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August 22, 2016

Tim Canova attacks Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Big Sugar, DNC role in TV ads

Tim Canova has released two new TV ads attacking U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, over her positions on Big Sugar and payday loans and related to her resignation as chair of the Democratic National Committee.

The ads are running on local cable and broadcast outlets. The Democrats are competing in a Broward/Miami-Dade district in the Aug. 30 primary.

Here are the ads:



Rubio in Panhandle, Beruff in Sarasota



It's just about a week until the biggest moment in Republican Carlos Beruff's fledgling political carrier, but don't expect to see him on the campaign trail today.

Beruff's bid for what would be one of the biggest political upsets ever will take a back seat to his job as the chairman of the Sarasota Bradenton Airport Authority. At 1 p.m. the airport authority is holding a workshop on their annual budget. He's back on the trail on Tuesday, expecting to be in Clearwater for campaign events.

Sen. Marco Rubio, meanwhile, hits north Florida on Monday. Rubio is scheduled to be in Tallahassee in the afternoon to meet with supporters, then is set to attended the Jackson County Republican Party's Reagan Day dinner at 6 p.m.

The money race in Florida's bruising 26th congressional district

Florida_Candidates 03 EKM

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia raised about $69,000 for his congressional campaign in the past six weeks, which is less than half of what his Democratic primary opponent, Annette Taddeo, collected in the same period.

Garcia, however, has more money in the bank: about $306,000, compared to Taddeo's about $248,000. She has spent far more than Garcia, putting out TV ads and a slew of mailed fliers, including ones attacking the former congressman. She reported a nearly $151,000 haul from July 1-Aug. 18; Taddeo has the backing of national Democrats, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The bruising primary between the former friends can only benefit Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who has no Aug. 30 primary rival. His latest campaign-finance report shows about $80,000 in contributions -- and nearly $2 million cash in the bank, waiting for the Nov. 8 general election.

Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff

August 21, 2016

Miami Beach mayor talks Zika outbreak on New York radio show


UPDATE: It's not completely clear from the audio, but the first segment of the radio show referenced in this post was pre-recorded Tuesday, Aug. 16. Mayor Philip Levine's statements about Zika in South Florida were made before news reports a few days later about the virus spreading to Miami Beach. Levine spoke with the host again in a follow-up phone interview (attached to the end of the segment) after Friday's announcement that Zika had spread. This post has been updated to reflect the timeline.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine appeared on a Sunday morning AM radio show in New York to talk about the Zika outbreak in South Florida.

Speaking in a pre-recorded segment from last Tuesday on the CATS Roundtable, a weekly show hosted by millionaire grocery-chain owner John Catsimatidis, he said the "small, little outbreak of Zika" in Wynwood was contained and compared increased concerns to an old wive's tale.

“We have have a Jewish word for it. It’s called a "bubbameister," Levine said. "It’s a grandmother's tale. I mean, the media loves to build it up, but you know, it’s something that we’re watching, it’s closely contained and it certainly hasn’t disrupted the business of Miami.”

Listen to the entire segment here.

"Right now, business is booming," Levine said. "Everyone’s coming to Miami Beach."

That might not be the case going forward. On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott told the press — even before he told local elected officials — that Zika had arrived in Miami Beach with five confirmed cases.

After Friday's announcement, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention advised pregnant women were advised not to travel to a majority of South Beach, Levine spoke with Catsimatidis again for the show via phone. He talked about the city's ramped-up efforts to eliminate standing water across the city so mosquitoes can't breed.

"We hope to get that advisory for that one small section taken away as soon as possible," he said.

On Saturday night, it certainly seemed like nothing in South Beach had slowed down. A day after state officials confirmed five cases of Zika in the Beach and announced the new zone of local transmission, the tourist hotspot was business as usual.

Cher raises $130,000 for Hillary Clinton in Miami


Cher's fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in the LGBT community in Miami Friday night raised about $130,000, said Tony Lima, executive director of SAVE, a gay rights group.

The fundraiser was hosted by gay rights activist Bradley Carlson in Wynwood. State Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, the first openly gay state legislator, officiated. Clinton didn't attend.

Clinton has been courting the LGBT vote in Florida and other states. She is a supporter of gay rights and announced her support for same-sex marriage in 2013 before she ran for president. Donald Trump has consistently opposed same-sex marriage since 2000.

Both Clinton and Trump have made repeat visits to South Florida this summer as they seek votes in the swing state.

Clinton's running mate, Gov. Tim Kaine, will fundraise in Broward County Friday. No public events have been announced yet.

Photo supplied by Lima who is pictured above (left) with his partner Yonel Galano.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz ahead of Tim Canova, Sun Sentinel poll finds


U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is ahead of Tim Canova by 10 percentage points, according to a new Sun Sentinel/Florida Atlantic University poll.

The poll found that 50 percent of likely Democratic voters chose Wasserman Schultz and 40 percent chose Canova. The poll found that Wasserman Schultz did better among men, older voters and Hillary Clinton supporters. Canova did better among younger voters, Bernie Sanders supporters and those who have an unfavorable view of President Barack Obama

"It's a little tighter than you would expect in a primary of an incumbent, a well-financed Democrat but this is an unusual race with a little bit more of a national focus," FAU political scientist Kevin Wagner told the Miami Herald.

For Canova to win, he will have to drive up turnout among younger voters but typically older Americans vote more often.

"Barack Obama turned out much younger voters at a higher rate than historically expected," Wagner said. "It's hard to say in a single congressional district if you could repeat that younger person turnout."

Obama endorsed Wasserman Schultz and Clinton campaigned for her in South Florida -- as did Vice President Joe Biden. Sanders endorsed Canova, a first-time candidate and Nova Southeastern University law professor. Clinton won the district with 68 percent of the vote in the March 15 presidential primary.

"Barack Obama is relatively popular there among the Democrats, as is Hillary Clinton. That support translates pretty well" for Wasserman Schultz, Wagner told the Sun Sentinel. "A candidate like Canova who is challenging the system "would probably do better in a district that is more dissatisfied with the Democratic leadership."

Canova's campaign got a boost in donations and media attention in July after Wasserman Schultz stepped down as Democratic National Committee chair after WikiLeaks published thousands of DNC emails. Those emails showed that the DNC favored Clinton over Sanders -- something Wasserman Schultz had denied for months.

But the poll found the national scandal has only slightly hurt her among South Florida voters. The email revelations led 35 percent to say they were less likely to vote for her, 29 percent more likely to vote for her and for 36 percent it made no difference.

After Wasserman Schultz came out in favor of the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, there were questions about whether it would cost her Jewish support in the district -- one of the most heavily Jewish districts in Florida. The poll found that 43 percent of likely Democratic voters back the deal, 17 percent oppose, 31 percent undecided and 9 percent never heard of it.

Respondents who favor the Iran nuclear deal support Wasserman Schultz -- who backed the deal -- while opponents of the deal support Canova. While Canova has bashed Wasserman Schultz for supporting the deal and aligned himself with opponents, he has often said he isn't certain how he would have voted if he was in Congress.

The poll also found geographic differences in the district that stretches from western Broward to northern Miami-Dade County. Wasserman Schultz has a commanding lead in the Weston area where she lives while Canova is far ahead in the Hollywood area where she lives. Other portions of the district including Pembroke Pines and Davie are more competitive.

The poll of 400 likely voters was done Wednesday to Friday and has a margin of error of 5 percent.

This is the first poll in the race done by a media outlet. A poll done by Canova's campaign showed that he was eight points behind but that 60 percent of voters don't know him while a poll by a PAC supporting Wasserman Schultz showed she is 33 points ahead.

The Democrats are competing in the Aug. 30 primary but voting by mail and early voting has already started.

Patrick Murphy's dad dumps $1M into Senate Democrats' super PAC



Patrick Murphy's father continues to pour large sums of money into the 2016 election in the hopes of getting his son elected to the U.S. Senate.

A new FEC filing shows Thomas Murphy Jr. gave $1 million last month to a Democratic super PAC that has ties to outgoing Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.

The Senate Majority PAC is one of several independent Democratic groups aiding Patrick Murphy's campaign in the hopes a victory in Florida will help the party win back control of the chamber.

The Hill in Washington D.C. was the first to report on the contribution. Thomas Murphy's donation to the Senate Majority PAC came July 13, just two days before the super PAC announced a $1 million ad buy in Florida to help Patrick Murphy's race.

On the campaign trail, Patrick Murphy, a two-term Democratic congressman from Jupiter, has openly chastised the influence of money in politics and said he supports campaign finance reform. However, he hasn't rebuked his father's hefty political donations that have contributed to Murphy's own political rise -- in this election and previous ones.

MORE: "The financial muscle behind Patrick Murphy’s Senate bid: Dad"

In May, Murphy told the Tampa Bay Times: "My dad is my best friend and mentor. I talk to him at least once a day, maybe twice a day. I think a lot of people in public service and a lot of people in business are grateful for their parents’ help. I’m no different from them."

Republicans coined the nickname "Privileged Patrick" this year in an attempt to highlight Murphy's family wealth and his affluent South Florida upbringing. His Democratic primary opponents, Pam Keith and fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, have also characterized Murphy in ways that emphasize his father's ongoing effort to boost his son's political career.

Thomas Murphy Jr. is founder, chairman and CEO of Coastal Construction Group, one of South Florida's largest construction firms.

Aside from last month's $1 million contribution, the elder Murphy also gave $500,000 this year -- through himself and Coastal -- to a pro-Murphy super PAC, Floridians for a Strong Middle Class. In the 2012 election, Patrick Murphy's first when he narrowly defeated tea-party incumbent Rep. Allen West, Thomas Murphy gave $550,000 into two super PACs supporting his son.

Super PACs aren't subject to campaign contribution limits and can't coordinate with candidates' campaigns.

Photo credit: Walt Michot / Miami Herald

FPL rate case: Should customers be treated liked shareholders and get refunds? Or charged $1.3 billion

IMG_IMG_FPL.jpg_2_1_T73I_6_1_R95NM0B9_L153998187Florida Power & Light’s proposal to increase customer rates $1.3 billion over three years will be on trial starting Monday as the state’s largest electric company asks permission to raise customer bills and be rewarded for “superior service” with the ability to earn higher profits.

But more than rates will be challenged as a long list of opponents ask state regulators to reject the rate increase and order FPL to refund at least $800 million a year, arguing that the company has earned excessive profits and should be returning cash to customers.

The opponents — from the AARP and the Sierra Club to the military, industry groups and the office that represents the public in rate cases — also want the Public Service Commission to stop allowing FPL to have customers pay for pipeline purchases, natural gas deals and other business decisions that they say investors should finance. And they want regulators to order the company to diversify its fuel mix to be more climate-friendly and less dependent on natural gas.

FPL is “asking for too much money,” said J.R. Kelly, head of the Office of Public Counsel, which represents the public in rate cases. “The bottom line is, they are asking to increase their profits at the expense of ratepayers.” More here.

August 20, 2016

Pro-Marco Rubio super PAC raises $1.7M - almost half gifted from presidential super PAC


via @learyreports

Marco Rubio’s super PAC, Florida First Project, raised $1.7 million in just over a month -- including $800,000 from the super PAC that supported Rubio’s presidential run, according to a new FEC filing.

Conservative Solutions PAC transferred $800,000 on July 13, adding to $100,000 it previously gave the new Rubio group, run by many of the same people.

The super PAC that supported Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who exited the race in deference to Rubio, kicked in $100,000.

Other big donors:

Larry Ellison of Oracle gave $100,000; John Rangos Sr., chairman of Chambers Development Co., gave $25,000; Richard Uihlein, CEO of Uline, gave $75,000; Frank VanderSloot gave $250,000, while VanderSloot's business, Melaleuca, gave $250,000.

Geo Group, the private prison operator that suffered a big blow this week, gave $50,000.

Photo credit: Jose A. Iglesias / El Nuevo Herald

Miami Beach mayor accuses Rick Scott of "playing politics" with Zika information



Amid the public health concerns and worries about impacts on tourism, the news of Zika spreading to Miami Beach has set off a political quarrel between Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine — rumored to be eying a gubernatorial run in 2018 — and Gov. Rick Scott.

He's taken to cable news channels to accuse Scott of withholding information from him about the presence of Zika in the popular resort city, which is a crucial economic engine for the region's tourism industry.

Fourteen hours after Levine told reporters late Thursday that there was "no outbreak, no epidemic of Zika on Miami Beach," Scott held his own press conference in Miami to announce that five cases were confirmed and Zika was being transmitted locally in South Beach. 

On Friday, Levine blamed Scott for a lack of communication that left the mayor unaware of what was going on in his own city. On Friday night and Saturday afternoon, the mayor took to cable news networks to blast the governor. 

"On Friday, the governor played politics with this horrible issue," Levine told CNN's Martin Savidge on a live segment aired just after 1 p.m. Saturday.

That's after a Friday night appearance on MSNBC.


"It is so sad that this governor is withholding life-saving information and playing politics with it," he said.

When the Herald asked Scott's office for a comment Friday, a spokesperson seemed to say, in the same breath, that Scott has been in contact with local officials, but he didn't tell them about the new local cases until after his press conference.

"Governor Scott has been in contact with mayors, local officials and community leaders for weeks and will continue to keep them informed," a spokesperson wrote. "Friday afternoon, the Governor hosted a call with all of the local officials in Miami-Dade to give them updates on what is going on."

Meanwhile, Levine himself could benefit politically by throwing darts at Scott.

This isn't the first time the millionaire mayor has taken on Scott. Earlier this year, Levine bought a radio ad in California touting his proposal to create a citywide minimum wage, and the ad ran while Scott was in California. During that trip, Scott criticized the state's high taxes and labor costs.

He's also promoted Beach issues on a national level, putting the oceanside city in the spotlight when it comes to sea-level rise and U.S.-Cuba relations. And he is now a regular contributor on cable news shows talking about the presidential election (he's a Hillary Clinton surrogate and personal friend of the candidate).

Levine has said he wants to run for a third term as mayor, but he has not ruled out a run for the top spot in Tallahassee.