June 16, 2016

Florida House leader Corcoran urges support for vigil after 'unfortunate' pro-gun mailer

via @stevebousquet

CorcoranflyerScan_2016-6-14_0002_8colState Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, the House speaker-designate, is urging his constituents to attend a vigil Thursday in memory of the victims of the Orlando massacre. Sponsored by the city of New Port Richey, the event will be from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Sims Park. Participants are urged to bring a single flower to place in a wreath.

"We will be standing together as one to show that we will not be defeated but instead grow stronger," Corcoran said in announcing the event.

In the past few days, some of Corcoran's constituents received a different message from him: a re-election campaign mailer that shows pictures of bullets as well as two photos of guns, including one in which Corcoran is holding a firearm.

Corcoran acknowledged the terrible timing of the mailing and said it was sent last Wednesday, June 8, four days before the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. The piece, sent to about 3,200 voters identified as past supporters of the Second Amendment, reflects the majority party's opposition to gun restrictions.

In a statement to the Herald/Times, Corcoran said: "The information sent in the mail was created and sent prior to the tragic events in Orlando. The unfortunate timing of a piece of mail, however, should not shift attention from the tragic and heinous attack by a radical Islamic terrorist. No matter how much some want to use this event to divide us, I remain steadfast in my belief that law abiding Americans must have a Second Amendment right to defend themselves and that we must not give in to the politically correct voices of division."

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June 15, 2016

After Orlando shooting, Democrats want special legislative session

@ByKristenMClark

Three Orlando-area Democrats will call this morning for Republican legislative leaders to convene a special session of the Florida Legislature, so lawmakers can consider a proposal in response to Sunday's shooting massacre at Pulse nightclub.

Expected to attend the 10 a.m. announcement in front of the Orange County Courthouse are state Sens. Darren Soto and Geraldine Thompson, both of Orlando, state Rep. John Cortes, of Kissimmee, and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.

The lawmakers and local official plan to unveil their "tactical proposal to prevent future tragedies."

But the proposal -- details of which are yet unknown -- isn't expected to go very far.

Katie Betta -- the spokeswoman for Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando -- told the News Service of Florida in an email Tuesday: "The president does not support expending taxpayer dollars on a special session unless there is definitive support within the Senate for a concrete legislative proposal that requires time-sensitive action. Absent those elements, the president has a hard time viewing press conferences calling for a special session three days after the worst act of terrorism in this country since Sept. 11 as anything more than political posturing by two senators who have declared their intention to run for Congress."

Both Soto and Thompson are leaving the state Senate this year and are campaigning for seats in the U.S. House.

June 14, 2016

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

@ByKristenMClark

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.

Continue reading "Republicans troll Miami-Dade legislative candidate for not living in district" »

June 13, 2016

Miami Beach lawmaker will continue re-election bid, won't seek state Senate

@ByKristenMClark

HousePhotoSized5952State Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, won't jump in the race for a now-open state Senate seat representing coastal Miami-Dade County.

In a statement this morning, Richardson said he's "humbled and honored by the many calls encouraging me to consider a run in the now open Senate District 38," but he's "committed more than ever to earn my re-election in (House District) 113 and continue to serve as a member of the Florida House of Representatives."

The District 38 seat became open last week, after longtime Democratic Sen. Gwen Margolis announced her political retirement. Her decision to drop her re-election campaign came a couple days after she publicly disparaged her five opponents as “three Haitians, some teacher and some lawyer.”

Richardson, a two-term state House member, praised Margolis for her service.

"I commend and congratulate Senator Gwen Margolis on her leadership and service to Miami-Dade County," he said. "She is a trailblazer in her own right and someone who helped pave the way for so many others and me."

While Richardson filed for Senate early last year, redistricting affected the boundaries of Miami-Dade's various Senate districts. Richardson acknowledged that factored into his decision, saying: "The newly drawn SD38 is vastly different from the previous SD35."

"I am honored that the people of HD113 have allowed me to be their voice in Tallahassee for the past four years," Richardson said, affirming his commitment to seek re-election. "With the support of my constituents and my Democratic caucus colleagues, I hope together we can break new barriers in the upcoming years. The journey ahead can once again be history-making and I am excited by the opportunity to be a uniting force as our community and state continue to be challenged."

Photo credit: Florida House of Representatives

$1.9M raised since Feb. 1 in contested Miami-Dade Senate races

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@ByKristenMClark

Miami-Dade County is proving more and more why it's a battleground for the Florida Legislature this year.

Candidates for the four competitive Florida Senate seats in Miami-Dade have raised about $1.9 million over the past four months, an analysis of newly filed campaign finance reports showed.

Current Miami Republican Sens. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Anitere Flores raised almost $600,000 between them in May alone in their bids for re-election in newly redrawn districts.

And that's not counting lucrative help that's starting to pour in from an arm of the state party, which would like to keep as many Republicans in the Senate as possible.

Because of redistricting, several Miami-Dade County seats are in play in November. Democrats see an opening to win potentially a few more seats in the Senate and narrow the Republican's 26-14 majority.

But despite fielding competitive candidates, Democrats are falling behind in the fundraising game.

From Feb. 1 -- after which time most candidates filed for their current races once the redrawn districts were set -- through May, Republican state Senate candidates together have raised three times as much as the Democrats across three of Miami-Dade's four competitive races. That's a valuable advantage because the cost to advertise on radio and TV in Miami is among the most expensive in the state.

Continue reading "$1.9M raised since Feb. 1 in contested Miami-Dade Senate races" »

May 09, 2016

Miami-Dade, 2016 bellwether for flipping Florida House seats

@PatriciaMazzei

Democratic consultant Steve Schale of Tallahassee posted an analysis to his blog Monday ranking the 10 Florida House of Representatives races most likely to flip parties in this year's elections.

He includes two based in Miami-Dade County -- the Hialeah seat Republican Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. is trying to keep, and the open, Central Dade seat now held by Republican Rep. Erik Fresen -- but warns that more GOP districts could flip if there's a Hillary Clinton landslide over Donald Trump:

 I have felt for several years that one day, on the Wednesday after the election, we will wake up and the Democrats will have won several seats in Dade County that no one saw coming.  This might be the year.  These incumbents all live in seats Obama either one or lost in narrow margins:  Trujillo, Oliva, Bileca, Artiles (Open), and Nunez.  In the other two, Avila and Pepe Diaz, the voter registration and Presidential top of the ticket trend lines are working against the Republicans, though they are in far safer seats for Republicans than the other five.  Right now, none of the above have Democratic candidates that merit inclusion on this list, though I have heard the Democrat getting into the Artiles open could be formidable.  But that doesn't mean you shouldn't pay attention.  In 2012, Jeff Soloman put a much closer than expected five point scare into Bileca -- and if the D's had thrown a candidate into almost any of the other seats, Obama might have pulled another Mark Danish or Carl Zimmermann across the line.  If Trump loses Dade by 30 points or more -- which is extremely possible at this point -- I would bet lunch that at the wave carries one of the above to the Dem column.

May 04, 2016

Jose Javier Rodriguez revs up Florida Senate bid with help from special guests

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@ByKristenMClark

MIAMI -- If there was any doubt about the importance of District 37 in terms of Florida Democrats' desire to win back a few seats in the state Senate in November, look no further than the campaign kick-off of Jose Javier Rodriguez on Tuesday night in Miami.

Gathered with a few dozen family, friends and supporters at the Segafredo restaurant in Brickell, the two-term state representative had two high-profile Democratic guests in attendance to help him raise money: current U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Senate candidate and current U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. Incoming Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, of Miami Gardens, was also there, hoping to see Rodriguez join his ranks next year.

Nelson spoke for about seven minutes, urging the crowd to open their wallets in support of Rodriguez so he can help bring back "common sense in our state Legislature."

"The Senate certainly works in a more collegial way than the House but then they’re going to have to work together all the more," said Nelson, himself a former state legislator. "If you bring people into the Senate like Representative Rodriguez and make him Senator Rodriguez then that’s what’s going to turn the tide. And that’s what’s going to turn the state of Florida back to a much more mainstream position, instead of an extreme."

District 37 is expected to be one of the more competitive contests in the state, with Rodriguez facing current Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, one of the chamber's moderate conservatives. (Mercedes Christian has also filed as an independent candidate in the race.)

Continue reading "Jose Javier Rodriguez revs up Florida Senate bid with help from special guests" »

May 03, 2016

'A fire burning' to keep expanding school choice in Florida, Hialeah lawmaker says

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@ByKristenMClark

The Legislature's approval of a massive education bill and other innovative policies this spring has reinvigorated the "school choice" movement in Florida, a key Miami-Dade lawmaker said Tuesday.

In the past few years, "there was a complacency," state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, said. "What I heard from my colleagues was, 'so much has been done, we have to see what works.' I’m saying, 'we don't have time for that.' 

"I was pleasantly surprised this session," he added. "The stars aligned and we were able to push some things through... a lot of revolutionary things."

And Floridians can expect that wave of policies to continue in upcoming legislative sessions, said Diaz -- who's in line to be the next chairman of either the House Education Committee or the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee under incoming speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes.

"It's clearly awoken," Diaz said of the push for school choice. "There is a political will you see in the incoming leadership; there is a fire burning. We’re headed in that direction and they’ll be a charge led from the top."

Diaz's remarks came during a luncheon in downtown Miami on Tuesday about the benefits of school choice in Florida. The discussion was sponsored by the James Madison Institute -- a Tallahassee-based free market think tank, which supports school choice policies.

More here.

Photo credit: Republican State Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., center, speaks during a panel discussion about educational choice, sponsored by the James Madison Institute, on Tuesday at the the InterContinental Miami Hotel. (Sabrina Paz Riesgo / Influence Communications)

April 20, 2016

A GOP battle royale in South Dade: Lynda Bell vs. David Rivera

@PatriciaMazzei

Setting up a South Florida Republican battle royale, former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell plans to run for a Florida House of Representatives seat -- against former U.S. Rep. David Rivera.

Bell, who announced her candidacy late Tuesday at a meeting of the Old Cutler Republican Women's Club, told the Miami Herald on Wednesday that she looked at two open House seats in South Dade before settling on District 118, which includes neighborhoods she represented in her four-year term on the commission

"I'm not here to beat up on David Rivera, but I know I served 10 years in office, and I feel like I have a lot to offer," said Bell, who previously served as Homestead mayor. "I've accomplished very, very much."

Bell doesn't live in the district, which extends from West Miami-Dade to Richmond Heights, but said she'd move there by Election Day, as required by law. She thought about running in neighboring District 114 -- also not her home district -- but said she didn't want to challenge one of the Republicans already running, John Couriel, whom she called "a really great guy."

Neither of her choices was ideal: Both districts are heavily Hispanic, especially among likely Republican primary voters. Bell's long-shot bid might be based on the idea that other Hispanic Republicans could split the vote to her benefit, given her name recognition, but winning probably won't be easy.

More here.

April 15, 2016

Jacksonville Rep. Reggie Fullwood indicted on federal charges

HousePhotoOriginal5880@ByKristenMClark

A Democratic state representative from Jacksonville has been indicted on more than a dozen federal wire fraud and tax charges and is accused of embezzling campaign funds for personal expenses, ranging from restaurants to jewelry stores.

U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III announced the charges today against Reggie Fullwood -- a three-term state representative who, this past session, was the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee.

Fullwood, 41, faces 10 counts of wire fraud and four counts of failure to file federal income tax returns. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each wire fraud offense, and a year of imprisonment for each failure to file charge.

Fullwood turned himself into federal authorities on Friday and pleaded not guilty during an initial court appearance in Florida’s Middle District of U.S. District Court in Jacksonville. It lasted 20 minutes.

He was released under a $10,000 bond that he has to pay only if he fails to appear at future hearings, court records show. He was also required to surrender his passport to his attorney.

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