September 20, 2016

Rubio to join Pence at GOP dinner in Tampa


The Republican Party of Florida announced Tuesday that Marco Rubio will speak at a dinner next month in Tampa. Rubio is the second big name on the program, after vice presidential nominee Mike Pence.

RPOF's "victory dinner" will take place Oct. 15.

Rubio, who is running for reelection to the U.S. Senate, has not campaigned with Pence or Donald Trump.

September 12, 2016

Republicans launch mail campaign against Patrick Murphy


The Republican Party of Florida and Americans for Prosperity -- a conservative political group funded by the Koch brothers -- have both sent out mailers in recent days urging Florida voters to oppose Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy in the November election.

In its mail piece, RPOF highlights the abortion positions for both Murphy and Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio. The mailer accuses Murphy of having an "extreme" record, while Rubio is "on the right side of life."

Rpof mailer 1    Rpof mailer 2

Party spokeswoman Yohana de la Torre wouldn't comment on the cost and distribution of the party's mailer.

Murphy spokeswoman Galia Slayen defended Murphy's position on abortion in a written statement, noting that "Marco Rubio opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and even if a mother has contracted the Zika virus."

"Patrick knows that this decision should always be between a woman, her family, her faith, and her doctor and it is Marco Rubio's extreme position that hurts Florida families," Slayen said.

Meanwhile, the AFP mailer alleges that Murphy supports an energy agenda that "threatens to make life more expensive" for Florida families.

"Patrick Murphy is more concerned with standing behind President (Barack) Obama’s job-killing, rate-hiking energy mandates than acknowledging the tough realities Florida families are facing every day trying to make ends meet," AFP's Florida director Chris Hudson said in a statement. "Murphy's ‘pay-more’ energy agenda could cost Florida thousands of energy jobs and force hardworking families to pay another $500 per year on their utilities." 

Afp mailer 2    Afp mailer 1

In response to AFP's mailer, Slayen criticized Rubio's stance on climate change.

"Marco Rubio has been too busy doing the bidding of the Koch brothers to care," Slayen said in a statement. "Of course, the Kochs and special interests are spending big to prop up their favorite senator, who is committed to their dirty energy agenda. Unlike Patrick, who will always fight to protect our environment, Marco Rubio won’t even acknowledge that the threat of climate change exists."

The mailer is part of a nationally coordinated effort by AFP -- which is funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch -- to attack Murphy's campaign, as well as Democratic candidates in other competitive U.S. Senate races.

Disclosure reports to the Federal Election Commission show AFP spent $121,500 on this anti-Murphy mailer. AFP also reported $113,000 in additional expenses so far in September against Murphy's campaign to pay for other mailers, phone banks, canvassing and staff salaries.

Both the AFP and RPOF mailers were sent to homes of Tallahassee voters who are registered as "no-party affiliation." The AFP's mailer was also received by a voter in Miami-Dade County.

Herald political writer Patricia Mazzei contributed to this story.

August 26, 2016

Trump campaign chief was once registered to vote in Miami — but never did

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The national media descended Friday upon an abandoned, trash-filled home in Coconut Grove.

The reporters weren’t there because the house on the peacock-lined street was the scene of a notorious crime. Or because there was an inkling that LeBron James had returned to the neighborhood he once called home.

The house was the address where Donald Trump’s new campaign chief, Stephen Bannon, was registered to vote from 2014 until this week.

He doesn’t live there, at least not now. The discovery of his voter registration, made Friday by the Guardian US news website, prompted a frenzy of questions about whether Bannon had run afoul of voter rules.

But county elections records show Bannon never voted in Miami. And he switched his voter registration Thursday to a Sarasota County property owned by a writer of Breitbart News, the conservative network Bannon ran until last week.

“He registered yesterday, and today we sent him a voter registration card,” Sarasota County elections supervisor Kathy Dent said Friday.

Sarasota records show Bannon sent his registration change by mail on Aug. 19, and the paperwork was formally processed on Thursday.

It is unclear whether Bannon ever lived in the rental Miami home, where a white curtain flapped in the breeze in the place of a large window Friday morning. The front of the house was littered with trash. A small mural in front read, “I trust in Jesus Christ.” A call to the landlord for comment was not returned.

August 19, 2016

Florida GOP forms 'Leadership Victory Committee' ahead of November election

via @learyreports

Allies of Marco Rubio will head up a Florida Leadership Victory Committee designed to get out the vote in November.

The state GOP announced the committee today, saying it will be co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, CFO Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Rubio is not mentioned in a release but he will raise money for the committee, which will in turn help his campaign and other down-ballot Republicans. The committee comes as Donald Trump is still organizing a ground game in Florida, creating some worry.

“It has always been our objective that Republicans up and down the ballot have success come November," RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said. "As a battleground state, the Republican Party of Florida is spending its time and resources supporting candidates that stand for conservative principles that will reverse the course of President Obama’s failed agenda.  For the Sunshine State, this election is about keeping Hillary Clinton out of the oval office by delivering Florida's 29 electoral votes to the Republican nominee and restoring prosperity to our country."

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August 08, 2016

Hispanic spokesman leaves Florida GOP because of Trump

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Donald Trump has claimed a casualty at the Republican Party of Florida: its communications chief, who is Hispanic.

Wadi Gaitan, whose parents are Honduran, is said to have had too many differences with his political party's presidential nominee to continue defending him to the press.

Gaitan himself wouldn't publicly blame Trump for his departure, though other Hispanic Republicans -- some of them who have or still work in Florida -- did so privately.

"I'm thankful for my almost two years with the Florida GOP, however, moving on gives me a great, new opportunity to continue promoting free market solutions while avoiding efforts that support Donald Trump," Gaitan said in a statement.

His resignation was first reported by BuzzFeed.

Gaitan is headed back to Washington D.C. to work for the LIBRE Initiative, a conservative Hispanic group backed by the industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch. Neither LIBRE nor the Kochs have backed Trump.

More here.

Photo credit: Evan Vucci, Associated Press

August 04, 2016

Florida GOP to open Miami field office Saturday, with Rubio in tow


The Republican Party of Florida will open a Miami campaign office Saturday, featuring an appearance by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

The field office, at 7032 Coral Way, is one of several the party plans to inaugurate in coming days, starting with an event Friday in Panama City -- also with Rubio, who is running for re-election.

Privately, some Republicans have grumbled that a rift between the Florida GOP and Gov. Rick Scott -- who's got his own, separate political apparatus -- might hurt get-out-the-vote efforts, particularly without a robust Donald Trump presidential campaign in place.

"I'm very excited for an RPOF Victory Office right in my backyard," Rubio said in a statement. "Miami volunteers will have a central location to work hard for candidates up and down the ballot here in Florida as we all work to ensure conservative wins across the state in 2016."

"Our new Victory Office in Miami will empower our volunteers and grassroots leaders with a location to continue registering voters, training new volunteers, and spreading our message of greater economic opportunity for all Floridians," RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in the statement. "Together, we will ensure Republicans are successful in November."

July 19, 2016

Florida GOP adds breakfast headliners, including Rick Scott


CLEVELAND -- The Florida delegation will start the last day of the Republican National Convention with a high-powered breakfast.

Newly announced speakers are former House Speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, Gov. Rick Scott, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and former Amb. John Bolton

The downside? The breakfast has now been moved up to 7:15 a.m. -- an early hour for delegates (and reporters) who will inevitably be bleary-eyed from the night before.

Wednesday's speakers are political commentator Dick Morris and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, still a beloved figure among many Florida Republican politicians.

Scott is expected to address the full convention Wednesday night.

July 05, 2016

Florida Republicans hammer Hillary Clinton over emails


FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday called Hillary Clinton "extremely careless" in her use of private email while Secretary of State, but recommended no charges against her. That prompted backlash from Florida Republicans. Comey, it's worth mentioning, is a Republican.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio:

The FBI concluded what many Americans have known for quite some time, which is that Hillary Clinton’s conduct as Secretary of State and her mishandling of classified information was disgraceful and unbecoming of someone who aspires to the presidency. There is simply no excuse for Hillary Clinton's decision to set up a home-cooked email system which left sensitive and classified national security information vulnerable to theft and exploitation by America’s enemies. Her actions were grossly negligent, damaged national security and put lives at risk.

Hillary Clinton's actions have sent the worst message to the millions of hard-working federal employees who hold security clearances and are expected to go to great lengths to secure sensitive government information and abide by the rules. They don't take their oaths lightly, and we shouldn't expect any less of their leaders.

Hillary Clinton’s reckless and thoughtless mishandling of classified information is not the end of the story however. It’s only a matter of time before the next shoe drops and the nexus of corruption and controversy that has surrounded Hillary Clinton throughout her time in public office produces yet another scandal for the American people to endure. Given the consequential and challenging times in which we live, America simply cannot afford any more Clinton drama.

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June 14, 2016

Republicans troll Miami-Dade legislative candidate for not living in district


A Democratic newcomer who's challenging an incumbent Republican lawmaker in Hialeah is under attack for not currently living in the district that she's seeking to represent.

In a 30-second online ad, the Republican Party of Florida says "Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich doesn't live in Hialeah, but she thinks she can represent Hialeah."

The ad capitalizes on comments Gonzalez Petkovich made to Politico Florida last month, when the website reported that she and her husband, Alex, live in an area of Doral that's just outside House District 103 -- where she's challenging state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah.

But Gonzalez Petkovich, an attorney with her own Coral Gables-based law firm, said Tuesday it's "laughable" for Republicans to paint her as someone unfamiliar with the district since she was born and raised there.

District 103 includes Miramar, Hialeah, Hialeah Gardens, Medley and part of Doral.

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May 27, 2016

In this age of political disruption, is the party as we know it over?

Political parties KRT Tim GoheenThis summer may be remembered not only for a blue moon and the welcome end to a bitter presidential primary, it may also mark the time America’s century-old political parties went on life support.

At the top of the ticket, both the Florida Democratic Party and the Republican Party of Florida have anointed presidential frontrunners who are seen by most voters more negatively than positively. Corporate donors, the bread and butter of the party diet, are circumventing the parties in large numbers by contributing directly to candidates’ committees.


In Florida, the often-reliable bellwether for the nation, party membership is steadily eroding as the majority of new voters don’t register with any party and fewer new voters are registering than have in previous presidential years.

Then there are the casualties.

Florida Congresswomen Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the head of the Democratic National Committee, has beentargeted for defeat from within by Bernie Sanders, the 74-year-old Vermont senator who is the overwhelming favorite of the youth vote. Jeb Bush, Florida GOP’s favorite son, is so disgusted by Donald Trump and his message he has announced he won’t vote for his party’s nominee. And GOP candidates in Hispanic-rich South Florida are keeping their distance from the frontrunner.

With a battleground this bloodied, can political parties be saved?

It’s an uncomfortable question that could have serious implications for future statewide candidates like Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Congresswoman Gwen Graham. Each hopes to run for governor in 2018 relying on a durable, traditional, governing coalition.

But 2016 laid waste to durable traditions as Florida and the nation showed that its allegiance to political parties was over.

“I think we’ve got 20 more years of disruption ahead of us,” predicts Steve Schale, the Democratic consultant to who steered Obama’s victory in Florida in 2008. “You’ve got a generation of people who are growing up in a time when traditional organizations are not vital to the world. We have to figure out what do we look like in the next 20 years, and do we even exist?” 

The numbers tell just part of the story. Of the 2.1 million new registered voters in Florida since 2012, 28 percent have registered Republican, 31 percent Democrat and 42 percent registered anything else, according to data analyzed by Associated Industries of Florida.

David Johnson, former executive director of the Republican Party who worked on Bush’s Right to Rise political committee this election cycle, is among those who say his party has reached an existential crisis.

“The Republican Party is torn apart,” he said, and how it handles Trump’s divisive campaign will be the crucial test. “There is no question in my mind there is a path toward a viable third or fourth party in the future.” More here

Illustration: Tim Goheen, KRT