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October 16, 2016

Nearing election, federal judge cites 'obscene' disenfranchisement and hands Democrats another Florida court victory



Calling existing rules “obscene” disenfranchisement, a federal judge in Tallahassee declared late Sunday that Florida must provide a method for voters to fix signature problems that might arise when they vote by mail in the presidential election.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s ruling was a victory for the Florida Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee, which sued the state Oct. 3 arguing Florida canvassing boards shouldn’t immediately reject a ballot if a voter’s signature doesn’t match the one on file. The state gives voters who forget to sign their mail ballots a chance to fix the problem before Election Day — but doesn’t offer voters with mismatched signatures the same opportunity.

Walker ruled the “bizarre” double-standard was unconstitutional.

“It is illogical, irrational, and patently bizarre for the State of Florida to withhold the opportunity to cure from mismatched-signature voters while providing that same opportunity to no-signature voters,” he wrote. “And in doing so, the State of Florida has categorically disenfranchised thousands of voters arguably for no reason other than they have poor handwriting or their handwriting has changed over time.”

He ordered the defendant, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, to direct election supervisors in Florida’s 67 counties to notify voters with mismatched signatures about the problem and allow them to submit a signed affidavit to their county elections office identifying themselves and attesting that they were the ones who voted. The same mechanism is already in place for voters who don’t sign their ballots.

More here.

Photo credit: Jose A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

In Spanish, Kaine urges Miami evangelicals to vote

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U.S. citizens’ duty to vote is similar to Christians’ duty to love their neighbors, Hispanic evangelicals heard from the pulpit Sunday at a bilingual Miami-area church.

The preacher: Tim Kaine.

Hillary Clinton’s running mate visited Pneuma Church in West Kendall to  get in a Sunday service and ask Latinos to vote — in Spanish.

Buenos días a todos,” he told a couple hundred congregants after getting the mic from the Rev. Christian Garcia, according to video of the service the church posted online. It was the first time that a candidate on a presidential ticket addressed a church entirely in Spanish, according to the Clinton campaign.

Kaine went beyond his usual anecdote about being a Jesuit missionary in Honduras and promised not to talk about Clinton’s campaign platform: “We’re in a church,” he said. “But we have a duty to participate and vote according to our values.”

“When I lived in Honduras it was during a military government — a dictatorship — and no one could vote during that time,” he said, plugging Florida’s vote-registration deadline coming up Tuesday. “I’m thankful that this church is working to get people registered.”

More here.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, Miami Herald staff (taken Saturday in Liberty City)

Cuba, Trump and Miami's most contentious state Senate race


Foreign policy isn't an issue for the Florida state Senate. Yet Cuba came up anyway Sunday in a Spanish-language debate between Republican state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Democratic state Rep. José Javier Rodríguez.

Ambrosio Hernández, host of Univision 23's "Al Punto Florida," asked if they'd be willing to increase state commerce ties with Cuba, given President Barack Obama's renewed diplomatic relationship with the island's communist regime. Both candidates are Cuban American.

No, said Diaz de la Portilla. "There's political prisoners. There's human-rights violations," he said. "It's like doing business with the Mafia."

Rodríguez called the topic "painful" for children of exiles like himself. "I support the measures the president has taken because after 50 years without results, we needed to change, he said.

And then, Rodríguez invoked Donald Trump's reported violation of the Cuban trade embargo in 1998.

"We must be strongly against what Trump did," he said. "My opponent has not said anything, has stayed silent on the deception that Trump engaged in about doing business in Cuba, hiding it and lying to this community."

"I criticize anybody who breaks the law of this country, being Trump or [Hillary] Clinton," Diaz de la Portilla responded. Then, turning to Rodríguez, he added: "I don't know where he's been, because I've criticized [Trump] a lot for this hypocrisy."

Diaz de la Portilla has said he isn't voting for Trump or Clinton.

Miami's Spanish-language media has had its hands full this election

via @ReneMiamiHerald

It’s 10:30 a.m. on the morning after the second presidential debate, and Ricardo Brown is live on the air on WURN-AM Actualidad Radio hosting his daily political talk show “Panorama Nacional.” But instead of a heated analysis of how Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump fared during their latest showdown, Brown is speaking softly, Vivaldi playing in the background, telling his listeners he’s in the mood for peace and quiet.

Brown even tells his co-host Maria Fernanda Silva that he’s considering taking a long vacation until Nov. 9, when the election will have been settled. A little while later, at the radio station’s offices in Doral, Brown says he wasn’t kidding about taking a break. Only his smile implies he’s not serious.

“I try to stick to the middle of the road when I’m covering elections, but this one has been difficult because you keep getting hit by trucks going in both directions,” he says. “I’m getting bored. I want this election to be over soon. In fact, I want the next four years to be over soon. No matter who wins or loses, the next four years are going to be gridlock in Washington. We’ll survive as a nation. Heck, we survived the Civil War. But I’m bored. I wish I was a bear. I want to hibernate until this is all over.”

Brown’s candidness about his election fatigue is refreshing. It’s hard to imagine an English-language news personality of his stature — an Emmy award-winning correspondent and reporter who has covered stories for Univision, Telemundo and CBS Telenoticias in more than 50 countries over four decades — being this frank and off-the-cuff.

But in the present-day of South Florida’s Spanish-language TV and radio, a personal connection edges out political agendas. This more moderate, restrained tone is a radical departure from what Hispanic media in Miami used to be in the 1980s and ’90s: an often bitter landscape dominated by hardliners who raged at Castro’s regime and stoked public sentiment against anyone they deemed sympathetic to communist governments. In 1976, a car bomb severed the legs of WQBA host Emilio Milian, who had denounced extremist Cubans on the air.

More here.

Photo credit: Jose A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

Firefighters, educators who backed Garcia in 2014 back Curbelo now


Two groups that endorsed Democrat Joe Garcia in 2014 have to decided this election cycle to instead back his political opponent, Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

The South Florida Council of Firefighters and the National Education Association both released their picks last week. Endorsements aren't always newsworthy, but they're worth noting when organizations flip -- especially given that they're facing the same choice of candidates. Garcia was the incumbent in 2014 when Curbelo ran against him in Florida's 26th district and ultimately won.

"Mr. Curbelo shares the same values that educators, students, and families of Florida want and expect of those serving them in Washington," NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said in a statement.

"Congressman Carlos Curbelo has shown the willingness to sit with firefighters and paramedics to understand our concerns," the SFCFF's Omar Blanco said in a statement.

Rodriguez takes aim at Diaz de la Portilla's gun safety record in Sunday NBC appearance


Fighting to win South Florida's redrawn Senate District 37, incumbent Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and challenger Jose Javier Rodriguez played nice for much of a televised appearance Sunday morning on NBC's Impact with Jackie Nespral. But the final quarter of the 12-minute segment featured a barrage of attacks that highlighted the bitterness of the campaign, with Rodriguez attacking the Republican's record on gun control and Diaz de la Portilla blasting the Democrat for being "ineffective."

The tension began around the 9-minute mark, when Rodriguez, a Democrat and state representative, said Diaz de la Portilla "does not have a perfect record on gun safety," an issue taking on heightened importance in a district that leans a little to the left and features a large bloc of independent voters.

Diaz de la Portilla has won high-praise from gun-control activists for blocking so-called "open carry" and "campus carry" bills through his role as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Last week, Everytown, a gun-control group backed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, announced it would pay for ads supporting the incumbent.

But Rodriguez noted in the taped interview that Diaz de la Portilla has supported controversial bills, including a bill that allowed Gov. Rick Scott to remove local elected officials who tried to preempt state gun laws and the "Docs vs. Glocks" legislation in 2011, plus a failed 2016 effort to overhaul a key provision of Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law that would have placed the burden of disproving immunity on the prosecution.

Continue reading "Rodriguez takes aim at Diaz de la Portilla's gun safety record in Sunday NBC appearance" »

In Miami, Kaine dismisses Trump talk of 'rigged' election

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via @harrisalexc

Tim Kaine wanted Floridians to know that in the election chess game, the Sunshine State could choose the winner.

“If [Trump] loses Florida, it’s checkmate,” he said. “Let’s do some checkmate and win.”

The Democratic vice presidential candidate, in town for a private fundraiser at the home of Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Jean Monestime, stopped by Liberty City for a “block party” with fellow Virginian Pusha T, a rapper. Pusha T did not perform but introduced Kaine and echoed his message on the importance of voting.

Kaine climbed into the bed of an F-350 pickup truck, its windows soaped with his running mate’s logo, and encouraged a crowd of around 200 people to vote. Dressed in jeans and sporting sunglasses, his main message was to get as many people to the polls as possible. Florida’s voter registration ends Oct. 18 after a last-minute extension by a federal judge. Early voting starts Oct. 24 in Miami-Dade and Broward, and Election Day is Nov. 8.

His visit to the predominantly black community of Liberty City, part of the Hillary Clinton campaign’s outreach to black voters, is his fifth stop in South Florida. Previously, Clinton and President Barack Obama have done call-in interviews and advertised with local radio stations with largely black audiences.

More here.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, Miami Herald staff

In Tampa, Rubio steers clear of Trump. So does Lopez-Cantera

via @WilliamEMarch

TAMPA — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio followed vice presidential nominee Mike Pence to the podium in a Tampa hotel ballroom full of enthusiastic Republicans on Saturday, praised Pence and other GOP leaders and then gave his usual rousing stump pitch.


But he did it all, speaking 34 minutes, without once mentioning the name of Pence's running mate, the presidential nominee the Republicans were there to support, Donald Trump.

Rubio this week maintained his tepid support for Trump for president after eight days of scurrilous revelations and accusations of Trump's abusive attitudes toward women.

But if anything, Rubio's speech Saturday night suggests he hopes to put even more distance between himself and Trump.

Rubio emphasized the key role the Senate will play in the next four years, but spoke almost dismissively of the presidential contest.

"I want to talk about the importance of the Senate race," he said. "We all know the importance of the presidential race."

He cited the coming U.S. Supreme Court vacancies, often referenced by reluctant Republicans as a reason to stick by Trump despite the past week's revelations.

"The next president and the next U.S. Senate will probably nominate and confirm up to three Supreme Court justices," who will serve up to 25 years – "the equivalent of three two-term presidencies," he said.

Continue reading "In Tampa, Rubio steers clear of Trump. So does Lopez-Cantera" »

Patrick Murphy's dad dropped another $250K into pro-Murphy super PAC

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A super PAC supporting Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy raised about $1 million in the past three months -- including a $250,000 check from Murphy's multi-millionaire father.

The donation was reported in a quarterly financial disclosure report filed with the Federal Election Commission just before midnight on Saturday evening, the day of the reporting deadline. The pro-Murphy "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" reported entering October with $764,000 in cash on hand to spend in the final weeks of the campaign.

Thomas Murphy Jr., chairman, CEO and founder of Miami-based Coastal Construction Group, has a long history of financially supporting his son's political efforts, starting with Murphy's first bid for Congress four years ago.

Including the most recent check to "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" on Sept. 27, the elder Murphy has donated at least $1.75 million this cycle in support of Patrick Murphy's Senate bid against Republican incumbent Marco Rubio.

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

This summer, Thomas Murphy donated $1 million to the Democratic super PAC, Senate Majority PAC, which a few days later announced a $1 million ad buy benefiting the Jupiter congressman. Earlier this year, Murphy's father previously also gave $500,000 -- through himself and Coastal -- to "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class."

Super PACs can raise unlimited funds but are prohibited from coordinating with candidates' campaigns.

A conservative watchdog group last month filed a complaint with the FEC alleging Thomas Murphy's donations to political efforts supporting his son constitute illegal coordination between Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign and the super PACs his father has donated to. (Murphy's campaign called it a "frivolous and unfounded attack.") Murphy's former primary competitor, Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, made similar accusations earlier this year.

MORE: Murphy ‘hates’ super PACs, but family gives to one backing him

The $1 million quarterly haul for "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" was its strongest fundraising period this cycle. The super PAC also reported spending about as much as it took in between July and September.

The group hasn't been noticeably influential in Florida's U.S. Senate race. It ran some advertising for Murphy over the summer, but almost half of its quarterly spending ($440,000) went to Senate Majority PAC -- which has been supporting Murphy but recently pulled millions of dollars in planned advertising for him.

By comparison, the pro-Rubio super PAC, "Florida First Project," raised almost $2.1 million between July and September and had about $500,000 in the bank as of Sept. 30, its most recent financial disclosure filing showed.

Photo credit: AP

October 15, 2016

Curbelo outraises, outspends Garcia


Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo has continued to outraise Democratic challenger Joe Garcia, the candidates' latest financial reports show. But what the vulnerable incumbent mostly did over seven weeks was spend money -- a lot of it.

Curbelo went through $1.2 million from Aug. 11-Sept. 30, his campaign reported. Most of that went to TV ads, which he started airing the week of the Aug. 30 primary, without any let up.

Unopposed on the GOP side, Curbelo had saved his amassed contributions for 18 months. He raked in nearly $510,000 in the latest period, including nearly $13,000 from his joint fundraising committee.

Curbelo's big-name donors include casino magnate Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts of Colorado and sugar baron Pepe Fanjul of West Palm Beach. Curbelo also got $2,500 from KochPAC, the political committee for the industrialist Koch brothers, and $3,000 from a political committee for Univision Communications, which has also supported fellow Miami Cuban-American Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen this cycle.

Curbelo still has more cash in the bank: $1.3 million, compared to Garcia's about $354,000.

Garcia, who won the Democratic primary despite being outraised and outspent by Annette Taddeo, raised nearly $382,000 through Sept. 30 and spent about $334,000. Among Gn-arcia's donors are political committees for U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. Garcia also got a $1,000 check from author Judy Blume, who lives in Key West.

Florida's 26th congressional district, which runs from Westchester to Key West, leans Democratic and is one of the most competitive races in the country.