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May 23, 2016

Carlos Beruff becomes top self-funded U.S. Senate candidate in the nation


With another surge in advertising, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff has spent more than $3 million on television spots statewide.

And most of that money is coming from his own pocket. It will be months before Beruff officially reports how much of his own money he has invested in his campaign to do the ad buys, but that number is now expected to be over $3 million, according to a source close to the campaign and later confirmed by the campaign. That would make Beruff the biggest self-funder in the nation for a U.S. Senate seat, surpassing Democrat Napolean Harris, who put in $2.1 million of his own money but lost his primary election in Illinois earlier this year.

But he’s got a long way to catch the top self funder for a seat in Congress this year. Democrat David Trone, founder of Total Wine, spent more $9.9 million of his own money, according to Federal Election Commission records, but lost in a primary for a seat in Congress representing Maryland’s D.C.-suburbs in late April.

Beruff hasn’t hidden the fact that he intends to self-fund a big part of his campaign. In interviews he’s consistently said he’ll put his own money in the race, but has not said exactly how much.

“I’ve always been a believer that if you don’t bet on yourself how can you ask anyone else to,” Beruff said in a recent interview with the Times/Herald.

Self-funders have not had a great track record running for the U.S. Senate since 2010. Since then, nearly 90 percent of candidates who have put $1 million of their own money into a U.S. Senate campaign have lost. In total, 34 candidates have put $1 million or more into their campaigns. Thirty of those candidates lost either in the primary or the general election. Only four - two Democrats and two Republicans - won seats in the U.S. Senate, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Continue reading "Carlos Beruff becomes top self-funded U.S. Senate candidate in the nation" »

May 22, 2016

Bernie Sanders makes fundraising appeal for Debbie Wasserman Schultz's opponent

Bernie Sanders made a fundraising appeal today for Tim Canova, the Democratic running against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Sanders told CNN's State of the Union this weekend that he is backing Canova, a first-time candidate and Nova Southeastern University law professor. Sanders has accused Wasserman Schultz of siding with his rival Hillary Clinton. Wasserman Schultz has repeatedly denied any favoritism and issued a statement Saturday saying she is neutral in the primary.

"The political revolution is not just about electing a president," states the email from the Sanders campaign. "We need a Congress with members who believe, like Bernie, that we cannot change a corrupt system by taking its money. So let me introduce you to Tim Canova, a progressive challenger who is running against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a Democratic primary in Florida this year. Tim endorsed Bernie’s presidential campaign, and was inspired to run because of Wasserman Schultz’ support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. His campaign is funded like ours, by lots of people giving small amounts of money."

Canova's campaign recently announced that he had raised $1 million. Wasserman Schultz raised $1.8 million through March and hasn't announced any updated figure. The next fundraising reports are due to the Federal Election Commission July 15.

The candidates will face off in the Aug. 30th primary for the Broward/Miami-Dade seat. The district leans left so the main contest is in the primary. 


CBS/YouGov poll: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump virtually tied in Florida

via @adamsmithtimes

A lot of political pros are skeptical about the reliability of online polls, but a new CBS/YouGov internet poll shows a virtually tied race in Florida between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. From CBS:

In Florida, a hypothetical matchup between Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump shows Clinton with a one-point edge among those with a preference, 43-42, and in Ohio, Clinton leads Trump by five at 44-39. A hypothetical matchup in Florida is tied between Democrat Bernie Sanders and Trump at 44 percent apiece, while in Ohio, Sanders enjoys a larger nine-point edge over Trump 48-39.

More here.

'I'm not like' Donald Trump, Carlos Beruff says, in Spanish


Carlos Beruff has endorsed Donald Trump for president and channeled the celebrity businessman's outsider message in TV ads.

But don't suggest Beruff is the Trump of the U.S. Senate race in Florida -- at least not on Spanish-language television, to Hispanic voters who largely dislike Trump.

In an interview that aired Sunday on Univision's Miami affiliate, Beruff pushed back on a question from host Ambrosio Hernández asking him if he's like Trump -- a comparison Beruff has otherwise seemed to relish.

"I suppose it's because we're both business people," said Beruff, dismissing the suggestion though not very forcefully. "But I'm not like him. He's unique."

The Cuban American home builder from Sarasota was speaking to the Al Punto Florida show.

Beruff also defended his positions to limit immigration -- until the border is "closed," he said, "it's silly to talk" about anything else -- and to ban travel to the U.S. from Middle Easterners (except Israelis) -- "If the FBI" says are security concerns, he said, "who are we to say there's not?"

UPDATE: The Beruff campaign sends a clip of an earlier interview with the candidate, from May 1 on NBC 6's Impact, in which Beruff says in English that "There is only one Donald Trump, as we know." He adds: "But there are aspects of where he's coming from that I understand, which is business people that have built and actually created jobs in this country."

May 21, 2016

Hillary Clinton bashes Donald Trump for his statements about guns to NRA


Hillary Clinton attacked Donald Trump’s statements to the NRA about gun control Saturday night in Fort Lauderdale.

“Just yesterday at the NRA annual convention Donald Trump said in his very first hour as president — heaven forbid — he would overturn President [Barack] Obama’s action to strengthen background checks,” Clinton said.

Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, spoke at the Trayvon Martin Foundation’s Circle of Mothers event held for mothers who have lost a child to gun violence. Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, has endorsed Clinton.

“Something is wrong when so many young people just starting their lives are dying …,” Clinton said at the event held at the Embassy Suites hotel. “This election gives us a chance of trying to make it right.”

Keep reading here. Photo by Pedro Portal. 

Florida Democrats name presidential convention delegates


Quite a few South Florida Democrats, including some elected officials, made the Florida Democratic Party's list of statewide delegates to the July presidential nominating convention in Philadelphia.

The list of Hillary Clinton delegates includes Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief, Miami Gardens state Sen. Oscar Braynon, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime, Coral Springs state Rep. Jared Moskowitz, activist Millie Herrera, former Weston state Sen. Nan Rich, consultant Freddy Balsera, former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, lobbyist Alex Heckler, fundraiser Chris Korge, former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, Miami Beach state Rep. David Richardson, consultant Christian Ulvert and Hollywood state Sen. Eleanor Sobel.

The list of Bernie Sanders delegates includes South Miami-Dade state Sen. Dwight Bullard and North Miami City Councilman Alix Desulme

Delegates had previously been chosen from each congressional district:

Continue reading "Florida Democrats name presidential convention delegates" »

Bernie Sanders backs Debbie Wasserman Schultz's opponent

Bernie Sanders told CNN that he will back U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's Democratic primary opponent in South Florida.

Sanders said in an interview for CNN's State of the Union that he will back Tim Canova, a first-time candidate who has raised more than $1 million since he jumped into the race in January. That still puts him behind Wasserman Schultz who has at least $1.8 million, but Canova's fundraising prowess has earned him national attention.

"Well, clearly, I favor her opponent," Sanders told CNN's Jake Tapper. "His views are much closer to mine than as to Wasserman Schultz's."

Sanders' announcement wasn't surprising given his ongoing feud with Wasserman Schultz and his relationship with Canova, who is now a Nova Southeastern University law professor who specializes in public finance. In 2011, Sanders chose Canova to serve on an advisory committee on federal reserve reform. And Canova has echoed many of Sanders' campaign themes -- particularly his desire for campaign finance reform. 

Sanders has argued for months that Wasserman Schultz and the Democratic National Committee which she chairs have favored Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary including with an initially limited debate schedule. Wasserman Schultz co-chaired Clinton's first presidential bid in 2007 but has denied any favoritism during the 2016 primary.

In a statement, Wasserman Schultz responded: "I am so proud to serve the people of Florida's 23rd district and I am confident that they know that I am an effective fighter and advocate on their behalf in Congress.  Even though Senator Sanders has endorsed my opponent I remain, as I have been from the beginning, neutral in the Presidential Democratic primary. I look forward to working together with him for Democratic victories in the fall."

Canova said in a statement: "I'm so proud to know that Bernie Sanders favors our campaign for progress for all. Like Senator Sanders, I'm running a campaign that's truly backed by the people, not big corporations-- one that stands up to Wall Street interests instead of cozying up to them. Together, I feel confident that our campaign of nurses, teachers, students, seniors and working class Floridians can work together to demand accountability from our leaders, and offer a more positive path forward to the people of Florida's 23rd district."

Canova, who lives in Hollywood, and Wasserman Schultz, who lives in Weston, are competing in the Aug. 30 primary in the liberal Broward/Miami-Dade district.

Clinton beat Sanders in the district -- and Florida -- in a landslide in the March 15 primary. The challenge for Canova is to see if he can inspire Sanders' supporters -- and other Democrats in the district -- to topple a longtime incumbent with broad name recognition. Wasserman Schultz is well-known in Broward County where she was first elected to the state Legislature in 1992.

Clinton speaks in Fort Lauderdale Saturday night at a gala for the Trayvon Martin Foundation.

This is the first time that Wasserman Schultz has faced a primary opponent in a reelection since first winning the seat in 2004. Since then she has easily beaten longshot Republican candidates. President Barack Obama named Wasserman Schultz DNC chair in 2011.

May 20, 2016

How Obama talks about ISIS combat is 'hogwash,' Ron DeSantis tells vets


IMG_4046YBOR CITY — Ron DeSantis, a Republican Senate hopeful, is preaching to the choir.

At a veterans’ town hall Friday night, he railed against problems in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, called for reforms to veterans’ health care and said the Pentagon ought to be audited.

Heads started nodding as DeSantis criticized the language the Obama administration has used to describe the military’s role in the Middle East.

As an example, he pointed to the 31-year-old Charlie Keating IV — whose mother lives in DeSantis’ northeast Florida congressional district. Keating was killed early this month in northern Iraq, as the Obama administration continues to downplay Americans’ combat role on the ground in fighting the Islamic State.

“It’s a lie,” one woman in the crowd said.

“This stuff about not being in combat, or if you’re special forces, you’re not boots on the ground,” DeSantis said, “that is utter hogwash.”

DeSantis was a legal advisor to Navy SEAL teams in Iraq as part of the Judge Advocate General Corps. In recent weeks, he has been working to build up support with Tampa Bay’s veteran community.

Friday’s event at the Cuban Club in Tampa was sponsored by Concerned Veterans for America, a nonprofit group that says it is nonpartisan but which has been linked to the Koch brothers and other conservative political donors. It wasn’t a campaign event (the group invited him because he is a sitting congressman, though his district is in the northeastern part of the state).

DeSantis is one of five Republicans running to replace Marco Rubio in the Senate: U.S. Rep. David Jolly, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, developer Carlos Beruff and Army veteran Todd Wilcox.

'Hands Across the Sand' event offers window into election year politics of 'fracking'

HandsAcrossSandsRep. Kathleen Peters, the former Republican mayor of the tiny seaside town of South Pasadena in Pinellas County, has found what it's like to be hit by the anti-fracking wave.

Peters is seeking a third term is a Republican and faces Democrat Jennifer Webb, an administrator at the University of South Florida. She plans to attend the annual Hands Across the Sands event tomorrow in which state and local leaders declare their abiding opposition to oil drilling off Florida's coasts.

But a press release Friday from an organization called the Superior Small Lodging Association, a non-profit representing individually-owned inns, bed & breakfasts, cottages and condos, is raising questions about Peters' opposition to oil drilling after she joined with all but seven of her GOP colleagues and voted for a bill last session that would have authorized the controversial drilling technique known as fracking and prevented local governments from regulating it.

The bill also included a temporary moratorium and would have authorized the activity only after it came before the Florida Legislature for another affirmative vote.

"Small business owners on the beach are questioning her record when it comes to fighting oil drilling and protecting local beaches given her support for fracking,'' writes the organization in its press release.

Mary Wilkerson, owner of Gulfside Resorts in Indian Rocks Beach, called out Peters:  "Basically, Rep. Kathleen Peters voted for a law that pretty much takes away our local control over fracking from cities and counties all over Florida.'' 

June Mohns of Island Paradise Cottages of Madeira Beach speculated that Peters may have voted for HB 191 because she "has received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from dirty fossil fuel industry investors.”

Peters says this is all wrong. "I have been against offshore oil drilling since before I was an elected official,'' she said Friday.

She said she supported the fracking bill (which failed to pass in the Senate) and "would support it today because without it we have no regulations and that bill put in place a moratorium and said you can't lift it unless the Legislature allows it. I don't believe the Legislature will ever allow fracking in Florida."

"This is all political,'' Peters said. "I expect we'll be hearing a lot about fracking in this campaign."

Would she support a bill that includes an outright ban on fracking in Florida -- similar to those proposed last session but which got no hearing?

"If a total ban would come up I'd probably support it,'' Peters said. But she prefers the approach taken by the bill's House author, Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, to require a study first to see what impact fracking might have on Florida's fragile water table. 

Photo: Facing Old Tampa Bay, on the south side of the Gandy Bridge, about 30 people formed a human chain, holding hands for 15 minutes to demonstrate their objection to offshore drilling and to call for a renewable energy. Times file (2012)



Ron DeSantis attacks Patrick Murphy for war authorization 'flip-flop'


Patrickmurphy05wmmRon DeSantis' campaign is calling Patrick Murphy a foreign policy flip-flopper.

In a statement Friday, Brad Herold -- campaign manager for DeSantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach -- called out  Murphy, D-Jupiter, for a vote allowing continued military action in the Middle East.

On Wednesday, Murphy voted against an amendment in Congress that would have repealed the authorization of military force passed in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

It’s not the first time the issue has come up since Murphy was first elected in 2012. On four occasions, he voted in favor of repealing or cutting back on the force authorization. (DeSantis voted against each of those votes.)

Asked about the change in votes, Murphy’s campaign spokesman Joshua Karp said the congressman thinks Congress should pass a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to address more recent terrorism.

​"​Patrick supports a new AUMF to fight ISIS,” Karp said in a statement. “However, until Tea Party Republicans like Ron DeSantis are willing to work in a bipartisan manner to pass that legislation, he will not repeal President Obama's authority to take the fight to ISIS​."

But the DeSantis campaign says it’s a change of position on important policy.

“Patrick Murphy is out of his depth on national security and has amassed a terrible record on fighting terrorism, so he’s trying an election year makeover,” Herold said in a statement. “It won’t work.”

Murphy and DeSantis both want to be Florida’s next U.S. Senator, but they’re not running against each other — at least not now.

DeSantis is one of five major candidates in a crowded Republican primary field that includes U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores; Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami; Bradenton homebuilder Carlos Beruff and Orlando defense contractor Todd Wilcox.

Murphy’s main opponent in the Democratic primary is U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando.