October 21, 2016

Rivera plays the Rubio card

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Trying to capitalize on his most famous political friend, David Rivera sent Miami voters a new flier this week prominently featuring an old photograph with none other than Marco Rubio.

"Marco Rubio and David Rivera fighting together for a better future for our families," it reads, in Spanish. "Always by your side."

Rivera doesn't tout an explicit Rubio endorsement. But it certainly implies one.

Rubio, who is busy with his own reelection campaign to the U.S. Senate, hasn't endorsed anyone in Rivera's race. Rivera is vying to return to the state House, four years after losing his seat in Congress under a cloud of political scandal.

Ever since, Rubio has maintained a public distance from Rivera. They sold the house they jointly owned in Tallahassee last year, as Rubio embarked on his presidential candidacy. Earlier this year, Rivera quietly campaigned for Rubio in Iowa ahead of the first-in-the-nation caucuses. Rivera announced his candidacy the day after Rubio lost the Florida primary and dropped out of the race.

Rivera served as Rubio's rules chief when Rubio was Florida House speaker, and their friendship dates to long before then. The photo used in the flier shows both men when they were much younger, smiling and shaking hands in what appears to be the House floor.

This year, Rivera is embroiled in an ugly contest in House District 118 against Democrat Robert Asencio.

During the primary, Rubio's former rival, Jeb Bush, endorsed a Rivera opponent, Lynda Bell.

An earlier version of this post misstated the number of the district Rivera is seeking.

Obama endorses 13 Florida legislative candidates, including several in Miami-Dade races


President Barack Obama is supporting 13 Florida Democrats running for the state Legislature, the Florida Democratic Party announced this morning.

The list includes several high-profile candidates in highly competitive races -- many in Miami-Dade county.

Those include District 37 Senate candidate and current Miami state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez and District 39 candidate and political newcomer Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, of Pinecrest.

Both Rodriguez and Mucarsel-Powell are trying to unseat powerful Miami Republicans -- Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Anitere Flores, respectively -- and help Democrats narrow the Republicans' hold on the chamber majority.

On the House side, Obama also backed Miami-Dade legislative contenders Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich (challenging Hialeah Republican Manny Diaz Jr. in District 103); Nick Duran (running for Rodriguez's open seat in District 112 against Rosa Maria Palomino); Daisy Baez (running for the open District 114 seat against John Couriel); and Robert Asencio (who's in a bitter battle against former state Rep. David Rivera in District 118).

Many other Democrats also running against Republicans in Florida legislative districts weren't included in Obama's endorsement list, which is solely non-incumbents.

But noticeably absent from the list were state Sen. Dwight Bullard (who's running for re-election in District 40 in a heated race against state Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami) and District 38 Senate candidate and current state Rep. Daphne Campbell (who's running against former state Rep. Phillip Brutus).

Here is the full list of Florida legislative candidates Obama endorsed:


Continue reading "Obama endorses 13 Florida legislative candidates, including several in Miami-Dade races" »

October 12, 2016

Daphne Campbell sends, retracts fundraising email on official House account



Prematurely describing herself as "New Senator Elect Daphne Campbell," the Miami Democratic state representative now seeking a state Senate seat accidentally sent out a fundraising invitation Wednesday afternoon on her official Florida House email account.

Campbell sent a follow-up email two hours later -- from a campaign email -- saying: "Please Ignore previous Email/Flyer which was sent by error from the State email by a Staff. See the corrected email ... Sorry for the error."

Both of Campbell's emails invited the recipient to join "the only Democratic nominee" for Senate District 38 for a fundraiser Wednesday night in Tallahassee. The event for Campbell was to be hosted by Oscar Braynon -- a Miami Gardens senator who will be the Senate Democrats' next leader.

At this point in the election cycle, all races have only one candidate from any political party. Florida's Aug. 30 primary determined party contenders for the general election.

With 31 percent of the vote, Campbell won a six-way primary to become the Democratic nominee in the District 38 race. But she's not guaranteed to be the "New Senator Elect" yet, as she called herself in the "From" line at the top of both emails.

Campbell faces former Democratic state Rep. Phillip Brutus on the Nov. 8 ballot. Brutus, of North Miami, is running as a no-party affiliated candidate in this election.

Neither candidate has raised much money this cycle, compared to other Miami-Dade state Senate races, which have attracted hundreds of thousands of dollars. As of Sept. 30 -- the most recent reporting date -- Campbell had raised about $100,000 so far this cycle and had about $4,400 in the bank. Meanwhile, Brutus had raised $12,300 -- in addition to $12,500 he's loaned his campaign -- and he'd spent about $11,400.

The winner will replace longtime state Sen. Gwen Margolis, who is retiring. The newly redrawn coastal District 38 roughly stretches from the MacArthur Causeway to the Broward County line and from the ocean to I-95.

Photo credit: State Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami, in 2015. myfloridahouse.gov

*This post has been updated to correct Brutus' fundraising figures.

October 01, 2016

Ties to 'hemp honey dust,' cannabis lubricants have Miami-Dade Democrat under fire

Gonzalez petkovich


A Democratic legislative candidate in Miami-Dade County was previously a legal adviser to a company called Canna Teaze that marketed cannabis-infused sexual wellness products — like “hemp honey dust” and lubricants — but Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich says it’s a “dirty mischaracterization” for her Republican critics to use that job experience as a way to question her values.

Gonzalez Petkovich, an attorney from Doral who’s running for Florida House District 103, told the Miami Herald’s editorial board that she’s “very proud of the work and the help that I offered” to Canna Teaze but said she no longer represents the company because its founder, Misty Lee, moved out of state.

Gonzalez Petkovich said she met Lee two years ago when Gonzalez Petkovich was advocating for a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. Gonzalez Petkovich — who is the registered agent and a board member of the Florida-based awareness group, CannaMoms — said she passionately supports the use of medical marijuana because “I really and truly believe that this is medicine.”

Her involvement in Canna Teaze “was just in my capacity as an attorney helping [Lee] seek investment for this particular project that she wanted to pursue,” Gonzalez Petkovich told the editorial board Thursday.

More here.

Photo credit: Gonzalez Petkovich campaign

September 30, 2016

Corcoran plans to re-structure Florida House committees



Incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, on Friday announced his plans to shake-up the chamber's committees once he assumes the top leadership role in November.

Corcoran also said he'll announce his leadership team -- including speaker pro-tempore, majority leader and the chairpersons of main committees -- by Nov. 9, the day after the fall election.

The new committee structure calls for, overall, a couple fewer committees than the 2015-16 sessions, with a bit more emphasis on education and many changes to committee names and which subcommittee reports to which full committee.

For instance, Corcoran is splitting the education budget subcommittee into two: One focused on higher education and the other focused on pre-K-12. And he's re-working the K-12 subcommittees from "Choice & Innovation" and "K-12" into the Pre-K-12 "Innovation" and "Quality" committees.

Other changes: The "Finance & Tax Committee" will become the "Ways & Means Committee," and several committees and subcommittees will be lumped into two main policy areas, the newly named Commerce and Government Accountability committees.

Also, instead of having a Rules, Calendar & Ethics Committee with its own subcommittee, Corcoran is splitting them into two main committees: Public Integrity & Ethics and Rules & Policy.

The structure for the Judiciary and Health & Human Services committees and subcommittees will remain the same.

The organizational session for the 2017 Legislature will convene on Nov. 22.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

September 29, 2016

Gonzalez Petkovich challenges Diaz to debate in Miami-Dade House race


Democrat Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich says Republican incumbent state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. should debate her before voters start casting ballots in their District 103 House race.

Gonzalez Petkovich sent a letter to Diaz this week, challenging him to a "series of open debates to ensure that the people of District 103 have a full opportunity to hear our viewpoints and understand the real differences in our visions for the future of this state." Read the letter here.

Gonzalez Petkovich's campaign said the only scheduled debate is supposed to be Friday night but Diaz declined the invitation.

"His actions subvert the intent of having an informed electorate and hurts his constituents’ abilities to know where he stands on the issues when voters go the polls on Election Day," her campaign said Thursday evening, when announcing Gonzalez Petkovich's challenge to Diaz.

Diaz's campaign declined to comment.

Gonzalez Petkovich -- an attorney who lives in a part of Doral that lies just outside District 103 -- is making her first bid for public office. Diaz, of Hialeah, is seeking re-election to a third term in the Florida House and could be among House leadership, if he's re-elected.

District 103 is heavily Hispanic with a moderate voting bloc. The district includes parts of Hialeah, Miramar, Doral, Miami Lakes, Medley and Hialeah Gardens.

Vote-by-mail ballots go out Oct. 4.

Hialeah Republican: Who I support for president is not important to Florida House race

Manny diaz 2016 flhouse


Add Manny Diaz Jr. to the list of Miami-Dade Republicans who are reluctant or noncommittal about supporting Donald Trump when they have their own political campaigns to win this fall.

During an interview with the Miami Herald's editorial board this morning, Diaz -- an influential state representative from Hialeah -- wouldn't say whether he's voting for Trump in November.

Like some other area Republicans have, Diaz pivoted on the topic by saying he's "not involved in the presidential campaign" and is, instead, focused on his own bid for re-election.

"Either way, I just think we make the mistake too many times of turning these races into a proxy war and it's not," said Diaz, who's in line to be among House leadership next session if he wins his competitive re-election fight against Democratic newcomer Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich.

"I represent the people of District 103 at the state level with state issues," Diaz said. "And it doesn't matter if either one of these people wins the presidency, I'm going to have to do the same job and it's not going to make my job any easier or harder when it comes to representing my community."

The District 103 seat is heavily Hispanic with a moderate voting bloc. The district includes parts of Hialeah, Miramar, Doral, Miami Lakes, Medley and Hialeah Gardens.

"I don't think my vote -- whether I'm voting for Trump or not -- is important in this race," Diaz told the editorial board. "I just think it's important that my constituents know what I'm going to do, where I stand for them and not where I stand on the presidential race. I think it's up to them to make up their mind, clearly, on who they think their best choice for president is -- but my race is different and it has different issues that we need to deal with."

Diaz is one of the House Democrats' prime targets this fall, because if re-elected, he could wield significant power over either education policy or education spending in the 2017 session. An administrator at Doral College, Diaz is a staunch supporter of charter schools and other school-choice policies, which many Democrats argue take resources away from traditional public schools.

Photo credit: myfloridahouse.gov

September 20, 2016

Manny Diaz Jr. running TV ads for re-election to Florida House



School-choice proponent and influential incumbent Hialeah state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. is running English- and Spanish-language ads on Miami-area TV to promote his re-election bid for state House District 103.

Highlighting his work on education policy, the Republican spent more than $87,000 on TV ad buys in late August and early September, according to his most recent campaign finance disclosure to the state.

"Improving our education system and creating new jobs are my priorities. I'm working to make Florida better for my family and yours," Diaz said in a statement.

Diaz, who's seeking a third and final term in the Florida House, is a prime target for Democrats this fall. Democrat Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich is challenging him in November.

Democrats want to unseat Diaz because doing so would prevent him from having even further influence on school choice policies, which Democrats say undercut traditional public schools.

Diaz was the House Choice & Innovation Subcommittee chairman in the 2016 session and is on track to be either House education policy chairman or education budget chairman, if he's re-elected.

Gonzalez Petkovich hasn't bought TV ad time yet, according to her available campaign finance records.

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

Image credit: Manny Diaz Jr. for State Representative / Facebook

August 19, 2016

Pivotal party primaries will decide a quarter of Florida's legislative seats


via @stevebousquet

It’s called a primary, but the election on Aug. 30 could be a defining moment for the Florida Legislature.

Across the state, primary races soon to be decided by a relative handful of voters may determine whether the Florida Senate stays on its moderate course or shifts to the right as new battles loom over abortion, education, guns and the environment.

The primary may decide whether Gov. Rick Scott will have more friends in the Capitol next spring, and whether deep-pocket newcomers can duplicate Scott’s success and use their personal wealth to catapult themselves to office.

From Miami to Pensacola, primary candidates and their allies are spending millions on TV spots, mailers, polls and phone calls, some of it highly personal, most of it negative, and all of it aimed at “super voters” who faithfully show up in primary elections.

“The primaries this year seem to be very intense,” said Marian Johnson, the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s long-time political director. “The question is, how many people will come out?”

More here.

Photo credit: The Florida House during debate in the final week of the 2016 session. Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

August 07, 2016

Jeb Bush to make rare endorsement in Miami state House race

Campaign 2016 Money

Jeb Bush may not be endorsing Donald Trump for president -- but he is taking sides in contested Republican primary for a Florida state House seat.

On Monday, Bush will formally back former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell over several rivals -- chief among them embattled former U.S. Rep. David Rivera.

"I'm proud to endorse my friend Lynda Bell for the Florida House in District 118," Bush said in a statement to the Miami Herald. "She's a strong, principled conservative who will continue to serve Florida well."

Rivera is considered the favorite in the five-way primary contested among Bell, Carlos Pria, Anthony Rodriguez and Steven Rojas Tallon in a heavily Hispanic, southwest Miami-Dade County district. They're vying to replace Republican state Rep. Frank Artiles, who's running for state Senate.

Rivera, a newly minted millionaire, lost re-election to Congress in 2014, when he came under federal criminal investigation in an unlawful secret campaign-finance scheme. He was an early supporter of his friend Marco Rubio for president.

Before his single, two-year term in Congress, Rivera served eight years in the state House. Four of those years, from 2002-06, coincided with Bush's tenure as Florida governor.

Rivera backs Trump.

Photo credit: Matt Rourke, Associated Press