August 26, 2016

Pam Keith electrifies Pinellas Democrats over Grayson; Murphy didn't attend

Pam keithvia @JackSuntrup

CLEARWATER — A 47-year-old Miami labor attorney and Navy veteran paced around a pint-sized Marriott hotel ballroom Thursday evening throwing out ideas to Pinellas County Democrats.

They loved it.

Require that the military buy guns only from manufacturers that don't sell civilians AR-15-style weapons? That sounds interesting. Make gun owners carry insurance? Absolutely. Collect data on judges to ensure they apply the law evenly to all races and genders? Worth a shot.

"Equality under the law is not about the way the law is written," the attorney told roughly 75 people at the monthly meeting of the Pinellas Democratic Party. "It's about the way the law is applied."

If you hadn't seen the social media notices, you might not know who the attorney was. She's Pam Keith, and she's running as a Democrat for U.S. Senate in the Aug. 30 primary. You may have heard of her opponents, U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson of Orlando and Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, but she hasn't gained much traction — which is curious, based on the positive reaction of the crowd.

MORE: "Florida, meet your U.S. Senate candidates"

Teresa Kelly, 56, of St. Petersburg, voted early for Grayson. Did she have buyer's remorse, based on how Keith electrified the crowd?

"Maybe a little," Kelly said. "Maybe I didn't do my homework, and I'm ashamed to admit that."

Read the full story here.

August 25, 2016

Rubio raps FEMA over algae blooms

Senate 2016 Rubio_Ordo (1)-082516


Sen. Marco Rubio criticized the Obama administration for again declining to issue a federal disaster declaration in response to toxic algae in Florida's waterways.

"Even though the end to this disaster is not in sight, the President is telling our state we are on our own," the Miami Republican said Thursday in a statement.

Barack Obama did not appear to be involved in the decision. In a brief letter earlier Thursday, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate rejected Gov. Rick Scott's appeal of his agency's earlier denial of extra money to help fight the algae blooms from Lake Okeechobee discharges intended to protect its aging dike.

"After a thorough review of all information contained in your initial request and appeal, we reaffirm our original findings that supplemental federal assistance under the Stafford Act is not appropriate for this event," Fugate wrote to Scott. "Therefore, I must inform you that your appeal for an emergency declaration is denied."

The thick algae blooms look like guacamole and smell bad. The algae has fouled Treasure Coast waterways fed by Lake Okeechobee.

"The Administration has chosen yet again to turn a blind eye to the livelihoods of Floridians who are affected by this toxic algae," Rubio said.

For more on Rubio's response:

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press


Read more here:


Report: Murphy campaign blocks 'tracker' at public library photo op



When Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy cast his ballot Wednesday at an early voting site in a branch of the Palm Beach County public library, he reportedly had an invited guest tag along: An opposition "tracker" whose job it is to tail the candidate and film his every move.

According to The Palm Beach Posta tracker for the America Rising conservative super PAC attempted to record Murphy while the Jupiter congressman took questions from reporters after his trip to the voting booth in Palm Beach Gardens.

But campaign aides barred the tracker from entering the press conference and then prevented him from filming anything worthwhile from outside by blocking his camera lens with a sign, the newspaper reported.

Read The Post's full story here.

Trackers are typical in competitive campaigns, like Florida's nationally watched U.S. Senate race. And it's not unusual for Murphy's campaign to fend off unfriendly trackers when it can.

Last month when Murphy held a similar photo op/campaign event at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, a senior aide briefly tried to block the camera of a tracker filming Murphy at a press conference in the Capitol rotunda -- a space open to the public.

Photo credit: Eliot Kleinberg / The Palm Beach Post

August 24, 2016

Poll: Trump, Clinton tied in presidential; Rubio, Murphy favorites in Senate primary



A new statewide poll released by Florida Atlantic University today shows the presidential contest between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump essentially a toss-up in Florida this month.

Among 1,200 registered likely voters in the November election, Trump got 43 percent support while Clinton got 41 percent. That's within the margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percent.

In Florida's nationally watched U.S. Senate race, the poll has Republican incumbent Marco Rubio and Democrat Patrick Murphy as the clear favorites in Tuesday's primary.

Rubio led the GOP field with 69 percent support, trailed by undecided voters at 15 percent and Manatee County home-builder Carlos Beruff at 8 percent. FAU said 327 registered Republican, likely primary voters were surveyed with results having a margin of error of plus or minus 5.4 percent.

Meanwhile in the Democratic race, the poll found Murphy with 54 percent support, with 22 percent still undecided. Alan Grayson got 7.6 percent in the poll, while Pam Keith received 7.4 percent. The university surveyed 364 registered Democratic, likely primary voters; the results had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.1 percent.

The poll results for the Democratic primary reflect either a recent, drastic decline in voters' attitude toward Grayson or an anomaly. Most other polls for the U.S. Senate race have consistently shown Grayson with at least 17 percent support, including one done by Suffolk University a couple weeks prior.

FAU conducted its survey Aug. 19-22 using automated telephone polling. Find the full results here.

In a potential general election match-up between Rubio and Murphy, the poll found Rubio leading Murphy, 44 percent to 39 percent, with almost 12 percent undecided. About 5 percent preferred someone else.

Rubio would have a stronger chance against Grayson, according to the poll. In that match-up, Rubio got 45 percent support to Grayson's 34 percent, with 11 percent undecided. About 10 percent preferred an alternative.

Image credit: FAU poll of 1,200 likely general election voters in Florida, Aug. 19-22. Margin of error: +/- 2.7 percent

Patrick Murphy votes early for August primary



Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy took advantage of Florida's early voting by casting his primary ballot today at a polling site in Palm Beach Gardens.

The two-term congressman lives in Jupiter. Murphy invited local media to observe him this morning.

"I'm proud to cast my vote in Florida's primary election and grateful for the grassroots support our campaign has received from across the state," Murphy said in a statement afterward.

Early voting began in 24 counties last week and in all other counties this week. It ends this weekend.

Polls have shown Murphy leading the Democratic field in Tuesday's primary. He faces U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando and Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith. Former assistant U.S. attorney Reginald Luster of Jacksonville and California real estate developer "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente of Orlando are also on the Democratic ballot.

Both Murphy and Grayson are keeping relatively low profiles this week, with a handful of appearances announced by each. Keith has embarked on a statewide tour to meet with voters in the final week before the primary.

Photo credit: Patrick Murphy talks to Palm Beach County media on Wednesday after voting early for the Aug. 30 primary. (Murphy U.S. Senate campaign.)

August 23, 2016

Pam Keith launches 'road warrior' tour in U.S. Senate primary's final week



Undeterred by her status as an underdog, Miami Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Pam Keith is making a final push to sway primary voters ahead of next Tuesday's election.

For what she's dubbed "Pam's Road Warrior Whistlestop Tour," Keith has planned a busy schedule of public appearances in almost every corner of the Sunshine State in the days remaining before the Aug. 30 primary.

She'll be at a community event in Tallahassee tonight, and then she's in Jacksonville tomorrow. Thursday, she has events in Ocala and St. Petersburg. From Friday through Tuesday, she'll wind her way from the Space and Treasure coasts to southwest Florida and then back over to West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

Keith's candidacy has gotten more visibility this summer, while the Democratic front-runners -- U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson -- have each faced controversy. (Murphy was found to have embellished his academic and professional credentials, while Grayson's former wife last month accused him of prior domestic abuse, which he disputes.)

MORE: "Florida, meet your U.S. Senate candidates"

Keith, a labor attorney and former naval officer, has been campaigning for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat longer than any candidate from either major party this cycle.

But her gradually-increasing momentum hasn't translated into standout political or financial support -- the likes of which ignited Murphy's campaign in particular, after the national Democratic establishment rallied around him. Keith has been outspoken about the party's embrace of Murphy. She hasn't actively sought endorsements for herself, but she did get the backing of a couple prominent national women's groups and she counts South Florida state Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, as among her supporters.

Keith's latest FEC filing shows she raised about $21,400 in the five-and-a-half weeks between July 1 and Aug. 10, bring her total raised to date up to $133,100. Her campaign was also loaned $92,200 this cycle; more than 90 percent came from Keith herself. She reported $8,600 in cash on hand, as of Aug. 10.

Alan Grayson's latest supporter? Actor, activist Danny Glover


Actor and political activist Danny Glover is encouraging Florida voters to support Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson's bid for U.S. Senate.

With a week to go before the state's contentious party primary, Glover filmed a video endorsement and penned a fundraising email to Grayson supporters today.

He praises Grayson as "someone who I believe is a brilliant, extraordinary Congressman, and will be a brilliant, extraordinary Senator, when elected to the Senate from Florida."

"He is a man who is about the truth -- who is talking about the issues, the issues that affect your life, the issues that affect your communities," Glover said. "Democracy is in desperate need for clear voices, voices that are not afraid to tell it like it is. Voices that will bring people out, and make them accountable as well. Voices that are responsible to those communities – [responsible to] everyone, not just the special interests, not even the special interests, but voices that are accountable to everyone. Alan Grayson is that kind of voice."

Grayson, of Orlando, posted Glover's video message on both his YouTube page and on a campaign webpage soliciting contributions from supporters.

In the Aug. 30 election, Grayson faces fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter and Pam Keith, a Miami labor attorney and former naval officer. Murphy is considered the front-runner, thanks to favorable polling and aggressive support by the Democratic establishment.

Grayson's campaign suffered a setback last month, after his former wife accused Grayson of domestic abuse during their 25-year marriage that was annulled last year. Grayson has disputed the allegations, but he nonetheless lost a couple high-profile progressive endorsements over the controversy.

Patrick Murphy averaged $1,300 a day on legal fees in less than 6 weeks

Murphy (1)_ ap


Democrat Patrick Murphy is fast racking up legal expenses for his U.S. Senate campaign -- averaging $1,288 a day over less than six weeks this summer.

Murphy's campaign describes it as run-of-the-mill campaign costs, but the Jupiter congressman's pre-primary disclosure to the Federal Election Commission this month shows his political legal expenses mounting at an atypical pace.

Murphy reported spending $52,800 on legal services between July 1 and Aug. 10 -- almost double the $27,200 he spent on legal fees for the entire second quarter (the three months between April and June) and roughly half of what he's spent on legal fees in the past 13 months altogether.

Murphy spokesman Joshua Karp declined to say what exactly Murphy's legal fees were going toward.

"It's normal for campaigns to pay lawyers to make sure we're always following the law, and the larger the campaign, the more moving pieces there are," Karp said in a statement to the Herald/Times.

But by comparison, a handful of other top Democratic U.S. Senate candidates in similarly competitive races this year haven't spent nearly as much as Murphy on legal fees as their campaigns also ramped up and as they employed the same law firm. In fact, Murphy spent more in less than six weeks than four such candidates did in the preceding three months combined.

Between April and June, Katie McGinty of Pennsylvania, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Ted Strickland of Ohio together spent just $35,400 on legal costs. Each used Seattle-based Perkins Coie for their legal work, an elite firm often used by Democratic candidates, including Murphy.

Not all had such low expenses; Tammy Duckworth of Illinois came close to matching Murphy's legal spending in the second quarter with $24,600 in fees to Perkins Coie. (None of these five have pre-primary reports due this month, because their state primaries are held at a different time than Florida's.)

The Senate Leadership Fund, a major conservative super PAC with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, highlighted Murphy's pre-primary legal costs on Monday, implying the irregularly high legal fees during that six-week period are related to FEC complaints filed against Murphy this summer.

In June, the Senate Leadership Fund alleged Murphy was involved with a "straw donor scheme" because of similar donations that went to both him and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, himself a U.S. Senate candidate six years ago.

When asked if Murphy's legal expenses were related to defending against such FEC complaints, Karp deflected by attacking the Senate Leadership Fund and Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Continue reading "Patrick Murphy averaged $1,300 a day on legal fees in less than 6 weeks" »

August 22, 2016

Patrick Murphy on his dad's financial support: 'Of course I'm grateful'


via @JackSuntrup

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy and state Rep. Ed Narain toured LED light manufacturer LumaStream's headquarters in St. Petersburg on Monday, but in a Q & A with reporters after, the questions veered from jobs to politics -- specifically, the contentious Aug. 30 primaries in which both are seeking the Democratic Party's nod for higher office.

Murphy -- who faces Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando and Miami labor attorney Pam Keith in the U.S. Senate primary -- addressed a $1 million donation in July from his father, Thomas Murphy Jr., to the Senate Majority PAC, a group supporting Murphy. Campaign finance reform has been a central plank of Murphy's campaign.

When asked about the donation, he said he was "grateful" for his father's support, but then pivoted to talking about the "grassroots" support he's received from smaller donors.

"Of course I'm grateful for my family's support, and my dad's my mentor and my best friend," Murphy, of Jupiter, said. "What I'm more pleased and more grateful for is the over 50,000 people across the country, across the state of Florida, that have been supporting my campaigns."

MORE: "Patrick Murphy's dad dumps $1M into Senate Democrats' super PAC"

Murphy also hit Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who he would face in the general election if his primary bid is successful, for his own hefty fundraising efforts and his flirtation with another presidential run in 2020.

"Florida doesn't want that," Murphy said. "Florida doesn't need that. Florida needs a senator who cares about Florida."

Murphy also addressed a recent Politico report citing anonymous sources saying his campaign had cut television advertising in the run up to the August primary to save about $800,000 to spend in the general election.

"(We) want to continue making sure that we have the resources, ultimately, to defeat Marco Rubio," Murphy said.

Continue reading "Patrick Murphy on his dad's financial support: 'Of course I'm grateful'" »

Lagging Rubio, Patrick Murphy takes in $1M ahead of August primary



Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy took in about $1 million between July 1 and Aug. 10 and went on a spending spree during those five and half weeks that reduced his cash on hand by about half.

Murphy reported spending $4.2 million in the pre-primary period -- leaving him with about $4 million available to spend heading in to the home stretch of the Aug. 30 primary, a new FEC filing shows. (He had entered July with $7.2 million in the bank.)

The fundraising figures allow him to maintain a strong financial advantage over his Democratic primary opponents but leave him trailing the Republican favorite, incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio, if both should advance to the general election as they're likely to.

Rubio -- who declared his re-election bid in late June -- raised more than triple what Murphy did during the pre-primary period and came out several hundred thousand dollars ahead in cash on hand. Rubio reported raising $3.2 million and having nearly $4.7 million in the bank, as of Aug. 10, according to his latest FEC report.

Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, is viewed as the front-runner in the Democratic primary against Pam Keith, a Miami labor attorney and former naval officer, and fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson.

MORE: "Patrick Murphy's dad dumps $1M into Senate Democrats' super PAC"

Murphy's campaign has been buoyed by consistently strong fundraising and high-profile endorsements from the Democratic establishment. In the latter half of the summer, he's largely ignored his primary competitors and focused his message on Rubio -- indicating Murphy's confidence that he has the Aug. 30 election in the bag.

Another sign? Murphy's campaign said in a statement today that it had pre-paid more than $800,000 worth of TV advertising for the fall in preparation for challenging Rubio, who's expected to easily win his primary against challenger Carlos Beruff.

Most of Murphy's expenses reported in the pre-primary period were for TV time. The FEC report showed several ad buy payments to Screen Strategies Media, totaling more than $3.1 million since mid-July.

Of the $1 million Murphy took in last period, $78,000 came by way of transfers from joint fundraising committees, which are aiding Murphy's campaign. Of the $918,000 his campaign raised on its own, $43,000 came from special interest group, the FEC report showed.

By comparison, Rubio spent just $582,000 in the pre-primary period. Of the $3.2 million Rubio raised in that time, $334,000 came from special interest groups and $39,000 was transferred from joint fundraising committees.

Both Murphy and Rubio also have independent super PACs aiding their Senate campaigns. Super PACs are barred from coordinating with candidates' campaigns and aren't subject to contribution limits.

A super PAC supporting Rubio raked in $1.7 million ahead of the primary, more than half of which came from contributions gifted from a super PAC that previously supported Rubio's presidential run.

Meanwhile, Murphy's father, Thomas Murphy Jr., gave $1 million to a Democratic super PAC last month, which turned around and launched a $1 million ad buy in support of Patrick Murphy. 

Photo credit: Walter Michot / Miami Herald