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May 11, 2017

Rivas Logan is in for Artiles' Florida Senate seat

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Former state Rep. Ana Rivas Logan said Thursday she's running for former state Sen. Frank Artiles' seat.

Rivas Logan is the third Hispanic Democratic woman to announce her candidacy, after state Rep. Daisy Baez of Coral Gables and businesswoman Annette Taddeo.

The difference, Rivas Logan said, is that she's already won elections in parts of Artiles' Southwest Miami-Dade County district. Her name recognition will help her in the quick-turnaround special election, she said. 

"It's not about who can win a primary," she said. "It's about who can flip the seat blue."

Artiles, a Republican, resigned last month after unleashing a diatribe of sexist and racist insults to two African-American senators. Republican Gov. Rick Scott set the special primary to replace him for July 25, and the general election for Sept. 26. Candidates must qualify to run by May 31.

Rivas Logan, a Cuban-American born in Nicaragua, ran for Senate District 40 last year but lost the rowdy Democratic primary to former Sen. Dwight Bullard. She nevertheless finished ahead of businessman Andrew Korge, who had far outraised her.

A former (nonpartisan) Miami-Dade School Board member from 2004-10, Rivas Logan served one term in the state House from 2010-12 as a Republican. She publicly disavowed the GOP and became a Democrat in 2014.

"This is basically my old school board seat," she said Thursday. "Independents and Republicans have voted for me."

She and her teacher friends plan to campaign door-to-door in the district starting Monday, Rivas Logan said.

Photo credit: El Nuevo Herald file

Ahead of expected Senate run, Gov. Scott unveils new super PAC

WASHINGTON — Gov. Rick Scott will chair a national Super PAC aiming to “change and rebrand the way the Republican Party approaches the challenges of the future.”

Hitching itself to President Donald Trump, New Republican will “get rid of all our tired old political jargon and cliches,” Scott said in a release that echoed a presentation he gave in Washington Wednesday night.

The PAC was founded by Republican strategist Alex Castellanos, and he will serve as senior advisor. Melissa Stone will serve as the executive director; Taylor Teepell, finance director. 

Scott played up his connection to Trump. “Donald Trump’s election was a complete shock to the system in Washington,” said Scott, who is readying to run for U.S. Senate against Bill Nelson.

“This is the perfect opportunity to do things differently. The president is a friend of mine. I’ve known him for about 20 years. I am committed to helping him as he fights against the political machine and attempts to force real change upon a political system and a city that hates change.”

A professed outsider, Scott announced the PAC in a most insider way: during an invite-only dinner with Beltway reporters.

According to the PAC website, New Republican will focus on three specific areas:

Continue reading "Ahead of expected Senate run, Gov. Scott unveils new super PAC" »

May 10, 2017

If Miami-Dade schools chief runs for Congress, who will replace him?



Just days after Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s name surfaced as a potential candidate for Congress, speculation has already started over who might replace him as schools chief.

Several School Board members said they have received calls asking what would happen if Carvalho — who told the Miami Herald on Friday that he is being courted to run for retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat — resigns to run for office.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of folks in all of the communities and yes, they are concerned,” said board Chair Larry Feldman. “He’s been working for us for eight years in this position and has taken us from financial disasters, academic issues, credibility issues,” to a school district that serves as a model for the rest of the country, Feldman said. 

It’s unclear how seriously the superintendent is considering pursuing a political run. On Friday, Carvahlo walked the fence in an interview with the Miami Herald. He said he had a “moral responsibility at least to entertain” requests from the people who are hoping he’ll get into the race but added that his commitment to the school district “is as strong and unwavering as ever.”

But Carvalho has since privately assured School Board members, including Feldman, that he plans to remain head of Miami-Dade Schools, where his contract runs until 2020. 

School Board member Lubby Navarro, who has gotten calls from residents in her district and elected officials concerned about Carvalho’s possible departure, said Carvalho told her on Saturday that there was “zero chance” he would run.

If the superintendent does leave, Navarro said there are two qualified candidates who come to mind as possible replacements: Iraida Mendez-Cartaya, an associate superintendent at the Miami-Dade school district who lobbies in Tallahassee on the district’s behalf, and Pablo Ortiz, a former school district administrator who currently serves as a vice president at Florida International University.

Both responded that they were happy where they were. 

More here


Miami billionaire Fernandez plans political fund to defend unauthorized immigrants


To counter the Trump administration’s aggressive deportation policy, a billionaire Miami healthcare mogul plans to spend the next couple of years raising — and spending — serious cash to defend unauthorized immigrants in court.

Mike Fernandez, a Republican-turned-independent political megadonor from Coral Gables, intends to create a nonprofit political organization in coming days to aid existing groups that provide legal services to unauthorized immigrants facing removal from the U.S.

“Immigrants are key to the fiber and the economic survival of our country,” Fernandez said in an interview with the Miami Herald. “We are hard workers. We clean rooms. We herd cattle. We pick fruits. We care for the elderly. If we were not doing it, nobody would be doing it.”

Over the next two years, Fernandez hopes to raise at least $5 million for his bipartisan Immigration Partnership and Coalition (IMPAC) Fund. Even if he doesn’t, Fernandez said he intends to spend the money from his own pocket to assist agencies like Catholic Legal Services and the Miami-based Americans for Immigrant Justice.

The assistance will go to defend only non-felons, according to Fernandez. (Unlawfully crossing the border or overstaying a U.S. visa is a civil infraction.) Some of the money will also be used to educate immigrants of their rights, help them apply for residency or citizenship, and raise public awareness of what immigrants do for the economy, he added. 

“It’s education,” Fernandez said. “It is also letting the federal government know that citizens are upset about it, and that they will have to fight us.”

Under Trump, the Department of Homeland Security expanded the categories of unauthorized immigrants prioritized for deportation, reversing the Obama administration’s most recent position.

More here.

Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald staff

Nelson has no faith in McConnell to allow fair Russian investigation

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson amplified calls Wednesday for a special prosecutor to oversee the Russian meddling probe, asserting that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cannot be trusted to oversee a fair investigation.

“I do not have any faith that Mitch McConnell, on the basis of his statement today on the floor of the Senate, will let a full investigation be done by legislative committees controlled by his office," Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times and other news outlets. "I believe that’s why we need an independent special prosecutor.”

Nelson, facing re-election next year, said the Senate Intelligence Committee review could also be hampered because federal agencies under control of President Trump may not fully cooperate.

On the Senate floor Wednesday, McConnell said: "Today we'll no doubt hear calls for a new investigation, which could only serve to impede the current work being done."

Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the Intel Committee, also thinks the work should proceed. "People should wait for all the facts to come out via the Intelligence Committee report and then at that time a determination can be made," he said Wednesday.

Trump on Twitter has been bashing Democrats as two-faced. "Dems have been complaining for months & months about Dir. Comey," he wrote on Twitter this afternoon. "Now that he has been fired they PRETEND to be aggrieved. Phony hypocrites!"

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Putnam says Scott shouldn't veto entire budget

via @adamsmithtimes

After formally kicking off his campaign for governor in one of the most picturesque launches we've seen from a Florida politician in a long time, Adam Putnam breezed through a line of reporters by his campaign bus to quickly answer one question per reporter. Some he answered directly, others not so much.

On whether Gov. Rick Scott should veto the whole budget passed by the legislature: "I would take a large veto pen to the line items. I think that vetoing the whole thing throws it back into the hands of the legislature, and it's a blunt force instrument. I think that the governor can more successfully impose his views through the use of the line item veto."

On whether he might support Florida seeking a waiver, allowed under the U.S. House's American Health Care Act, from the requirement that insurance must accept people with pre-existing conditions and charge them the same as people without: "It's something that has huge impacts on Florida, and the next governor and the current governor aee going to need to make sure that whatever Washington does is not something that is going to further reduce choices and stand between patients and doctors. We have a situation in Florida now where a large number of our counties only have one (provider) option. That's not a viable solution."

On the suggestion that Putnam is a career politician, at a time when political outsiders are in favor: "Floridians want a governor who knows the state, who knows the problems facing our state and how to fix them and how to treat people along the way. My experience managing crises from managing wildfires to managing a large organization and bringing a business background to this is going to make me the most prepared candidate for governor regardless of who runs."

On whether he could face a strong primary challenge from the right; "I'm a Bartow-raised farmer, and I'm a conservative. Anyone who wants to run for governor is welcome to pack a lunch and come on."

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott undecided on budget but criticizes legislative secrecy

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday provided little insight into his thinking on the budget but took a shot at how it was crafted behind closed doors.

"I haven’t decided," he said of his range of options, which include a total veto or striking things by line. "I’m going through the budget now. As you know, this budget was done at the last (minute) by a few people. We’re learning what’s in the budget right now. I’m getting briefed on a daily basis what’s in the budget and I’ll make the right decision."

Scott is in Washington and met with EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt, which he described as part of his goal of partnering with the Trump administration. Earlier he did an event with the RGA.

Asked how seriously he was considering a veto, Scott said: “I’ll do what I’ve done the last six years. I’ll look at what’s good for the state and I’ll make the decisions. You have to remember I’m a business guy that ran to run around the state. So this political process is not what I’m worried about. I’m worried about the people I represent. I represent 21 million people almost and they care about jobs, they care about a good education systems, things like that."

Will he sign the charter school bill? "I’m going to review it."

On Trump's firing of James Comey: "He clearly became a lightning rod, to both the right and the left. It gives President Trump the opportunity for a fresh start." Scott noted that he's had good relations with the FBI, citing the Pulse nightclub massacre.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Putnam: Florida can be 'launch pad for the American Dream'

via @adamsmithtimes

BARTOW -- Adam Putnam, the fifth generation Florida native and Republican agriculture commissioner, has been planning and building towards his gubernatorial campaign for years if not decades. On Wednesday he offered his vision for where he next wants to lead Florida Florida.

“We’ve got to put Florida first to make sure that it isn’t only the place where people come after a life well-lived somewhere else; it’s where they come to launch their own American Dream," said Putnam, the 42-year-old former congressional leader and product of a prominent agriculture family. 

“Our state can be the launch pad for the American Dream," he said. "The state that is the fishing capital of the world can also be the state that builds the boats and trains the craftsmen. The state that trained millions of soldiers and sailors and airmen can retrain our citizens with the skills that allow them to compete in a rapidly changing world – and win. The state that put a man on the moon can build the tools for the next giant leap for mankind."

It was a setting befitting Norman Rockwell, with Putnam in front of crates of Florida oranges and the domed, 108-year-old historic Polk County Courthouse draped with the flags of Florida and America. Supporters were entertained by the Polk High marching band and the fiddle and double base of Lakeland's Brian Southerland Band.

"Some people say that this doesn't exist any more," said Putnam, noting the flags waving and prayer on the courthouse steps

Republicans have controlled the governor's office and Tallahasee for nearly two decades, and Putnam on Wednesday sounded like he saw little need for a change in direction. He spoke broadly of focusing on education, and job-training, as well as protecting gun rights and Florida's natural resources.

“American exceptionalism is real. If you ever doubt that.  Look at the grocery clerk in Lakeland who revolutionized the supermarket industry, Or the cashier on I-Drive who now owns the souvenir shop. It’s the truck driver hauling fruit who saved up to buy an orange grove, and then another. It’s the hotel maid who now runs her own bed and breakfast," Putnam said before a crowd of nearly 1,000 people. 

“Hard-working folks like these have been able to achieve their American Dream right here in Florida. I want every single Floridian to be able to tell a similar story. I want people around the country to know this is where it happens. It’s why we have more work to do. It’s why we’ve got to keep fighting to put Florida first and make our state the launch pad for the American dream. “And it’s why I am running for Governor of the great state of Florida."

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

Richard Corcoran calls for special session on medical marijuana

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@MichaelAuslen and @stevebousquet

House Speaker Richard Corcoran is joining the ranks of those calling for a special session to pass medical marijuana legislation after lawmakers failed to reach agreement on the issue last Friday.

"I think there should be a special session on medical marijuana," Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, told the Times/Herald on Wednesday.

Last Friday, lawmakers hit an end-of-session deadline without finishing a deal to implement Amendment 2, which passed with 71 percent of voters' support in the November election. Since then, activists including United for Care chairman John Morgan and Florida for Care executive director Ben Pollara, the men behind the medical marijuana campaign.

On Monday, Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said he's open to the idea.

 "I think the Legislature does have a responsibility to be involved in that implementation, so I think that’s an option we’ll look at," he said.

Adding to the prospect is the growing buzz in Tallahassee around a special session to override possible budget vetoes.

Gov. Rick Scott could call the Legislature in to special session on his own, though his office has been mum about whether he would do so on medical marijuana. Alternatively, Corcoran and Negron can agree to one together, something they would likely only do if they had resolved sticking points that caused the medical marijuana bill to flame out in the regular session.

Photo by Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times

Barreiro files candidacy for Ros-Lehtinen's seat in Congress

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Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro formalized his candidacy for Congress on Wednesday, announcing he'd filed paperwork to begin fundraising and launch his Republican campaign for retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's seat.

"Throughout my years as a public servant, I have witnessed first-hand how my efforts can positively contribute to the growth and well-being of our residents in South Florida," he said in a statement. "I have a pulse for the needs of our community, and understand the importance of having a strong advocate for South Floridians in Washington D.C."

Barreiro is the first well-known Republican to enter the race for the Democratic-leaning 27th district, though former Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado is interested, and national Republicans have reached out to Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Jeb Bush Jr. Maria Peiro has also filed to run. Several Democrats are already in the contest.

Barreiro has represented much of Ros-Lehtinen's district on the commission and previously in the Florida Legislature, where he was a state representative from 1992-98. A Cuban-American, he was born in Clearwater but raised in Miami. He's the elected state committeeman for the Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee. His wife, Zoraida, is running for Miami City Commission.

"As Congressman, I will work in a bipartisan manner to bring to the table important issues for our residents, such as economic prosperity, improved infrastructure, modernized and efficient transportation alternatives, affordable housing, viable healthcare options, and so much more," Barreiro said.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, el Nuevo Herald