August 26, 2014

Carlos Curbelo wins Miami GOP congressional primary, will face Joe Garcia


Carlos Curbelo, a longtime political insider and former aide to a U.S. senator, won a decisive Republican primary victory Tuesday to run for Congress himself.

He received 47 percent of the vote in a field of five candidates that included a scandal-plagued former congressman vying for his old seat. Ex-U.S. Rep. David Rivera came in fourth place.

Curbelo, a Miami-Dade School Board member, now faces the far more difficult task of running against incumbent Joe Garcia, a Democrat who was elected two years ago to represent the swing 26th congressional district that extends from Westchester to Key West.

The closely watched race among Republicans and Democrats nationwide is considered a tossup. Republicans hope to flip it to their column come the Nov. 4 general election.

“I will work hard to honor your trust,” Curbelo told campaign supporters gathered Tuesday night at Killian Palms in Kendall. “I will serve with honor and integrity. We live in a community that needs new leaders.”

More here.

Miami-Dade property appraiser's race goes to runoff between former incumbent and state rep


Former Miami-Dade property appraiser Pedro J. Garcia is set to face state Rep. Eddy González in a Nov. 4 runoff for Miami-Dade Property Appraiser after they emerged as the top vote-getters in a crowded five-man field.

The race will be one of sharp contrasts: Garcia, 76, is a professional real estate appraiser with 38 years’ experience. He was the property appraiser from 2009-2012, then narrowly lost reelection.

González, 44, has no experience in real-estate appraisal: he serves as business development leader at CAC-Florida Medical Center. But the career politician, who faces term limits in the state Legislature, has fundraising power, organization and name recognition.

González has been chairman of the Miami-Dade delegation to the Legislature and a former Hialeah City Council member. He raised more than $270,000 for the campaign — more than all the other candidates combined. That included nearly $116,000 transferred from fundraising for a 2015 Hialeah City Council race he abandoned to pursue the property appraiser’s seat.

More here.

Two Miami-Dade judges lose reelection


Voters on Tuesday elected Miami assistant city attorney Veronica Diaz to the judicial bench while two of four incumbent judges lost their seats to upstart challengers and one may be headed to a run-off race.

Diaz, 36, easily defeated former Miami-Dade School Board Member Renier Diaz de la Portilla in what was the most hotly contested judicial race.

“The people of Miami-Dade realized they wanted someone with experience and who wasn’t a politician,” Diaz said late Tuesday. “All of the mud-slinging was very disgusting but at the end of the day, the voters chose correctly. I’m so looking forward to representing all of the citizens of Miami-Dade County.”

Meanwhile, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Fleur Lobree lost her second judicial election – this time to defense lawyer Mavel Ruiz. And County Judge Nuria Saenz, criticized because of her support from a big-spending auto insurance company, lost to personal injury attorney Victoria Ferrer.

More here.

Easy wins by 2 Miami-Dade School Board veterans


Miami-Dade County’s longest-serving school board members coasted to reelection on Tuesday, securing four more years at the helm of one of the nation’s largest school districts.

Perla Tabares Hantman and Marta Pérez easily beat challengers Duysevi Miyar, an English teacher at Hialeah-Miami Lakes High, and Lawrence Orihuela, an adjunct professor and retired teacher.

With no central issue driving the school board races and mostly civil campaigns, the incumbents relied on their records to sway voters.

More here.

Miami voters endorse SkyRise tower


Miami voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly endorsed SkyRise Miami, a swooping observation tower and tourist attraction proposed on a spit of land behind Bayside Marketplace.

The public supported the 1,000-foot tower — coupled with a long-term lease extension for Bayside’s operator — by a roughly two-to-one margin. The vote gives developer Jeff Berkowitz the green light to begin construction and triggers a $10 million upfront payment to the city of Miami.

At a campaign party held in a private room at the Hard Rock Cafe at Bayside, Berkowitz swished a glass of Grey Goose vodka on the rocks and declared victory upon the release of only early and absentee voting tallies, which favored the agreement by more than 70 percent.

“It’s a mandate,” he said. “Up, up and away.”

More here.

Primary marked by low turnout in South Florida

@glenngarvin @AndresViglucci

Without any marquee races to excite them, South Florida voters trickled in to the polls Tuesday in a primary election marked by a turnout that was light even by the low standards of off-year voting.

Though large numbers of voters and balky technology have turned some recent South Florida election days into marathons of endless, sweaty lines, Tuesday’s low turnout meant minimal problems at the polls. And zero waiting to vote.

Voters had their pick of booths at precincts across South Florida, where they were often outnumbered by poll workers, campaign volunteers and even, at times, candidates.

“Unfortunately, the turnout appears to be very low,” Democratic governor hopeful Nan Rich said during a lonely stop at North Miami’s Sunkist Grove Community Center. “I guess people are busy with their everyday lives.”

More here.

Charlie Crist crushes Nan Rich. But race against Rick Scott is far tougher


Florida Democrats made it official Tuesday: They want a former Republican governor to beat the current Republican governor.

Heading into Tuesday’s primary election, Charlie Crist’s win over longtime Democrat Nan Rich was never in doubt. Only the size of his double-digit win — about 50 percentage points — was in question.

The general election pitting Crist against Gov. Rick Scott is far less certain. It’s close to a tie race. And it’s brutal.

Amid his cakewalk of a primary, Crist has had to deal with the bitter reality of Scott’s multi-million campaign juggernaut, which has spent nearly $28 million since November, trashing the Democrat on the airwaves from the moment he officially entered the race.

Crist thanked Rich in his acceptance speech and assailed Scott for everything from immigration policy to voting rights to abortion opposition.

The only time my opponent isn’t looking out for the special interests is when he’s looking out for those who share his extreme out-of-touch tea-party ideology,” said Crist, pledging that “in 70 days, we want to make Florida Scott-free.”

Earlier, at a campaign stop in Tampa, Scott contrasted the jobs gained during his term with the jobs lost when Crist was governor during the Great Recession.

“Charlie gives great speeches. He’s really good at it. But there’s no action. He lost 832,000 jobs,” said Scott, who faced token Republican opposition from utter unknowns Yinka Abosede Adeshina and Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder.He defeated them with 88 percent of the vote.

More here

Poll workers had to verify voters' ID over the phone during power outage at Plantation precinct

Plantation High School, which has two voting precincts, had a power outage this morning as voters first started to trickle in to cast ballots in the governor’s race.

The EVID machines which poll workers use to swipe voters’ drivers’ licenses to verify their identities don’t have battery backups at the hundreds of precincts on election day, said Mary Cooney, a spokeswoman for Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes. The machines do have battery backups during early voting when there are about 20 sites -- so therefore less equipment is needed.

So on primary day, that meant poll workers at the high school had to call the Supervisor of Elections’ call center at Nova Southeastern University to verify voters’ identities. During the power outage, zero voters showed up at one of the high school precincts while 10 showed up to vote at the other precinct. Power was back on by about 9:45.

We're hearing very few reports about other election day problems amid light turnout. 

In response to a question about whether any Republican voters were told there were no ballots for them at the Pompano golf course, Cooney said “I fielded a call about the poll deputy saying something to a voter about this not being a primary election or Republican primary. There were two voters at that precinct early this morning who were given incorrect information but they both voted. They weren’t turned away or anything. They did explain to them that there are three ballot styles: Democrat, Republican and nonpartisan. Two voters were given incorrect information that had to be corrected.”


Primary voting in Florida slow but smooth, state says

Polls across Florida opened smoothly Tuesday, and more than 1.1 million ballots had been cast by the time precincts opened for the statewide primary election. Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the state's chief elections officer, said absentee or mail ballots totaled 856,378 and that another 296,902 Floridians had cast ballots at early voting sites.

That may sound like a lot of votes, but it's less than 10 percent of the state's pool of nearly 12 million voters. It's possible that statewide turnout could approach the modern low for a primary (17 percent in 1998), but Detzner declined to speculate on the size of the turnout and said the surge in voting by mail in Florida is a positive trend.

"Voters find absentee voting to be convenient. They can vote in their home. They can take their time," Detzner said.

Detzner reminded the public that polls close at 7 p.m. local time but all voting does not end until 8 p.m. Eastern time because the western Panhandle is in Central time. County election supervisors must file preliminary vote totals by 8:30 p.m. Eastern time, and those totals will include absentee and early vote totals from all 67 counties, he said.

Election results can be found online at

Detzner said the only problem he knew of was that one poll worker in Orange County overslept, resulting in one polling place opening late. But he said no voters were inconvenienced.

Voters can check their polling place or the status of their ballots at and use the voter information lookup. They can call their county elections office or the state's voter assistance hot line at 866-308-6739.

Ex-Lt. Gov. Carroll rips Scott, others in new book

In a new book, former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll describes the misery of being in a “boys’ club” led by Gov. Rick Scott, who showed no interest in her ideas to reach out to black and Hispanic voters and whose staff members treated her shabbily.

Carroll, a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander, was the first black woman to serve as lieutenant governor of Florida and held the largely ceremonial job for more than two years. She's now a political analyst for WJXT, Channel 4 in Jacksonville. Her 174-page book, "When You Get There," is published by Advantage, a South Carolina company.

She describes Scott's chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, as "even more ruthless" than his predecessor, Steve MacNamara, a control freak who choked off access to the governor and shut her out of important meetings. She describes being "ambushed" on March 12, 2013, the day Hollingsworth and general counsel Pete Antonacci forced her to resign because of her past public relations work for a veterans' group linked in an internet cafe fraud investigation.

Carroll was not accused of any wrongdoing. Her story hits bookstores on Wednesday -- her birthday. By coincidence, her grievances about Scott will spill into public view on the very day he will launch his general election campaign for a second term.

Working with Clarence McKee, a black political consultant, in the 2010 campaign, Carroll said she devised a plan to reach out to black voters with local newspapers, radio and phone calls and that despite the campaign’s objections, she attended a forum in Miami hosted by Bishop Victor Curry, a radio host and prominent voice in Miami’s black community. “The campaign didn’t want it, but I did it anyway,” she writes.

As a result, Carroll writes, Scott got 6 percent of the African-American vote, according to 2010 exit polls, and had she not directed a “minority stealth” campaign, “Scott would have lost the election.”

McKee, a Scott supporter, said in interview that Carroll’s account was true and that she pushed for more outreach to Jewish voters in Broward and Palm Beach in the final weeks of the 2010 race, in which Scott defeated Democrat Alex Sink by fewer than 62,000 votes.

Carroll describes Scott as overly controlled by his own staff and lacking in a personal touch, who ignored her birthday and showed no concern after she fainted and struck her head on the floor at a hot Greek church. “Clearly, something was missing there, some ability to make personal connections that he just didn’t have,” Carroll said of Scott.

In a parting shot, here's what Carroll has to say about her successor, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who was chosen after a 10-month absence: "The new lieutenant governor is being treated even worse than I was from what I hear. He only has a small staff and he doesn’t have security. They gave him a car to drive himself around in. They haven’t given him much to do."