February 03, 2016

UPDATED Florida GOP accuses Democrats of pushing out would-be congressional candidate, who says party had nothing to do with it


The Republican Party of Florida accused national Democrats on Wednesday of trying to “manipulate” a Miami-based congressional district primary after a would-be Democratic contender announced he would run for the state Senate instead of Congress.

“The Democrat leadership in Washington has once again worked behind the scenes to manipulate the primary process in Florida’s 26th congressional district by pressuring Andrew Korge not to primary their chosen candidate Annette Taddeo,” the Florida GOP said in a statement.

Korge said nothing of the sort when he made his decision to run for state Senate public earlier Wednesday. He said he would have a bigger impact in Tallahassee than Washington.

“I love my Republican friends – they have a great sense of humor,” Korge said in response. “I appreciate that. Any time they’re making jokes instead of destroying our state, destroying our environment and destroying our schools, that’s better for all of us.”

Democratic Party leaders, including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, and Ben Ray Lujan, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, have fundraised for Taddeo and made sure to note that they would prefer to avoid a primary that could bruise their candidate and force her to spend money before against another Democrat instead of against the incumbent Republican, Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

That’s typical party business. But the GOP used Korge’s announcement Wednesday to note that the DCCC once got involved in a shady 2010 race in the same congressional district. The committee sent out mailers to boost a ringer tea-party candidate as a way to hurt the Republican in the race and boost the Democrat.

“Their continuous urge and attempt to decide the election behind closed doors before Floridians get a chance to vote is unacceptable and offensive to our democratic process,” GOP spokesman Wadi Gaitan said.

UPDATE: Here's what DCCC spokesman Jerome House had to say in response: "This sounds like the Congressman Curbelo Democratic Conspiracy Theory, 2.0. Republicans have lost all hope of winning this Democratic-leaning district, and are therefore obsessed with fabricating drama to distract from Carlos Curbelo's record that fails South Floridians."


January 28, 2016

Scott: Don't count Jeb out


Gov. Rick Scott hasn't written off one of his famous predecessor's chances of becoming president.

Scott, in Washington to deliver an address on reforming hospital pricing practices at the American Enterprise Institute, put on his politics hat after the talk.

Scott, governor since 2011, said it's too soon to give up on former Gov. Jeb Bush despite his failure to gain traction in polls.

 "I still think it's early," Scott told the Miami Herald. "I mean, we haven't even done the first primary yet."

Scott said that Bush "was a very successful governor" when he headed the state from 1999 to 2007, noting in particular his education reforms.

"We're at a 12-year high in our K-12 graduation rate," Scott said.

Adding that "Jeb is working hard," Scott said, "The person that works the hardest generally wins."

Despite praising Bush's record in Florida, Scott declined to endorse him. Neither is he endorsing -- yet -- fellow Floridian Marco Rubio, the first-term U.S. senator, nor any of the other Republican presidential hopefuls.

"Like a lot of voters in Florida, I'm watching the candidates," the governor said.

Four days before the Feb.1 Iowa caucuses, Bush tallied just 4 percent in a NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll of that state's Republican voters released Thursday. He was far behind businessman Donald Trump and U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio of Florida, while also trailing neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Bush is faring better in New Hampshire, which will hold its primary Feb. 9, according to a poll released Thursday by Suffolk University. Bush broke out of the single digits with 11 percent, putting him in a second-place tie with Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Rubio, with all four men well behind Trump's 27 percent standing.

In addition to Bush, Scott said he has personal relationships with Rubio, along with Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie through the Republican Governors Association.

Scott criticized the Republican National Committee for having scheduled just nine presidential debates this year.

"I wish the national party hadn't limited the number of debates and limited the locations," he said.

The RNC is weighing three additional possible Republican presidential debates.

The March 10 GOP debate will be at the University of Miami, nine days after Super Tuesday, when 14 states will hold Republican primaries or caucuses. Florida will hold its primary on March 15.

Scott declined to comment directly on Trump's decision to skip Thursday night's Fox News debate because of his ongoing feud with Megyn Kelly, one of its moderators.

"Every candidate's got to think about what's the best forum for them to get their message out, whether it's debates, whether it's town halls," Scott said.


January 22, 2016

What to watch in Tallahassee today

After a busy week in Tallahassee, the Florida Legislature has no meetings scheduled Friday as many Republican leaders will head to Orlando for the two-day annual meeting of the Republican Party of Florida. Here's what to watch on Friday:
* The Florida Department of Health sponsors the “Wear Your Walking or Running Shoes to Work Day," as it ends its Healthy Weight Week. The event is designed to encourage all state agencies and private-sector employers to urge employees to wear their sneakers and get active.  

* The Florida Commission on Ethics meets to take up a series of cases from North Miami, Pensacola, Palm Coast and Tallahassee. 
* The Republican Party of Florida hosts its 2016 annual meeting at the Rosen Centre in Orlando. Governor Rick Scott is not expected to attend. 

January 12, 2016

Florida reaction to Obama's final State of the Union


Here's what Florida politicians had to say about President Obama's final State of the Union address Tuesday:

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican running for president:

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican running for president:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat:

It’s frustrating when partisanship prevents the Congress from getting things done. And it’s pretty clear that Americans are fed up with our inability to enact common-sense reforms. While we were able to get a few things passed back in December, there’s still a lot that we need to accomplish. And I will continue to do everything that I can to try to bring people together in a bipartisan way to get things done.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami:

President Obama's final State of the Union Address will be remembered not for what he said, but for what he didn’t say.

The President has failed yet again to use this opportunity to lay out a comprehensive plan to Congress and the American people on how best to defeat ISIS, and instead has opted to try to lull us into a false sense of security that is belied by the facts on the ground here in the U.S. and across the globe.

It's much the same situation with Iran: the President touted his nuclear deal with Tehran, yet what the President didn't say is that, since the deal, we have seen an increasingly bellicose regime flouting the international community, daring us to take action against its illicit behavior and then threatening to walk away from the nuclear deal if we do respond.


Continue reading "Florida reaction to Obama's final State of the Union" »

January 11, 2016

Florida Republican Party post lowest fundraising total since 2003


The Republican Party of Florida posted its lowest fundraising year since 2003, new campaign finance reports released Monday show.

For the calendar year, the RPOF raised $11.6 million and spent $10.6 million. The amount raised is the lowest the party has raised in a year since 2003, when the party collected $8.6 million in donations, Florida Division of Elections records show.

The low fundraising totals were expected given the party’s tumultuous 2015. The year started with RPOF activist rejecting Gov. Rick Scott’s choice to lead the party. Typically, Republican governors in Florida have been given deference to choose who they want to lead the party. The day before the RPOF select state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia to lead the party, Scott pulled out $580,000 he raised for the party. The Florida Senate followed suit, pulling more than $700,000 it helped raise for the party.

Without the governor and state senators helping, the party has struggled to raise the kind of money that it typically raises. From 2011 through 2013, the party average raising $23 million a year. In 2014, when Scott was up for re-election and helping the party, the RPOF raised over $92 million.

Instead of raising money for the party, key political players are raising money in political action committees they run. Scott, for instance, raised about $4.5 million for the year in a political committee he runs called Let's Get to Work. Florida Agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam raised about $4 million for a fund he maintains called Florida Grown

While the Republican numbers were low for 2015, they are still way ahead of where the Florida Democratic Party is. State Democrats raised $6.5 million in 2015 and spent $4.5 million according to new campaign finance reports released Monday.

January 07, 2016

Miami-Dade GOP infighting results in vice-chairman's reprimand


The Miami-Dade Republican Party punished one of its officers Thursday for publicly backing Ted Cruz for president, but stopped short of booting him off the local executive board.

Vice-Chairman Manny Roman had been threatened with ouster after his Cruz endorsement sparked an ugly internal fight. Instead, the Republican Executive Committee censured Roman, reprimanding him with a 66-12 vote for what a majority of GOP members considered violating a loyalty oath that bars party officers from publicly supporting one Republican over another. Roman maintained he was singled out for bucking party loyalists who prefer local presidential candidates Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush.

“Today was a sad day for the Republican Party,” Roman said after the vote. “This was very well orchestrated by the political establishment in Miami.”

Chairman Nelson Diaz declined to comment, other than to say, “We are a united party.” An attempt by Roman supporters to censure Diaz quickly failed.

Diaz had initially sought Roman’s removal, but GOP rules require a more formal process to kick someone off the board, including advance notice via certified mail. Roman said he had advised the Republican Party of Florida he would file a formal grievance if he were kicked out. His backers characterized the censure as a way to “contain” further political fallout.

More here.

A note for insiders: The 66-12 vote margin means 85 percent of REC members agreed to censure Roman. That's enough for the two-thirds majority required to remove Roman, had the committee pursued that route.

Ted Cruz campaign asks Miami-Dade GOP not to punish supporter

FullSizeRender (15)@PatriciaMazzei

Ted Cruz's campaign has stepped in on behalf of the Miami-Dade County Republican Party vice-chairman who may get the boot for publicly endorsing the Texas senator for president.

Ahead of Thursday night's expected effort to oust Manny Roman from his local Republican Executive Committee position, Cruz political director Mark Campbell sent Miami-Dade GOP Chairman Nelson Diaz a letter asking him not to hold the vote.

"This motion is nothing more than a blatant political attack aimed at stifling the growing support for Ted Cruz in Florida," Campbell wrote. "This act flies in the face of the principles of the Republican Party."

The letter was first reported by the conservative blog The Shark Tank.

Campbell also takes a shot at Cruz rival Marco Rubio, suggesting Rubio would prefer to give "free speech rights" to immigrants in the country illegally than to Miami-Dade Republicans for Cruz. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects free speech before the government, but says nothing about political parties setting their own endorsement rules.

The more pertinent question is whether the Florida Republican Party of Florida rules do in fact ban Roman from taking a public position.

A vote on Roman's future is scheduled for Thursday evening's Miami-Dade GOP meeting, which will likely be held behind closed doors. Roman supporters plan to rally outside.

January 04, 2016

GOP faction defends Miami-Dade vice-chair who drew party ire for publicly endorsing Ted Cruz


The Miami-Dade County Republican Party official embroiled in an internecine feud over his endorsement of Ted Cruz for president is gearing up to fight his colleagues' push to oust him from his position.

Manny Roman, the party's vice-chairman, has drawn the support of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida, a libertarian-leaning group within the state party. Liberty Caucus Chairman Bob White said in a statement late Sunday that he wrote Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia urging him to put an end to a planned Miami-Dade vote Thursday to remove Roman from his post for publicly taking sides in the GOP presidential primary.

"The charge is that the vice chairman violated a rule that party leaders must remain neutral in primaries," White wrote. "We both know there is no such rule; certainly not an RPOF rule and I understand there is no Dade county rule either."

RPOF spokesman Wadi Gaitan did not comment.

Roman wrote in a letter to the Miami Herald editor last month that he would back Cruz, the Texas senator, over local favorites Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. Angry local Republicans swiftly moved to schedule a vote against Roman, citing a loyalty oath required from party members that prohibits officers from endorsing one Republican over another.

That hasn't stopped party executive committee members across the state from getting involved in GOP presidential campaigns. White noted Donald Trump's Florida campaign chairman Joe Grueters also heads the Sarasota County GOP. Roman pointed out that Miami-Dade GOP recording secretary Corey Breier is one of Rubio's Miami-Dade campaign chairmen.

Continue reading "GOP faction defends Miami-Dade vice-chair who drew party ire for publicly endorsing Ted Cruz" »

Florida GOP plagued by money woes

via @adamsmithtimes

It's a constant source of tension in political parties: grassroots foot soldiers hostile to anything that smacks of top-down decision-making versus the elected officials/consultants/and party establishment.

A year ago, the Republican Party of Florida's grassroots members in a rare rebuff of the normally dominant GOP establishment, snubbed Gov. Rick Scott by electing as state party chairman Blaise Ingoglia, a Republican state representative from Hernando County, rather than Scott's candidate, Leslie Dougher of northeast Florida. The state party's rank and file showed who is boss of the Florida GOP.

And now they're starting to see the consequences.

Strapped for cash since Gov. Scott stopped raising any money for the party, it has laid off its well-regarded Chief Financial Officer, Richard Swarttz, after 12 years. The party simply can no longer afford a six-figure CFO position.

Swarttz's departure comes just as the party's executive director, Brad Herold, announced he's jumping ship to lead the Ron DeSantis U.S. Senate campaign. He is to be replaced by the well-liked director of party development, George Riley, who won't see a salary increase despite a big increase in responsibilities.

Continue reading "Florida GOP plagued by money woes" »

December 10, 2015

Florida GOP mum on Donald Trump's Muslim plan

via @adamsmithtimes

Gov. Rick Scott has declined take a position, pro or con, on Donald Trump's controversial proposal to halt temporarily Muslims coming to America. Here's the statement we received from his spokeswoman, Jackie Schutz:

“Governor Scott continues his focus on getting more information from President Obama about the Syrian refugees being placed in Florida by the federal government to ensure the safety of all those in our state.  He has not made an endorsement in the Presidential race and is focused on the security of Floridians from those who may wish us harm."

Florida GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia this week also has declined multiple requests for comment on the proposal, although state GOP Chairs in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Ohio have criticized it.

Several recent polls have found that Republicans are either evenly divided on the proposal or mostly in favor of it.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times