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May 12, 2016

Tampa Democrat starts with big financial advantage in Tampa Bay area Senate district race

State Rep. Ed Narain, D-Tampa, enters the summer with a distinct financial advantage over the two Democrats he is battling for a seat in the Florida Senate in an Aug. 30 primary election.

Narain, Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and former Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, are all battling to represent the newly drawn District 19. That districts starts in Temple Terrace and East Tampa, and runs south to pick up parts of Brandon, Riverview and Apollo Beach. It then cross Tampa Bay to pick up St. Petersburg. No Republicans had filed to run in the race as of Thursday.

New campaign finance records show Narain raised $15,000 in April and now has raised a total of $119,000. After spending nearly $39,000, Narain had more than $80,000 to start May 1, according to new campaign finance reports filed with the Florida Division of Elections this week. Rouson has raised nearly $62,000, but has spent $35,000, leaving him with less than $17,000 to start the month. Reed has raised $23,000 for the race and has spent $8,100, leaving her with $15,000.

Narian, first elected to the House in 2014, said it is good to start with a financial advantage, but said he’s not taking anything for granted. He said there is no shortage of races around the country in which the candidate who had the most money actually lost.

Joe Biden charms while campaigning for Patrick Murphy in Orlando

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ORLANDO -- Vice President Joe Biden charmed a crowded restaurant in downtown Orlando this morning, lending his political stardom once again to the U.S. Senate campaign of Democrat Patrick Murphy.

As Biden entered to small cheers from an expectant audience, the ever-charismatic politician joked to the 75 people gathered at Chef Eddie's restaurant: "Look, I hope you're all eating because what I don't want to have happen is the waitresses (get) angry because they're not getting tips because I'm here!"

Much as he did at a Miami restaurant while campaigning for Murphy two months ago, Biden worked the room with magnetic energy. He shook hands, offered hugs, snapped selfies and greeted every stranger as if they were old friends.

Murphy, a two-term Democratic congressman from Jupiter, seemed to struggle for the spotlight. He often lingered in Biden's metaphorical shadow -- even helping to take a photo of Biden and some of his admirers at one point. But Murphy was also able to introduce himself and chat with some of the guests, at least a few of whom seemed to be friends or acquaintances of Murphy's.

Dolled up in suits and dresses, most of the crowd seemed to be invited guests -- not average diners who'd happened to stop by the restaurant for some of its casual soul-food. All but a handful waited with reporters for over an hour before Murphy and Biden arrived.

Continue reading "Joe Biden charms while campaigning for Patrick Murphy in Orlando" »

Incoming Florida House Speaker backs Carlos Lopez-Cantera for U.S. Senate


Miami Republican Carlos Lopez-Cantera picked up another key endorsement for his U.S. Senate campaign on Thursday, winning the support of incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes.

Corcoran joins a list of Lopez-Cantera endorsers that includes Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, current Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and current Senate President Andy Gardiner. He's also picked up endorsements from dozens of other state legislators.

Lopez-Cantera is the only one of five Republicans in the race who has been a state legislator. Lopez-Cantera served 8 years in the Florida House before he was elected to be the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser. 

Opa-locka city manager paid himself nearly $40K amid city's financial meltdown

via @MikeSallah7 @jayhweaver

While under investigation in an FBI public corruption case, Opa-locka’s city manager directed tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to himself for benefits he was not entitled to as the city teetered on the edge of financial collapse.

Just days after David Chiverton was identified by FBI informants as a suspect in the criminal investigation, the 51-year-old city manager approved two payments totaling nearly $40,000 to himself in what are violations of the city’s policies for employees, the Miami Herald found.

One of the payments for $14,160 was for unused vacation time and the other — $24,982 — was for sick time that far exceeded what he was allowed to receive under the city’s rules.

While Chiverton was receiving the payments, the city was struggling to cut costs amid a financial meltdown so dire that the governor’s office might still have to declare a state of emergency. On Wednesday night, commissioners slashed the work week for most employees to 32 hours to cut costs.

Chiverton, who was appointed acting city manager in November, acknowledged he received two payments recently “to take care of unforeseen expenses,” but said his actions did not violate the city’s rules.

More here.

Competitive South Florida state Senate seats bring in more big bucks

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Three contested state Senate seats in Miami-Dade County are continuing to attract a lot of cash, new campaign finance reports released this week show.

The fierce battle between current Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and Democrat Andrew Korge in District 39 -- already the most expensive Senate race in the state by March -- continued to produce significant fundraising for both candidates in April.

But it was Miami Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla who had the strongest fundraising among the county's most competitive races last month.

Continue reading "Competitive South Florida state Senate seats bring in more big bucks" »

May 11, 2016

As Gov. Rick Scott visits Capitol Hill, Florida Republicans urge passage of Zika bill

via @jamesmartinrose

Florida’s usually divided congressional delegation closed ranks around the state’s growing Zika crisis Wednesday as key members met with visiting Republican Gov. Rick Scott, then urged passage of a law to provide $1.9 billion in emergency federal money.

President Barack Obama requested the money in February to pay for research and treatment of the virus, which now is believed to cause birth defects in children whose mothers contracted the disease while pregnant. But Republicans have blocked the bill.

Even as Scott, a Republican, made the rounds on Capitol Hill, Florida health officials announced three new travel-related cases of Zika in the state, two in Volusia County and one in Orange County.

Genting sues Miami-Dade, seeking court approval to operate casino at Omni site

Genting Group, the Malaysian casino operator whose plan to build a massive gambling resort in downtown Miami has been stalled by legal and political setbacks, is suing Miami-Dade County and Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle in what appears to be a last-ditch effort to force the state to allow card games and slots at its property in the old Omni mall.

The novel legal tack seems designed to get around a 2014 denial by state regulators of Gulfstream Park’s request to move a pari-mutuel permit to the Omni, where the Hallandale Beach racetrack had an agreement with Genting to establish a casino.

The lawsuit, filed April 27 by Genting real-estate division Resorts World Omni, asks a judge to pre-emptively declare it lawful for Gulfstream to run a casino at the Omni. That order, if granted, would preclude Miami-Dade police and state prosecutors from filing criminal charges against the Omni casino operators.

“The purpose of the action is to ensure that our review of the relevant laws is accurate and to provide clarity and certainty that the activities contemplated by the lease are permissible,’’ said Chris Kise, an attorney with the Tallahassee office of Foley & Lardner who filed the suit on behalf of Resorts World. Story here. 


State agrees not to close prison re-entry program at expense of work release beds

State prison officials announced Wednesday they have reached an agreement to continue a privately-run inmate transition program in Broward and Manatee counties for two more years, but the agreement comes at a cost: the closing of a work-release center for 122 inmates.

The Florida Department of Corrections notified Bridges of America last month that it would have to move out of the state-owned building that houses the inmate transition program by May 15 because the agency needed the Pompano Beach space for its probation offices. It then told the company that it would also cancel the Bradenton Bridge contract in July, forcing 84 transition inmates and 36 work-release inmates to move.

But after several state and local officials protested the moves at each facility, FDC backed down and announced Wednesday it had signed contracts to keep the Broward Bridges of America program in both locations. More here. 

Joe Biden campaigning again for Patrick Murphy


For the second time this spring, Vice President Joe Biden is campaigning for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy in Florida.

But this time, it'll be on the turf of Murphy's Democratic opponent -- in Orlando.

Biden's official schedule for Thursday has him delivering remarks at 10 a.m. at an event for Murphy, which is being held "at a private residence."

After a speech in Tampa this morning, Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, came to Orlando this afternoon to attend the 2016 Invictus Games.

The Bidens are staying overnight in Orlando for the event with Murphy, before leaving Florida on Thursday afternoon to go to Wilmington, Delaware, according to the vice president's official schedule.

Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, is in a fierce primary contest with fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, who lives in Orlando and whose congressional district represents part of the city. .

In late March, Biden headlined a luncheon fundraiser for Murphy in Miami-Dade County, after which the pair made a brief appearance at a restaurant in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood.

Biden's repeated presence in Florida is symbolic of both the significance of the U.S. Senate race here and the Democratic establishment's fervent support of Murphy over Grayson in the Aug. 30 primary.

The Senate seat being vacated by Republican Marco Rubio is seen as one of a handful of seats nationwide that could flip and, potentially, help Democrats win back control of the chamber.

Top Democrats -- including Biden, President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid -- have lined up behind Murphy's campaign. The lop-sided affair that has become a bit of a flashpoint in the primary contest.

Some of those tensions boiled over on this afternoon, when Grayson -- who has garnered most of his support from progressive leaders and grassroots donors -- confronted Reid during a closed-door progressive caucus meeting in Washington, D.C.

Florida Senate candidate Carlos Beruff's misleading claim about Iran deal

Bradenton developer Carlos Beruff lobbed a bombshell against his Democratic opponents and the White House: President Barack Obama’s deal with Iran actually allows that country to build a nuclear weapon.  

The Manatee County Republican criticized the president’s negotiation skills and berated U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy for backing the deal. Grayson and Murphy are squaring off in the Democratic primary, while Beruff faces a packed GOP field.

"Both Congressman Grayson and Congressman Murphy supported President Obama’s disastrous deal, which allows Iran to produce a nuclear weapon," Beruff said in a May 5, 2016, news release.

Beruff’s argument gave us pause, since the idea of the Iran nuclear agreement was ostensibly made to prevent the country from building a nuke. When we rechecked the terms of the deal for this fact-check, we found that was still the case.

More here from PolitiFact Florida (fact-check written by Joshua Gillin and Louis Jacobson).