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November 26, 2017

A Miami Republican makes enemies in Washington

Curbelo (1)

@alextdaugherty 

Carlos Curbelo is picking fights.

He attacked the NRA for opposing his bill to ban a firearm accessory that allows semi-automatic rifles to fire like automatics. He attacked the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, currently made up of all Democrats, for denying his membership application.

And he is attacking the Trump administration and fellow Republicans who oppose efforts to combat climate change.

These spats give the second-term Republican congressman from Miami ground to attacks both sides of the political spectrum for unyielding partisanship, and they allow Curbelo to deliver a message to his constituents and voters that the right and the left are both responsible for Washington’s dysfunction.

That talking point rings hollow for some Democrats, who say Curbelo is a political opportunist who will do or say anything to survive in a South Florida district that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 16 percentage points. And certainly, Curbelo represents the most Democratic-leaning congressional district in the country currently held by a Republican who is up for reelection in 2018.

He has spent the last four years trying to position himself as a political moderate.

“Most Americans are sick of the games, the hypocrisy, and honestly if that’s what’s required to be successful here, I’d rather go home,” Curbelo said. “It’s the only way worth doing this work. You can either go along to get along and just be polite all the time and ignore the underlying reality or you can kind of call things the way you see them and expose what’s really going on around here.”

Curbelo’s done plenty of exposing.

Over the past few weeks, he publicly called out multiple Hispanic Caucus members who stalled or opposed his membership application after previously working with them on various issues.

When California Democratic Rep. Tony Cárdenas told a reporter that Curbelo was “playing both sides” and “stabbing the Latino community in the back” by asking to join the Hispanic Caucus, Curbelo responded by calling him a hypocrite.

“This guy and I worked together last year,” Curbelo said. “He approached me on the floor about starting a caucus called the Connecting the Americas Caucus. We worked really well together, had a great relationship. Now, suddenly because I want to join the other caucus, the Hispanic Caucus, I’m a horrible person.”

Read more here.

November 24, 2017

John Morgan leaves Democratic party

JohnMorgan
via @harrisalexc

One of Florida’s most prolific Democratic donors, a bourbon-swilling, salty-tongued lawyer with his own slogan and medical marijuana as his pet cause, is out.

In a series of tweets Friday morning, John Morgan announced his flirtation with running for governor as a Democrat is over, as is his affiliation with either political party.

“While it’s amazing to be leading the polls for Governor without being a candidate I can’t muster the enthusiasm to run for the nomination,” he wrote.

He said he plans to register as an independent and vote for “the lesser of two evils.” If he were to run, he said, he would run as an independent. 

This likely isn’t great news for Florida’s Democratic Party, which has traditionally counted on Morgan to open his wallet for its candidates. He’s been known to host fundraising dinners for Hillary Clinton and charge thousands of dollars a plate.

But Morgan said the tweets don’t mean he’s out of the race altogether.

“As a Democrat, yes,” he said. “I’m not sure about what I want to do, but I know what I don’t want to do.”

More here.

Photo credit: Brendan Farrington, Associated Press

Medical marijuana advocate is out of governor’s race — and the Democratic party, too

JohnMorgan

@harrisalexc

One of Florida’s most prolific Democratic donors, a bourbon-swilling, salty-tounged lawyer with his own slogan and medical marijuana as his pet cause, is out.

In a series of tweets Friday morning, John Morgan announced his flirtation with running for governor is over, as is his affiliation with either political party.

“While it’s amazing to be leading the polls for Governor without being a candidate I can’t muster the enthusiasm to run for the nomination,” he wrote.

He said he plans to register as an independent, vote for “the lesser of two evils” and, if he were to run, run as an independent.

Click here to read the rest.

Political Leftovers: Joe Carollo starts his holiday naughty list

105Carollo22 NEW PPP

@NewsbySmiley and @joeflech

Miami politics can be a lot like Thanksgiving dinner: at times, there's so much goodness it's just too much to consume in one sitting.

That's what makes leftovers so great.

And so, at the end of a short week in which former Miami mayor Joe Carollo returned to office, opponent Alfie Leon sued to keep him out, ex-Congressman David Rivera finally mounted a legal defense over a 2012 elections scheme, police scrambled to downplay Art Week terrorism concerns, former Miami mayor Tomas Regalado gave an expletive-laced goodbye, and his daughter, Raquel Regaladowithdrew from the Republican Primary to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, we wanted to come back with a piece of political fodder from Carollo's Tuesday election night victory that we just couldn't squeeze in before the holiday:

After running a gloves-off campaign for Miami City Commission that focused as much on his enemies as his own platform, the sharp-edged Carollo dedicated plenty of time on election night to naming his foes in his half-hour victory speech and in subsequent media interviews.

Carollo, who can be sworn into office Dec. 2, basically laid out who'll be getting coal this holiday season.

Here's who made the list:

Continue reading "Political Leftovers: Joe Carollo starts his holiday naughty list" »

November 23, 2017

Raquel Regalado bows out of Republican primary for Ros-Lehtinen seat

Regalado Congress

@NewsbySmiley

Once considered a strong candidate to replace the retiring Ileana Ros-Lehtinen a congressional seat sought heavily by Miami Democrats, former school board member Raquel Regalado is dropping out of the Republican primary for Florida’s 27th district.

Regalado announced her decision to bow out of the race in a letter Wednesday to the Miami Herald Editorial Board, saying she was disenchanted with the “ineffective and circus-like” atmosphere around the highly polarized federal government. She said she will “continue to fight for our community, especially for the most vulnerable among us. But for now I will do so as a private citizen.”

“I refuse to compromise my values and beliefs; I refuse to accept disrespect, intolerance and vulgarity as our new norm and I refuse to be part of this two-party pantomime,” Regalado wrote. “I am and will remain a moderate voice.”

Though she described her decision as one based on beliefs and principles, Regalado had struggled the last several months to raise money. She reported raising only $15,000 through the end of September, which she attributed to Hurricane Irma. And her ability to raise money — which she displayed during a failed bid for Miami-Dade mayor last year — likely only diminished this month with her father, Tomás Regaladoleaving office as mayor of Miami and her brother, Tommy Regaladofailing to win a seat on the Miami City Commission.

To read the rest, click here.

November 22, 2017

Out of office with only $9K to his name, Miami’s former mayor has ‘no regrets’

Regalado (2)

@NewsbySmiley

On what would be his last afternoon to enjoy the spacious expanses of the office afforded Miami’s mayor, Tomás Regalado was feeling a bit uncomfortable.

There was a dank, musty smell permeating the room, where the air conditioning was on the fritz all day and a breeze cooling things down started sending rain drops through open windows. The walls were bare, the pictures of a younger Regalado in his days as a foreign correspondent all gone.

After eight years as the resident in chief of the second floor at Dinner Key, the signs were all pointing to the same thing: Time to go.

For the first time in more than 21 years, there isn’t a Regalado in elected office in Miami. Last week, Francis Suarez was sworn in and Regalado, a former journalist turned politician, became a private citizen who for the first time since 1996 will try to figure out life outside elected office. At 70 years old, Regalado talks about this chapter as if it will be a last, discussing the past as scrapbook material and the future along the lines of “if I am alive.”

“It’s like Nixon said,” Regalado quipped when he appeared in the receptionist’s office to greet a reporter. “You won’t have me to kick around anymore.”

To read the rest, click here.

It wasn’t my job to disclose secret campaign cash, ex-Miami congressman says

David rivera

@NewsbySmiley

Facing allegations that he illegally spent nearly $70,000 funding a ringer candidate’s campaign against a Democratic opponent, former Miami congressman David Rivera asked a judge Wednesday to toss a federal elections lawsuit, saying that if anybody broke the law it was the guy who took the money.

Rivera, in a motion to dismiss, told Judge Robert Scola that even if he did secretly spend $69,426.20 backing the campaign of a political neophyte in a scheme to siphon votes away from a more threatening opponent, that wouldn’t have broken any federal election laws. Rather, Rivera — who denies the allegations — argued it would have been Justin Lamar Sternad, the 2012 primary opponent for Joe Garcia, who violated elections laws by failing to report the money as an “in-kind” contribution.

“The candidate was allegedly informed that the ‘in-kind’ contributions were being made by Rivera, but it was the candidate who chose not to disclose Mr. Rivera as the source of the in-kind contribution,” wrote Rivera’s attorney, Roy Kahn. “The failure to properly disclose the true facts on his campaign disclosure forms falls on the shoulders of the candidate, not the donor.”

To read the rest, click here.

November 21, 2017

Democratic group launches new tax ads against Carlos Curbelo

Congress Taxes

via @alex_roarty @alextdaugherty 

A well-funded Democratic outside group is running a new series of digital ads targeting vulnerable House and Senate Republicans over the GOP tax bill, part of an ongoing effort to criticize the lawmakers while the legislation is still being debated in Congress.

The online attacks from the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA are part of multi-million-dollar campaign that began last month with a nationwide cable TV buy, and one of the targets is Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

The group is focusing on digital ads to run on websites, on social media platforms, and streaming music services. In total, Priorities plans to spend $2 million between the TV and online buys. The House passed an overhaul of the nation's tax system last week on a mostly party line vote.

“The more voters learn about this bill the less they like it, which is why Priorities is launching an all-out effort to reach voters, educate them on the bills consequences and encourage them to contact their representatives and stop this attack on the middle class,” said Patrick McHugh, executive director of Priorities USA, in a statement.

Curbelo, a member of the House tax writing committee, has publicly embraced the GOP tax overhaul and appeared with House Speaker Paul Ryan at multiple events to promote the bill in Spanish. 

The ads will also target some Republican senators reportedly on the fence about the legislation, which has not come up for a vote yet. Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, and most GOP senators up for re-election next year, including Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, are part of the ad buy.

The ads will also run against 20 House Republican incumbents who voted for the legislation earlier this month and are considered top targets of House Democrats next fall, including Reps. Mike Coffman of Colorado, Brian Mast of Florida, and Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania.

Read more here.

Curbelo constituents will get robocalls in pitch to pass GOP tax bill

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON – Constituents of Republican Reps. Brian Mast and Carlos Curbelo will soon get robocalls informing the lawmakers voted for the sweeping tax reform package.

Mast and Curbelo both expect tough re-election battles and this is only the latest in a string of supportive efforts from American Action Network, an outside group tied to Speaker Paul Ryan.

On Tuesday, ANN said it would do 1 million robocalls in 29 Congressional districts across the country. "The calls are aimed to build momentum for the recently passed bill while families are home for Thanksgiving, and prompt constituents to call their representative to express their continued support for tax reform," the group said.

ANN has spent more than $20 million on TV, radio, direct mail, billboards and now robocalls to promote the tax package, which gained support of all Florida Republicans.

Script:

"Hello, I am calling on behalf of the American Action Network at 800-339-4650 about tax reform. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This historic tax reform legislation will provide tax relief for millions of Americans. In fact, the average middle-class family will receive a $1,200 tax cut!

"Your Representative, [MEMBER OF CONGRESS], kept [his/her] promise and voted to cut middle-class taxes. Please call Representative [MEMBER OF CONGRESS] at [NUMBER] to thank [him/her] for voting for tax cuts and tell [him/her] to keep up the fight."

PolitiFact looked at the estimated savings.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Congress could eliminate the tax break that helped Miami Beach’s Art Deco renaissance

Deco4

via @joeflech @alextdaugherty

Behind the signature Miami pastels, perfectly symmetrical facades and terrazzo floors that give South Beach’s rich stock of Art Deco buildings its distinctive flavor, one section of the U.S. tax code fueled the rehabilitation of these once-crumbling structures.

As part of a sweeping tax overhaul, Republicans in Congress could eliminate the historic tax credit — a move that is upsetting local preservationists and developers who say the credit is an essential factor in the financial formula that keeps these decades-old buildings standing.

The tax plan passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday eliminates a 20 percent historic preservation tax credit. The tax plan under debate by the Senate currently keeps the tax credit, though it could be changed.

Locals who fight to save historic buildings and developers who take these buildings on as restoration projects agree that reducing the incentive would hamper future rehabilitation of Miami and Miami Beach’s historic architecture.

“In the development community, we take advantage of this,” said Sandor Scher, principal of Claro Development. “This is a real incentive.”

Claro is planning to rehab and reuse several late-era Deco and Miami Modern buildings in the redevelopment of Ocean Terrace, a block along the city’s north shore. Scher plans to apply for historic tax credits to help finance the project, which is currently under review by the city planners.

The credit enables developers to save on taxes and spend more on costly rehabilitation projects that preserve the facades of historic buildings while renovating the rest of the structure to make it economically viable.

Hotelier Alan Lieberman helped shape South Beach’s character through several historic restoration projects that met the stringent requirements set forth by the National Park Service, which runs the tax credit program and approves projects based on how faithful a restoration is to the building’s original look.

Lieberman’s company, South Beach Group Hotels, has preserved archetypal Art Deco hotels in the city’s tourist center, including the Collins Plaza Hotel, the Chesterfield and the Catalina Hotel and Beach Club. He said historic hotels are good for business because guests appreciate the uniqueness of the architecture.

So do people who live in the Beach, a rare intersection between tourism and resident interests.

“We take the buildings for granted,” Lieberman said. “It’s really nice, it’s interesting and it’s comfortable. People love historic buildings.”

At least one member of the local Congressional delegation agrees and hopes the final bill will leave the tax credit untouched when it comes to a vote.

“I will vote for this monstrosity with the hope that many of these things will get taken care of once the bill comes back and we have a conference and people come to their senses,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, of the House bill. But she did not rule out voting against the final bill if enough changes aren’t made.

“Preservation is so important in my congressional district, not only in the Gables but in Miami Beach. Oh my gosh, those beautiful Art Deco hotels and homes,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “We want to preserve them. I’m not in favor of doing away with those deductions. Why take it out on the little guys like that?”

Read more here.