August 15, 2018

Mayor's 'anal bleaching' comment to female commissioner taints Hallandale Beach politics


Via @Blaskey_S

Editor's note: Was there ever a story more destined for a blog called Naked Politics?

When Hallandale Beach Mayor Keith London said “sphincter bleaching is a very up and coming business,” during the City Commission’s budget discussion Monday night, he may have been right. But whether he thought anal bleach had anything to do with public safety budgets — the topic being discussed — remains unclear.

Why London thought it relevant, much less appropriate, to accuse a female commissioner of making her living from bleaching her own anus is even more baffling.

“Was it getting my sphincter bleached, is that what I earned my income for?” London said to Commissioner Anabelle Lima-Taub, as the two exchanged personal attacks. “No that would be you.”

What did the mayor even mean by that? London couldn’t be reached for comment.

Lima-Taub told the Miami Herald that she does not profit from bleaching her own anus. And whether or not she uses skin bleaching products — commonly applied by people with medical conditions causing hyper-pigmentation — would certainly not be anyone’s business but her own, she said. (For the record, her mom owns a spa that sells skin bleaching cream, but Lima-Taub said she doesn’t work there.)

“Even if I was doing that for a living, that’s not appropriate,” Lima-Taub said. “For the sitting leader of a city to speak this way was completely inappropriate.”

A pony-tailed commissoner-turned-appointed-mayor, London has a history of inappropriate remarks. In 2017, he told Broward investigators that a fellow commissioner was a “migrant worker.” He wasn’t. Earlier this year, London was recorded asking a city employee if he “sucked dick” while in prison. 

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Dem Poll: Philip Levine edges ahead of Gwen Graham for lead

Levine0095 JAI

Via @AdamSmithTimes

A just-released Aug. 11-14 poll of likely Democratic primary voters finds Gwen Graham no longer the strong frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, but actually slipping behind Philip Levine.

The live caller poll by the respected firm SEA Polling & Strategic Design shows former Miami Beach Mayor Levine with 27 percent support, former Tallahassee Congresswoman Graham with 24 percent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum with 15 percent, Jeff Greene with 13 percent and Chris King at 3. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Pollster Tom Eldon wrote in a polling memo:

Greene's decision to go negative against Gwen Graham appears to have brought her back to the pack, but also seriously diminished his chances as he has dropped into the fourth place in the low teens.

Among those who self-declared they had already voted, the race is a statistical dead heat with Levine at 30 and Graham at 28 percent.  Those who reported an interest level in the Democratic primary at 5 out of 5 (75% of total respondents), Levine holds a 7 point lead outside of the margin of error.

Can a billionaire’s private school become a model for public education in Florida?

Greene school

w/ @colleen_wright

Billionaire developer Jeff Greene is an unconventional Democrat running an unconventional campaign for Florida governor. So, naturally, his ideas on how to change Florida’s vast public education bureaucracy stem from an unconventional place.

Standing in a former West Palm Beach car dealership that he converted two years ago into a schoolhouse, Greene explains how the future of Florida’s schools lies in shrinking class sizes, replacing letter grades with detailed evaluations and adopting the latest technologies.

After all, he says, those are some of the reasons The Greene School is a model for the rest of the state.

“It’s not that difficult to make changes in education,” Greene says matter-of-factly — even though he was so underwhelmed by the state of Palm Beach County schools two years ago that he went ahead and built his own.

Dissatisfied with the public and private school options for his three sons, Greene and wife Mei Sze opened their own school in 2016, plunging millions of their own dollars into the creation of a campus for gifted kids. At the time they said they hoped it would become a beacon for young professionals pondering a move to South Florida.

Now, Greene — the latest billionaire to adopt education as a passion — hopes it will be a beacon for voters weighing his candidacy.

With families preparing to return their children to school for the year and voters deciding on a candidate to represent their party in the general election, Greene has made education a central tenet of his platform and modeled it around the brick-and-mortar of The Greene School. He’s called the school “an innovative model for what Florida public schools could be if Tallahassee made public education a priority.”

In so doing, he’s dubbed himself an “accidental educator.”

But while education is an all-consuming issue for Democratic voters and candidates, Greene’s decision to promote a private school that vets students with an IQ exam is an awkward one, considering that his own party has spent the last 20 years trying to reverse a tide of legislative bills that have eroded teacher tenure, pushed public money into for-profit management companies and steered several hundred thousand students away from traditional schools.

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After condemning U.S. Sugar's influence, Ron DeSantis to visit toxic green algae

A finger canal off the Caloosahatchee River in the River Oaks neighborhood near LaBelle was clogged with algae. [Pedro Portal | Miami Herald]

Congressman Ron DeSantis is scheduled for a quick visit to southwest Florida on Wednesday, adding himself to the long list of state and federal officials who have traveled to see the green, "guacamole-like" toxic algae for themselves.

But there is one thing that makes DeSantis's visit different: his condemnation of U.S. Sugar's role in the algae crisis during the Republican debate in Jacksonville last week. U.S. Sugar is one of the most dominant special interests in Tallahassee, one that some Democratic candidates for governor, like Chris King, have used as a punching bag during this race.

DeSantis's harsh criticism of the company, is highly unusual for a Republican frontrunner for governor, especially during a televised debate. U.S. Sugar has poured millions and millions into the campaign of his opponent, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.

READ MORE: Only one candidate for governor still takes money from Big Sugar: Adam Putnam

Calling Putnam the "errand boy" for U.S. Sugar, DeSantis dismissed the effect of septic tanks in causing the green, toxic algae, instead placing heavy blame on the phosphorous pollution from agriculture, which includes U.S. Sugar. Research has found that both play a role, but U.S. Sugar has also been resistant to sell land south of Lake Okeechobee where Republican state Senate President Joe Negron suggested building a reservoir that would hold  excess water so it wouldn't have to be released to surrounding waterways, which exacerbates the crisis.

"Commissioner Putnam ... will not do anything that offends U.S. Sugar who is his main supporter," DeSantis said. "At the end of the day, if you let one company call the shots we’re going to continue to end up having the problem. Nobody should get special treatment."

Putnam argued back that the toxic algae was caused by many factors, and that there is "no unicorn and rainbow pixie-dust solution to this."

READ MORE: ‘Seinfeld candidate’ vs. Sugar’s errand boy. DeSantis, Putnam clash in final debate

Putnam held a grassroots campaign events in both Fort Myers and Port St. Lucie in the past two weeks, but neither were algae-specific. Putnam is also kicking off a statewide tour of about 20 cities Wednesday, which is scheduled to last until just three days before the primary.

Meredith Beatrice, Putnam's campaign spokeswoman, said that he is the "only candidate with a plan and a track record of protecting Florida’s Golden Goose: water."

DeSantis's visit to Englewood in southwest Florida is scheduled to last just an hour and 30 minutes total, starting with a one-hour "roundtable" with local business owners at 4 p.m., then a 15-minute press conference, ended by a 15-minute "waterfront tour" to wrap everything up by 5:30 p.m.

This labor union is the latest to launch attack ads against Gwen Graham over the American Dream mall

Graham Unite Here ad
A screenshot from UNITE HERE's ad attacking Gwen Graham over her affiliation over the American Dream Miami mega-mall.

A major labor union says it's launching a six-figure ad buy against Gwen Graham, targeting the Democratic front-runner for governor over her family's involvement in the American Dream Miami mega-mall.

UNITE HERE, which represents more than 260,000 mostly service industry workers across the country, says it's going after Graham because of her failure to take a stance on the project, of which her family's company is involved.

"We think that Gwen Graham can’t hide behind the fact that it’s her family who’s involved in the project," said Wendi Walsh, Secretary-Treasurer for UNITE HERE Local 355. "She skirts the issue at every turn."

The union has endorsed one of Graham's opponents, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, in the governor's race. 

The union says it's spending six figures to target more than 800,000 Democratic voters, mostly in South Florida. In addition to advertising on social media and websites, they're buying 50 30-second ad spots during morning and evening shows on CNN, MSNBC, OWN and BET in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area.

"While Graham and her family make millions," one of the TV ads says, "Florida will be stuck with poverty-wage jobs, endangered wildlife and massive traffic congestion."

The campaign is expected to start today and run through Tuesday.

Walsh says the union has tried to get Graham to come out against the project, to no avail. Graham has repeatedly declined to take a stance on it.

Her campaign's spokesman has said Graham "believes local communities should have the first and final voice on the project and to date, they have strongly supported it."

The union isn't the first to go after Graham about the project. Fellow candidate and Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene has already aired television ads attacking Graham. Levine has said he's been against the project from the beginning, but has so far stayed out of the fight.

The mall project, which would feature a theme park and an indoor ski slope, would be America's largest, and it has been strongly opposed by environmental groups over fears that it would encourage more development on the eastern edge of the Everglades.

Despite rhetoric by Graham's opponents, however, the mall is not in the Everglades, and Graham's campaign maintains that she's never had any involvement in its formation.

The mall is being built by Triple Five, the company that developed Minnesota's Mall of America, but part of the 175-acre property is owned by the Graham Companies. The Graham Companies is also planning to build a massive mixed-used development on 300 acres south of the mall.

Graham, like many members of her family, has a small stake in the family company that is worth millions. But she resigned as a member of the board in 2015, when she was elected to Congress, and her campaign says she owns less that 1 percent of voting stock in the Graham Companies.

August 14, 2018

Singer once 'endorsed by Jesus' cuts a music video for Daphne Campbell


We want to thank our friends at POLITICO for pointing out what may be the greatest campaign video of all time.

Or maybe it's the greatest campaign video for all time?

We'll let you mull it over.

Either way, it's an ad that could only be cut in Miami. POLITICO describes it thusly in Tuesday's Florida Playbook:

DAPHNE — Daphne Campbell has long been an oddity in Florida politics, and she knows how to win. But the South Florida Democrat is facing her toughest primary in years. So she’s releasing one of the midterm’s best – or most Daphne -- ads. In short, “it’s Daphne Campbell.” You have to watch it. Campbell’s instant-camp campaign spot is in the proud tradition of unconventional ads in the North Miami Beach area. In 2010, Rudy Moise ran a forgetful campaign against U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, but he left behind this memorable autotuned video, replete with blingy palm trees where people keep saying his name over and over again (it’s a master work). Three years later, a candidate for North Miami Beach touted the ultimate endorsement: Jesus Christ. But it made sense because, she said, she had triumphed over voodoo sorcery.

We'll pick up where POLITICO left off.

The failed mayoral candidate who touted Jesus' endorsement, Anna Pierre, is the same Anna Pierre who produced and wrote "Daphne's Song," according to the credits at the end of the video. Pierre, who sang the Creole-language hit, Suk Su Bon Bon (Sugar on my Cookie), is listed on the credits as the singer, writer and producer of the song.

When Pierre finished in last place in the 2013 mayoral contest, she said North Miami had chosen Lucifer "over Jesus."

Back on campaign trail, Bill Nelson stands by meddling claim

QUINCY — Sen. Bill Nelson campaigned in rural Quincy Monday night, still fielding questions about his claim that Russians have penetrated Florida's elections apparatus.

Ending an unusual period of silence that began last Thursday, Nelson spoke to reporters before meeting with a group of Quincy-area Democrats. But he chose his words with great care and said little that was new.

"It would be foolish to think that the Russians would not continue to do this as they did in Florida in 2016," Nelson said.

Pulling an index card from his pocket and checking his handwriting, he said of Gov. Rick Scott: "The word is unfortunate. It's unfortunate that some Florida officials are trying to use this for partisan political purposes."

READ MORE: Rick Scott demands Bill Nelson provide proof of meddling

Nelson disappeared from view last Thursday, reportedly to keep earlier commitments to film TV ads. On Monday, he sidestepped a charge by Scott that the senator might have released classified information. Nelson said he hasn't spoken with Florida's other senator, Republican Marco Rubio, since the story broke last Wednesday.

On Monday it was the state's turn to be silent on questions of election meddling. Scott's chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, gave the FBI and Department of Homeland Security till 5 p.m. Monday to respond to a lengthy letter the state sent last week.

Detzner's office did not respond to three requests for comment Monday. The state said Tuesday morning that it has not yet heard from either agency.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R.-N.C., issued his own statement Friday that neither confirmed nor contradicted Nelson's unproven claim and made reference to "Russia's continued efforts to interfere in our democracy and undermine our elections."

But the state, in its Aug. 10 letter seeking a response from the FBI and DHS,  said: "The Department received a swift response from Senator Burr that did not confirm Senator Nelson's statements."

Nelson reiterated that Burr and the Intelligence Committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., "came to us (Nelson and Rubio) back in June" and urged them to send a letter to Florida election supervisors that encouraged them to reach out to the feds for cyber-security assistance. The letter was dated July 2, and some supervisors have said it was too vaguely-worded to warrant a specific response. Nelson suggested Monday that the vague wording was done for national security reasons.

This hornet's nest of a story isn't going away. On MSNBC Monday, Rachel Maddow showed an outline of Florida and Nelson's words to the Times last week — "They have already penetrated certain counties" — superimposed on it. Said Maddow: "Senator Nelson is standing by this very provocative claim."

Nelson travels to four North Florida towns on Tuesday in an old-fashioned grass-roots campaign. He planned visits to Monticello, Madison, White Springs and Starke. The meddling question is likely to come up again.

August 13, 2018

Here's how candidates for governor reacted to the arrest in 'stand your ground' shooting

LUIS SANTANA | Times Family and friends of Markeis McGlockton, the 28 year old man that was shot and killed during a parking lot altercation in front of his children gathered in front of the location where he was shot. The shooter was not arrested because authorities said it fell within the criteria of Florida's "stand your ground" self-defense law. Protesters gathered to voice their concerns and seek an arrest in the case. [Sunday July 22, 2018] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]

The shooter in Florida's latest, high-profile "stand your ground" shooting was arrested on Monday and charged with manslaughter, sparking immediate reaction from those running to be Florida's next governor.

Michael Drejka, 47, was booked into the Pinellas County Jail, where he will be held in lieu of $100,000 bail, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Drejka was not immediately arrested after he shot 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton on July 19 because of the controversial self-defense law, called "Stand Your Ground," that eliminated one’s duty to retreat before resorting to force.

The case has drawn the national spotlight and renewed debate over racial injustice and the controversial law. Drejka, the shooter, is white and McGlockton was black.

The two Republican candidates for governor, Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam, got into a nasty disagreement over the case that started on Twitter and then spilled into last week's debate in Jacksonville. DeSantis said that Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri had not "analyzed the law properly" in his decision to apply the "Stand Your Ground" law in this case,  and Putnam accused him of improperly criticizing law enforcement and "siding" with Democrats.

Democrats universally celebrated the arrest and some renewed calls for a repeal of "Stand Your Ground." National civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton, who visited Clearwater after the shooting, said in a statement on Monday that the arrest is a "ray of hope," while the state law is "an abomination" that allows "vigilante justice that consistently provides cover to racists and bigots for murdering innocent Black Americans."

Here are the candidates' reactions, all provided via statements, unless otherwise noted:


Adam Putnam: "I support the State Attorney’s decision. The process worked."

Ron DeSantis: His campaign has not yet responded to a request for comment. This post will be updated if a statement is received.


Andrew Gillum: "I'm relieved Markeis McGlockton’s family and the people of Clearwater will be heard in this horrific tragedy. ... However, Stand Your Ground still created the environment where the shooter believed he had a legal right to murder Markeis McGlockton. I again call on Governor Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency and suspend this law before someone else gets hurt or killed."

Gwen Graham: "Today’s decision to charge Michael Drejka is a step toward justice for Markeis McGlockton — but it also exposes the fatal issues with Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. ... As Governor, I will lead an effort to repeal the law and examine legislation that protects those who are legitimately defending themselves, without creating a legal loophole for criminal behavior. I will also create a task force of prosecutors, community and civil rights leaders to take a look at every self-defense case where a death occurs to ensure that the law isn't allowing criminals to slip through the cracks."

Jeff Greene: "Today’s (delayed) decision to arrest and charge Michael Drejka means justice may finally be served in the senseless killing of Markeis McGlockton. I am proud that our voices and calls to action made a difference here – but the fact remains that an innocent, unarmed father was shot to death in front of his children in the middle of the afternoon. Stand Your Ground is legalized murder. It must be repealed."

Chris King: "The state attorney’s office is doing what Sheriff Gualtieri has failed to do thus far –– seeking justice for the death of Markeis McGlockton. This community is crying out for action and the McGlockton family deserves justice, and that’s why I’ve been calling for leaders to act since this tragedy occurred. Today’s decision is another example why Florida’s broken ‘stand your ground’ law must be repealed so that justice in this case and every other tragedy can never be delayed or denied."

Philip Levine, who spoke to a Times reporter at an event in Tampa: "(The arrest is) a first step in the right direction. I’m surprised it took that long. I think the Sheriff was wrong in not arresting him immediately on the scene because clearly there was probable cause. I’m not a lawyer, but based on what I saw, he should’ve been arrested there instantly."

Tampa Bay Times reporter Steve Contorno contributed to this report. 

Levine sends Cease and Desist letter to stations airing Greene commercial

Stock footage pollution

Philip Levine's campaign said Monday that they've sent a cease-and-desist letter to the television stations airing a Jeff Greene campaign commercial attacking one of Levine's signature projects as Miami Beach mayor.

Greene last week began airing a "Latrine Levine" commercial that attacked Levine over a "snapshot" study that found the city's flood pumps were sending tidal water tainted with high levels of human fecal bacteria back into Biscayne Bay. The ad also focuses on the response to the study by Levine and the city's government, which involved attacking the scientists who published the findings and the Miami Herald's coverage.

Levine's campaign quickly pointed out that the commercial uses stock images from China, Russia and other foreign countries to illustrate scenes of pollution that don't actually exist in Miami Beach. On Monday, they announced that a campaign attorney, former U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of Florida Kendall Coffey, sent a letter to the stations airing the ad, demanding that the commercial be taken down. He called the ad "false and defamatory."

During his only other competitive campaign, when Levine ran for mayor in 2013, he was aggressive in fighting negative ads and fought to have some commercials taken down. Claire VanSusteren, a spokeswoman for the Greene campaign, said their attorney will be responding to Coffey.

"The visuals are aides - the headlines are facts. We stand by the ad," VanSusteren said. "Levine is a bully. He tried to silence scientists and members of the press who told the public the truth about dangerous and disgusting fecal bacteria being dumped in the bay — but Jeff Greene won’t be bullied."

Here's the letter.

August 11, 2018
Re: Cease and Desist Broadcasting of False Political Advertising
To Whom It May Concern:
We represent Philip Levine, a candidate for Florida Governor.
It has come to our attention that your broadcast station has been airing a political advertisement that falsely asserts that the City of Miami Beach pumped “millions of gallons of human waste” annually into Biscayne Bay during Mr. Levine’s tenure as Mayor of Miami Beach, and depicts misleading stock video images of sewage pouring from open pipes to create the false impression that the City dumps sewage directly into the Bay.
As you will see from the attached memorandum from Miami Beach’s City Manager, the City’s sewer system does not directly discharge into Biscayne Bay, as the advertisement falsely suggests. Moreover, the images of fouled water and open sewer pipes in the ad are not from Miami Beach, but are misleading stock images of sewers from Russia, China, Serbia and the Czech Republic. The links below confirm that the stock images used in the advertisement do not depict Miami Beach, Biscayne Bay or even Florida waters:
The misleading use of these stock images from overseas sewers is false and defamatory. And, as the City’s Memorandum makes clear, the advertisement’s suggestion that the City of Miami Beach pumped human waste into Biscayne Bay from open pipes also is false and defamatory.
We therefore respectfully insist that, by 5 p.m. today, your station cease and desist the broadcasting of this advertisement or any advertisements that state or imply that the City of Miami Beach discharged human waste into Biscayne Bay from its sewer system. At a minimum, these ads should be taken down pending a legal review.
Please govern yourself accordingly,
Kendall Coffey, Esq.


Gwen Graham's latest endorsement? Jimmy Buffett

In this Friday, Nov. 4, 2011, photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett performs before some 3,500 of his fans on Duval Street in Key West. (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Rob O'Neal)


Jimmy Buffett is again hitting the concert circuit, this time to host a rally for Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham.

In a statement released by Graham's campaign today, the singer/songwriter said he was endorsing Graham and performing at a "get out the vote rally" for her on Aug. 23 in South Florida.

"It’s been too long since we have had a Governor for all the people," Buffett said in a statement released by Graham's campaign. "For that reason, I am supporting my friend, Democrat Gwen Graham, for governor and I encourage ya’ll to do the same."

Graham, who has surged in the polls in the final weeks of the Democratic primary, cited Buffett's dedication to the environment.

“Jimmy isn't just a legendary musician, he is also a dedicated environmentalist who has worked with my family for years to preserve Florida's natural treasures," Graham said in a statement. "I am proud to have earned his vote on election day – come that Tuesday, it’ll be alright."

Her campaign said details of Buffett's rally would be released later.

In another state, an endorsement by Buffett probably wouldn't matter much.

But the Florida icon was one of a few big names who showed up at rallies to help Graham win her Congressional race against Republican incumbent Steve Southerland in 2014.

One of the others who hit the stump for her that year? Bill Clinton.

But Graham has been noncommittal about whether she'd welcome the former president on the campaign trail.

At the final Democratic debate earlier this month, she declined to answer a moderator's question about Clinton, who has been viewed differently in the #MeToo era.

At a later meeting with the editorial boards of South Florida's three major newspapers, she again declined to answer a question about Clinton. Pressed a second time, she said she would consider his support.