November 04, 2014

Miami Rep. Joe Garcia talks policy -- and gives driving directions -- to West Kendall voters


Miami Rep. Joe Garcia spent part of Election Day afternoon giving directions to would-be voters who were confused about where to vote.

They showed up at the West Kendall Regional Library, one of the county's largest precincts in the 2012 presidential election. Earlier this year, the Miami-Dade elections department redrew some precincts -- including those at the West Kendall library -- to make them smaller. The department says it notified those voters. 

But many of them either didn't receive a notification or didn't pay attention, because they kept getting turned away Tuesday by poll workers who printed out slips of paper listing their new, nearby polling places.

That left Garcia, the incumbent Democrat facing a strong challenge from Republican Carlos Curbelo, giving voters directions at the library parking lot.

"When you leave here, you cross the street, and it's right there on the left," he said in Spanish to a voter.

"Oh, so it's not by the Taco Bell," said the man. He identified himself to a reporter as Miguel Palacios, a 65-year-old registered Republican who called the situation frustration.

"This is very bad. I've always voted here. I wasn't notified," he said.

Garcia said about two-thirds of the people who walked into the polling place when he was there after 4 p.m. were sent somewhere else. 

"Do me a favor: Go in there and ask if you're in the right place," he told a woman as she walked in.

Garcia, holding a water bottle, hustled from one end of the parking lot to the other, trying to say hello to the voters who steadily trickled in. One woman and her son asked for a photograph with him. Another asked him about his position on immigration reform (he favors it and sponsored a stalled House bill on it). Another, who said he was a federal worker, asked him about across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration (he voted against).

"I voted for him," said 39-year-old Sandra Moore, a registered Democrat, who praised Garcia's visibility in the 26th congressional district. "He's done a lot that he said he would do. And he's active in the community."

Carlos Curbelo greets string of Republican voters in Miami's West Kendall


Carlos Curbelo greeted mostly Republican voters Tuesday afternoon at a West Kendall polling place where the sky was blue, the wind was blowing and people were arriving at a slow but consistent clip.

"This morning we have a little rush, but that's it," Curbelo said. 

He was the only candidate at John A. Ferguson Senior High School. A voter also named Carlos said today was his birthday. Curbelo pointed out that Nov. 4 -- Election Day -- is the Feast of St. Charles (San Carlos in Spanish) in the Roman Catholic church.

When the Republican congressional candidate, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, introduced himself to another voter, the voter replied, in Spanish, "I know who you are. I've seen you on TV."

"Pórtate bien," Juan Carlos Esquivel, a 49-year-old Republican, joked before walking into the precinct. "Behave."

After voting, Esquivel said he favored Curbelo because he's someone "defined, who's not switching positions to and fro."

Later, Curbelo stretched out his hand to greet a third voter, who shook it before he realized who Curbelo was.

"Oh, Carlos Curbelo! Take my picture with him," the voter told his companion in Spanish.

"This bodes well," Curbelo said.

The man, 67-year-old Gustavo Cruz, a registered Republican, pledged his family's five votes for Curbelo.

"Forty-nine years ago I was imprisoned in a Cuban concentration camp, and Joe Garcia says, 'Communism works,'" Cruz said in an interview after casting his ballot. "Yes, it works to do harm. That man over there," he added, pointing at Curbelo, "I've never seen do harm."

The voter was referring to a sardonic remark Garcia made earlier this year in which he criticized excessive U.S. government spending on the Mexican border. But Cruz seemed to take the comment literally.

"He's a crook," he said of the congressman.

David Rivera hits Election Day polls in Miami -- even though he's not on the ballot

@PatriciaMazzei  IMG_3433 (1)

Never mind that he lost his Miami congressional seat two years ago, and placed fourth out of five in this year's Republican primary to try to get it back.

Ex-Rep. David Rivera hit the polls anyway on Election Day in Southwest Miami-Dade County -- clad in a white polo shirt with "Congressman David Rivera" and the U.S. House of Representatives logo embroidered over his heart.

Misleading? Perhaps. He also wore it when he campaigned in the GOP primary for the 26th congressional district in August.

"What are you running for?" an elderly Cuban-American man asked Rivera in Spanish before walking into the precinct. "God bless you."

Rivera isn't running for anything, but he was collecting petition signatures to qualify for the ballot -- in 2016, as a Florida House of Representatives candidate. He would run in the district currently represented by state Rep. Frank Artiles, a Republican who won't be term-limited in two years and whom Rivera backs, suggesting the former congressman expects Artiles to run for something else, perhaps Miami-Dade County Commission.

IMG_3431 (1)In addition to the petitions, Rivera handed out yellow slate cards titled "Republican Voter Alert!" The next line read, "As a Life-Long Republican, Congressman David Rivera Recommends." For his former seat, he endorsed Republican Carlos Curbelo, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia.

The card said "Paid for by David Rivera" at the bottom, which is not exactly how disclaimers on political advertisements are supposed to read. It should identify the piece as an independent expenditure. And if Rivera spent more than $5,000 on them -- doubtful -- then he'd have to report the spending. Then again, he never did report how he paid for robocalls during the primary campaign.

New poll on Latino attitudes shows Florida more focused on economy than immigration reform


Latinos in Florida said the most important issue facing the Latino community that politicians should address is the economy -- a slight difference from respondents in other states, who put immigration reform tops, according to a new poll.

Asked about the 2014 midterm elections, Latinos in Florida ranked the economy and jobs tops; of Florida respondents, 46 percent ranked it as one of the most important issues, and 39 percent said immigration reform was. Health care/Medicaid was third, at 19 percent, and education was right behind at 18 percent.

Respondents were able to select more than one item. They were asked: “Thinking about the 2014 election, what are the most important issues facing the (Hispanic/Latino) community that our politicians should address?”

In every other state highlighted, Latinos put immigration reform tops, followed by jobs and the economy. Nationally, 45 percent of respondents selected immigration reform, and 34 percent picked the economy.

The poll was conducted by Latino Decisions, a research firm that has previously explored Latino attitudes and voting trends. The poll was sponsored by several organizations. It involved nearly 5,000 Latino voters nationwide and in the pivotal 2014 states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Nevada, North Carolina and Texas.

Other results are scheduled to be released Tuesday night and Wednesday.

Respondents were also asked to “think about all the people in your family, your friends, co-workers and other people you know” and say if any of them are undocumented immigrants.

Among Florida respondents, 43 percent said yes, they do know somebody who is undocumented. Nationally, 58 percent said yes. Florida’s share of yes votes was the smallest of the 10 states highlighted. (Among Florida Latino voters, 47 percent said no, they don’t know any undocumented immigrants, and 10 percent weren’t sure.)

Amid an agonizing wait, time for second-guessing

On Election Day, hours seem like decades for candidates and campaign operatives. They can't resist obsessing about what they might have done differently, or better. With a close result expected between Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist, the losing side is likely to form a circular firing squad, and what follows is an orgy of second-guessing and scapegoating.

If Scott falls short in his bid for a second term, critics are sure to cite his decision to not show up for the first seven minutes of a statewide TV debate on Oct. 15. There's no evidence from public polls that Scott's absence changed the minds of many voters, but it altered the rhythm of the campaign at a key moment, and if Crist wins, it will be tempting to view it in hindsight as a turning point: the night Crist seized the upper hand.

If Crist loses, Democrats will be forced again to ask how it got away, including what else they could have done to improve turnout. Should Crist have rolled the dice and brought President Barack Obama to Florida to increase black turnout? Should Crist have hammered home a message of economic populism more than he did? Should Crist have played more to his strength of retail politicking, rather than raising the tens of millions he needed to stay competitive with Scott?

Should Scott have taken his attack ads off the air and spent more money showing that warm-and-fuzzy ad of he and First Lady Ann Scott walking along a beach? Should Crist have selected an African-American running mate, as U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings suggested publicly? Should trial lawyer John Morgan have raised more money for Crist? Should Scott have sensed a shift in public opinion and called on Attorney General Pam Bondi to drop the legal challenges to same-sex marriage?

One what-if that applies to both candidates is the question of whether each should have spent less money trashing his opponent and more money offering voters a positive vision of what he would do to improve the state. But with polls open for only a few more hours, it's too late to debate that now. Let the second-guessing begin.


Poll averages: Race deadlocked, Scott could lead Crist by 0.6% pre-Election Day ballots


Heading into Election Day, Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist are tied at 42 percent each, according to the averages of 20 public polls released in October, when absentee-ballot and then in-person early voting began.*

Technically, Scott has a lead of .07 percentage points (42.03 to Crist's 41.96). That's not really a lead at all. Assuming the undecideds don't vote, Scott gets 45.9 percent to Crist's 45.8. Libertarian Adrian Wyllie could pull 8 percent of the vote, about the same percentage as the undecided, who are an X-factor in all of this.**

Unlike prior poll-unskewing attempts, this exercise uses polls taken as people were casting pre-Election Day ballots, 3.1 million as of this morning. The GOP led Democrats in ballots cast by 98,000, 43-39 percent (3.3 percentage points). But independents account for about 18 percent of those voters, and they're leaning Crist by an average of about 6 percentage points.

Put it all together, and Scott's lead in early votes is 42.6 percent to Crist's 42 percent.

That's a 0.6 percentage-point lead.

That's not much of a lead at all, considering Democrats have a registered voter edge of about 455,000 over Republicans (obviously, not all vote). Scott's lead could be higher or lower because this analysis includes the undecided. Take out the undecided, Scott's lead remains at 0.6 percent.

Still, a lead is a lead.

What does Crist need to do to have a real shot at wining under this scenario? Have Democrats today turnout by 2 percentage points more than Republicans (assuming there's 49 percent turnout). Democrats would need to cast 42 percent of the Election Day ballots, Republicans 40 percent and independents 18 percent. If that happens, Republicans would still wind up casting slightly more overall votes in the election (including early and absentee ballots).

Possible? Yes. 

Probable? Not judging by history. 

Continue reading "Poll averages: Race deadlocked, Scott could lead Crist by 0.6% pre-Election Day ballots" »

Ken Detzner: So far, no hitches at the polls on Election Day


Voting is going "very smoothly" this morning, with all polls opening on time in the state's 6,222 precincts, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said at an elections briefing in Tallahassee.

While millions are expected to vote today, the number of early votes cast could be a record, he said. As of last night, 1.7 million Floridians voted by absentee ballot and 1.3 million voted in-person at the polls. By party, 655,020 Democrats and 791,324 Republicans voted by absentee ballot and 555,473 Democrats and 518,476 Republicans voted early in-person at the polls.

"Voters are very pleased to get out early and vote absentee," he said. "I think we might actually see some records in regards to the number of absentee ballots that were mailed and that we're seeing returned.

"By the time the polls close this evening, we should have a sizeable number of votes already counted because of legislative changes made in 2013," Detzner said, referring to fixes restoring more early voting after Florida's flawed 2012 election process.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division is monitoring polling locations in four Florida counties -- Duval, Hillsborough, Lee and Orange -- to ensure federal voting laws are followed. Detzner said these "observers" are present in 17 states, but stressed his confidence that the voting process has improved.

Given a governor's race too tight to predict, the state is ready for a recount, Detzner said. But the contest between Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Cristisn't the only challenge supervisors face this evening.

Several other tight races could require a recount, including the 2nd Congressional District race between Republican Steve Southerland and Democrat Gwen Grahamand the District 26 race where Miami Democrat Joe Garcia is battling Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo.

Continue reading "Ken Detzner: So far, no hitches at the polls on Election Day" »

The show goes on in House District 64

The House District 64 election will go forward -- for now, at least.

An appellate court on Tuesday denied state Rep. Jamie Grant's emergency request that the votes not be tabulated.

Grant filed the request Monday, raising concerns that the election might not be constitutional.

But the Hillsborough and Pinellas elections supervisors filed motions of their own saying Grant's request was impossible.

"My understanding, based on their responses to our motion, is the only way to not tabulate the votes would be to begin the testing process again, which would hold up all ballots in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties," Grant said Tuesday. "I was not aware that would be the effect of granting the motion."

So the votes cast Tuesday will be counted. But what will happen next remains to be seen.

The three candidates in the race -- Grant, Republican challenger Miriam Steinberg, and write-in candidate Daniel John Matthews -- are mired in a complicated legal battle that has yet to be fully resolved.

It started in June, when Steinberg's husband Michael filed a lawsuit claiming Matthews did not live in the district -- a requirement for all write-in candidates. A circuit court judge sided with the Steinbergs and withdrew Matthews from the race.

The primary between Grant and Steinberg -- which will determine who goes to Tallahassee -- was postponed from Aug. 24 to Nov. 4. 

The legal wrangling, however, did not end there.

In October, a panel of appellate judges decided that Matthews had been wrongly withdrawn. But because Steinberg asked for another hearing in front of the entire First District Court of Appeal, the decision was never made final. 

The supervisors of elections said they had no choice but to move ahead with Tuesday's primary.

Michael Steinberg said the results could stand -- or the courts could step in and declare them invalid.

"I think there will be a winner [Tuesday night], but it will only be a temporary winner," Steinberg said.

Grant said he was not likely to claim victory Tuesday, regardless of the results.

"The only thing I want to have happen is to ensure that if and when results are certified, whether it is this race or a special [election], that there are no questions as to the integrity of the election," he said.



Fact-checks about voting rights in Florida

On Tuesday, millions of Florida voters will head to the polls to elect a governor, members of Congress and settle amendment questions including whether to allow medical marijuana.

Amid the battle between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist, both candidates and activists have made claims about voter rights and elections.

PolitiFact Florida brings you some of our top fact-checks that relate to Florida’s botched attempt to purge noncitizens from the rolls, restoring voting rights for felons, the state’s early voting law and other claims related to elections. Click here to read our story.

Obama cuts last-minute radio ad for Charlie Crist


An ad for Democrat Charlie Crist for Florida governor featuring President Barack Obama has been airing since at least Monday on a Miami radio station with a predominantly African-American audience.

"This is it, Florida," the ad begins. "This is Barack Obama."

A female narrator explains how voters can find their polling place. Then it's Obama again:

"So if want to raise Florida's minimum wage, go vote," the president says. "If you believe that every child deserves a fair shot, and that it's wrong to cut scholarships and funding for schools, go vote. If you want a governor who will fight for you, not just the wealthy and the powerful, go vote for Charlie Crist."

"Don't let anyone or anything keep you from voting," Obama concludes.

We tried to get a full recording or script from the Crist campaign Monday, but received no response -- either because they were tied up on the day before Election Day, or because the ad was intended to go under the radar. Obama is unpopular, and many Democratic campaigns have been leery of promoting their ties to the president, though Vice President Joe Biden stumped for Crist in South Florida on Sunday.

The ad is airing on at least one Miami station, WEDR-FM 99.1, better known 99 Jamz.

UPDATE: Republican Gov. Rick Scott has weighed in on the ad with a statement.

"After months of waiting, President Barack Obama is back on the campaign trail for Charlie Crist," the statement reads in part." We already know Barack Obama's policies are on the ballot in this election because he told us that himself. But, his new ad for Charlie Crist today means Charlie Crist wants you to know that too."