Note: This blog's templates will be updated this afternoon to a responsive design bringing it in line with

At that time, we will also change to the Facebook commenting system. You will need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment.

June 21, 2016

Alan Grayson files to qualify for U.S. Senate race

0621 Grayson files


Seeking to become the fourth Democrat to qualify for Florida's open U.S. Senate seat, Orlando U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson submitted his candidate paperwork this afternoon at the state Bureau of Elections' office in Tallahassee.

Shortly after noon, Grayson dropped off his $10,440 check to get on the ballot, along with his candidate oath.

Three other Democrats officially qualified on Monday, the first of the five-day window for candidates to qualify for this year's primary and general elections. They were: U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, Jacksonville attorney Reginald Luster and California businessman "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente, a former presidential hopeful who moved to Orlando in March. (Murphy pre-filed by submitting his paperwork two weeks ago.)

Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith -- who, along with Murphy and Grayson, has been actively campaigning for months -- has yet to submit her paperwork. She has until noon Friday to do so.

Before the deadline, there may be other candidates who jump in the race, as well. De La Fuente and Luster only started campaigning for the seat this month, and De La Fuente -- who spent $6 million of his own money on an unsuccessful presidential bid -- could potentially be a wild card in the Senate contest.

On the Republican side, still only Manatee County developer Carlos Beruff and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox had qualified by 2:45 p.m. Tuesday -- as the political world still waits for incumbent Republican Marco Rubio to make a decision on seeking re-election.

Photo credit: U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, submits his paperwork to qualify for Florida's U.S. Senate race on June 21, 2016 at the Florida Bureau of Elections' office in Tallahassee. Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

As Rubio Watch continues, Carlos Beruff makes play for Miami Spanish-language radio


In case there was any doubt that Republican Carlos Beruff plans to fight hard against Marco Rubio if the U.S. senator makes a last-minute decision to seek re-election, Beruff's campaign unveiled a new ad this week targeting Rubio's most loyal base: Cuban Americans in Miami.

The 60-second radio spot, which the campaign says is airing on local Spanish-language radio, highlights Beruff's Cuban bona fides. The ad is set up as a phone call, in which Beruff calls a female supporter.

"I like it when you talk about how your family came from Cuba, but why don't you tell about how they fought in the counter-revolution?" she says. Later, she adds: "And your uncle. Poor guy. What a man. He died in the Bay of Pigs along with so many others."

"If anyone understands the importance of a free Cuba, it's me," Beruff responds.

"But Carlos Beruff -- don't forget how politicians are here. They're already making atrocious insults," the woman warns. "I don't believe everything they say. But look, you have to talk more about the successful company you built yourself. You've built more than 2,000 houses here in Florida. And you're completely right about Washington. Those politicians forget who they're working for."

Concludes Beruff: "I think I'm going to let you record my next commercial."


Marco Rubio's presidential campaign account nearly empty

If U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio decides to run for reelection he will have to start fundraising from scratch because his presidential campaign account is nearly empty.

Rubio had about $24,000 cash on hand as of the end of May, according to his campaign finance report filed Monday. He has nearly $1.9 million in debt.

But should he decide to jump in to the race by the Friday deadline to qualify, Rubio will have a nationwide network of group and donors willing to spend big to support him. Rubio is mulling over a decision whether to run for reelection.

“There is literally one person in America who has the ability to dramatically increase the chances of Republicans keeping the majority – Marco Rubio,” said Steven Law, Senate Leadership Fund President and former Chief of Staff for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “If Marco’s in for Florida, we’re in for Florida, it’s just that simple.”

Object preview

Democrats are prepared to spend huge sums too. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee plans to spend $10 million while the Senate Majority PAC, which aims to elect Democrats, plans to spend $10.5 million starting in August.




Carlos Beruff readies to self fund $15M more for U.S. Senate race even against Rubio

Carlos Beruff reassured his campaign staff late Monday that he has no intention of backing out of his bid to win a seat in the U.S. Senate and is ready to open his wallet even further to get it done.

Beruff, a Manatee County land developer who has already spent over $4 million of his own money to run for the seat, told his staff that he's prepared to put another $10 million to $15 million into the race to win the Republican primary according to sources in the meeting.

Campaign spokesman Chris Hartline would not comment on the meeting, but said the campaign is ramping up its advertising. That includes signing contracts with television stations for advertising that will run through next week.

The commitment comes as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has said he is considering changing his mind and running for re-election, partly because the shootings in Orlando gave him "pause" to think about how he can best serve. Rubio has not said when he will make a decision, but has to be noon on Friday - the deadline to qualify for the U.S. Senate race.

Five Republicans were initially in the race to replace Rubio in the Senate. Beruff and Orlando area businessman Todd Wilcox have both said they are not intimidated by the prospect of running against Rubio. Both of those campaigns have cited the fact that Rubio lost 66 counties to Donald Trump in Florida's Republican presidential primary in March.

U.S. Rep. David Jolly has already dropped out of the race, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera is expected to drop out if his friend Rubio gets into the race. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis's campaign has said they are ignoring the Rubio rumors. But if Rubio gets in, there is speculation DeSantis would instead run for re-election to the U.S. House. 

Jolly's exit has open the playing field for the Republican candidates. Jolly, through two highly publicized campaigns, had an advantage in the Tampa Bay media market. But with him out, Tampa Bay - which represents about a quarter of all Republican primary voters - is now wide open. Beruff, who has lived in Manatee and Sarasota counties is banking on being able to make headway in the region with Jolly out.

Florida will send 100 troopers to GOP convention

Florida will dispatch 134 Highway Patrol employees, including 100 full-time state troopers, to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland to help with crowd control and security. 

The state confirms it approved a request by Ohio officials for help and will send 134 people, including 34 support staff, to the GOP event from July 18-21. The estimated cost to Florida taxpayers will be $611,000, according to Beth Frady of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, who noted that Florida will be reimbursed by Ohio for all expenses other than salaries.

Frady issued a subsequent clarification that all costs will be reimbursed -- including salaries and overtime -- and that Florida's participation is voluntary. She said 14 other states are also sending officers to Cleveland.

"This will have no effect on FHP operations," Frady said. She added that's because the troopers leaving Florida highways are evenly distributed throughout the state.

The Florida Highway Patrol has 1,974 full-time sworn employees, not all of whom are road patrol officers. The staffing of troopers in urban areas has been a long-standing concern for local law enforcement, such as Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who in 2013 called it "an ongoing problem."

Frady said the Cleveland-bound troopers are part of FHP's Mobile Field Force. They have received special training in preparation for hurricanes, civil disturbances and acts of terrorism. The unit's web page describes them as "Troopers ready for anything!"

Convention organizers are bracing for widespread protests at Quicken Loans Arena, the downtown arena that is home to the newly-crowned NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers and is the site for the planned coronation of Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee.

Some cities, including Cincinnati and Greensboro, N.C. have rejected requests to send officers to the convention, The New York Times reported.


Clinton leads Trump 47-39 in new Q poll in Florida

Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump 47-39 in Florida in a new Quinnipiac poll released this morning.

That's the largest lead Clinton has in three key swing states. They are in a dead heat in Ohio 40-40 and Clinton leads Trump in Pennsylvania 42-40.

This is also the largest lead Clinton has had in Florida since the Q poll asked voters about a Clinton-Trump match-up in August 2015 -- the only time that Trump was ahead of Clinton. In October, Clinton was ahead five points and in May she was ahead by one point.

The poll found that 58 percent of Florida voters found Trump's comments about the judge of Mexican descent racist -- and the margins were similar in Ohio and Pennsylvania. When broken down by party in Florida, 29 percent of Republican voters felt Trump's comments were racist as did 90 percent of Democratic voters.

By wide margins, voters in each state say Clinton is better prepared than Trump to be president; that she is more intelligent than Trump and that she has higher moral standards, according to the poll.

However, voters are divided on whether Trump is more honest and trustworthy than Clinton and voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania find him more inspiring.

Florida voters give Clinton and Trump negative favorability ratings: 39 - 53 percent for her and 33 - 61 percent for him. Independents favor Clinton 44-35.

"Of the three swing states, Florida has the largest number of electoral votes. In fact, it has the most of any of the roughly dozen states around the country considered to be in play. It is Hillary Clinton's best state and perhaps Donald Trump's toughest lift. One reason might be Florida has a larger Hispanic population than the other two states, and Trump has clashed with Hispanic leaders over some of his remarks," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the poll.

The poll of 975 Florida voters was conducted June 8-19 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percent. Surveys were conducted on land and cell lines and in English and Spanish.

June 20, 2016

Alan Grayson, Patrick Murphy criticize Marco Rubio's gun votes

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio's potential Democratic rivals sharply criticized his votes on gun measures today.

"Marco Rubio may find personal, political opportunities in this horrible tragedy, but his disturbing Senate votes today show that this gruesome act of violence did not give him the courage to take on the gun lobby," said Rep. Alan Grayson.

"After the devastating attack in Orlando, Floridians are crying out for commonsense reforms to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists," said Rep. Patrick Murphy. "Tonight, Marco Rubio put his political ambition ahead of keeping Floridians safe."

The rapid response is a sign of how Democrats will seek to use the issue in the general election.

Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson voted on party lines on gun votes

Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio voted on party lines this evening on four gun bills that surfaced after the Orlando massacre. All four bills died.

“What am I going to tell 49 grieving families? What am I going to tell the families of those that are still in the hospital fighting for their lives?' Nelson said at a news conference after the votes. 'What am I going to tell the trauma surgeon whose blood-stained shoes have been shown in a picture on so many news programs and who said he didn’t know, in the midst of the screams and the cries, if they were black or white, or gay or straight, as they brought in over 40, all at one time, into that trauma operating room?  What am I going to tell the community of Orlando that is trying to come together in the healing?  Sadly, what I am going to have to tell them is that the NRA won again.”

Rubio issued a long explanation for his votes. “At the end of the day, we know that law-abiding Americans will abide by whatever laws are passed affecting their Second Amendments rights, and that criminals and terrorists will keep ignoring these laws. Senators Cornyn and Grassley have struck the proper balance between addressing gaps in the law that could be exploited by terrorists while taking care not to place new burdens on lawful gun owners who simply want to protect themselves and their families. We know that the impetus for today’s votes was the Orlando terrorist attack. We can’t say for sure if anything in our laws would have stopped this maniac from carrying out some form of attack, but I know that the proposals I supported today would specifically fill gaps that are evident after this attack and protect people who may one day find themselves needing firearms to protect themselves. The Democrat proposals are politically-motivated and driven by a larger ideological agenda to disarm Americans.”

Democratic measures:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein's proposal to allow the attorney general to deny firearms and explosives to suspected terrorists.

Nelson voted yes; Rubio voted no.

Sens. Chris Murphy, Cory Booker and Chuck Schumer plan to expand backgroud checks, including at a gun show.

Nelson voted yes; Rubio voted no.

Republican measures

> Sen, John Cornyn's plan to delay the sale of guns to terrorism suspect for three days or longer.

Nelson voted no; Rubio voted yes.

> Sen. Charles Grassley's plan to increase funding for background checks but not to expand them.

Nelson voted no; Rubio voted yes.

Full Rubio statement:

“I supported Senator Cornyn’s bipartisan proposal, because in the case of the Orlando terrorist, it would have left him on the national background check system for five years and triggered additional review when he attempted to purchase a gun. This reasonable proposal would protect law-abiding Americans by ensuring that their Second Amendment rights are not denied unless terrorism suspicions are adjudicated by a court, following actual notice and a hearing. After all, the standard for denying someone any constitutional right must be a high one; it cannot be ‘because the federal government says so.’

“I opposed Senator Feinstein’s proposal because it would not prevent terrorist attacks, but it would deny thousands of law-abiding Americans their constitutionally protected right to bear arms without any due process. Our terror watch lists are a mess that need to be fixed. We know there are thousands of innocent Americans who have been put on these lists without any justification, and getting their names cleared can be an arduous process. That is a fundamental violation of our constitutionally protected Second Amendment rights. Of course, no one supports terrorists getting any weapons, but we must also make sure that law-abiding Americans can own firearms to protect themselves.

“I opposed Senator Murphy’s proposal because it places too many burdens on law-abiding Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights, specifically as it relates to the transfer of firearms between friends and neighbors, and could criminalize many routine activities that occur between gun owners. This proposal places all the burdens on law-abiding Americans, who will grudgingly comply with everything, while criminals and terrorists ignore them. I instead supported Senator Grassley’s proposal, which makes improvements to the national background check system without infringing on the rights of honest, law-abiding Americans.

“The Orlando terrorist attack has left a major void in the hearts of all the impacted families, their friends and others like me who have been deeply moved by what we’ve learned over the last eight days about the 49 people who were killed. These were young people in the primes of their lives, sons and daughters, taken too soon. This terrorist attack reminds us of the high stakes in this war on terror and how we cannot continue to allow radical Islamic terror groups to plan and train for attacks against the United States and our allies abroad, or allow their efforts to inspire homegrown terrorist acts like this.  Even as we fight terrorists overseas and strengthen our abilities to prevent homegrown extremism, we cannot undermine the American people’s Second Amendment rights to protect themselves and their families.

“At the end of the day, we know that law-abiding Americans will abide by whatever laws are passed affecting their Second Amendments rights, and that criminals and terrorists will keep ignoring these laws. Senators Cornyn and Grassley have struck the proper balance between addressing gaps in the law that could be exploited by terrorists while taking care not to place new burdens on lawful gun owners who simply want to protect themselves and their families. We know that the impetus for today’s votes was the Orlando terrorist attack. We can’t say for sure if anything in our laws would have stopped this maniac from carrying out some form of attack, but I know that the proposals I supported today would specifically fill gaps that are evident after this attack and protect people who may one day find themselves needing firearms to protect themselves. The Democrat proposals are politically-motivated and driven by a larger ideological agenda to disarm Americans.”

Senator Cornyn amendment #4742:

·         This amendment provides law enforcement with appropriate tools to investigate and detain terrorists while preventing them from obtaining firearms and also protecting fundamental due process rights. After taking appropriate steps to confirm the identity of the prospective transferee and confirm or rule out their connection to terrorism, federal prosecutors will have the needed authority to arrest and detain terrorists immediately.

Senator Grassley amendment #4751:

·         This amendment addresses gun violence by improving federal and state law enforcement’s ability to share and access records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Additionally, the amendment provides better protections from gun violence by addressing mental illness in the criminal justice system and strengthening laws against trafficking of illegal firearms.

-- Alex Leary, Tampa Bay Times

New U.S. Senate candidate didn't register as Democrat in Florida until this afternoon


Rocky Image 2Former presidential hopeful and newly qualified Democratic U.S. Senate candidate "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente was not a registered Democrat in Florida until this afternoon after the Herald/Times inquired about the status of his voter registration.

Records show De La Fuente registered as a "no party affiliation" voter on March 28, after he moved to Orlando from his hometown of San Diego, Calif. That was his current status as of 2:57 p.m. today, according to an email from the Orange County Supervisor of Elections' office.

As the Herald/Times then made inquiries to De La Fuente's campaign and the San Diego County (Calif.) Registrar of Voters, De La Fuente went to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections' office and changed his affiliation to the Florida Democratic Party.

His amended voter application is time-stamped as received by the office at 3:43 p.m.

But De La Fuente told the Herald/Times in an interview shortly after that that he had corrected his voter registration this morning.

Continue reading "New U.S. Senate candidate didn't register as Democrat in Florida until this afternoon" »

Joe Garcia forgoes TV ads, for now, in Miami Congressional race


Former Congressman Joe Garcia isn't hitting the airwaves anytime soon. The Democrat, who is running for his old 26th District seat in South Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys, is focused on saving funds for a potential general election matchup with Republican Carlos Curbelo.

"At some point we may look at doing television advertising," Garcia said. "Last time, the Koch Brothers and company spent almost $7 million attacking me and I have no doubt they will be back again."

The 26th District race promises to be one of the most expensive in the country, and Garcia appears to be saving resources instead of spending on his primary campaign with Annette Taddeo. The district was redrawn prior to this year's election and is seen as a prime pickup target for House Democrats.

"This is a district that's been redesigned on three separate occasions to try to keep me from winning," Garcia said.

Garcia represented the district for one term before losing to Curbelo.

Taddeo trails in the polls and must build her name recognition with voters before the August 30th primary. She has endorsements from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, EMILY's List and the AFL-CIO.

"If Washington knew how to win elections we would have a Congress that's Democratic," Garcia said in response to the DCCC's endorsement of Taddeo. "While it's very nice to be running for Congress for a year and a half, it's not my polls that say I'm winning."

Garcia chose not to highlight any policy differences with Taddeo, who recently touted her progressive stance on the Cuban embargo.

"I understand she wants to create a distinction and I'm sure I could too but its not worth it," Garcia said.

Garcia pointed out his long-term friendship between himself and Taddeo, stating that he attended fundraisers at Taddeo's house and that they have endorsed each other in previous elections before this year's primary.  

He saved his sharpest criticism for Curbelo.

"Mr. Curbelo opposed DACA and now he is for it, or at least not going to oppose it," Garcia said. "This is a guy who opposes Obamacare and voted to shut it down on every single occasion, yet his district is one of the ones that has benefited the most in the country with healthcare."