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

March 03, 2016

Obama-Biden endorsement in U.S. Senate race fractures Florida Democrats


A division of the Florida Democratic Party is upset that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have chimed in on the contentious party primary in the state's U.S. Senate race.

Obama and Biden on Wednesday endorsed U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, over fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, further fortifying Murphy's status as the establishment pick.

But progressive Democrats have passionately backed Grayson and the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida -- an official subsection of the state party -- doesn't think it's appropriate for the national party's figureheads to take sides.

"As someone who worked hard to help President Obama win Florida in 2008 and 2012, I am profoundly saddened and disappointed by his apparent lack of trust in Florida Democrats to choose our own U.S. Senate nominee," caucus president Susan Smith said in a statement this morning.

Smith pointed to Grayson's favorable polling. She also criticized Murphy's congressional record and the fact that he was previously a Republican before running for office.

"As much as it breaks my heart to see President Obama attempt to put his thumb on the scale for Patrick Murphy, it's even more worrisome that the president seems to have done so with bad information," Smith said. "I hope the President will read up on Murphy's real record and reconsider his decision to throw the weight of the White House behind someone who will do Wall Street's bidding."

The Florida Democratic Party doesn't endorse in primaries before the qualifying deadline and has no plans to endorse a candidate. 

Executive director Scott Arceneaux told the Herald/Times that the state party is "deeply disappointed in the Progressive Caucus’ statement."

"To use this statement to imply the President and Vice President of the United States are misinformed or unable to thoughtfully arrive at conclusions that differ from the Progressive Caucus’ view is as disturbing as their decision to attack a Democratic member of Florida’s congressional delegation," Arceneaux said in a statement.

He added, “We are a big tent party with diverse views and should be able to disagree without being disagreeable. The Florida Democratic Party welcomes the input of President Obama and Vice President Biden in our races.”

Also Wednesday, Obama and Biden endorsed former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in that state's party primary for the U.S. Senate. Murphy and Strickland were the first Senate candidates Obama and Biden have endorsed this cycle.

March 02, 2016

Barack Obama, Joe Biden endorse Patrick Murphy in Florida's U.S. Senate race; Republicans go on the attack



Adding to his lengthy -- and growing -- list of establishment endorsements, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy just landed the two biggest names possible for a Democrat: Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

The president and vice president of the United States are backing Murphy in his bid for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat, Murphy's campaign announced this morning.

And Biden will campaign with Murphy on March 28, the campaign said. Specific details haven't been released yet.

In statements provided by the campaign, both Obama and Biden heaped praise on Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, for his work supporting the middle-class and a host of other issues.

"Patrick has been a tireless champion for middle-class families and a defender of the economic progress that American workers and businesses have made," Obama said in the statement. "In Congress, he's fought to strengthen Medicare and Social Security, reform our criminal justice system, and protect a woman's right to choose. Floridians can count on Patrick Murphy to stand up for them every day as their next Senator."

Biden added, "Patrick Murphy has the progressive values, the work ethic and the youthful energy the U.S. Senate needs. He'll work tirelessly to bring people together to make a difference for Florida's middle class."

The endorsements -- including that compliment -- weren't well-received by Murphy's primary opponent, fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson. The Orlando congressman is a proud and passionate progressive, who's banking on progressives' support to beat Murphy in Florida's Democratic primary in August.

Grayson's campaign said in a statement that Obama's and Biden's endorsements smack of "a last-ditch effort by the D.C. Establishment to try to blunt our large and growing command of the race."

Continue reading "Barack Obama, Joe Biden endorse Patrick Murphy in Florida's U.S. Senate race; Republicans go on the attack" »

March 01, 2016

Jolly, Grayson agree to one-on-one debates in U.S. Senate race; other contenders not invited


Self-declaring as the "clear front-runners" in Florida's contentious U.S. Senate race, Democrat Alan Grayson and Republican David Jolly say they have agreed to a series of head-to-head debates between this month and the November election.

The congressmen's joint announcement capitalizes on the latest Public Policy Polling poll, released earlier today, which found Jolly and Grayson each with more than 25 percent of likely voters' support and with double-digit leads in their respective party primaries.

Grayson told the Herald/Times that none of the other contenders -- Democrat Patrick Murphy and Republicans Ron DeSantis, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox -- was invited because, he said, "nobody else is really in contention."

"We're both polling with double-digit leads and that's been consistent," Grayson said.

However, the PPP poll was far from a decisive declaration of the race. In both the Republican and Democratic contests, almost half of voters polled remain "undecided" -- a consistent theme in other polls on the race for Marco Rubio's open U.S. Senate seat.

The crowded field has meant all of the candidates, particularly on the Republican side, have struggled to stand out.

Grayson said he invited Jolly to do the debates; he said the congressman from Indian Shores "well and ably represents the Republican point of view."

They want the match-ups to be "genuine debates on the major issues of the day" akin to the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Grayson said.

Jolly said the debates will provide the opportunity "to contrast our differing views for the future of Florida and the country."

Continue reading "Jolly, Grayson agree to one-on-one debates in U.S. Senate race; other contenders not invited" »