September 27, 2016

Environmental groups are backing Patrick Murphy over Marco Rubio

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Environmental groups appear to be rallying behind Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy over Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in Florida's close U.S. Senate race.

Murphy's campaign announced this morning the endorsement of the national Sierra Club. And, an official at the Everglades Trust has told the Herald/Times that it, too, is backing Murphy, although no formal announcement has been made yet.

Murphy has focused heavily on environmental protection and Everglades restoration during his two terms in Congress.

Michael Brune, the Sierra Club's executive director, called Murphy an "environmental champion" because of his defense of the Everglades, his opposition to off-shore oil drilling along Florida's coasts and his support for national and global action on climate change.

Everglades Trust executive director Kimberly Mitchell told the Herald/Times that Murphy earned the Trust's support, because he "gets it" when it comes to the need to buy up land south of Lake Okeechobee for Everglades restoration.

During the primary phase of the campaign, Murphy also nabbed the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters.

Both Murphy and Rubio have fought in recent years to get congressional authorization on Everglades-related projects.

On the campaign trail, Murphy has cited as among his top legislative accomplishments his work with Florida's congressional delegation in 2014 to allocate $1.9 billion in federal funding for four Everglades restoration projects, including some in his congressional district.

More recently, Rubio has touted his work to get a separate $1.9 billion in clean-up projects secured in the latest water bill, which the Senate passed earlier this month.

Climate change proves to be an easy contrast between their records.

Murphy said he supports national and global policies to combat sea-level rise and other effects of climate change, while Rubio has said such measures could damage the economy without actually solving the problem. In contrast to scientific consensus, Rubio has said he doesn't believe humans are driving climate change, and he once quipped during his unsuccessful presidential run that "I don’t have a plan to influence the weather."

Miami Herald Tallahassee bureau chief Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.

*This post has been corrected to fix Kimberly Mitchell's title at the Everglades Trust.

Photo credit: Richard Graulich / AP/The Palm Beach Post

Rubio remembers Marlins ace on Senate floor



Sen. Marco Rubio delivered a moving tribute to Jose Fernandez in the Senate on Tuesday, growing emotional in recalling their shared opposition to the Cuban government.

In a poignant speech on the Senate floor, Rubio said the ace pitcher was on his way to a Hall of Fame career and to leading the Miami Marlins to "a couple pennants" before he died Sunday when his 32-foot fishing boat struck a jetty near Government Cut channel.

Miami residents Emilio Macias, 27, and Eduardo Rivero, 25, close friends of the 24-year-old Fernandez, were also on board the vessel and died with him.

"I never met Jose Fernandez, yet I feel like I knew him," Rubio said in his tribute. "And that's how millions of people feel. They feel like they know him. It is, in the end, our story -- as Cuban-Americans, as Americans."

The Miami Republican and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson introduced a resolution honoring Fernandez.

Among the personal qualities and professional accomplishments cited in the measure, it says that Fernandez "came to embody the American dream and was a great source of pride for the Cuban exile community of the United States."

Fernandez's grandfather,  Rubio said, tried and failed to defect from Cuba 13 times before succeeding and settling in Tampa 

As great a pitcher as he was, the former presidential candidate said, "off the field -- as a human being, as a son, as a grandson, as a teammate, as a neighbor -- he was even better."

Fernandez's grandfather, Rubio recounted, tried and failed to defect from Cuba 13 times before succeeding and settling in Tampa.

Rubio then told the by-now familiar story of how Fernandez rescued his mother after she fell overboard in 2007 during the family's fourth attempt to leave Cuba while taking a more perilous, longer route to Mexico instead of Florida.

"Jose was 15 years old," Rubio said. "Before America ever met Jose Fernandez, before his fastball earned him millions of dollars, this young man was revealing himself."

Rubio quoted from a 2012 scouting report on the fellow Cuban-American, then 20, that said he "exudes confidence" and had a "no-fear approach" to pitching.

"This was not arrogance," the senator said. "This was the peaceful self-assurance of a kid who had known life and death."

Rubio said he was touched by Fernandez saying that his proudest accomplishment in life was having become a U.S. citizen last year.

"'I consider myself now to be free,'" Rubio quoted the pitcher as having said.

Rubio added: "Jose knew how special and fortunate and blessed he was and we are," Rubio said. "He went from a Cuban prison to a Major League clubhouse. Jose's story was our story. He reminds so many in my community of someone they knew -- of a brother or a son or a nephew."

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, El Nuevo Herald





Super PAC ad criticizes Patrick Murphy for supporting Iran deal



A conservative super PAC with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is launching a new ad Tuesday to highlight Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy's support for the Iran nuclear deal.

The 30-second spot from the Senate Leadership Fund is the second wave of advertising as part of the group's $10.8 million planned spending this fall in Florida.

The new ad will run in Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach on cable and broadcast TV.

Criticizing Murphy for backing the Iran nuclear deal, the ad characterizes Iran as a place where "they still chant death to America, help kill our troops, (and) sponsor terrorism."

"Patrick Murphy isn't just untrustworthy, he's also dangerous," Senate Leadership Fund spokesman Ian Prior said in a statement. "His blind support of the Iran nuclear deal puts our national security at risk and is yet another reason why Murphy has no business in the Senate."

In August 2015, Murphy -- a two-term congressman representing northern Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast -- announced his support for the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran. At the time, Murphy called it "flawed" but also "the best available option to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon."

In response to the Senate Leadership Fund's ad, Murphy's campaign noted that Republican incumbent Marco Rubio -- whom the super PAC supports -- has missed "nearly half" of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's hearings on Iran.

"What’s ‘dangerous' is Florida not having a voice on critical national security issues facing our country," Murphy spokeswoman Galia Slayen said. "Rubio’s special interest allies can keep pouring money into misleading attacks, but it won’t change the fact that Marco Rubio not only trusts dangerous Donald Trump with our national security, but that Rubio skipped work even when it came to our country's safety."

Here's the Senate Leadership Fund's new ad:

*This post has been updated with comment from Murphy's campaign.

Image credit: Senate Leadership Fund / YouTube

September 26, 2016

Citing 'clear' choice, Human Rights Campaign endorses Patrick Murphy

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The Human Rights Campaign announced its support this afternoon for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy over Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio.

"The choice for LGBTQ Floridians could not be more clear in November," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. "Patrick Murphy has a record of leadership on equality while Marco Rubio has dedicated his career to opposing LGBTQ equality."

Griffin added: "Patrick Murphy believes that everyone should be able to live free from fear of discrimination, including LGBTQ people. That’s why Patrick Murphy supports the Equality Act, and why we’re proud to support his campaign."

Murphy said he was proud of the endorsement.

"Our state deserves a senator who represents the voice of the LGBT community and all Floridians in the U.S. Senate," Murphy said in a statement provided by the HRC.

Nabbing HRC's endorsement means Murphy can expect campaign and fundraising help from the group's political action committee during the remaining weeks before Election Day.

Photo credit: Richard Graulich / AP/The Palm Beach Post

Patrick Murphy makes weekend campaign stops in South Florida, Treasure Coast

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Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy spent part of this past weekend stumping around South Florida and the Treasure Coast, familiar territory for the Miami native and Jupiter congressman.

Friday and Saturday nights, he spoke to Democratic clubs in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. And earlier Saturday, Murphy also toured waterways in Martin and St. Lucie counties -- in his congressional district -- that are affected by algae blooms.

Murphy's algae tour in Stuart and Fort Pierce was not an announced campaign stop. In a press release afterward, his campaign provided images of the photo-op and said Murphy met with St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky at the two locations.

Murphy's campaign used the weekend's events to tout Murphy's focus on environmental protection and his dedication to serving in public office -- attempts to strike a contrast with Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio.

Murphy has plans to be in Sarasota and Tampa next weekend.

Photo credit: Patrick Murphy campaign

New Republican ad mocks semantics of Patrick Murphy's résumé



In a new ad that debuted over the weekend, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has found a different way to poke fun at Patrick Murphy's disputed credentials of working as a CPA and a small business owner.

Both the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate's campaign and his Republican critics have tried to paint Murphy's résumé as a clear-cut issue -- but the nuances of Murphy's job experience require particular language to describe them accurately.

More from PolitiFact: "A guide to the attacks on Patrick Murphy’s résumé"

The NRSC plays off that necessary specificity in its new ad, "Audition," which is airing in Tampa and Orlando. (The NRSC supports Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio.)

The 30-second spot shows an actor reading lines to play the part of Murphy, but he's repeatedly interrupted because he's not saying the lines in a way that accurately conveys Murphy's credentials.

The NRSC has been running attack ads against Murphy all month as part of $4.8 million in planned TV spending before October. Each ad has attempted to highlight the Jupiter congressman's résumé embellishments, but past ads used language that PolitiFact found was too extreme and worthy of a "Mostly False" rating.

Murphy's campaign has called the Republicans' persistent attacks over Murphy's résumé "discredited lies."

But it's correct for this ad to say "Murphy isn't a Florida CPA." He was licensed in Colorado and worked in Florida as an auditor for Deloitte & Touche.

As for the ad's other claim: Murphy was at least a part-owner in a business -- an environmental services company that was a subsidiary of his father's large construction company. Coastal Construction Group is one of the biggest building firms in South Florida. Murphy's campaign wouldn't disclose how much of Coastal Environmental Services Murphy owned; his father Tom Murphy Jr., Coastal President Dan Whiteman and three other unnamed individuals were also shareholders.

"Patrick Murphy feels so entitled to Florida’s Senate seat that he can't be bothered to be honest about his professional experience prior to his career in politics," NRSC spokesman Greg Blair said in a statement. "Here's the truth: Murphy is an empty suit with a rich dad and has disqualified himself from office by repeatedly lying about his accomplishments."

Murphy spokeswoman Galia Slayen said in a statement in response: "Robot Rubio and his special interest allies are stuck on repeat with false attacks that have already been discredited by multiple, independent fact-checks."

Image credit: NRSC

*This post has been updated with comment from the Murphy campaign.

September 23, 2016

Can Zika aid bill overcome its DC partisan past?



WASHINGTON Senate Republican leaders revealed what they called a breakthrough in Zika funding Thursday under renewed pressure from Florida lawmakers and mayors to break a seven-month political impasse.

Read more here:

Democrats, however, said disputes over funding other urgent needs could still block any final deal, with the Zika money now part of a larger appropriations measure meant to fund the federal government through Dec. 9.

Just a few hours after Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine met with South Florida members of Congress and visited the White House to push for the stalled Zika money, the Senate Republicans disclosed the new Zika effort.

For more, read here:

Photo credit: C. M. Guerrero, El Nuevo Herald


Read more here:


Marco Rubio, Republicans use Iran to attack Patrick Murphy on foreign policy

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For months, Republicans have hammered Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy for his support of the Obama administration when it comes to Iran policy, and those attacks escalated overnight after Murphy voted with House Democrats to oppose a ban on future cash payments to the Middle East nation.

GOP groups, including Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio, are using Thursday night's vote to characterize the Jupiter congressman as "weak" on national security, but Murphy, like other Democrats, argue Republicans are merely playing politics.

The debate stems from revelations this summer that the U.S. paid $400 million to Iran as part of a decades-old settlement on the same day four American prisoners were released from the country. Republicans have described the transaction as a "ransom" payment, a characterization the Obama administration disputes.

In response to that controversy, though, the Republican-led House on Thursday passed a bill -- mostly along partylines with Democrats, like Murphy, opposed -- that would prohibit cash payments to Iran and require congressional notification for any future settlement transactions.

MORE from McClatchy DC: "House approves legislation prohibiting cash payments to Iran"

When asked by the Herald/Times why Murphy opposed the bill, his congressional spokeswoman Erin Moffet initially did not specify the reason for Murphy's vote, but then later explained his position in a follow-up statement.

"It is not in our nation's best interest to tie this and the next president's hands from being able to settle claims, which this politically motivated bill would do by preventing the U.S. government from making future payments – even if required by law," Moffet said.

Continue reading "Marco Rubio, Republicans use Iran to attack Patrick Murphy on foreign policy" »

Labor unions' new attack ad criticizes Marco Rubio's 'priorities'



Two liberal labor unions have teamed up to launch a new attack ad on Friday that criticizes Republican incumbent Marco Rubio's legislative "priorities" and casts him as out of touch with Floridians.

The ad from AFSCME People and AFT Solidarity accuses Rubio of favoring cuts to Social Security and Medicare and also says he "voted to slash school funding by billions of dollars and would eliminate the Department of Education."

MORE: "Fact-checking Democratic attacks on Marco Rubio's statements on Social Security and Medicare"

The 30-second spot will air in the Tampa and Orlando media markets through the end of the month, AFSCME PEOPLE said. AFCSME and AFT's political committees are jointly funding the $1.3 million ad buy. 

Both of the labor unions support Rubio's opponent, Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

"Marco Rubio is more concerned with his chances to run for president in 2020 than to tackle the issues that Floridians care about as proven by his dismal record when he actually does show up for work," Shirin Bidel-Niyat, AFSCME’s assistant director of political action, said in a statement. "This ad reminds voters of something they want so badly to forget: Marco Rubio is only out for Marco Rubio, not for their families and their communities."

But Rubio's campaign spokesman Michael Ahrens fired back, saying "Patrick Murphy's liberal supporters are distorting Marco's positions, just like Murphy distorted his own résumé."

Ahrens reiterated a previous statement from the campaign, noting that Rubio's mother relies on Social Security and "Marco would never do anything to hurt his mother or the millions of Florida seniors who depend on Social Security and Medicare."

"Marco also believes our children are best served by an education system that's run by Floridians at the state and local level, not by the federal government bureaucrats who bankroll Patrick Murphy's campaign and paid for this false attack ad," Ahrens added.

For AFSCME PEOPLE, the ad represents the second wave of $1.8 million the union plans to spend on TV ads in Florida's U.S. Senate race. The union's first ad -- a joint operation with the Senate Majority PAC -- also criticized Rubio over entitlement programs. PolitiFact rated the claims in that ad "Half True."

Here's the unions' ad:

Image credit: AFSCME PEOPLE / YouTube

*This post has been updated with comment from the Rubio campaign.

September 22, 2016

Suffolk poll: Rubio leads Murphy, 43% to 34%

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A new poll out Thursday by Suffolk University shows Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio leading his Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy by 9 percentage points in Florida's U.S. Senate race.

Out of 500 likely Florida voters surveyed Sept. 19-21, the Suffolk poll found 43 percent supported Rubio, compared to 34 percent backing Murphy.

About 17 percent were undecided, and the rest either didn't answer or preferred another candidate. The results had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Compared to the last Suffolk poll in Florida done a month before the Aug. 30 primary, Rubio's lead over Murphy has narrowed slightly. In that survey, Rubio led Murphy by 13 percentage points.

Rubio has been ahead of Murphy in most every poll since June, with an average advantage of about 6.1 percentage points, according to Real Clear Politics.

Photo credit: Jose Iglesias / El Nuevo Herald