September 29, 2016

Diaz de la Portilla drops 'conservative' from political committee name

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@ByKristenMClark

Miami Republican state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla changed the name of his political committee last month to remove mention of "conservative values" and replace it with something he said would better reflect his focus for the future.

Diaz de la Portilla updated the name of his committee on Aug. 2 to the "Foundation for Human Values" from the previous "Foundation for Conservative Values," state records show. (As of Wednesday evening, though, the website for the committee still held the original "conservative" name.)

The subtle name change comes as Diaz de la Portilla faces a contentious battle for re-election this fall in a newly redrawn, Miami-based district that leans Democratic. State Rep. José Javier Rodríguez, D-Miami, is challenging him for what's now the District 37 seat.

Diaz de la Portilla told the Herald/Times that when he first started his fundraising committee a few years ago he wanted its name to reflect his fiscal conservatism and other similar political philosophies.

But "a lot has happened in the last 18 months," he said -- referencing terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice, France, the shooting of police in Dallas, and mass shootings in San Bernardino and Orlando.

"I wanted to have a much broader term that really encapsulates the issues I think we should focus on," Diaz de la Portilla said. "I'm just worried about the lack of respect and human values we're seeing in our country and all over the world."

By "human values," Diaz de la Portilla said he means values like "respect, solidarity, acceptance, brotherhood, compassion (and) love."

MORE: "New districts draw big Miami battle for Florida Senate"

Diaz de la Portilla, who was first elected to the Florida Senate in 2010, has gained a reputation for being one of the chamber's more moderate conservatives.

During the 2015 session, he killed a controversial, NRA-backed measure to allow concealed guns on public college and university campuses.

Then, after new Senate districts were approved in court, Diaz de la Portilla further cultivated his moderate image in the 2016 session by single-handedly killing campus-carry again and also halting another NRA-approved proposal to allow the open-carrying of firearms statewide with some exceptions.

During a meeting with the Miami Herald's editorial board on Wednesday, Rodríguez accused Diaz de la Portilla of running to the middle in order to curry favor and win the new Democratic-leaning seat.

"He has been governed by political calculation rather than political courage," Rodríguez said, pointing to the gun bills as an example.

Diaz de la Portilla, who met separately with the Herald also Wednesday, told the editorial board: "I don't make decisions on a partisan basis. ... I make decisions as a free-thinker based on the merits of the issues before me."

Independent candidate Mercedes Christian is also on the ballot in the District 37 race. The coastal district represents parts of Miami south to Cutler Bay.

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

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 12, 2016

Ana Rivas Logan drops out of state Senate race

@PatriciaMazzei

Former state Rep. Ana Rivas Logan is withdrawing from the tumultuous race for Florida Senate District 40.

In an email to supporters Tuesday, Rivas Logan said she has to take time to care for her parents. She also noted that the Democratic primary in the race changed at the last minute, when challenger Andrew Korge switched districts to run against Rivas Logan and incumbent Sen. Dwight Bullard of Cutler Bay.

"Balancing the care my parents need and what will be in-the-gutter campaign tactics by some in the race, I have chosen to suspend my campaign today knowing that my future in public service is not over," Rivas Logan wrote.

The Miami-Dade County state attorney's office said earlier Tuesday it is investigating Bullard's allegation that Korge offered him a payoff to change districts -- a move that would have left the well-funded Korge running solely against Rivas Logan. Korge, a businessman, is the son of Hillary Clinton friend and fundraiser Chris Korge.

"[T]he race changed at the close of qualifying and this has a major impact on our path forward," Rivas Logan conceded. "I firmly believe that I could win this race, but unfortunately, know all too well that this race could turn to distractions rather than focus on the best ideas on how to deliver a strong education system and fighting to raise the wages for our workforce."

Rivas Logan, a former Miami-Dade school board member, served in the statehouse as a Republican before losing re-election and later switching parties.

Read Rivas Logan's full email below.

Continue reading "Ana Rivas Logan drops out of state Senate race" »

July 01, 2016

Lawsuit argues Bruce Kaplan cannot run for Florida Senate 

via @alextdaugherty

It didn't take long for someone to file a complaint against Bruce Kaplan.

Switching parties a day before the end of qualifying -- as Kaplan did -- is a no-no when it comes to running for office, and now Kaplan faces a lawsuit to get him off the ballot.

Christian Ulvert, a Democratic political consultant working for Kaplan rival Jason Pizzo, filed the lawsuit in the 11th Circuit Court of Florida on Thursday afternoon.

"On information and belief, Kaplan only changed his voter registration from Republican to Democrat in the days before filing and qualifying to run for State Senate, District 38," the suit says. "As Kaplan does not meet the requirements of 12. § 99.021 of the Florida Statutes, he can not run for State Senate as a Democrat and must be removed as a candidate."

Kaplan, 56, filed to run as a Democrat in the District 38 state senate race even though he was registered as a Republican until June 23. Election law in Florida requires candidates to switch parties one year before the start of qualifying.

"By lying on his party loyalty oath and failing to disclose that he was not a member of the Democratic Party until the day before the qualifying period ended, Bruce Kaplan has shown a clear disregard for the law and complete disrespect to all the voters in Senate District 38," Ulvert said in a statement.

Kaplan, a former Miami-Dade county commissioner, is one of seven Democrats who qualified for the heavily Democratic seat that includes Miami Beach and North Miami.

He resigned from his commission seat in 1998 after pleading no contest to charges of falsifying his financial disclosure forms in 1993 and 1994. Kaplan's wife, Janitza Kaplan, unsuccessfully ran in the special election to replace her husband.

"In order to cause as little disruption to our Supervisor of Elections as possible, I have instructed my attorney to move swiftly in order to ensure this matter is resolved before the ballots are printed and further harm is inflicted on our voters," Ulvert said.

--ALEX DAUGHERTY

June 30, 2016

Democratic Florida Senate candidate was a Republican until last week

@alextdaugherty

Last Thursday, Bruce Kaplan switched his political party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. On Friday, he qualified to run for the Florida Senate.

The problem? Florida law requires candidates to switch parties a year before the start of qualifying.

Kaplan was 368 days too late.

Records from the Miami-Dade elections department show Kaplan, 56, was a Republican until June 23, 2016. According to state law, he would’ve had to be a Democrat since June 20, 2015.

“My understanding is that you cannot change from one party for another within that one year period prior to qualifying and still be eligible to run,” Democratic state Rep. Joe Geller, a private elections lawyer, said.

Kaplan, a former Miami-Dade County commissioner, is one of seven Democrats who qualified in District 38, which was newly redrawn to include North Miami and Miami Beach.

He may not be a candidate for much longer, at least as a Democrat.

Read more here: Democratic Florida Senate candidate was a Republican until last week

June 24, 2016

Anitere Flores does have a Democratic challenger, so does Rene Garcia

Miami dade districts@ByKristenMClark

Of course, Democrats wouldn't have just let Miami Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores coast to re-election.

After some re-shuffling this week when Flores' previous Democratic challenger qualified in a neighboring district instead, Democrats were under the gun to find a candidate to put up against Flores in District 39. The deadline for candidates to file for this year's primary and general elections is noon today.

They found one: Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

Mucarsel-Powell, of Pinecrest, filed her candidacy for District 39 on Thursday, but it doesn't appear - as of 9 a.m. - that her qualifying papers have been processed yet by the Florida Division of Elections. (That's not uncommon; there's usually a lag between when candidates submit their papers and when their affirmed to be "qualified" in the candidate list online.)

According to Miami Herald archives and her LinkedIn page, Mucarsel-Powell was named senior vice president of development at Jackson Health Foundation in November 2014. Before that, she spent more than eight years working at Florida International University -- first as director of development from 2003-2007, then as associate vice president for advancement for FIU's Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine from 2007 to July 2011.

Mucarsel-Powell helps run her own business, D. Mucarsel-Powell & Associates, LLC -- which was registered with the state in 2012. According to state records, she and her husband, Robert Powell, are managers of the business. Mucarsel-Powell's LinkedIn page lists her as current president of the firm, also known as DMP Associates.

The District 39 seat, newly redrawn because of redistricting, leans Democratic and Hispanic. The seat spans western and southern Miami-Dade County and Monroe County, including the Florida Keys.

A write-in candidate, Brent Artz of Big Pine Key, also qualified Thursday. An independent candidate, Sheila Lucas George, filed previously in the race but had not yet qualified as of 9 a.m. today.

Mucarsel-Powell fills the void left by Miami Democrat Andrew Korge, who left the District 39 race on Wednesday for what he viewed as better prospects in District 40, which is in central Miami-Dade County.

Korge set up a three-way Democratic primary there between sitting Sen. Dwight Bullard and former state legislator Ana Rivas Logan.

A fourth Democrat entered that race on Thursday: Missalys Perez, of Hialeah. (Her qualifying papers have not yet been processed.)

Unless there are any more late-filing candidates today, the winner of that August primary among those four will take on Miami Republican Rep. Frank Artiles in the fall. Independent Mario Jimenez also qualified for the November election.

Korge is under fire this week -- accused of offering Bullard money to move to a different race. Rivas Logan says Korge also approached her last month about swapping races (but offered no money). Both say they declined Korge's offers. Korge denies he offered Bullard "$25,000 cash," but wouldn't say whether he, instead, might have offered campaign help or fundraising support.

Elsewhere in Miami-Dade County, Republican Sen. Rene Garcia, of Hialeah, also drew a last-minute challenger. Until yesterday, he'd been the only candidate to file for the District 36 seat -- which meant he would've been re-elected without opposition.

But Democrat Anabella Grohoski, of Miami Springs, filed her candidacy, setting up a general election campaign.

District 36 includes north-central Miami-Dade County, including Doral and Hialeah.

June 23, 2016

Trying to scare away Democratic rivals, Anitere Flores reveals more union support

@PatriciaMazzei

She's already scared away one serious Democratic rival. But just in case any others are thinking of qualifying to run by Friday's noon deadline, Miami Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores released more labor-union endorsements Thursday.

Flores received the backing of the Teamsters Local Union 769, the Dade County Association of Fire Fighters and the Laborers' International Union of North America (LiUNA) Construction and Craft Workers Local 1652.

Labor tends to support Democrats; Flores is trying to run as a moderate in a newly redrawn Southwest Miami-Dade County district that leans Democratic.

Democrat Andrew Korge decided earlier this week to switch races and no longer challenge Flores in District 39. An internal Flores poll showed her handily defeating him. Those numbers, like the union endorsements, appeared strategically publicized to pressure Korge -- and any other Democrats -- out of the race.

June 22, 2016

Andrew Korge switches Florida Senate races in Miami-Dade

@ByKristenMClark & @MaryEllenKlas

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In a major shake-up for two of Miami-Dade’s closely watched state Senate races, Democrat Andrew Korge is once again switching which public office he wants voters to elect him to in November.

Instead of challenging Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores in District 39, Korge will now run for the District 40 seat, he told the Herald/Times, confirming rumors that have swirled in South Florida political circles for the past couple weeks.

His decision sets up a three-way Democratic primary in District 40 against former state representative Ana Rivas Logan and current state Sen. Dwight Bullard and all-but-hands Flores her re-election unless Democrats can produce a viable replacement to challenge her with two days left in the qualifying period.

Korge planned to announce his decision Wednesday afternoon, when he filed his qualifying papers in Tallahassee. Candidates have until noon Friday to qualify and thereby secure their places on the August primary or November general election ballots.

“As a third-generation Miamian, it has long been a dream of mine to serve my community as a member of the Florida Senate, to create a better future for our children, to improve public schools and protect college students, and create high-wage jobs for hard-working, middle-class families,” Korge said in a statement. “District 40, where I grew up and spent half of my life, offers the best opportunity to do that.”

More here.

June 21, 2016

Alan Grayson calls for Florida Legislature to adopt Connecticut's assault weapons ban

@ByKristenMClark

Attempting symbolic similarity to Martin Luther and his "95 Theses" to the Catholic Church, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson on Tuesday urged the Republican-led Florida Legislature to adopt stricter gun control measures in the aftermath of last week's shooting massacre at a gay nightclub near his district.

The Orlando congressman affixed to the doors of the Florida House and Senate chambers in Tallahassee a summary of the bill analysis for the law Connecticut passed a few months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in that state four years ago. Assault weapons were used in both the Orlando and Newtown tragedies.

"It's much too easy in America today to kill so many people so quickly," Grayson told reporters who captured his photo op in the Florida Capitol. "This bill ended that for people in Connecticut."

He said seven states have adopted either bans or heavy restrictions on assault weapons, and "I think that this state needs to do that."

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, didn't acknowledge Grayson's request when asked for comment by the Herald/Times, but he did slam Grayson for using the Orlando shooting for political gain.

"Last week, our first-responders bravely and selflessly ran into the Pulse nightclub to end the horrible terror attack in Orlando," Crisafulli said in a statement. "That is quite a contrast to Congressman Alan Grayson who is using the same tragedy to run in front of television cameras to gain attention for his floundering U.S. Senate campaign."

Continue reading "Alan Grayson calls for Florida Legislature to adopt Connecticut's assault weapons ban" »