Note: This blog's templates will be updated this afternoon to a responsive design bringing it in line with MiamiHerald.com.

At that time, we will also change to the Facebook commenting system. You will need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment.

November 09, 2017

A socialist Miami mayor? 1,393 voters said yes.

Jaquith

@NewsbySmiley

In South Florida, where exile politics still weighs heavy, Tuesday's election in the city of Miami had a surprising result.

Not the mayoral election of Francis Suarez, born the son of Cuban exiles and a lock to win the election. But the 1,393 votes cast for his closest competitor, Socialist Workers Party candidate Cynthia Mason Jaquith.

That's 5.5 percent of the vote.

Jaquith, 70, ran a bare-bones campaign that reported just $102 raised the Friday before the election. During a candidates' interview with the Miami Herald Editorial Board, she suggested the city look to communist Cuba for inspiration on good governance.

So, is Miami slowly warming to big government? Or did Jaquith get votes as the only woman on the ballot and a candidate eligible for all anybody-but-Suarez votes.

In an interview Thursday, Jaquith said she got a good reception while door-knocking during the campaign, but isn't making a big deal of the results, which still amounted to less than 1 percent of Miami's registered electorate.

"The great majority of workers we spoke to said 'Yes, we need a different party, not Democrat or Republican.' We talked about building a workers party," she said. "But I wouldn't say this now proves something."

Levine touts fundraising in month before entering Florida governor's race

@PatriciaMazzei

Philip Levine, the newest entrant into Florida's Democratic race for governor, collected more than $1 million for his political committee in October, according to his campaign.

Levine, a multi-millionaire who formally launched his candidacy last week, raised a little less than $900,000 and donated a little more than $100,000 to his All About Florida committee, his campaign said Thursday, touting his total haul so far: about $5.8 million. 

None of the candidates' monthly financial reports, either for their campaign or committee accounts, have yet to be posted by to the Florida Division of Elections' website, because they're not due until Monday. Levine didn't have a campaign account yet because he wasn't officially in the race.

"In the year ahead -- as more Floridians learn about Philip and his progressive vision for our state -- we believe voters will continue to provide us with the necessary resources to take our message to every corner of the state, from the Panhandle down to the Keys," Christian Ulvert, a Levine senior adviser, said in a statement.

The only other Democratic candidate who has announced his October fundraising, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, said Tuesday that he drew about $80,000. Gillum brought in a new finance director last month after losing his campaign manager and deputy campaign manager. Gillum's fundraising languished over the summer after an FBI investigation into City Hall became public.

"With under one year until Election Day 2018, Mayor Gillum and our entire team around the state are thrilled about our grassroots fundraising momentum," Gillum's campaign said in a statement. "Everyday Floridians are giving us the resources we need to communicate with our voters through the primary and general election next fall, and we're excited for the road ahead."

Gillum, who has said he's not the target of the investigation, took in a single contribution in October, for $2,500, to his Forward Florida committee, according to its website.

Last month, former Tallahassee Rep. Gwen Graham brought in more than $180,000 for her campaign and about $165,000 for her committee, Our Florida, her campaign said Thursday, bringing her total raised thus far to more than $4 million.

"From Pensacola to Key West, Floridians are fed up with Trump-style politics and they are engaged like never before," Graham said in a statement that added she has received contributions from more than 10,000 individuals, a "milestone." "Our campaign is building a coalition of Floridians from every part of this state and every community. That's how we won in 2014 and that's how we're going to turn Florida blue in 2018."

Orlando entrepreneur Chris King's campaign said it raised nearly $152,000 in October. His committee, Rise and Lead, Florida, raked in about $55,000 during the month, for a total of about $2.7 million since launching the campaign. The committee has about $1.6 million cash on hand, the campaign said.

This post has been updated to include Graham's and King's campaign fundraising.

Recount set Friday in Miami election decided by 16 votes

Candidates

@NewsbySmiley

With only 16 votes the difference between second and third place, two Miami commission candidates are preparing for a Friday morning recount that should determine who faces former Mayor Joe Carollo in a Nov. 21 runoff election.

Alfonso “Alfie” Leon earned a narrow edge over Zoraida Barreiro in Tuesday’s election to choose Miami’s new District 3 commissioner. The unofficial results placed him second in the voting, which usually would put him on the runoff ballot against Carollo. But the margin was so slim that it forced an automatic machine recount, scheduled for Friday morning.

“We want to make sure every valid vote is counted, period. That’s it,” said Robert Fernandez, an election law attorney hired by the Barreiro campaign. “We’re going to monitor the process to make sure that happens.”

To read the rest, click here.

Putnam again leads fundraising in Florida GOP field for governor

via @adamsmithtimes

So much for Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran's daunting fundraising prowess. After a mighty, multi-million dollar start to his opening a political committee to explore running for governor, Corcoran raised less than $500,000 to his Watchdog PAC in September and then less than $370,000 in October.

Republican front-runner Adam Putnam in October pulled in more than $600,000 to his committee, Florida Grown, and more than $1.1 million between his committee and his actual campaign account.

State Sen. Jack Latvala, another candidate for governor, raised about $235,000 in October.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

'Toxic culture' in Tallahassee demands change, advocates say

Two freshman House Democrats joined Florida NOW members Wednesday in demanding changes in how the Legislature investigates sexual harassment allegations.

At a press conference at the Old Capitol attended by 15 people, and about an equal number of media representatives, speakers cited a “culture of harassment” in Tallahassee -- but none cited details of a specific incident that was reported but was not investigated.

Nor did any speaker cite the anonymous allegations of harassment leveled at Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, which is why Wednesday’s press event got so much attention.

NOW lobbyist Barbara DeVane said there would be less sexual harassment in Tallahassee if Florida voters elected more women to public office . That’s part of NOW’s political agenda.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, said the House sexual harassment policy has “gigantic and glaring loopholes” and that policies need to be reviewed.

Rep. Amy Mercado, D-Orlando, used the term “toxic culture” and said the Legislature must recuse itself from harassment investigations, saying it’s unacceptable for the body that’s at fault to be the investigating body. “Tallahassee does not protect survivors or provide safe spaces for women to conduct business,” Mercado said.

Attorney Rick Johnson, who played a key role in a sexual harassment scandal in the House 26 years ago as the attorney for a complainant who received a $47,000 settlement, called on the Legislature to pay the legal fees for all complainants and witnesses. He said anyone in power who’s accused of harassment will have all the money they need.

November 08, 2017

Bill Nelson wants the Treasury Department to sanction Venezuela's entire constituent assembly

BillNelsonCarlJusteApril172017

@alextdaugherty

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson asked the Treasury Department on Tuesday to sanction all 545 members of Venezuela's newly elected constituent assembly and ban U.S. imports of Venezuelan crude oil until "constitutional order" is restored. 

The constituent assembly that was elected in July has the power to rewrite Venezuela's constitution and is widely seen as a vehicle for President Nicolás Maduro to assume more control over all facets of government. Opposition parties boycotted the ballot and staged protests throughout the country on election day. 

“In July you stated that ‘anyone elected to the constituent assembly should know that their role in undermining democratic processes and institutions in Venezuela could expose them to potential U.S. sanctions,’” Nelson wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. “Only a handful of members of this illegal body, however, have been sanctioned; I strongly urge you to sanction all its members as soon as possible.”

Nelson and Sen. Marco Rubio have repeatedly urged the Trump administration to enact harsher sanctions on Venezuela. The socialist Venezuelan government won 17 of 23 governorships during regional elections in October that were widely decried as fraudulent by opposition parties. 

Nelson also reaffirmed his desire to impose oil sanctions on Venezuelan government, a move that the Trump administration contemplated over the summer but ultimately did not implement, though it remains on the table. 

"Additionally, I urge the Department to continue targeting Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), and consider banning the import of Venezuelan crude to the United States until constitutional order has been restored in Venezuela," Nelson said. "PDVSA should be a source of wealth for the Venezuelan people, but because of the corruption of the socialist government and years of mismanagement, it has become a source of cash for Maduro and his cronies to line their pockets. I encourage you to seek the support of our European allies in imposing both targeted and sectoral sanctions on the Venezuelan regime, too." 

Rubio: ‘Bureaucrats’ softened Trump Cuba policy

0428 Trump Cuba 061617 (1)
@PatriciaMazzei

The night before the White House planned to announce new regulations restricting U.S. business and travel in Cuba, the biggest champions of President Donald Trump’s tighter policy — Miami’s Republican lawmakers in Congress — were in the dark.

Federal agencies writing the rules had gotten input from some of the legislators and their aides over the past five months, ever since Trump unveiled his new Cuba approach to much fanfare in East Little Havana. But Trump’s administration, wary of past leaks, kept close hold of the final product. News reporters knew a Wednesday morning announcement on the regulations was imminent before the members of Congress had even been briefed.

Once informed, the Miami politicians were dissatisfied.

Instead of offering unconditional applause, as they did when Trump signed his policy directive, Sen. Marco Rubio and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen gave lukewarm statements lamenting that “bureaucrats” resisted giving muscular backing to the president.

“The regulatory changes announced today by Treasury and Commerce begin to implement President Trump’s June 2017 policy for enforcing U.S. sanctions laws against the Castro regime,” Rubio said in a statement. “Unfortunately, however, bureaucrats in the State Department who oppose the President’s Cuba policy refused to fully implement it when they omitted from the Cuba Restricted List several entities and sub-entities that are controlled by or act on behalf of the Cuban military, intelligence or security services.” 

Rubio weighed in nearly five hours after the regulations were published — a clear indication of displeasure from a senator known for his quick, detailed reactions to matters of Latin America policy he cares deeply about. He used his statement to criticize the State Department for failing to include two major tourism brands from the U.S. list of 180 Cuban entities banned from doing business with Americans.

More here.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

'Crazy': Gov. Scott in tussle with high court over justices' banter

It’s usually Gov. Rick Scott who’s fielding requests for public records. But this time it’s the governor, and his target is the Florida Supreme Court in a story steeped in intrigue.

Justices heard oral arguments a week ago in a legal dispute with huge political and judicial implications: whether Scott or his successor has the power to replace three justices whose terms will expire on Scott’s last day in office as governor in early 2019.

One of the three, Barbara Pariente, engaged in a brief and cryptic exchange with Justice Jorge Labarga during a break in the proceedings.

A live microphone picked up their banter, which was carried on the Florida Channel but is not archived on its web site (the channel’s long-standing policy is not to post extraneous pictures or sound). The Times/Herald viewed the video at the station’s studios.

Pariente can be seen shaking her head in apparent dismay and saying what sounds like the word “crazy,” then drawing Labarga’s attention to a piece of paper. Then Labarga is heard saying, “Izzy Reyes is on there. He’ll listen to me.”

The crosstalk between the two justices was first reported by FloridaPolitics.com.

The Times/Herald asked the court for the document, and it’s a list of Scott’s appointees to the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission, an influential nine-member group that will screen and recommend finalists for those three upcoming openings on the court (Justices Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince are also retiring).

Reyes, a Miami lawyer, is on the JNC. So is Daniel Nordby, who represented Scott in the oral arguments on filling the vacancies.

Nordby, who is Scott’s general counsel, sent the court a public records request earlier this week, asking for the document and a copy of the recording in question.”

"Let’s find out what was going on,” Scott told reporters. “We expect judges to be impartial. We expect them to simply do their job.”

Asked whether his office would ask Pariente and Labarga to recuse themselves from the dispute involving the vacancies, Scott said: “I think we have to find out what document they were looking at, what they were talking about. I expect judges to be impartial, but let’s put the facts on the table.”

Baez pleads guilty to perjury charge

Florida_Candidates 11 EKM
via @DavidOvalle305

One week after resigning from office, former Miami State Rep. Daisy Baez pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor perjury charge for lying about her address on a voter-registration form.

The Coral Gables Democrat appeared in Miami court Wednesday to formally accept the plea deal that called for her to quit and agree to serve one year of probation. Baez lasted less than a year in office, and when she resigned last week became the third Florida lawmaker to resign amid scandal during the past six months.

Baez declined to speak to reporters after the brief hearing.

“She apologizes to the community for having mistaken her obligations in changing her voter registration early, earlier than she should have done,” said her attorney Ben Kuehne. “Today, she resumes her private citizen status.”

During the 2016 campaign, Baez was not actually living in the district for which she was running. Investigators believe Baez lied when she filled out a voter-registration form changing her address to a condo in the district days before the November 2016 election. 

On the form, Baez claimed to reside at the Anderson Avenue condo in the district.

But her friend, Maritza Jacobson, told investigators that Baez asked if she could list her home as her residence. Baez, while signing a lease indicating she rented a room at the condo, “never moved in nor did she ever stay at their residence for a single night,” according to a statement released by prosecutors.

“Deliberately swearing to false information essential to your role as a state legislator, as alleged in this case, eats at the credibility of our voting and political systems,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle said in a statement. “I believe that there can never be a good reason for such action.”

More here.

Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff

Diaz-Balart to headline forum on Venezuela

Flyer  VRCLUB @PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart will be the featured speaker next weekend at a local forum on Venezuela.

The community outreach event, sponsored by the Miami-Dade Republican Party, will take place Nov. 18 at Arepazo #2, a Doral Venezuelan eatery. Sponsoring the event are local Republican state lawmakers who could also drop by.

"The oppression, corruption, and assaults on Venezuela's democratic institutions under Maduro's rule must end," Diaz-Balart said in a statement provided by the party, referring to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. "I look forward to events such as this that bring together leaders from all sectors of society so that we can join together in the cause of promoting basic rights and liberties in Venezuela."