November 25, 2015

Grayson, Murphy are thankful for... your campaign donations


Not even national holidays are immune from being politicized.

In the run-up to Thanksgiving, the two leading candidates battling for the Democratic primary in Florida's U.S. Senate race -- U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson of Orlando and Patrick Murphy of Jupiter -- have both sent out fundraising emails to their supporters asking for donations of "$3 or more" because of the holiday.

Grayson's email on Tuesday, suiting his fiery, sometimes-combative personality, offers supporters the chance to "win a call from me to your most conservative relative on Thanksgiving."

"You know that Republican in your family who always tries to get into a political debate with you over Thanksgiving dinner? This year, they can argue with me instead," Grayson writes.

Meanwhile, this morning, Murphy's finance director released a fundraising pitch for Murphy -- intentionally or not, countering Grayson -- and pledging that "Thursday is off-limits" and that he has a "strict no-politics-on-Thanksgiving policy."

So instead, Murphy's campaign is asking his supporters to donate the day before -- so as not to infringe on the sanctity of the holiday, of course.

November 12, 2015

AFSCME union endorses Patrick Murphy for U.S. Senate



Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy has picked up another high-profile endorsement: the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees.

Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, announced the union's support this afternoon in a conference call with reporters.

AFSCME Florida Executive Director Andy Madtes said the union's 15,000 members "just felt that Murphy was the best choice for us and our members" and that they plan to mobilize to help Murphy's campaign. Murphy will also have the backing of AFSCME International and its 1.6 million members nationwide.

Madtes said the union vetted Murphy and fellow Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Orlando Congressman Alan Grayson over the summer on issues such as workers' rights and income inequality.

Madtes said AFSCME's endorsement of Murphy is "not a reflection on anything negative," in regards to Grayson. He said the members want a candidate who will fight for workers in Washington, D.C., and it was a call of "who could do it best."

It's the latest in a growing list of endorsements Murphy has picked up in his bid for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat. While Murphy has poised himself to be the Democratic establishment's favorite, Grayson is garnering support from grassroots donors and progressives.

Less than two weeks ago, Murphy also heralded the endorsement of the Florida Teamsters and three national Democrats during the state party's annual convention at Walt Disney World.

North Palm Beach attorney Pam Keith is also running in next summer's Democratic primary.

Four candidates are running in the Republican primary: U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami, and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox.

Photo credit: Walter Michot / Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times

November 05, 2015

Alan Grayson: Patrick Murphy should return donations from Dade Medical College CEO


The controversy of the now-shuttered Dade Medical College and its embattled CEO has seeped into Florida's heated Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, of Orlando, is calling on his opponent -- U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, of Jupiter -- to return campaign contributions he'd received from the school's majority owner, Ernesto Perez and his wife, Sylvia.

Ernesto Perez was arrested this week and is facing charges of bundling illegal campaign contributions. The school abruptly closed Friday, amid heightened federal scrutiny and mounting debts.

"How many students in Patrick Murphy's district are wondering what happened to their tuition and what will become of their future?" Grayson said in a campaign statement. "Patrick Murphy gobbled up dirty money from a corrupt college and he apparently has no concern about the disaster it left behind."

Dade Medical College had six campuses, stretching from Homestead to Jacksonville, including one in West Palm Beach (near Murphy's Palm Beach County and Treasure Coast district).

Murphy's campaign declined to comment on Grayson's remarks or the donations Murphy received from Perez.

Perez developed relationships with politicians at all levels of government, so campaign contributions were not at all an uncommon occurrence for him.

Federal Election Commission records show Perez gave Murphy's 2012 re-election campaign $1,000, and his wife, Sylvia, gave $5,400 -- the maximum -- in 2013 for Murphy's 2014 re-election bid.

Those contributions are among tens of thousands of dollars in donations the couple has given over the years to federal candidates on both sides of the aisle. The list includes hefty donations to several other prominent Florida Democrats, such as U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, of West Palm Beach, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of Weston, who's also the Democratic National Committee chairwoman.

November 04, 2015

PHOTOS: Ernesto Perez and his political friends

Cantor and mayor



Before his for-profit college suddenly collapsed on Friday, and before he was arrested for allegedly illegal campaign contributions on Tuesday, Dade Medical College owner Ernesto Perez was the king of an educational empire. Perez earned $431,999 a year, put his parents and wife on the company payroll, and he contributed heavily to political campaigns.

Perez enjoyed access to local, state, and federal politicians — a U.S. Senator from Colorado, the mayors of Miami and Homestead, and lots of state lawmakers. Here are photographs of some of the many politicians who crossed paths with Dade Medical College. The photos demonstrate the enormous level of Perez’s political reach.

See more photos here

November 01, 2015

RECAP: Absent star power, Florida Democrats energize for 2016


LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Given Florida’s status as a swing state in the 2016 elections, the absence of the Democratic Party’s two major presidential candidates didn’t go unnoticed during the state party’s annual convention this weekend at Walt Disney World.

Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were campaigning in other states and missed out on what Florida Democratic Party officials called a record-breaking gathering of the party faithful.

The 2,000 attendees left with mixed emotions. Energized, certainly — but also somewhat disappointed.

“You had some who really thought it would signal Florida’s importance” if Clinton and Sanders were to attend, said Susan McManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida. “Others are happy that people seem engaged even without their presence, and they’re willing to be patient until the general election.”

Democrats know they have to mobilize both their base and moderate voters, if they’re going to have a chance at winning not only the presidency but also Florida’s open U.S. Senate seat.

Both parties have a slate of candidates duking it out in the party primaries, hoping to put up the strongest candidate in a competitive race to replace Marco Rubio.

Democratic candidate Patrick Murphy, a Jupiter congressman, picked up several major endorsements during the weekend that propelled his status as the Democratic establishment’s favorite in the race.

Read the full story here.

October 31, 2015

U.S. Senate candidate Pam Keith stands out with speech to Florida Democrats (but still faces long odds)



LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Pam Keith isn't well-known -- but at least some Florida Democrats are aware of her now after a rousing speech she gave tonight at the state party convention in Orlando.

Keith, an attorney from North Palm Beach, is competing against Democratic U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson, of Orlando, and Patrick Murphy, of Jupiter, in the party primary for the 2016 U.S. Senate race.

She lacks the name recognition and fundraising sources that Murphy and Grayson have, but she managed to draw a more enthusiastic reaction from Florida Democrats Saturday night than either of her opponents.

The three candidates were among a line-up of speakers who addressed about 900 Democrats gathered for the final dinner of this year's state party convention, held at Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Convention Center in Orlando.

Continue reading "U.S. Senate candidate Pam Keith stands out with speech to Florida Democrats (but still faces long odds)" »

Prominent Democrats back Patrick Murphy over Alan Grayson



LAKE BUENA VISTA -- In a significant show of support, two prominent U.S. senators and a former U.S. representative are throwing their weight behind Patrick Murphy over Alan Grayson in the contentious Democratic primary in Florida's 2016 U.S. Senate race.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank say they believe Murphy has the better chance at uniting independent voters, who will likely decide next year's election.

They say Grayson, his main opponent, is too polarizing. They said Grayson -- if he were to beat Murphy in next year's Democratic primary -- could potentially cost the Democratic Party a significant chance at reclaiming the majority in the U.S. Senate come 2017, regardless of who the Republican candidate might be.

Klobuchar, McCaskill and Frank's endorsement announcement came Saturday as 2,000 Florida Democrats are gathered in Orlando this weekend for the state party convention.

"You gotta have somebody that will stand their ground but find common ground and reassure independent voters that they are not extreme," McCaskill said of Murphy. McCaskill knows from experience; she faces a similar dynamic in Missouri, a heavily Republican state.

Continue reading "Prominent Democrats back Patrick Murphy over Alan Grayson" »

Amy Klobuchar energizes Florida Democrats on Hillary Clinton's behalf



LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders are here in person at the Florida Democratic Party's state convention this weekend in Orlando. Both campaigns are well-represented, though, and Clinton's campaign arranged for a prominent Democrat to address the state party faithful on her behalf: Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

In an energetic speech, inflected with humor, Klobuchar sought to energize the delegates into mobilizing for victory in 2016. She emphasized the importance of Florida's role in the presidential race, but also as one of the critical states that could decide which party controls the U.S. Senate in 2017.

"I hope you know what state is at the epicenter of getting this done," she said. "We actually need five states, but we will not do this if we don't have Florida."

Continue reading "Amy Klobuchar energizes Florida Democrats on Hillary Clinton's behalf" »

October 30, 2015

McCaskill, Kobuchar and Senate candidates highlight Florida Democrats' Orlando line-up


Florida Democrats are gathering in Orlando this weekend for their annual convention, aiming to energize their base -- and Floridian voters -- into making the Sunshine State a bluer shade of purple after the 2016 elections.

There's a lot on the line next year, with Florida once again being a swing state in the presidential race and with the victor of Florida's open U.S. Senate race potentially deciding which party will control the chamber in 2017. The Florida Democratic Party is emphasizing those stakes with the convention's theme, "Florida's Future."

The convention line-up includes prominent Democrats from Florida and around the country, including Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who's scheduled to speak Saturday morning and is acting as a surrogate for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign since the former Secretary of State won't be in attendance.

The gathering kicks off today and runs through Sunday at Disney's Yacht & Beach Club convention center.

Saturday night, the two congressmen seeking to be the party's nominee in the race to replace Marco Rubio and join Bill Nelson in the U.S. Senate -- U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, of Jupiter, and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, of Orlando -- will get their chance to address the party faithful. Murphy also has scheduled a Saturday afternoon press conference to make "an important announcement" with some yet-to-be-named special guests.

Other prominent Democrats attending this weekend include: Democratic National Committee Chairwoman and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, state legislative leaders and several mayors -- including Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam.

Panels and seminars will also be held on topics such as LGBT equality issues, education, and the minimum wage.

Chicago woman mistakenly named in Alan Grayson's campaign disclosure 'comfortable' with his explanation


GraysonThe retired Chicago teacher, who unexpectedly found herself named nearly 2,300 times in Alan Grayson's most recent Senate campaign disclosure, says the situation has been "one of the more bizarre occurrences in my life."

Jacqueline Kirley didn't know about the anomaly reported in the Democratic congressman's quarterly report -- filed two weeks ago with the FEC -- until the Herald/Times called her Wednesday. The question of 'What happened?' seemed answered Thursday when Grayon's campaign acknowledged a "very weird, weird" glitch in their reporting software.

It caused Kirley's name to be associated with the donor ID of a political action committee that helps Democratic candidates raise money; the mistake incorrectly identified contributions made through the PAC as having come from Kirley when she, in fact, had not donated anything to Grayson's Senate run.

Kirley couldn't be reached for a final comment prior to our story running yesterday, but she replied late Thursday evening by email -- relaying a sense of relief, but also some lingering questions of how the report had been filed with such an obvious flaw.

Continue reading "Chicago woman mistakenly named in Alan Grayson's campaign disclosure 'comfortable' with his explanation" »