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April 15, 2016

Miamian recruits women for Ted Cruz coalition


Just because the presidential primary is long gone from Florida doesn't mean dedicated supporters of the remaining candidates are taking a break.

Take Lourdes Castillo de la Peña, an enthusiastic Ted Cruz backer.

The Miamian helped bring Cruz to town ahead of Florida's March 15 primary (won on the Republican side by Donald Trump) and held a fundraiser featuring Cruz's wife, Heidi Cruz. Now she's recruiting members for a "Women for Cruz" coalition formed after Trump posted an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz on Twitter.

"My mission is to get a representative from every county," Castillo de la Peña said. She called Cruz the most qualified potential First Lady, and argued most "average American women" can relate to her. Cruz, who served in the George W. Bush administration, is on leave from her job in Houston for Goldman Sachs.

"We all identify with her at some point," Castillo de la Peña said.

She added that, despite her passion for the campaign, she's not vying for one of the delegate spots for July's GOP convention. Miami-Dade County Republicans will choose their delegates Saturday in Hialeah.

Super PAC supporting Patrick Murphy gets $300K from his father's Miami company



In a span of four months, the father of U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, and his business interests poured a half-million dollars into a super PAC supporting his son's bid for U.S. Senate.

In mid-December, Thomas Murphy gave $200,000 of his own money to "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class," and then on March 31, Thomas Murphy's Miami-based construction company -- Coastal Construction Group -- shelled out $300,000 to the super PAC.

The $300,000 donation was revealed Friday when the super PAC's quarterly financial disclosure was made available online through the Federal Election Commission. It accounted for 74 percent of the super PAC's intake between January and March, the report showed.

In all, "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" reported $405,000 in contributions for the first quarter, entering April with $841,300 in cash on hand.

Since the super PAC was established about a year ago, 29 people or companies have donated $965,000 to it. The two donations from Murphy's father and his company account for 52 percent of that total income.

The funds are separate from Murphy's individual campaign account, which on Monday reported raising about $2 million in the first quarter and having $5.6 million in cash on hand.

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama has emerged as another top donor for "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class." The tribe gave another $50,000 in March, after first giving $50,000 last year.

Super PACs are not bound by the $2,700-per-race cap on individual contributions, as candidate's campaign committees are, nor can they coordinate directly with the candidate.

Patrick Murphy has been critical of the growing prominence and plethora of super PACs in the modern political era, despite benefiting from them both in this election and in his first U.S. House race.

Murphy's Senate campaign declined to comment today on his father's company's donation to the super PAC last quarter, and a representative of "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" would not comment directly on it either.

"Patrick Murphy is a proven leader who has stood up for Florida's hard-working families, and as our next Senator he will continue to invest in ways to grow and strengthen Florida's middle class. His record on standing up for Florida's families is exactly why our efforts are receiving broad support," Ashley Walker, the super PAC's senior adviser, said in a statement.

Thomas Murphy has a history of giving sizable donations to super PACs supporting his son. In Patrick Murphy's first U.S. House race in 2012, Thomas Murphy gave $250,000 to the pro-Murphy super PAC American Sunrise.

Murphy faces a contentious August primary against fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, in a bid for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat. Grayson does not appear to have a super PAC supporting him.

Among the five Republican candidates in the race, several have super PACs supporting them.

Photo credit: Walter Michot / Miami Herald

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo says he raised $362K last quarter


Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo collected about $362,000 for his re-election during the first three months of the year, his campaign told the Miami Herald on Friday.

That number puts Curbelo ahead of one of his Democratic rivals, former Rep. Joe Garcia, whose campaign announced earlier Friday a haul of about $325,000. The other Democrat in the running, Annette Taddeo, has yet to release her totals, though none of her prior quarters have reached Garcia's latest number.

Neither of the Democrats, who must confront each other in the Aug. 30 primary, is anywhere near Curbelo in terms of how much money they have in the bank. He has more than $1.7 million cash on hand remaining from the nearly $2.3 million he's amassed so far, his campaign said.

The campaign added that about a fifth of his contributions from Jan. 1 through March 31 came from the Florida Keys. The 26th congressional district extends from Westchester to Key West.

UPDATED Miami congressional candidates say Carnival shouldn't cooperate with Cuban 'discrimination'


Democrat Annette Taddeo weighed in earlier this week on the controversy that has gripped Miami politics: whether Carnival Corp. should sail to Cuba as planned, given that the Castro regime won't allow Cuban-born passengers to disembark the ship.

No, said Taddeo, who is running in Florida's 26th congressional district.

Here's the statement her campaign released Wednesday:

While I am supportive of the steps President Obama has taken to open diplomatic relations with Cuba, I recognize that there will be many issues to address and we cannot ignore our American values as we work through these issues. The current Cuban policy prohibiting Cuban-born Americans from entering the country by sea has now created a policy of discrimination on cruise lines traveling to Cuba. We should not allow the Cuban Government to decide which Americans get on a U.S. cruise ship.

This is not the first time a cruise line has been forced to deal with a country's bias towards an entire ethnic group. When Tunisia refused to allow Jewish passengers to disembark in their country, Norwegian Cruise Lines cut ties and stopped travel to Tunisia. I am hopeful the Cuban government will see the error in this policy and move quickly to remedy the discrimination it creates towards Cuban Americans. In the meantime, I encourage Carnival to follow the example set by Norwegian and refuse to cooperate with a policy that singles out and discriminates against one group of Americans. I agree with President Obama's focus on people-to-people engagement and Cuban Americans are people, too.

On Thursday, Taddeo wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew urging him to push Cuba to "see the error in this policy."

Taddeo is Colombian-American, not Cuban-American, But she has spent years living among Miami's Cuban exiles, and her primary opponent, former Rep. Joe Garcia, is a chief proponent of Obama's U.S.-Cuba engagement policy. The Republican incumbent, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, generally opposes it. (Both Garcia and Curbelo are sons of exiles.)

Curbelo tweeted in support of the Miami Herald column by Fabiola Santiago exposing the Cuban policy. He's against Carnival sailing under the existing Cuban policy.

UPDATE: Garcia tells the Herald he, too, thinks Carnival should not sail under existing Cuban policy:

"Discrimination is discrimination, and we should never tolerate governments who discriminate under the guise of policy for anyone, not for sexual orientation, race, creed, or national origin," Garcia said in a statement. "I support engaging Cuba, but our policy is simple. We are America. We should not enable discrimination here at home or in any corner of the globe."

Read Taddeo's letter to Lew:


Donald Trump thinks Jeb Bush should move to New York

via @learyreports

“You say, what are NY values? Number one, honesty and straight talking. It’s a work ethic, hard working people. It’s about family. New York — believe it — is about family. So important.

"It’s the energy to get things done. Big energy. If Jeb Bush came here, I’m telling you, he’d have much more energy than he has right now. I’m telling you. He should move to New York, right?"

--Donald Trump on Thursday night at the New York State Republican Gala in Manhattan.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Debbie Wasserman Schultz challenger Tim Canova picks up another union endorsement

Tim Canova has picked up another union endorsement in his Democratic primary battle against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston.

Canova, who lives in Hollywood, is being endorsed by the Transport Workers Union Local 568 today. That's the largest union at the Miami International Airport and represents cargo and fleet workers, according to a press release from Canova.

Union local president Sidney Jimenez said in a press release that Wasserman Schultz had been "virtually 'missing in action' when it comes to supporting our members' issues." 

This is Canova's first race for public office and he faces an uphill battle against the better financed longtime incumbent. Canova, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University, says he raised $557,000 during the first quarter of 2016. Wasserman Schultz raised $1.1 million in 2015 and $614,000 this year. (Their reports are officially due to the Federal Election Commission tonight.)

Canova's previous union endorsements include the Communication Workers of America and National Nurses United.

Wasserman Schultz was first elected to the state Legislature in 1992 and Congress in 2004. She has easily won re-election against GOP opponents.

Wasserman Schultz, who is also the Democratic National Committee chair, told the Miami Herald earlier this week that having a primary opponent in her re-election for the first time won't change her election strategy. 

"I’m not remotely paying attention to what my opponent does," she said Tuesday at an Equal Pay Day event in Pembroke Pines.


State CFO Jeff Atwater, Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty on 60 Minutes on Sunday

Florida's elected chief financial officer Jeff Atwater will be a key piece to a 60 Minutes report this Sunday.

Atwater, a Republican first elected to his position in 2010, and the state's appointed insurance commissioner Kevin McCarty will both be interviewed on the CBS News program as part of a story on how some private insurance companies have avoided paying out life insurance claims to rightful beneficiaries. 

Atwater championed a bill that Gov. Rick Scott signed into law earlier this week that requires life insurance companies to do more to track down rightful beneficiaries. Atwater has complained that some companies put little effort into finding beneficiaries so they could pocket the the money that was supposed to be paid out. 

The new law requires life insurers to search the Social Security Administration's Death Master File for all of their policyholders retroactively to 1992 and every year going forward to identify beneficiaries. If a beneficiary cannot be found, the insurance company must turn the policy over to the State of Florida’s Unclaimed Property Program, currently overseen by Atwater, where the state will continue to look for rightful beneficiaries.

The program airs at 7 p.m. on Sunday.

In new bid for old seat, ex-Rep. Joe Garcia says he raked in $325K


In his first six weeks as a candidate for his old congressional seat, former Rep. Joe Garcia of Miami said he raised $325,000 -- more than his Democratic opponent, Annette Taddeo, has collected in any three-month period since she began running a year ago.

Both are hoping for a shot to unseat freshman Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in Florida's 26th congressional district, which spans Westchester to Key West.

"I announced my candidacy in February, because I couldn't sit by and watch Republicans like Carlos Curbelo dismantle access to healthcare and family planning for women, treat our immigrant community like second-class citizens and strike down environmental protections that keep our water clean and our natural treasures safe," Garcia said in a statement. "Today's numbers show the people of South Florida know I won't let them down."

Campaign-finance reports showing fundraising from Jan. 1 through March 31 are due by midnight to the Federal Election Commission. Garcia's campaign said he's got $315,000 cash on hand, after expenses.

Neither Curbelo nor Taddeo have announced their totals yet, though Curbelo, who has far more money in the bank, is expected to still lead the cash-on-hand race.

Taddeo's last report showed about $275,000 in fundraising, while Curbelo's showed about $450,000. Taddeo's strongest quarter was the one that ended last October; in that period, she collected more than $300,000, but that included a $75,000 loan to herself. That was Curbelo's slowest Curbelo; he brought in about $256,000.

Fact-checking the New York Democratic debate


Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders battled in Brooklyn in the ninth Democratic primary debate, leaving no feelings spared and no attacks unused.

The candidates shirked their usual congeniality and tussled over their approaches to foreign policy, Wall Street regulation, raising the minimum wage and gun control during their last debate before the state’s April 19 primary election.

Right off the bat, the two continued their ongoing brawl over who’s qualified to be president, with Sanders doubling down that Clinton lacks the judgment necessary to hold the office and Clinton knocking Sanders for his lack of judgment.

The attacks got more heated from there.

Keep reading PolitiFact's story about the debate.

Hillary Clinton says Democratic debate moderators never ask about abortion


Hillary Clinton said abortion has been ignored during the Democratic debates.

Clinton got on the topic during the April 14 debate in Brooklyn, N.Y., when she said she would only appoint a Supreme Court justice who believed that Roe vs. Wade is settled law.

"And I want to say something about this since we're talking about the Supreme Court and what's at stake. We've had eight debates before, this is our ninth," Clinton said. "We've not had one question about a woman's right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care, not one question."

The line got a big applause from the audience. But was it correct?

See what PolitiFact found.