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" »

October 29, 2015

Bizarre excess of donations to Alan Grayson resulted from software glitch


Jacqueline Kirley vaguely remembered the name Alan Grayson. The retired Chicago teacher had no reason to know or care until this week that the Orlando congressman is running to represent Florida in the U.S. Senate in a competitive race to replace Marco Rubio.

But because of a fluke software glitch, Kirley likely won’t ever forget Grayson again.

Her name appeared nearly 2,300 times in the Democrat’s most recent campaign finance report, filed with the Federal Election Commission earlier this month. The lengthy disclosure claimed Kirley gave Grayson altogether $37,600 in varying increments — $1, $5, $20.16, $50, $100, and so on — all on July 15, according to a Herald/Times analysis of the quarterly report.

It’s not uncommon for the same donor to contribute more than once to a campaign, but 2,300 times — on the same day, no less — is unrealistically frequent.

Kirley said she didn’t know of the reported contributions in her name until a Herald/Times reporter called her Wednesday to ask her about what Grayson’s campaign ultimately explained was a snafu after upgrading its reporting software.

“It was a little harder to spot because we have so many small-number donations,” Grayson spokesman Kevin Franck said. “It just seems to be a very weird, weird software glitch.”

More here.

Photo credit: Walter Michot

October 28, 2015

Alan Grayson joins calls for Marco Rubio's resignation



U.S. Senate candidate Alan Grayson, a Democratic congressman from Orlando, says Marco Rubio should resign his seat in the U.S. Senate since he isn't doing the job Floridians elected him to and is, instead, "conducting a vanity campaign for president."

"Marco Rubio has already quit on the people of Florida. His resignation simply makes that official. And when he does, I will say good riddance," Grayson said in a statement this afternoon.

Rubio, disenchanted with the Senate, has explained his poor attendance and voting record by saying he's focused on running for president, where he can make the Senate more effective.

This morning, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's editorial board called on Rubio to resign, and Grayson echoed that sentiment.

“If Senator Rubio does not want to do his job of representing Florida in the Senate, then he should quit," said Grayson, who's seeking to replace Rubio in 2016.

"After missing more votes than any other senator this year, Rubio is M.I.A., in dereliction of duty, Grayson said. "Even before he announced his Presidential campaign, Marco Rubio had the worst attendance record in the Senate. Sen. Feinstein, who is 82 years old, missed fewer votes than Rubio. Sen. Kirk, who suffered a devastating stoke, missed fewer votes than Rubio."

"Floridians have the reasonable expectation that Marco Rubio should show up to work, earn his pay of $14,500 each month, and do his job," Grayson continued. "Instead of doing his job, however, Marco is conducting a vanity campaign for president.  He has missed as many as half of his votes. What kind of employee misses half of his work days, and then expects a promotion?"

Grayson faces a competitive Democratic primary next year against fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter.

Photo credit: AP

October 15, 2015

Patrick Murphy raised $1.5M in past three months



The U.S. Senate campaign for Patrick Murphy says the Jupiter congressman raised over $1.5 million in the past three months.

The haul gives Murphy nearly $3.5 million in cash on hand, as of Sept. 30, to spend in the race to replace Marco Rubio, the campaign said.

Fundraising totals for U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando -- Murphy's main opponent in the Democratic primary -- were not immediately available Thursday morning, nor were those for North Palm Beach attorney Pam Keith, who is also competing in the party primary.

Quarterly reports to the Federal Election Commission are due to the agency today. The reports are not yet available online.

Murphy said in a statement he's "humbled" by the support he's received -- which amounts to $4.2 million in money raised since January. The campaign said the recent fundraising haul gives Murphy another boost in confidence.

“This kind of support is essential to waging an effective campaign that reaches every single Florida voter. I’m more confident than ever that our campaign will have the resources to win this race — both the primary and the general election,” campaign manager Josh Wolf said.

*This post will be updated as more information from Grayson's and Keith's campaigns becomes available.*

Photo credit: Walt Michot, Miami Herald / Tampa Bay Times

October 07, 2015

Patrick Murphy jabs Alan Grayson with first web ad


U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, of Jupiter, took a swipe at his main opponent in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate by launching his first web ad today.

In the 45-second bit, Murphy's campaign juxtaposes two contradictory statements from U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, of Orlando, as a means to illustrate what appears to be double-speak on Grayson's part.

"Home ownership is, in fact, the American dream. There's no other way to put it," a video clip shows Grayson telling the Florida Realtors Conference in late August.

The ad follows with an audio clip of Grayson a month later telling the Democratic Women's Caucus of Florida: "The American dream is not the ability to buy a home. Despite what the National Association of Realtors may want you to think."

Grayson launched his first web ad about six weeks ago, attacking Murphy's legislative record. That video appears to no longer be available.

Grayson and Murphy are battling for the party nomination in the race for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat. North Palm Beach attorney Pam Keith is also running.