May 14, 2016

Miguel Diaz de la Portilla had special guests at his state Senate campaign launch, too



The contentious Florida Senate race for District 37 in Miami-Dade County has attracted big guns for both the Democratic and Republican candidates.

Last week, Democratic state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez had help from both U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, at his kick-off fundraiser.

But just three days later, it turns out, his Republican opponent -- current state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla -- quietly had many special guests of his own at a similar event.

Diaz de la Portilla's campaign announced Friday that it had held a kick-off party for the senator's re-election bid on May 6.

The campaign said it was held at Casa Juancho, a Spanish restaurant in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, and featured a "standing room-only crowd comprised of more than 200 friends and family."

Among the guests in attendance, the campaign said: Miami Republican U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart; state Sens. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton; outgoing state Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami; Miami-Dade County Commissioners Barbara Jordan, Rebeca Sosa, Xavier Suarez, Javier Souto, Steve Bovo and Sally Heyman; and City of Miami Commissioner Frank Carollo.

Image3"Miguel has shown a unique ability to effectively represent our entire community. We need him in Tallahassee, fighting and delivering results for all of us," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement provided by Diaz de la Portilla's campaign.

District 37 represents much of the city of Miami and stretches south along the coast to include Coral Gables, Key Biscayne and Cutler Bay. It leans Democratic and is heavily Hispanic.

Diaz de la Portilla and Rodriguez, both of Miami, officially launched their campaigns a couple months ago, but their fundraisers marked the start of what's expected to be a heated election season this summer and fall. The race is already starting to bring in a lot of cash, with Diaz de la Portilla holding the edge over Rodriguez, as of April 30.

Diaz de la Portilla, one of the Florida Senate's more moderate Republicans, hopes to hold on to his seat. But through Rodriguez, Democrats are eyeing District 37 as one of a few seats they could pick up in November to narrow the Republican majority in the chamber.

"If you're from this diverse community, you get it: We work together for the common good," Diaz de la Portilla said in a statement Friday. "I am thankful for all the support I have received and look forward to continuing to work in Tallahassee for the entire community."

Photos courtesy of Miguel Diaz de la Portilla's re-election campaign

May 12, 2016

Competitive South Florida state Senate seats bring in more big bucks

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Three contested state Senate seats in Miami-Dade County are continuing to attract a lot of cash, new campaign finance reports released this week show.

The fierce battle between current Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and Democrat Andrew Korge in District 39 -- already the most expensive Senate race in the state by March -- continued to produce significant fundraising for both candidates in April.

But it was Miami Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla who had the strongest fundraising among the county's most competitive races last month.

Continue reading "Competitive South Florida state Senate seats bring in more big bucks" »

May 10, 2016

Ana Rivas Logan could run for state Senate in Miami-Dade district


Former state lawmaker and Miami-Dade School Board member Ana Rivas Logan said she's considering coming out of political retirement because she doesn't want to risk Florida Democrats losing a Senate seat in Miami-Dade County to, what she called, a "Trump Republican."

Rivas Logan -- a former Republican who switched to the Democratic Party in 2014 -- is mulling a run for Senate District 40, where current Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, is facing state Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami. Independent Mario Jimenez is also running for the seat.

Rivas Logan says she doesn't expect to make a final decision on her potential candidacy for a couple weeks, but right now "I'm leaning 'yes,'" she said Tuesday.

"I'm very comfortable with what I'm doing now" such as spending time with her family and staying involved in education issues and community activities, Rivas Logan said. "To get back in the game would be a total change of my lifestyle. But I’m so strongly opposed to Trump Republicans, that it just turns my stomach."

Continue reading "Ana Rivas Logan could run for state Senate in Miami-Dade district" »

May 04, 2016

Miami Rep. Frank Artiles 'won't be bullied,' might sue over attack ads



As part of an ongoing direct-mail campaign to highlight what it deems as unethical behavior by Florida elected officials, the independent advocacy organization FloridaStrong has gone after several Republican Miami-Dade legislators in recent months.

But one is now fighting back.

State Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, says he plans to sue FloridaStrong because the group's organizers refuse to correct claims they made in a mailer that went out to Artiles' constituents recently and which his attorney said depicts Artiles "in an unfavorable light."

(View the mailer here.)

Artiles, a three-term House member, is currently campaigning for a seat in the Florida Senate, where he wants to represent District 40, which includes part of central Miami-Dade County. He faces current Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, and independent Mario Jimenez in that contest.

"My reputation is very important to me and I will not allow any organization or person to defame, slander and libel me because they think nobody’s going to fight back," Artiles told the Herald/Times. "I truly believe these organizations -- which are funded nationally through special interests -- that if you don't stand up or correct them, you're acquiescing to their bullying. I won’t be bullied by some political hacks."

FloridaStrong's most recent mailer against Artiles alleges that he is a "property appraiser by trade," "voted to raise property taxes on Florida families by $427 million," "received thousands in campaign contributions from the insurance industry" and "voted to privatize Citizens Property Insurance and protect insurance industry profits."

But, in a letter dated April 21, a Tallahassee attorney for Artiles said the claims aren't true. Emmett "Bucky" Mitchell offered point-by-point rebuttals and accused FloridaStrong of making "false statements ... that should be corrected." Or else.

(Read the full letter here.)

Continue reading "Miami Rep. Frank Artiles 'won't be bullied,' might sue over attack ads" »

May 01, 2016

Daniel Horton says it's 'best decision' to drop Senate bid, seek House seat in Keys instead


After talking with his primary opponent and Democratic Party officials in recent weeks, Democrat Daniel Horton said Sunday he is dropping his bid for a competitive Senate seat in South Florida and is turning his ambitions to a state House seat.

Horton announced his bid for state Senate less than a month ago.

The 30-year-old FIU law school graduate aimed to challenge Democrat Andrew Korge in the August primary for the District 39 Senate seat, which represents parts of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. The winner of that contest would have faced state Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, who's seeking re-election.

Flores and Korge had already been embroiled in a bitter race when Horton jumped in the fray.

But in a press release Sunday afternoon, Korge said Horton was bowing out of that contest and planning to, instead, challenge incumbent state Rep. Holly Raschein for the District 120 House seat.

In an interview with the Herald/Times, Horton confirmed his decision to switch legislative races.

"At the end of the day, I figure this is the best decision for the people that live in District 39, I think it's the best decision for the Democratic Party, and I think it's the best decision for myself," Horton said.

Continue reading "Daniel Horton says it's 'best decision' to drop Senate bid, seek House seat in Keys instead" »

April 27, 2016

Joe Negron's university tour cost $15K, mostly in political funds



Incoming Florida Senate President Joe Negron's four-day, statewide university tour last week cost about $15,000, but the Stuart Republican said state taxpayers will be on the hook for only about $3,000 of that.

About 80 percent of the trip's costs were covered by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, a political committee that raises money to elect Republican senators and help them retain the chamber majority. As president-designate, Negron chairs that committee.

"I wanted to keep the cost of the tour as low as possible for the state of Florida," Negron said.

The tour was a "legislative activity," though, Negron acknowledges.

Negron organized the tour to learn about the needs and goals of each of Florida's 12 public universities as part of crafting his upcoming policy agenda. During his two-year term as president, Negron said he wants to improve the State University System and increase funding by $1 billion.

Continue reading "Joe Negron's university tour cost $15K, mostly in political funds" »

April 12, 2016

Anis Blémur to kick off Florida Senate campaign on Wednesday


A North Miami small business owner on Wednesday is officially launching his campaign for the new District 38 seat, which represents northeastern Miami-Dade County in the Florida Senate.

Anis Blémur has a press conference scheduled at a restaurant in Bay Harbor Islands, according to a campaign advisory.

Blémur, 48, was born in Haiti and moved to the U.S. in 1986. For the past 15 years, he's owned and operated his own consulting and accounting firm in North Miami.

"I am thrilled to announce my campaign for State Senate District 38, the newly drawn district provides a great opportunity to unify our collective cities from the beaches to the shores, the urban meccas and the suburban divisions, moving forward as leaders in STEM and education, tourism, economic development and the next great destinations in Florida," he said in a statement.

Blémur filed in the race on Feb. 3.

This is Blémur's second attempt at a state Senate seat. His first was in 2014 for the then-District 36 seat; he lost to Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens.

Thanks to redistricting, he now faces longtime Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Hollywood, and three other candidates in a crowded Democratic primary for the new District 38. The coastal district includes parts of northeastern Miami-Dade County -- including Aventura and Miami Beach -- areas currently represented by Margolis.

Other candidates running in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary are former North Miami state Rep. Phillip Brutus, current state Rep. Daphne Campbell and Don Festge

April 11, 2016

Flores v. Korge emerges as most expensive state Senate race, with Broward and Orlando contests next

Cash APThe post-session campaign finance reports are in and, no surprise, the most expensive contests are shaping up to be in steamy South Florida. Here's our list of the top money-raising state Senate contests. (The total raised for the district includes individual Senate campaigns and political committee cash on hand this cycle.)

1. $1,209,963 District 39 Miami

The shifting political sands in Miami have made it a dicey place for Republicans in the wake of redistricting but Republican Sen. Anitere Flores has fortified her campaign with lots and lots of cash -- at least $743,002 to date in fact -- against Democrat Andrew Korge, son of one of South Florida's most successful fundraising moguls, Chris Korge

Flores' fundraising haul included $124,275 for March. The race may be the most expensive in Florida but Korge is keeping it competitive -- raising $220,750 for his individual Senate committee, including $16,472 for March and has more than $246,211 in cash on hand in his PAC.

2. $1,098,886 District 34 Broward

The Fort Lauderdale battle to replace Sen. Eleanor Sobel is, predictably, pricey as lawyers Gary Farmer and Jim Waldman, a former state representative, battle it out against retired educator Rep. Gwyn Clarke-Reed. Farmer has raised the most with $503,755, including $207,000 from his lawyer-financed political committee. He has also given himself a $103,000 loan. Waldman has raised $368,230 with $132,500 on hand from his political committee. He has given himself a $202,500 loan. Clarke-Reed has raised $15,100.

3. $902,304 District 23 Sarasota

 The high stakes Sarasota seat promises to be a fierce fight with Reps. Greg Steube and Ray Pilon wrestling for the GOP nomination against former Rep. Doug Holder. Holder has the edge over Steube having raised $206,800 and has $135,000 in cash available in his PAC while Steube raised $230,0205 and has $54,298 remaining in his longer-running PAC. Republican Nora Patterson, the former Sarasota County commissioner has raised $100,787 in cash and loaned herself another $60,000. Only Steube and Holder have political committees.


4. $757,692 District 13 Orlando

The battle to replace Andy Gardiner in the newly-drawn Orlando-based swing district promises to be one of the most expensive in Central Florida. Realtor Dean Asher has raised nearly $413,000 to date, with half of it coming from realtors to his political committee. In the Democratic primary, former state representative Mike Clelland has raised the most with $165,780 coming into his Senate committee and $92,000 in his PAC. He faces Democrats Linda Stewart ($17,208) and Rick Roach ($69,841).

5. $619,385 District 17 Melbourne

The Melbourne-based district makes the list by the sheer force of the fundraising heft of former House Rules Chairman Ritch Workman. He has $322,485 on hand in his political committee and has raised $273,000 for his individual Senate campaign. Rep. Debbie Mayfield faces Workman in the Republican primary and she has raised $16,265.


In District 2 in the Panhandle, Bay County Commissioner and car dealer George Gainer loaned himself $500,000 and raised another $206,255 to give himself a substantial lead in fundraising when he thought he was going to face Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar. But with Gaetz jumping into the District 1 congressional seat and Gainer facing no other opponent, will his total change? He could withdraw his loan or continue to make the case that he's not beholden to special interests.

It's also worth noting that if outgoing Republican House Leader Dana Young had a challenger for Tampa-based Senate District 18, her race would be among the most expensive. Instead, Young remains unchallenged with a hefty campaign fund of $789,000 to spread around and make many friends. 

Note: This post has been updated and corrected. 

April 05, 2016

Senate Republican leaders endorse Dana Young



Six prominent Republicans in the Florida Senate have endorsed House Majority Leader Rep. Dana Young in her bid for the new District 18 Senate seat, representing South Tampa and Hillsborough County.

The Republican leaders announced their support for Young, a Tampa Republican, through a joint statement sent out today by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Her supporters include the next three likely Senate presidents: Sens. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby. Assuming Republicans maintain control of the chamber, Negron is due to take over as president in November, Galvano (the current Senate majority leader) is set to succeed him in 2018 and Simpson is on track to be president in 2020.

"Dana Young is a hard-working, principled leader who in the Florida House fought tirelessly against big government policies that hinder our small business and economy," Negron said in the statement. "She will be a great addition to the Florida Senate."

Also endorsing Young today were: Sens. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, and Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who's poised to be Appropriations chairman under Negron.

Young was first elected to the House in 2010, and she was one of the first women to be named majority leader in the chamber.

So far, she faces no opponents in the District 18 race. But the South Tampa district has the potential to be competitive. In 2012, it went 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent for Barack Obama.

Photo credit: Florida House Majority Leader Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, right, talks with Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville, during the 2015 session. Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times.

Daniel Horton launches bid for competitive South Florida Senate seat


HortonA 30-year-old graduate of Florida International University's law school is joining the fray of a competitive state Senate race in Miami-Dade County.

Democrat Daniel E. Horton announced his candidacy this week for District 39, where current state Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and Democrat Andrew Korge are already in a fierce contest.

Horton and Korge will now face-off first, though, in the Aug. 30 party primary. As it stands, the winner will challenge Flores in the November general election. Sheila Lucas George has also filed as an independent candidate in the race.

District 39 spans western and southern Miami-Dade County and Monroe County, including the Florida Keys and Horton's alma mater of FIU.

Horton's credentials include serving as president of the FIU College of Law student body and various accolades for his community service work. Among them, he was named the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce's 2016 Most Valuable Graduate and last year, he received the American Law Institute’s Scholarship and Leadership Award.

The north Georgia native moved to South Florida in 2011 to attend FIU. Recently, he became a founding board member of the newly formed Progressive Democratic Caucus of Miami-Dade.

“The people of District 39 deserve to have a representative that is a hard-working and dedicated member of their community,” Horton said in his announcement. “For too long, many South Florida politicians have practiced lip service rather than public service. The people of South Florida are tired of electing politicians that only serve big corporate interests and their own ego.”

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