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September 25, 2015

House Speaker John Boehner resigns

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, will resign at the end of October, shaking up the leadership of the Congress.

Boehner has been under constant criticism from conservatives, who have demanded a more confrontational approach to President Barack Obama. The latest flashpoint is the desire to stop federal financing of Planned Parenthood, which some conservatives insist be tied to any measure keeping the government open when appropriations expire Sept. 30.

Boehner had signed onto an alternative plan that would allow the government to stay open, and give conservatives a separate vote on Planned Parenthood funding, which ultimately would fail with an Obama veto.

When U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio announced at the Value Voters Summit this morning that Boehner would be resigning it drew cheers and a standing ovation from the crowd.

Here is Boehner's Truth-O-Meter record from PolitiFact.

Here is the reaction from the South Florida Congressional delegation and other political figures (this post will be updated):

Continue reading "House Speaker John Boehner resigns" »

Donald Trump's misleading claim about Hillary Clinton and the Obama birther movement

Call it ricochet politics. First, a questioner at a New Hampshire rally for Donald Trump repeats the lie that President Barack Obama is a Muslim. Trump fails to correct him and faces a round of questions as to why he didn’t. Then the host of NBC’sMeet the Press asks Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson if it would be okay to have a Muslim president and Carson said, "I absolutely would not agree with that."

This prompts Hillary Clinton to tweet, "Can a Muslim be President of the United States of America? In a word: Yes. Now let's move on."

Then Trump responds with a tweet of his own. "Just remember, the birther movement was started by Hillary Clinton in 2008. She was all in!"

The birther movement refers to the long-running myth that Obama was not born in the United States and thus, under the Constitution, could not be president. Trump promoted this belief avidly for several years with anyone who would listen. This week, Trump told Late Show host Stephen Colbert that he doesn’t "talk about it anymore."

Did Clinton not just start the birther movement but back it wholeheartedly by being "all in"?

See what Jon Greenberg of PolitiFact found.

Tom Lee takes the witness stand to defend against claims he was drawing district for himself

Tom Lee testimonyThe Republican rift entered the courtroom Friday as Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee took the witness stand in the redistricting trial over the state's congressional maps and testified under oath that he neither intended to draw a map to benefit himself and not has any intention to run in the Hillsborough based district. 

The allegation that the Senate map was drawn for personal, partisan benefit, is the at the unspoken core of the public feud between the House and Senate over the congressional redistricting map. It was Lee's reconfiguration of Hillsborough that prompted House leaders to reject the Senate map and dissolve the special session in August without resolution. And it was Lee's district that was revised by Sen. Bill Galvano in a post-session map drawn in an attempt to "compromise" with the House before the court intervened.

The issue emerged in court in a polite but edgy exchange with Lee on the stand in the second day of the redistricting hearing. 

"Would you agree with me that if a legislator, whether a representative, or a senator or a congressman, drew a district that was favorable to that legislator that that would be a violation of the Florida Constitution?'' asked George Meros, lawyer for the Florida House.

"No sir,'' Lee replied. 

Continue reading "Tom Lee takes the witness stand to defend against claims he was drawing district for himself" »

Jeb Bush says African-American outreach should focus on message of 'hope' and not 'free stuff'


In an event with South Carolina voters Thursday, Gov. Jeb Bush said that the GOP can attract African-American voters with a message about “hope and aspiration” rather than “free stuff.”

Bush said that Republicans get around four to seven percent of the African-American vote for president however “if you double that you win elections in places like Ohio and Virginia.”

“And we should make that case because our message is one of hope and aspiration it isn’t one of division and get in line and we’ll take care of you with free stuff,” he said. “Our message is one that is uplifting that says you can achieve earned success. We are on your side”

Bush said one area where this message resonates the most is advocating for school choice.

Bush’s comments drew fire from liberal groups such as American Bridge.

His comments were compared to what Mitt Romney said in 2012 at a fundraiser after speaking to the NAACP:

“But I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy-more free stuff. But don't forget nothing is really free. it has to paid for by people in the private sector creating goods and services, and if people want jobs more than they want free stuff from government, then they are going to have to get government to be smaller.”

Continue reading "Jeb Bush says African-American outreach should focus on message of 'hope' and not 'free stuff'" »

Miami archbishop brings Cuban cigars, jokes to Late Show with Stephen Colbert


Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski brought two gifts to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Thursday night.

One was a medal of St. Genesius, the patron saint of comedians. The other? A box of Cuban cigars, fresh off Wenski's trip to the island to accompany Pope Francis.

"Talk about carbon emissions," Wenski quipped.

With the pope spending the night in New York, Francis' visit comprised Colbert's entire show -- "It's an hour long, so it might be the shortest Catholic service you ever sit through" -- and he joked he would ask Wenski, who's part of a church climate-change committee "if anyone has thought of building an ark yet."

Wenski noted "we already have problems" with rising seas in South Florida, including King Tides on Miami Beach that have required the city to install "pumps to pump out the water so those young people can go to the nightclubs."

When Colbert asked if Miami church hymns are sung with an electronic dance beat, Wenski said no, but added they do get translated into Haitian Creole and Spanish, the two other languages he speaks. How good is his Spanish?

"I learned it well enough that I have a Cuban accent," Wenski joked. If he teases people about what street he was born in in Old Havana, "some Cubans will tell me that they knew my uncle."

"So do you lie to people a lot, archbishop?" Colbert asked.

"Whenever I can get away with it," Wenski responded.

Taking a more serious tone, he said the theological word for "mojo" -- as Colbert described Francis' popularity -- might be "grace." And he explained the pontiff's trip like this: "If we change the culture, then we can change the politics, both in Cuba and here."

'Outraged' Marco Rubio says Debbie Wasserman Schultz attack over fundraiser a sign of Democratic 'panic'


via @learyreports

Marco Rubio decried on Fox News Thursday night an attack from Debbie Wasserman Schultz over attending a fundraiser at the home of a man who owns Hitler paintings.

“I was outraged,” Rubio told Bill O’Reilly, who opened his show by condemning Wasserman Schultz.

Rubio said it was a sign Democrats are in a “panic” over the struggles Hillary Clinton has faced. And he pointed out that Wasserman Schultz is in favor of the Iran nuclear deal, suggesting she betrayed her own Jewish people.

The fundraiser was Tuesday at the Dallas home Harlan Crowwho has an extensive collection of historical items, including the Hilter-created art. Noting the event came on Yom Kippur, Wasserman Schultz said, “There’s really no excuse for such a gross act of disrespect.”

A number of outlets lashed out at Wasserman Schultz’s attack as pathetic.

O’Reilly also asked Rubio about Trump and Rubio said his adversary lacks foreign policy knowledge, or knowledge of any policy in general.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

September 24, 2015

Sen. Nancy Detert won't run for reelection in 2016

@MichaelAuslen and @MaryEllenKlas

Sen. Nancy Detert will step down from the Legislature in 2016, confirming speculation that she will instead seek a seat on the Sarasota County Commission.

The decision, reported Thursday evening by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, means that the Venice Republican will leave the Legislature two years before she faces term limits in 2018. But it’s a move that’s been widely anticipated as three Republicans are already vying to take her place: former Sarasota mayor Nora Patterson, Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and former Rep. Doug Holder, R-Osprey. Rep. Ray Pilon was in the mix as well but decided to seek another term in the House instead.

Detert’s decision not to run in 2016 plays into an already volatile power struggle as Sens. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, battle for the Senate presidency in 2016-2018. Detert has long been a staunch Latvala ally.

Negron announced last month that he has enough pledged votes to be president. But the whole race will be upended by the Senate redistricting special session next month and other sitting lawmakers’ decisions to step out of the race. Holder said he has signed a pledge card for Negron "some time ago" and expects "a very competitive race" with Patterson, whom he has worked with and considers a friend. Steube would support Negron, as well.

"We have very different political views and about the direction of where the Republican Party should go,'' Holder said. 

Patterson's allegiances are unknown. Although Latvala said Thursday night he will not confirm which candidates have pledged their votes to him, he is throwing his support behind Patterson in the race to replace Detert.

Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, says Detert stepping down is a likely point in the Negron column. Senate leadership has scheduled a presidential designation ceremony for Negron at 2 p.m. on Dec. 2.

First elected to the Senate in 2008 after an eight-year term in the House from 1998-2006, Detert is an outspoken moderate Republican who supports women’s right to have an abortion and plays an important role in economic development policy. She sits on the board of Enterprise Florida but has been a critic of how the economic-development and jobs agency spends money.

House map drawer defends base map, saying he 'had no idea' it helped Curbelo

Jason PoredaThe lead map-drawer for the Florida House told a Leon County Circuit Court on Thursday that he did not know that they were moving black communities out of U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo's district when they were drawing the Legislature's base map.

Jason Poreda, staff director of the House Select Committee on Redistricting said "I had no idea" that he was shifting a community dominated by Democrats out of the district in a way that challengers argue made it more favorable to a Republican. 

Plaintiffs allege that the map was drawn in a way to help Curbelo win re-election by moving three African-American communities -- West Perrine, Palmetto Estates and Richmond Heights -- from his District 26 and into U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen's District 27, because she was a stronger incumbent.

Poreda testified the change was made to follow the Florida Turnpike and pick up population in order to abide by the Florida Supreme Court ruling that rejected a previous map that split the City of Homestead.

Continue reading "House map drawer defends base map, saying he 'had no idea' it helped Curbelo" »

Commission candidate calls self 'Queen of Miami'


Grace Solares is campaigning to claim Miami's District 2 commission seat, a powerful position that oversees the city's financial center and important waterfront assets. And she is nothing if not confident.

Check out the audio below of Solares referring to herself during a public meeting last week as the "Queen of Miami."

Download Sunshine Meeting - Introductions - 2015-09-17 (1)

Update: Solares' consultant, Christian Ulvert, sent the following statement:

"There is no doubt that Grace Solares is the queen of good government and holding city hall accountable. She is known among community advocates as a longtime champion of city residents and our neighborhoods. She made in jest an introduction to soften the mood in a community meeting and followed up her introduction as president of the Urban Environment League.”

Donald Trump: Marco Rubio is a 'kid.' Rubio: Trump is 'touchy and insecure'


Donald Trump unloaded on Marco Rubio -- who he now apparently considers a threat -- in a speech Wednesday and on CNN on Thursday. In the CNN interview, Trump, 69, referred to Rubio, 44, as "a kid."

"He shouldn't running in this race as far as I'm concerned," Trump said.

Rubio then spoke to Kentucky Sports Radio and poked Trump back.

"He takes shot at eveyrbody that gets anywhere close to him in terms of a pol,l or anytime he hits a rough spot -- that's what he does," Rubio said. "He had a really bad debate performance last week -- he's not well-informed on the issues, he really never talks about issues and can't have more than a 10-second sound bite on any key issue -- and so I think he's kind of been exposed a little bit over the past 7 days. And he's a very touchy and insecure guy, and so that's how he reacts -- and people can see through it."