p.m. the airport authority is holding a workshop on their annual budget. He's back on the trail on Tuesday, expecting to be in Clearwater for campaign events.

Sen. Marco Rubio, meanwhile, hits north Florida on Monday. Rubio is scheduled to be in Tallahassee in the afternoon to meet with supporters, then is set to attended the Jackson County Republican Party's Reagan Day dinner at 6 p.m.

The money race in Florida's bruising 26th congressional district

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Former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia raised about $69,000 for his congressional campaign in the past six weeks, which is less than half of what his Democratic primary opponent, Annette Taddeo, collected in the same period.

Garcia, however, has more money in the bank: about $306,000, compared to Taddeo's about $248,000. She has spent far more than Garcia, putting out TV ads and a slew of mailed fliers, including ones attacking the former congressman. She reported a nearly $151,000 haul from July 1-Aug. 18; Taddeo has the backing of national Democrats, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The bruising primary between the former friends can only benefit Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who has no Aug. 30 primary rival. His latest campaign-finance report shows about $80,000 in contributions -- and nearly $2 million cash in the bank, waiting for the Nov. 8 general election.

Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff

August 21, 2016

Miami Beach mayor talks Zika outbreak on New York radio show


UPDATE: It's not completely clear from the audio, but the first segment of the radio show referenced in this post was pre-recorded Tuesday, Aug. 16. Mayor Philip Levine's statements about Zika in South Florida were made before news reports a few days later about the virus spreading to Miami Beach. Levine spoke with the host again in a follow-up phone interview (attached to the end of the segment) after Friday's announcement that Zika had spread. This post has been updated to reflect the timeline.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine appeared on a Sunday morning AM radio show in New York to talk about the Zika outbreak in South Florida.

Speaking in a pre-recorded segment from last Tuesday on the CATS Roundtable, a weekly show hosted by millionaire grocery-chain owner John Catsimatidis, he said the "small, little outbreak of Zika" in Wynwood was contained and compared increased concerns to an old wive's tale.

“We have have a Jewish word for it. It’s called a "bubbameister," Levine said. "It’s a grandmother's tale. I mean, the media loves to build it up, but you know, it’s something that we’re watching, it’s closely contained and it certainly hasn’t disrupted the business of Miami.”

Listen to the entire segment here.

"Right now, business is booming," Levine said. "Everyone’s coming to Miami Beach."

That might not be the case going forward. On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott told the press — even before he told local elected officials — that Zika had arrived in Miami Beach with five confirmed cases.

After Friday's announcement, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention advised pregnant women were advised not to travel to a majority of South Beach, Levine spoke with Catsimatidis again for the show via phone. He talked about the city's ramped-up efforts to eliminate standing water across the city so mosquitoes can't breed.

"We hope to get that advisory for that one small section taken away as soon as possible," he said.

On Saturday night, it certainly seemed like nothing in South Beach had slowed down. A day after state officials confirmed five cases of Zika in the Beach and announced the new zone of local transmission, the tourist hotspot was business as usual.

Cher raises $130,000 for Hillary Clinton in Miami


Cher's fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in the LGBT community in Miami Friday night raised about $130,000, said Tony Lima, executive director of SAVE, a gay rights group.

The fundraiser was hosted by gay rights activist Bradley Carlson in Wynwood. State Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, the first openly gay state legislator, officiated. Clinton didn't attend.

Clinton has been courting the LGBT vote in Florida and other states. She is a supporter of gay rights and announced her support for same-sex marriage in 2013 before she ran for president. Donald Trump has consistently opposed same-sex marriage since 2000.

Both Clinton and Trump have made repeat visits to South Florida this summer as they seek votes in the swing state.

Clinton's running mate, Gov. Tim Kaine, will fundraise in Broward County Friday. No public events have been announced yet.

Photo supplied by Lima who is pictured above (left) with his partner Yonel Galano.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz ahead of Tim Canova, Sun Sentinel poll finds


U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is ahead of Tim Canova by 10 percentage points, according to a new Sun Sentinel/Florida Atlantic University poll.

The poll found that 50 percent of likely Democratic voters chose Wasserman Schultz and 40 percent chose Canova. The poll found that Wasserman Schultz did better among men, older voters and Hillary Clinton supporters. Canova did better among younger voters, Bernie Sanders supporters and those who have an unfavorable view of President Barack Obama

"It's a little tighter than you would expect in a primary of an incumbent, a well-financed Democrat but this is an unusual race with a little bit more of a national focus," FAU political scientist Kevin Wagner told the Miami Herald.

For Canova to win, he will have to drive up turnout among younger voters but typically older Americans vote more often.

"Barack Obama turned out much younger voters at a higher rate than historically expected," Wagner said. "It's hard to say in a single congressional district if you could repeat that younger person turnout."

Obama endorsed Wasserman Schultz and Clinton campaigned for her in South Florida -- as did Vice President Joe Biden. Sanders endorsed Canova, a first-time candidate and Nova Southeastern University law professor. Clinton won the district with 68 percent of the vote in the March 15 presidential primary.

"Barack Obama is relatively popular there among the Democrats, as is Hillary Clinton. That support translates pretty well" for Wasserman Schultz, Wagner told the Sun Sentinel. "A candidate like Canova who is challenging the system "would probably do better in a district that is more dissatisfied with the Democratic leadership."

Canova's campaign got a boost in donations and media attention in July after Wasserman Schultz stepped down as Democratic National Committee chair after WikiLeaks published thousands of DNC emails. Those emails showed that the DNC favored Clinton over Sanders -- something Wasserman Schultz had denied for months.

But the poll found the national scandal has only slightly hurt her among South Florida voters. The email revelations led 35 percent to say they were less likely to vote for her, 29 percent more likely to vote for her and for 36 percent it made no difference.

After Wasserman Schultz came out in favor of the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, there were questions about whether it would cost her Jewish support in the district -- one of the most heavily Jewish districts in Florida. The poll found that 43 percent of likely Democratic voters back the deal, 17 percent oppose, 31 percent undecided and 9 percent never heard of it.

Respondents who favor the Iran nuclear deal support Wasserman Schultz -- who backed the deal -- while opponents of the deal support Canova. While Canova has bashed Wasserman Schultz for supporting the deal and aligned himself with opponents, he has often said he isn't certain how he would have voted if he was in Congress.

The poll also found geographic differences in the district that stretches from western Broward to northern Miami-Dade County. Wasserman Schultz has a commanding lead in the Weston area where she lives while Canova is far ahead in the Hollywood area where she lives. Other portions of the district including Pembroke Pines and Davie are more competitive.

The poll of 400 likely voters was done Wednesday to Friday and has a margin of error of 5 percent.

This is the first poll in the race done by a media outlet. A poll done by Canova's campaign showed that he was eight points behind but that 60 percent of voters don't know him while a poll by a PAC supporting Wasserman Schultz showed she is 33 points ahead.

The Democrats are competing in the Aug. 30 primary but voting by mail and early voting has already started.

Patrick Murphy's dad dumps $1M into Senate Democrats' super PAC



Patrick Murphy's father continues to pour large sums of money into the 2016 election in the hopes of getting his son elected to the U.S. Senate.

A new FEC filing shows Thomas Murphy Jr. gave $1 million last month to a Democratic super PAC that has ties to outgoing Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.

The Senate Majority PAC is one of several independent Democratic groups aiding Patrick Murphy's campaign in the hopes a victory in Florida will help the party win back control of the chamber.

The Hill in Washington D.C. was the first to report on the contribution. Thomas Murphy's donation to the Senate Majority PAC came July 13, just two days before the super PAC announced a $1 million ad buy in Florida to help Patrick Murphy's race.

On the campaign trail, Patrick Murphy, a two-term Democratic congressman from Jupiter, has openly chastised the influence of money in politics and said he supports campaign finance reform. However, he hasn't rebuked his father's hefty political donations that have contributed to Murphy's own political rise -- in this election and previous ones.

MORE: "The financial muscle behind Patrick Murphy’s Senate bid: Dad"

In May, Murphy told the Tampa Bay Times: "My dad is my best friend and mentor. I talk to him at least once a day, maybe twice a day. I think a lot of people in public service and a lot of people in business are grateful for their parents’ help. I’m no different from them."

Republicans coined the nickname "Privileged Patrick" this year in an attempt to highlight Murphy's family wealth and his affluent South Florida upbringing. His Democratic primary opponents, Pam Keith and fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, have also characterized Murphy in ways that emphasize his father's ongoing effort to boost his son's political career.

Thomas Murphy Jr. is founder, chairman and CEO of Coastal Construction Group, one of South Florida's largest construction firms.

Aside from last month's $1 million contribution, the elder Murphy also gave $500,000 this year -- through himself and Coastal -- to a pro-Murphy super PAC, Floridians for a Strong Middle Class. In the 2012 election, Patrick Murphy's first when he narrowly defeated tea-party incumbent Rep. Allen West, Thomas Murphy gave $550,000 into two super PACs supporting his son.

Super PACs aren't subject to campaign contribution limits and can't coordinate with candidates' campaigns.

Photo credit: Walt Michot / Miami Herald