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May 17, 2015

Miami-Dade County to finish redrawing voter precincts

@PatriciaMazzei

Voting lineAt long last, Miami-Dade County plans to finish drawing new voter precincts, a once-a-decade task that contributed to waits of up to seven hours outside the polls on Election Day in 2012.

Later this year, the Miami-Dade elections department plans to send updated registration cards to the county’s nearly 1.3 million voters. About 12 percent of them will find they’ve been moved to a different polling place, under a proposal scheduled for county commissioners’ approval Tuesday.

That’s far less than the 55 percent of voters Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley said last year would be displaced in 2015. Her office redrew a minimal number of precinct boundaries — only the ones of the most crowded precincts — to displace as few voters as possible before the 2014 gubernatorial election.

Last year’s moves, coupled with the purchase of electronic voter sign-in devices and the expansion of early voting, proved more effective than expected, so Townsley’s department no longer intends to be as aggressive in redrawing the rest of the precincts. There were no embarrassing lines last November.

Her more modest proposal is better because it affects fewer voters, Townsley told commissioners last week.

“It costs less,” she added. “It provides more compact precincts with improved voter distribution across the county.”

More here.

Photo credit: David Santiago, El Nuevo Herald

Yes, the House and Senate are agreeing — but on how much?

An agreement on special session released Friday by House and Senate leadership marks the first significant step by Republicans in the Legislature toward a compromise on the budget and health care funding.

Statements released by Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli show that the House and Senate are indeed getting along. While agreed-upon terms of a June 1-20 special session include possible victories for leadership in both chambers, there’s a lot still to be resolved, says Senate Appropriations Chair Tom Lee, R-Brandon.

“The negotiations of an outcome are far too fluid for me to predict what’s going to succeed, what’s not going to succeed, how FHIX is even going to look when it’s filed,” Lee said.

FHIX, the Senate’s proposed health insurance exchange that would be funded by federal Medicaid dollars, has been a major sticking point, one that the House has been unwilling to adopt because of the involvement of federal tax dollars.

Lee said he doesn’t think the House is necessarily going to sign on with the current plan, but he’s hopeful that the negotiations moving forward will be positive, and he said the proclamation creates “enough focus” to reach a budget agreement.

But no deals have been made yet. A backroom agreement between Gardiner, Lee, Crisafulli and House Appropriations Chair Richard Corcoran, R-Land O Lakes, wouldn’t be taken kindly by Senators, Lee said.

“Senators have a very different expectation of their leadership,” Lee said. “I think the president wants to honor his commitment to a process. We don’t want to commit our members to any particular policy outcomes. This is going to evolve."

'It was not a mistake,' Marco Rubio says of Iraq war

@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio got a little tangled Sunday when he was asked on television if the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq was a mistake.

No, he insisted -- even though he said last week that, in retrospect, he wouldn't have authorized the war knowing that Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction.

Rubio said his answers are consistent because the first question refers to what former President George W. Bush did with the information he had at the time and the other with what he would have done with the benefit of hindsight.

That answer didn't seem to sit well with Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, who asked if the conflict was a mistake, period, without giving it any qualifiers.

Here's a transcript of the exchange:

Continue reading "'It was not a mistake,' Marco Rubio says of Iraq war" »

Marco Rubio: I cashed out retirement account for campaign -- and new refrigerator, air conditioner

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told Fox News Sunday that he cashed out $68,000 from a retirement account last year to prepare for his 2016 presidential campaign -- and to replace a refrigerator and air conditioner.

According to a financial disclosure Rubio filed Friday, the Republican liquidated the American Bar Association retirement account Sept. 1.

"It was just one specific account that we wanted to have access to cash in the coming year, both because I'm running for president, but, also, you know, my refrigerator broke down. That was $3,000. I had to replace the air conditioning unit in our home. My kids all go to school and they're getting closer to college and school is getting more expensive," Rubio told host Chris Wallace. "And then when you're running for president, we just wanted to access the sum of that cash."

Rubio added that he still has federal and state retirement accounts and other savings.

"I'm not poor, but I'm not rich, either," he said.

Marco Rubio's private, influential wife

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- She didn’t want to be a senator’s wife. But she challenged him to man up if he had such a problem with Charlie Crist. When he reached the nadir of doubt and decided to quit the campaign, she persuaded him to keep going.

In the public life of her husband, Jeanette Dousdebes Rubio has been largely in the background. She smiled on stage during his presidential campaign launch last month in Miami but did not speak and appeared eager for the show to end.

“She is the antithesis of Marco,” said Javier Manjarres, a conservative blogger who has gotten to know the Rubios since the 2010 Senate run. “She is so apolitical, non-confrontational. I get the sense she would rather him be home cleaning up the dog poop and helping her out with the kids, and just working a 9-to-5 job. It’s stressful for her.”

Yet the 41-year-old, as poised in public as she is shy, has privately played a major role in Rubio’s rise, offering blunt advice and bearing the responsibilities of raising four children, often as if a single mother.

Stung by her parents’ divorce, she wanted a stable married life and harbored career aspirations beyond a season as a Miami Dolphins cheerleader. She got a voracious politician husband who has been ladder climbing since they met and in 2016 has emerged as a top contender for the White House.

More here.

Marco Rubio to appear on Fox News Sunday to talk foreign policy

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio is scheduled to appear on Fox News Sunday to talk about his foreign policy views with host Chris Wallace.

The show airs at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on the Fox News channel.

Rubio's appearance comes the same week he delivered a key speech -- the Rubio Doctrine -- to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. 

Defending the use of American military power, Rubio on Wednesday called for increasing military spending and for the U.S. to aggressively confront Russia, China and others that he says threaten the nation's economic interests.

In what his campaign billed as a major speech on foreign policy, the Florida senator sought to draw a sharp distinction with President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination who spent four years as Obama's secretary of state.

Rubio said Obama "wasted no time stripping parts from the engine of American strength," and cast Clinton as his loyal deputy.

"We simply cannot afford to elect as our next president one of the leading agents of this administration's foreign policy — a leader from yesterday whose tenure as secretary of state was ineffective at best and dangerously negligent at worst," Rubio said in his speech.

This report was supplemented with information from the Associated Press.

May 16, 2015

Florida GOP signs off on winner-take-all presidential primary

@PatriciaMazzei

The Republican Party of Florida formally agreed Saturday to make the March 15, 2016, presidential primary a winner-take-all contest.

At a quarterly party meeting in Orlando, members signed off as expected on awarding the state's coveted 99 delegates to the primary victor -- a move that could benefit former Gov. Jeb Bush or U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio if one of them wins.

"With Florida's immense size and diverse population, any campaign that can mount a successful state-wide effort in Florida will be well positioned to run a truly national campaign come 2016," RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a statement. "Florida will now be the first winner-take-all primary in the country, this ensures that all presidential campaigns will have to spend a considerable amount of time in Florida speaking to Republicans from Pensacola to Key West and everywhere in-between."

Jeb Bush's Iraq stumbles set off GOP alarms

@lesleyclark @PatriciaMazzei

WASHINGTON -- Jeb Bush is suddenly prompting questions among Republicans about the suitability of one of their top tier prospects for the 2016 presidential nomination.

Insiders were alarmed by his stumbling and bumbling this week to answer a seemingly obvious question about the most controversial element of his brother's legacy, the Iraq war. They warned at week’s end that his loyalty to his family limited his flexibility as a candidate and perhaps as president and risked reinforcing a damning narrative that he would merely offer a third term of his brother.

“The big challenge now is, you don’t want to start your campaign with a re-litigation of the past,” said Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist who says that Republicans knew Bush’s challenge would be to clearly distinguish himself from his father and brother’s administrations. “Elections are inherently a contest about the future.”

Supporters privately expressed puzzlement at his performance and worried it might not be a one-time incident if the former two-term Florida governor, never one to submit to coaching or handling by aides and advisers, fails to adequately adapt for the brewing Republican primary fight.

More here.

Will former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro be Hillary Clinton's running mate in 2016?

Henry Cisneros, who was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for former President Bill Clinton, adds more fuel to the growing fire that former San Antonio Mayor and current HUD Secretary Julián Castro is at the top of Hillary Clinton's list of potential vice presidential running mates.

"What I am hearing in Washington, including from people in Hillary Clinton's campaign, is that the first person in their lists is Julián Castro," said Cisneros, according to the transcript of an interview taped with Univision's Al Punto.

The public affairs show airs on Sundays at 10 a.m. on Univision 23-WLTV in Miami.  

"... They don’t have a second option," said Cisneros, "because he is the superior candidate considering his record, personality, demeanor and Latin heritage."

This week, Washington was buzzing with talk of a Clinton-Castro ticket.

At an appearance at the National Press Club, Castro was asked about talk of him being a VP choice.

"We'll see what happens," Castro was quoted as telling The Hill. "There's no grand plan."

In his Washington Times column, Joseph Curl wrote that some members of Clinton's team "are already pushing Julian Castro as her vice presidential nominee, with one source telling me last week that right now, there isn't even a second choice."

Curl quotes a "source...close to top Clinton officials," as saying, "There's only one person the top guys are looking at right now, and that's Julian. They know the Republicans are making a big push this cycle for the Hispanic vote, so that makes Castro an easy pick - and an obvious pick." 

Who is Castro?

Raised by a single mom in Texas, Castro is a Stanford University and Harvard Law School graduate.

Before joining HUD in 2014, Castro served three terms as mayor of San Antonio, beginning in 2009.

In 2010, Time magazine placed him on its "40 under 40" list of rising stars in American politics.

In 2012, he delivered the keynote address before the Democratic National Convention.

His twin brother is U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas.

Hudimg

May 15, 2015

Columba Bush enters the social media fray

@PatriciaMazzei

In case you were not yet convinced that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is (almost) running for president: His famously private wife, Columba, joined Twitter and Instragram on Friday.

She will travel Saturday with her husband to Iowa, and then attend a Miami fund-raiser with him Monday.

A Bush spokeswoman said Columba Bush will "post photos, stories, and recipes in English and Spanish. Mrs. Bush will also be focusing on the issues that are of great importance to her: domestic violence, mental health and drug prevention, the arts and education."

Here's her first tweet: