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October 04, 2015

Miami congressman agrees to pay another fine over misreported campaign contributions


U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo will pay a second fine to the Federal Election Commission, this time over $52,875 in campaign contributions he failed to properly report last year.

The Miami Republican settled with the FEC and agreed to pay $1,050. He reached a similar agreement earlier this year, with a fine of $3,200, for omitting $26,700 in contributions.

Both problems stemmed from data corrupted in a software switch, Curbelo's campaign has maintained since October 2014. The staff has agreed to implement stricter financial controls since then.

"We are confident that our software provider has resolved all of the issues with the reporting program, and we've taken all the steps necessary to prevent this from happening again in the future," Nicole Rapanos, his 2014 campaign manager, said in a statement to the Miami Herald.

The issue over Curbelo's omitted and mislabeled contributions erupted in the home stretch of the tense campaign he waged against then-incumbent Rep. Joe Garcia.

Columba Bush pens Miami Herald op-ed on domestic violence

Presidential candidate Jeb Bush's wife, Columba Bush, writing in the Miami Herald's opinion pages:

The 2014 Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Uniform Crime Report reflects a 10.2 percent increase in domestic violence homicides, which represents a stunning 20.9 percent of all homicides in our state. During the 2014/2015 fiscal year, Florida’s 42 certified domestic violence centers provided 546,658 nights of emergency shelter to 15,397 survivors and their children, many who fled a violent home with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

For the past 15 years, I have worked side by side with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) to raise awareness about the impact of domestic violence on our state, our communities and our families. During this time, I learned that our certified domestic violence centers are the heart and soul of prevention and intervention.

My work in Florida has taught me that the strength of one shelter is a direct result of the unity of all shelters working toward the common goal of ending domestic violence.

During the past several months, I have traveled the country touring domestic violence shelters in both large and small states.

More here.

October 02, 2015

Some Florida GOPers regret winner-take-all primary

via @learyreports @adamsmithtimes

It was supposed to assert Florida’s dominance in picking the Republican presidential nominee, but a move to push back the primary and award all delegates to the winner has rankled party activists who say it has made candidates wary of the state and could disenfranchise voters.

“It was a mistake. It’s almost taken Florida out of play,” said Randy Osborne, chairman of the Marion County Republican Executive Committee, who has been trading messages with other local leaders.

Campaigns are reluctant to talk about their plans but some are clearly questioning if it’s worth engaging in a big, expensive state with two favorite-son candidates, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

Osborne, a supporter of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, said Republicans in his area are “all kind of like 'Wow, how come candidates aren’t spending money here? Where’s the signs, the bumper stickers?’ And that’s not just Cruz.”

Criticism is apparent across Florida even as the state GOP chairman relented on a hardball gambit to force candidates to show up for a summit in November or be excluded from the March 15 primary ballot — itself a sign of the reluctance from candidates.

It’s entirely possible Bush and Rubio will be locked in a Florida battle royale that would cost tens of millions of dollars, so rival campaigns are looking at Florida with some caution, if relief.

“No one is saying it’s the winner-take-all but they sure are finding a lot of excuses not to come,” said Mike Lyster, Republican chairman in Collier County, adding that grassroots activists are itching to help out their chosen candidates.

More here.

Jeb Bush's latest inartful phrase: 'Stuff happens'

via @learyreports

Jeb Bush is under siege for saying “stuff happens” in the aftermath of Thursday's mass shooting in Oregon.

Democrats pounced. But others said the comment — which spread across Twitter and made its way to a news conference with President Obama — was ripped out of context.

A review of the video (transcript below) shows that Bush was not directly asked about the tragedy.

Still, it adds to a growing list of comments Bush has had to clean up, fanning critics on the left and right.

When reporters asked Bush after he shot back, "I said what I said." He went on: "A child drowns in a pool and the impulse is to pass a law that puts fencing around a pool. ... The cumulative effect of this is that in some cases, you don’t solve the problem by passing the law and you’re imposing on large numbers of people burdens that make it harder for our economy to grow, make it harder to protect liberty."


Here's what Bush had to say on Twitter afterward:

And here's the full transcript of the exchange:

Continue reading "Jeb Bush's latest inartful phrase: 'Stuff happens'" »

More than 500 Miami-Dade teachers apply for controversial bonus


It has been called kooky, unfair and absurd -- but that didn’t stop more than 500 Miami-Dade County teachers from applying for Florida’s Best and Brightest, a controversial new bonus.

Florida Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, managed to slip $44 million into the state’s latest budget to give teachers a raise of up to $10,000. Here’s the controversial part: the money is tied to teachers’ own SAT and ACT scores -- college entrance exams they may have taken decades ago.

The test-makers themselves said they haven’t studied whether the scores correlate with teaching quality.

In July, ACT senior vice president for research Wayne Camara told the Miami Herald: "Certainly we're concerned when parties signal that they want to use ACT scores for reasons that we consider not appropriate."

Fresen did not immediately return a phone call and text message for comment. 


Thursday was the deadline for teachers to submit their scores to school districts. According to a district spokesman, 561 teachers applied for the bonus in Miami-Dade.

Teachers complained about a lack of information to apply for the program and difficulty tracking down old scores -- which could take weeks to receive. Others simply don’t have scores because they went to community or foreign colleges that didn’t require them.

Noreen Morelli is an art teacher at Miami Shores Elementary with 30 years experience and is a National Board Certified teacher -- a certification that has been linked to better teaching but which the state doesn’t provide bonuses for anymore.

“They can’t spit out a couple of bucks for that, but they’re going to make up some nonsense,” she asked. “It’s the stupidest I ever heard in my life.”

Morelli said she didn’t apply for the Best and Brightest, calling it a "slap in the face" for teachers. 

“I graduated high school in 1968. Where in the world am I going to be getting this SAT information? It’s ridiculous,” she said.  

School districts now have to process the applications for the bonuses, and teachers should see their pay boost in April paychecks.

How much money each teacher gets will depend on how many qualify. Fresen has previously said the state estimates 4,400 would meet the criteria and apply. Teachers have to had scored in the 80th percentile on the SAT or ACT and also receive top evaluation ratings. New teachers without evaluations only needed to submit test scores.

This article includes comments from the Public Insight Network, an online community of people who have agreed to share their opinions with the Miami Herald and WLRN. Become a source at

In any other election, Ted Cruz might have played big in South Florida

GOP 2016 Georgia Cruz


Ted Cruz could have been a Miami cubanito.

His father, Rafael Bienvenido Cruz, desperate to flee Cuba after his youthful guerrilla activities landed him in jail, applied to the University of Texas, Louisiana State University — and the University of Miami. He chose Texas only because it was the first school to respond.

“If the University of Miami had let him in, I might be a Floridian right now,” Ted Cruz told the Miami Herald in an interview.

In any other presidential election, one without a pair of hometown contenders, Miami Republicans might have embraced Cruz as their own. Not his ideology, perhaps — the Texas senator is too hard-core even for some devoted conservatives — but his life story, certainly.

His grandfather toiled in a sugarcane plantation. His father survived jail only to find the rebel he had fought for — Fidel Castro — turned out to be a communist. Cruz clerked for the late U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist and helped plot a legal strategy for George W. Bush to win the White House during the infamous Florida recount.

Yet the first Cuban American to ever run for president is at best an afterthought in South Florida in a GOP race dominated locally by Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.

That doesn’t mean Cruz has been a stranger.

More here.

Photo credit: David Goldman, Associated Press

Talk of tinkering with local election calendar has cities abuzz

State Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Fort Myers, chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, is working on legislation for next session that could dramatically change the timetable for city elections in Florida.

The Florida League of Cities has raised a number of concerns about the idea, including making ballots even longer and lowering voter turnouts in city elections, which are already anemically low in many places.

Florida's 410 cities, towns and villages operate on many different schedules. Some elections are in the spring, others are in the fall, and mayors and commissioners serve terms of two, three or four years.

Caldwell's proposal, still in draft form, would shift all municipal elections to November in odd-numbered years, which means all commissioners and mayors would have to serve two- or four-year terms. Fort Lauderdale has three-year terms for its city officials and others do, too.

The proposal also calls for moving local referendum elections to November of any year for bond issues, libraries, annexations and the like. A memo by David Cruz, assistant general counsel for the League of Cities, said that would cause problems for cities because their fiscal year begins Oct. 1, forcing cities to guess a year in advance whether voters will pass a referendum -- "a practical improbability," Cruz said.

Cruz also said that if Caldwell's proposal were to become law, cities would have to hold more elections to ask voters to amend city charters to conform to the new election timetable.

Joe Martinez might run for Miami-Dade mayor, and his wife for county commission


The Martinez household may have two candidates for county office next year: Joe Martinez for mayor and his wife, Ana, for the commission seat he once held and which is currently occupied by Juan C. Zapata.

Joe Martinez, the former chairman of the commission who lost his bid for county mayor in 2012, discussed both potential races in an interview with Naked Politics. Ana Martinez, a Republican who works in the insurance industry, did not respond to a request for an interview. 

"You could have a husband and a wife on the ballot, or you could have neither of us," said Joe Martinez, a Republican.  

If she runs, Ana Martinez would seek to represent District 11, which her husband represented until his failed 2012 challenge of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. Zapata won an election to fill Martinez's open seat in 2012.

Zapata recently faced a dust-up over his use of $30,000 in county funds to pay tuition at Harvard for a master's program. Zapata returned the money after a Univision inquiry about it. 

Zapata also was not available for an interview. Of the seven commissioners up for reelection in 2016, Zapata is the only who still hasn't filed to run. In the wake of the tuition controversy, Zapata said he planned to seek another four-year term. 

As a commissioner, Zapata has pushed for economic development in his western district, which includes West Kendall. He has led a campaign to rebrand the area the "West End." The former state lawmaker also has been a leading Gimenez administration critic.

Joe Martinez said his wife "is interested" in running for Zapata's seat. "If she wants to run," he said, "I would obviously support her."

Continue reading "Joe Martinez might run for Miami-Dade mayor, and his wife for county commission " »

Florida Sen. Joe Negron's fundraising surges as he eyes presidency


You’ll have to forgive state Sen. Joe Negron if he’s feeling like a million bucks these days. That just happens to be how much money the Republican from Stuart has raised since May in his quest to lock up the race to be Senate President in 2017.

When official campaign finance reports are posted next week, Negron’s political action committee will report having raised over $500,000 in just September. In fact, in just three days earlier this week, Negron’s Treasure Coast Alliance pulled in $301,000 from various businesses and interest groups to complete his fundraising surge. Since May 1, he has raised $1.2 million.

“I am fortunate to have an extraordinary team,” Negron said about supporters in the Senate who are supporting his campaign to be the Senate president. “There is a lot of momentum.”

In August, Negron declared he had enough votes to secure the presidency and current Senate President Andy Gardiner has called a caucus vote for Dec. 2 to designate his successor. However, State Sen. Jack Latvala, the Clearwater Republican who is challenging him for the powerful position, has refused to concede and is raising money aggressively in his own political action committee called Florida Leadership Committee. Not to be outdone, Latvala has raised over $300,000 just in September and has pulled in more than $830,000 since May 1.

The money is critical for the two camps because money raised in the political action committees can be used to spread their influence, and more specifically help elect Republicans who will vote to make them Senate president. 

House Speaker Crisafulli to raise money for Adkins' superintendent bid


Add this to the list of fundraisers that Florida lawmakers will be hosting and attending when they return to Tallahassee for committee work next week:

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, is helping State Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, raise money for the next job she hopes to have: Schools superintendent in Nassau County.

The event is being held at the Governor's Club on Tuesday evening, and Crisafulli is listed as the host on the invitation.  Download TallyInviteOct6

Also planned to have campaign fundraisers in their honor this week are Republican Reps. Greg Steube of Sarasota, Heather Fitzenhagen of Fort Myers, Holly Raschein of Key Largo and Brad Drake of Eucheeanna.

Photo credit: