September 29, 2016

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

@ByKristenMClark

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

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@ByKristenMClark

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

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@ByKristenMClark

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

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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
@PatriciaMazzei

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

 

July 19, 2016

Miami state House candidate gets shout-out from high-profile GOP senator -- his college buddy

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@PatriciaMazzei

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a potential GOP presidential candidate in four or eight years, steered clear of mentioning presumptive 2016 nominee Donald Trump at a Tuesday breakfast with Florida convention delegates. But he did name another Republican, one far well known and seeking a much more modest seat: John Couriel.

Couriel is running for Florida House seat 114 in central Miami-Dade County. Couriel, who ran for state Senate and lost in 2012, also happens to be know Cotton from when they were students. Both graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

"John is a very good man," Cotton said. "I'm very excited that he's running again, and I hope that the people of South Florida choose to elect him this year, because he'll be a tireless advocate for them in the state Legislature."

Couriel told the Miami Herald in a message he "didn't have a closer friend in college or law school than Tom."

"Fatefully, we were sitting together in Charlie Nesson's evidence class on 9/11," Couriel said. Cotton attended Couriel's Key West wedding, and Couriel and his wife sent Cotton care packages when Cotton -- after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 -- joined the Army and served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cotton, one of the prime-time convention speakers Monday night, said he'll campaign for Couriel and other Republicans in Florida in the fall. He dismissed chatter about his own future presidential ambitions: "The future's a long way away."

"We don't even have nominees this year yet," he said. "This is a rare occasion for Republicans from all 50 states to get together," he added, asked about his appearances before swing-state delegations like Florida and Ohio. "I'm the senator from Arkansas, but I can't serve Arkansas as effectvely in a Democrat-controlled Senate as I can in a Republican Senate."

Photo credit: Natalie Fertig, McClatchy

July 14, 2016

The infamous elections history of Daphne Campbell's campaign manager

@alextdaugherty

Nacivre CharlesThe man managing Democratic state Rep. Daphne Campbell's state Senate campaign is well known in Miami political circles -- but not for a good reason.

Nacivre Charles is three months removed from serving probation for campaign violations related to illegal expenditures. Charles pleaded no contest last June to charges of authorizing illegal campaign expenditures when he ran the 2013 campaign of former North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau.

According to the arrest warrant, Charles approved $12,000 in withdrawals from Tondreau's campaign account days after she won her runoff election in 2013. That's well above the $500 limit.

Read more here: The infamous elections history of Daphne Campbell's campaign manager

 

July 06, 2016

Appeals court OKs ethics fine against David Rivera

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@PatriciaMazzei

A Tallahassee appeals court on Wednesday upheld an ethics censure against former state Rep. David Rivera, a Miami Republican who is running again for the Florida House, now as a newly minted millionaire.

The First District Court of Appeal “summarily” rejected Rivera’s contention that the $57,821.96 fine recommended last year by an administrative law judge was improper due to “procedural errors” by the Florida Commission on Ethics.

“Rivera did not challenge the ethical violations found by the Commission and we find no merit in the due process claims he raised on appeal,” the court wrote.

However, the court left open the possibility for Rivera to sue again — if the House speaker ultimately imposes the fine.

One of Rivera’s arguments had been that it’s unconstitutional for the speaker to discipline a former House member. Florida law requires the speaker — not the ethics commission or administrative judge — to penalize a lawmaker found in violation of ethics rules. The court said it couldn’t rule on that question until if and when the speaker fines Rivera, because the disciplinary process won’t be “complete” until the speaker takes action.

More here.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald

June 30, 2016

Will secret lockbox contents shed light on how David Rivera got rich?

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@PatriciaMazzei

How ex-U.S. Rep. David Rivera, now a Republican candidate for the statehouse, became a million-dollar man in his three years out of political office remains an enigma.

The most obvious explanation has been that he inherited his newfound wealth from his late mother, who died in 2013.

Daisy Magarino, who also went by Daisy Rivera, left no will, according to records in Miami-Dade County probate court. But she did keep a safety-deposit box at a Doral bank.

What was inside? Who knows? Like much of David Rivera’s finances, what was inside the lockbox remains a secret.

Its contents could solve the puzzle of what happened to her estate. But there’s no public accounting of them, even though a judge ordered one.

Magarino’s daughter, Diana Rivera McKenzie, asked the judge for permission to open the box. Her reasoning: A will might be inside. Her brother, the former congressman, raised no objection.

Go ahead, Judge Michael Genden said. In December 2014, he ordered the box unlocked.

Eighteen months later, there is still no record of what the Riveras found — or even if they opened the box. Despite the judge’s order that an inventory of the box’s contents be “immediately” filed with the court, no such list has been turned in.

Did Magarino leave behind a will? Jewels? Property deeds? Gold doubloons? Nothing but personal mementos?

More here.

Photo credit: Charles Dharapak, Associated Press

Hialeah Gardens mayor, council endorse Manny Diaz Jr.

@ByKristenMClark

Incumbent Republican state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. has earned the endorsement of Hialeah Gardens Mayor Yioset De La Cruz and the entire city council, Diaz's campaign announced today.

“We need Manny Diaz’s leadership in Tallahassee,” De La Cruz said in a statement provided by the campaign. “He is a trusted partner at the state level for our community. We look forward to continuing to work with him to improve our schools and to support policies that will increase economic growth and opportunity in our area.”

Joining De La Cruz in supporting Diaz are Councilmen Luciano “Lucky” Garcia, Rolando Piña, Jorge Merida, Jorge Gutierrez, and Elmo Urra.

“Manny Diaz knows our community and is committed to making it even better,” Gutierrez said. “We can depend on him to listen to the constituents he serves and make wise choices in Tallahassee. We can’t afford to be without him as our representative in the Florida House.”

Diaz, of Hialeah, is seeking re-election to a third term in the Florida House, representing District 103. He was first elected in 2012. If re-elected, Diaz is in line to be either House Education Committee chairman or education budget committee chairman in 2017.

Diaz faces Democrat Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich in the November general election. Neither candidate has a primary challenger.

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