April 11, 2016

Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign reports raising $2 million in first quarter



Democrat Patrick Murphy is continuing his streak of sizable fundraising in his bid for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat.

The congressman from Jupiter announced today that he'd raised $2 million in the first three months of 2016, entering April with $5.6 million in cash on hand.

Murphy's campaign -- which has had significant support from establishment donors who typically give four-figure contributions -- noted that more than 85 percent of the contributions raised in the first quarter were under $200.

Murphy's primary opponent, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, is more often the one to emphasize support from small-dollar donors. Grayson has not released his first-quarter numbers yet.

Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, was the first of the crowded crop of Senate candidates to announce his quarterly fundraising. DeSantis announced last week that he'd raked in $1.1 million between January and March and had $3.2 million in cash on hand.

The other four Republican candidates have yet to release numbers. They are: U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami, Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox and Sarasota home-builder Carlos Beruff.

First-quarter campaign finance reports are due to the Federal Election Commission on April 15.

Heading into 2016, Murphy had maintained a wide lead in fundraising over all other candidates. Murphy's campaign said today it has raised nearly $8.2 million to date.

“Opening 2016 with this kind of milestone is a sign that our campaign has strong grassroots support across Florida and will have the resources to win in August and in November,” Murphy campaign manager Josh Wolf said in a statement.

Murphy's latest fundraising numbers do not include dollars raised through "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class," a super PAC that's also raising money in support of Murphy's Senate run but is prohibited from coordinating with his official campaign. Super PACs are not bound by the $2,700-per-race cap on individual contributions -- as candidate's campaign committees are. "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" hasn't announced its quarterly fundraising intake yet.

Photo credit: Walter Michot / Miami Herald

April 08, 2016

DNC chief Wasserman Schultz to Bernie and Hillary: Chill


With most political enthusiasts' attention riveted on the divisive GOP presidential race, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is urging the Democratic White House hopefuls to tone down their rhetoric.

Wasserman Schultz, who lives in Weston when she isn't in Washington or traveling the country as head of the Democratic National Committee, was asked about the increasingly sharp attacks against each other in recent days by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

"I think both campaigns really need to be careful about making sure that we don't do lasting damage," Wasserman Schultz told Fox News' "America's Newsroom" program Friday morning. "I don't think we're at that point, but I think it is important to be careful that at the end of the primary process, when we have a presumptive nominee, that we're able to easily reunify."

In advance of the April 19 primary in New York, which Clinton represented for six years as a U.S. senator before heading the State Department, Clinton has challenged Sanders' allegiance to the Democratic Party and questioned his preparedness to be president.

On Wednesday, Clinton told MSNBC that Sanders "himself doesn't consider himself to be a Democrat." Sanders, who lists his party for Senate votes as Independent but caucuses with Democrats, has at various times in his career described himself as a Socialist or a Democratic Socialist.

Clinton also criticized Sanders' repeated presidential campaign calls to break up big banks, again comparing her record as a pragmatist who gets things done.

"You can't really help people if you don't know how to do what you are campaigning on saying you want to do," Clinton said.

Sanders responded that night at a rally in Philadelphia.

"She has been saying lately that she thinks I am quote-unquote 'not qualified to be president,'" Sanders declared. "Let me just say in response to Secretary Clinton, I don't believe that she is qualified if she is, though her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special-interest funds. I don't think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. I don't think you are qualified if you support the Panama free trade agreement."

Clinton didn't actually say the phrase Sanders attributed to her about his lack of qualifications, but that phrase or similar ones ran in headlines in some news accounts of her comments.

Despite the sharp exchanges, Wasserman Schultz said it doesn't compare to "the food fight and the civil war that continues to rage on the Republican side."

Wasserman Schultz, who some Sanders supporters have accused of favoring Clinton in the Democratic race, also said that Clinton and then-Sen. Barack Obama had a more hard-hitting contest in their presidential primary campaign in 2008.

"Right now I would characterize the tenor and tone of this party to be nothing like the intensity of where we (Democrats) were eight years ago in 2008 between then-Sens. Clinton and Obama," she said.

After Obama gained the Democratic nomination in that primary race and then defeated Sen. John McCain to gain the White House, he chose Clinton as secretary of state. The two established a close relationship, and she has been trumpeting his achievements during her current run.

On the Republican side, billionaire businessman Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz have been engaged in a nasty war of words for weeks, with the fight intensifying two weeks ago when the Republican front-runner tweeted an unflattering photograph of Cruz's wife Heidi Cruz.





U.S. Senate candidate David Jolly wrongly says Common Core was required for Obama grants

Looking to take over former presidential candidate Marco Rubio’s soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat, U.S. Rep. David Jolly wants to educate voters about his conservative bona fides in Congress — including his opposition to Common Core.

The Indian Shores Republican has been in the House of Representatives for two years after winning a 2014 special election to replace his mentor, the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young. In that short span, he said, he has helped change federal education policy.

"Last year, I worked with my colleagues to end funding for federal Race to the Top grants, which require participating states to adopt the Common Core standards as a condition for receiving federal funding," he said on his campaign website.

The Common Core State Standards are a set of shared guidelines in English and math designed to prepare students for college and to unify educational goals nationwide. They’ve become an unpopular subject with many conservatives.

We decided to test Jolly’s assertion that states had to adopt the Common Core in order to win federal grants.

See what Joshua Gillin of PolitiFact Florida found.

April 07, 2016

In Boca Raton, Carlos Lopez-Cantera plays up Jewish roots

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, working to free himself from obscurity in Florida's Republican U.S. Senate primary, presided over an event Wednesday that most South Florida politicians would have craved.

The setting was at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County in Boca Raton for Gov. Rick Scott's ceremonial signing of Senate Bill 86, which prohibits the state from doing business with companies that favor a boycott of Israel.  The federation's Zinman Hall was packed with community leaders and legislators including U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, state Reps. Jared Moskowitz and Ritch Workmanand Sens. Joe Abruzzo, Maria Sachs and Joe Negron, who sponsored the bill along with Workman in the 2016 legislative session.

"Now, you may not have known this from my name, Lopez-Cantera, but I'm Jewish," the lieutenant governor said as the crowd of about 200 broke into applause. "My father came from Cuba but he married a nice Jewish girl in Miami, and I followed suit and married a nice Jewish girl in Miami as well ... We keep a Jewish household and are raising our daughters Jewish."

He called the event "very special to me," describing it as a message to the country and to the world "that bigotry and anti-Semitism have no place in Florida."

But in light of Lopez-Cantera's biographical story Wednesday, the question is, what took him so long? After Scott named him lieutenant governor in 2014, Lopez-Cantera was ambiguous about his religion, which earned him national media attention. "There is no evidence that (he) is a practicing Jew," Roll Call wrote last year.

In one of the largest Jewish communities in the U.S., he may have found a way to separate himself from a pack that includes U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis and David Jolly, wealthy businessman Carlos Beruff and entrepreneur Todd Wilcox. The Senate primary is Aug. 30, but voting for some will begin in late July.

"When he says, 'I'm a Jew,' he really means it," Rabbi Schneur Oirechman of Chabad Lubavitch in Tallahassee said of Lopez-Cantera.

The rabbi was even more effusive in his praise of Scott, who's considering a U.S. Senate candidacy in 2018. "You are very much like Moses," the rabbi said. "Your humility, your sincerity. I keep telling everyone, this governor really means it."

- Steve Bousquet, Tampa Bay Times

April 06, 2016

Patrick Murphy: Alan Grayson unfit to hold office

via @adamsmithtimes

A day after details became public on an ongoing congressional investigation into U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, his rival for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination called on Grayson to shut down his controversial hedge fund and declared Grayson unfit for public office.

"I believe that, quite frankly, he's disqualified himself from being a public servant. You've got a member of Congress who's more concerned about making money for himself than solving ... very, very real problems in our country," U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, said in a telephone press conference. "I believe he needs to disclose what he's invested in, who his investors are, and he needs to close his unethical and illegal hedge fund."

Murphy also denied allegations from Grayson that anyone in Murphy's office had spoken with or colluded with the Office of Congressional Ethics, which recommended the House Ethics Committee continue investigating Grayson for what it said appeared to be multiple violations of federal law and House rules.

"There is no conspiracy here against Alan Grayson," Murphy said. "This is a very clear example of being caught red-handed. And oftentimes the truth hurts."

The independent, bipartisan Office of Congressional Ethics found that Grayson appeared to have improperly run a hedge fund while serving in Congress, kept financial ties to a law firm and other businesses either involved in ongoing litigation against the federal government or doing business with the federal government, and that Grayson improperly used his congressional office to do work on his Senate campaign and hedge fund.

Grayson denies any wrongdoing and on Tuesday declared a victory of sorts in the matter, because the House Ethics Committee opted not to start a investigative subcommittee. It would be unprecedented for the committee to punish a House member without starting such a committee, Grayson said.

That's not true, however. In 2011, the Ethics Committee ruled, without an investigative subcommittee, that former Ohio Rep. Jean Schmidt improperly accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal help and ordered her to repay $500,000. In other cases, the ethics committee has started further investigation the way it has with Grayson and later decided to convene an investigative subcommittee.

April 05, 2016

Online ad questions taxpayer cost of Patrick Murphy campaign event with Joe Biden

via @learyreports

A political nonprofit says it is running this online ad against Patrick Murphy over questions about the cost of a campaign event featuring Vice President Joe Biden.

The ad will run primarily on Facebook, said Brian Burgess, whose client is Better Florida Alliance, a 501(c)(4) "dedicated to educating Florida citizens on the effect of pro-growth economic policies on Florida’s families and promote policies that encourage economic freedom and opportunity." The group does not have to disclose its donors.

Burgess said the group has nearly 10,000 Facebook fans and the ad buy targets 2 million additional voters.

The ad uses some of the "b-roll" that Murphy put up on his campaign website in the hope that friendly outside groups would use it for ads.

Murphy spokesman Joshua Karp writes: "We appreciate the efforts of a Republican dark-money group to raise awareness for Patrick's strong endorsement from Vice President Joe Biden. They were honored to campaign together in Miami just a few days ago."

April 04, 2016

Florida U.S. Senate candidate Ron DeSantis makes a claim about terrorists and the border

Instead of worrying about ISIS infiltrating the country, U.S. Senate candidate and Rep. Ron DeSantis is concerned that members of other terrorist groups have already been caught trying to sneak across the border from Mexico.

The Ponte Vedra Beach Republican called a hearing of the House Oversight Committee’s National Security subcommittee to discuss what to do about what he considered a growing threat.

"Recent reports state that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has apprehended several members of known Islamist terrorist organizations crossing the southern border in recent years," he said March 23, 2016.

DeSantis has made terrorism a central issue in his campaign. On April 4, 2016, he embarked on a series of town hall-style events in Florida he dubbed the "Defeat the Jihad Tour."

We’ve checked hyperbole by politicians that ISIS is invading via the southern bordertime and time and time again. Because there’s no hard evidence it is happening, those claims range from Mostly False to Pants On Fire!

But we don’t often hear politicians warn about about immigrants with ties to other terrorist organizations being caught secretly heading into the United States. According to some reports, those apprehensions do happen, although experts told us any true threat may be a bit exaggerated.

Keep reading Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida.

April 01, 2016

Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy in dead heat in Florida Senate primary, poll finds

Liberal firebrand Alan Grayson barely leads Barack Obama-backed Patrick Murphy for Florida's Democratic U.S. Senate nomination, 33 percent to 32 percent, in an automated poll of likely Democratic voters commissioned by two political groups supporting Grayson.

The March 22-23 Public Policy Polling survey of 829 likely Democratic voters was funded by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy For America.

“Alan Grayson is leading by a hair. But voters are not happy when they learn Patrick Murphy worked with Republicans to try to cut Social Security for millions of Florida seniors. They are also not happy that Murphy takes money from Wall Street and then votes to deregulate Wall Street, allowing risky gambling to put the life savings and homes of millions of Floridians at risk," the groups said in a statement.

Their evidence? The following from PPP:

Patrick Murphy was a lifelong Republican until he decided to run for office a few years ago – even donating thousands of dollars to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. In Congress, Patrick Murphy said we have to look at cuts to Social Security. He later praised a grand bargain with Republicans that would have cut Social Security benefits for the vast majority of Social Security recipients. Patrick Murphy has also voted to deregulate Wall Street and has taken thousands of dollars from Wall Street firms. Do you consider this a very convincing, somewhat convincing, or not at all convincing reason to vote against Patrick Murphy?

Very convincing............................................... 47%

Somewhat convincing..................................... 26%

Not at all convincing........................................ 27%

The Murphy campaign notess other recent polls show Murphy ahead:

3/6/2016 SurveyUSA (News 13/Bay News 9) 27.0% Murphy / 16.0% Grayson

3/5/2016 Univision 36.0% Murphy / 29.0% Grayson

3/5/2016 Bendixon & Amandi/The Tarrance Group (Washington Post/Univision) 27.0% Murphy / 19.0% Grayson

3/9/2016 Mason-Dixon (Lakeland Ledger – 10News WTSP) 33.0% Murphy / 19.0% Grayson

3/17/2016 St. Leo University 19.9% Murphy / 16.7% Grayson

- Adam Smith, Tampa Bay Times

March 29, 2016

Two grassroots liberal groups endorse Alan Grayson for Senate

via @adamsmithtimes

Two progressive groups, Democracy for America (DFA) and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), are endorsing Alan Grayson for U.S. Senate over Patrick Murphy, who is supported by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former Sen. Bob Graham, among many other prominent Democrats.

“Whether he was taking on Republicans’ ‘die quickly health care plan or standing up to his own party’s willingness to consider Social Security cuts, Alan Grayson has been a steadfast champion for populist progressive priorities and one of the fiercest allies grassroots Democrats have in Washington, said Jim Dean, chairman of DFA, which boasts of having 75,000 members in Florida and a million nationwide. "“Having a fighter like Alan Grayson in the U.S. Senate would be nothing short of game-changing for our country and Florida’s struggling working families, and we couldn’t be more excited to help make that happen in the weeks and months ahead.”

DFA also has endorsed Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. Grayson supports Sanders and Murphy supports Clinton.

PCCC claims more than one million members nationwide and 59,000 in Florida. Co-founders Adam Green and Stephanie Taylor, released the following: "Every step of the way -- from Wall Street reform to expanding Social Security to being a national leader for Medicare expansion -- Alan Grayson has stood with progressives as one of our boldest and most reliable allies. He's a national leader for expanding Medicare and has consistently said no to cutting Social Security benefits. That's why we're proud to endorse him today."


March 25, 2016

Joe Biden to visit Miami on Monday, campaign for Patrick Murphy

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Vice President Joe Biden is expected to attend a lunchtime fundraiser with Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy on Monday in Miami.

President Barack Obama and Biden endorsed the congressman from Jupiter earlier this month in the competitive race to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate next year.

At the time, Murphy’s campaign simultaneously said Biden and Murphy would “campaign together” in Florida on March 28. It’s unclear yet whether any public event will be held during Biden’s visit.

Biden last came to Miami in September for a speech at Miami Dade College about the importance of an affordable college education. (At the time, he had still been mulling a presidential bid but ultimately opted against one.)

It’s fitting that Murphy and Biden are appearing in South Florida, as opposed to elsewhere in the state. Murphy was born in Miami, raised in Key Largo and now represents northern Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast in Congress.

South Florida is also where almost a third of the state’s 4.5 million registered Democrats reside.

Ahead of the presidential primary this month, Broward County still had the most of any county with about 554,000 registered Democrats. Miami-Dade County was second with more than 525,000, followed by Murphy's home of Palm Beach County with 361,000, according to the Florida Department of State.

The 32-year-old Murphy joined Florida's competitive U.S. Senate race a year ago this past Wednesday.

Since then, he has racked up significant endorsements and campaign contributions from major Democrats in his primary fight against fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando. The primary election is Aug. 30.

Murphy has, so far, raised vastly more dollars than either Grayson or their five Republican opponents. As of Dec. 31, Murphy had raised $1.46 million, leaving him with nearly $4.3 million in the bank to spend heading into 2016.

Any dollars raised during Monday's fundraiser will be reported in the next campaign finance report that U.S. Senate candidates must file with the Federal Election Commission by April 15. That report will cover Jan. 1 through March 31.

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

Miami Herald reporter Amy Sherman contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Al Diaz / Miami Herald