January 28, 2016

Scott: Don't count Jeb out


Gov. Rick Scott hasn't written off one of his famous predecessor's chances of becoming president.

Scott, in Washington to deliver an address on reforming hospital pricing practices at the American Enterprise Institute, put on his politics hat after the talk.

Scott, governor since 2011, said it's too soon to give up on former Gov. Jeb Bush despite his failure to gain traction in polls.

 "I still think it's early," Scott told the Miami Herald. "I mean, we haven't even done the first primary yet."

Scott said that Bush "was a very successful governor" when he headed the state from 1999 to 2007, noting in particular his education reforms.

"We're at a 12-year high in our K-12 graduation rate," Scott said.

Adding that "Jeb is working hard," Scott said, "The person that works the hardest generally wins."

Despite praising Bush's record in Florida, Scott declined to endorse him. Neither is he endorsing -- yet -- fellow Floridian Marco Rubio, the first-term U.S. senator, nor any of the other Republican presidential hopefuls.

"Like a lot of voters in Florida, I'm watching the candidates," the governor said.

Four days before the Feb.1 Iowa caucuses, Bush tallied just 4 percent in a NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll of that state's Republican voters released Thursday. He was far behind businessman Donald Trump and U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio of Florida, while also trailing neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Bush is faring better in New Hampshire, which will hold its primary Feb. 9, according to a poll released Thursday by Suffolk University. Bush broke out of the single digits with 11 percent, putting him in a second-place tie with Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Rubio, with all four men well behind Trump's 27 percent standing.

In addition to Bush, Scott said he has personal relationships with Rubio, along with Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie through the Republican Governors Association.

Scott criticized the Republican National Committee for having scheduled just nine presidential debates this year.

"I wish the national party hadn't limited the number of debates and limited the locations," he said.

The RNC is weighing three additional possible Republican presidential debates.

The March 10 GOP debate will be at the University of Miami, nine days after Super Tuesday, when 14 states will hold Republican primaries or caucuses. Florida will hold its primary on March 15.

Scott declined to comment directly on Trump's decision to skip Thursday night's Fox News debate because of his ongoing feud with Megyn Kelly, one of its moderators.

"Every candidate's got to think about what's the best forum for them to get their message out, whether it's debates, whether it's town halls," Scott said.


January 27, 2016

Patrick Murphy sets 'major announcement' with laborers' union


U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, plans to make a "major announcement" Friday morning in Pompano Beach with leaders of the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA).

A media advisory from the campaign includes no details on the substance of the announcement, but it looks to be another endorsement for the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, who continues to rack up endorsements from the party establishment and key interest groups.

Murphy is running in a competitive primary against fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, of Orlando, who's drawing his support from progressives and grassroots donors. North Palm Beach attorney Pam Keith is also seeking the Democratic nomination.


January 19, 2016

Wealthy Manatee County developer weighing late entry into U.S. Senate's GOP primary


Carlos Beruff, a Manatee County developer who leads Gov. Rick Scott’s hospital commission, said on Tuesday that he has not ruled out making a late entry into Florida's U.S. Senate race, but denied reports that he has already met with the National Republican Senatorial Committee and is close to making a decision.

Beruff said anyone claiming he met with the NRSC, should be on the lookout for an “imposter.” 

Beruff said some friends and allies have told him he should consider the race and he said he’ll look at it. But he said the idea is in its infancy and he is not close to making a decision if it is something he’d want to do.

The U.S. Senate race already has a crowded GOP primary forming with U.S. Reps Ron DeSantis and David Jolly, Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Todd Wilcox. They are seeking the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Beruff, 58, has been the chairman of Scott’s hospital commission since its inception in May 2015. That commission has been charged with looking at how taxpayer-supported hospitals spend their money and other costs and outcomes related to health care services. The commission held its final meeting on Tuesday in Tallahassee.

Beruff said in a short interview that if he runs for the Senate it would be because he thinks he can get something done in Washington and can give something back to a “country that has been so good to me.”

Beruff, who grew up poor in Miami, is a multi-millionaire who in 1984 started Medallion Homes, which is now one of the biggest residential land development companies in Manatee County. He has never held elective office, but over the last six years has been increasing his political stock on local and state government boards. He’s been a member of the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority, the Southwest Florida Water Management District Board and the State College of Florida Board of Trustees, where his questioning led to dramatic changes in the Manatee County school’s leadership team.

Beruff has been a major campaign contributors to Republicans causes, according to Federal Election Commission records. Since 2006, Beruff and his wife have donated nearly $160,000 to Republicans including $5,000 to Right to Rise, a political committee backing former Gov. Jeb Bush's campaign for the White House. Beruff has also hosted fundraisers for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, and supported U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, and Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, in their re-election campaigns. 

January 06, 2016

Six South Florida mayors endorse Patrick Murphy for U.S. Senate


U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, announced this morning that six South Florida mayors have endorsed his bid for U.S. Senate.

The endorsements are from: Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam, Coconut Creek Mayor Becky Tooley, Coral Springs Mayor Skip Campbell, Sunrise Mayor Mike Ryan, Wellington Mayor Bob Margolis and Cutler Bay Mayor Peggy Bell.

They join a growing list of supporters from the Democratic establishment who are backing the more-moderate Murphy over fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando. Grayson is drawing his support mostly from progressives and grassroots backers.

"Patrick is the right person to represent all Floridians in the U.S. Senate," Messam said in a statement provided by Murphy's campaign. "Our communities need a leader who is committed to our values and will fight for all working families. Patrick has a proven record of success and he has the right priorities to lead our state.”

Ryan added, in a statement also provided by the campaign: "I know that Patrick will lead us with integrity and will work everyday to unite, not divide, us."

Pam Keith, an attorney from North Palm Beach, is also running in the Democratic primary.

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

December 30, 2015

After two months, Alan Grayson's U.S. Senate campaign fixes botched disclosure



U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson has fixed his most recent campaign finance disclosure with the Federal Elections Commission almost two months after his Senate campaign incorrectly reported 2,300 donations from a Chicago retiree who hadn't actually contributed a dime to his bid for higher office.

Grayson's campaign in October told the Herald/Times a software glitch was the reason Jacqueline Kirley's name was associated with more than $37,000 in contributions to the Orlando Democrat and that the campaign had already started working to fix its report for the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30.

But the error took two months to resolve. Campaign staff wanted to be doubly sure there were no further problems that would need correcting, Grayson spokesman David Damron said this week.

"We had to have the software company fix the initial glitch, and they corrected the errors, and then we checked the report over a few times to assure accurate final numbers," Damron said.

FEC records show the amended report was sent by overnight delivery on Dec. 17, a day after a Herald/Times reporter inquired with the campaign about the status of the corrected disclosure.

Grayson is running against fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, and North Palm Beach attorney Pam Keith in the contentious Democratic primary for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat. Four Republicans are running in the GOP primary.

Continue reading "After two months, Alan Grayson's U.S. Senate campaign fixes botched disclosure" »

December 21, 2015

Patrick Murphy asks for donations in response to attack ad's 'lies'



Democrat Patrick Murphy's campaign for U.S. Senate spent the weekend seeking donations from the Jupiter congressman's supporters in order to counter an attack ad, which Better Florida Alliance launched against him on Friday.

In an "urgent" message Saturday morning, Murphy's campaign manager Josh Wolf fired off a plea to Murphy's fundraising list, blasting the conservative advocacy group as a "shady SuperPAC" and calling their ad "a complete distortion of Patrick's record."

The ad was critical of a vote Murphy cast related to taking military action against ISIS, as well as his support for gun-control reforms. As of noon Monday, it had 171 views on YouTube. Better Florida Alliance said it planned to target the ad across social media over the holidays.

Murphy is running in the contentious 2016 Democratic primary against U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio.

"They think that if they get their smears out now, voters will believe them. They are right," Wolf said in the fundraising email. "I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about this attack."

"We have to fight back every time an attack like this is launched," Wolf added. "We cannot let distortions about Patrick’s record go uncorrected."

The campaign sought to raise $10,000 to create a "Rapid Response Fund," the email said. As of 7:30 Sunday, the campaign said in a follow-up fundraising email to supporters that it was still $1,500 away from its goal.

"With recent polls showing a huge number of voters undecided in this race, we cannot risk letting these lies take root," the second email said.

Murphy's campaign declined to comment last week in response to the ad and declined to tell the Herald/Times on Monday whether it had reached its fundraising goal.

Photo credit: Walter Michot/ Miami Herald

December 18, 2015

Conservative ad: U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy 'clueless' on ISIS



A conservative advocacy group has gone on the offensive against U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy, calling the Democratic congressman from Jupiter "clueless" in the fight against ISIS.

In a new digital ad campaign targeting "key Florida markets," the Better Florida Alliance attacks Murphy for supporting gun-control reforms -- specifically in the wake of the San Bernardino attack -- and for his vote in June in favor of pulling troops out of Iraq and Syria unless there was a congressional authorization for using military force.

The group calls on Floridians to tell Murphy to "stop attacking law-abiding Americans and start fighting ISIS terrorists instead."

“We’re in a war against ISIS terrorists, but Patrick Murphy wants to give them jobs while taking guns from Americans,” spokesman Brian Burgess said. “This isn’t leadership; it’s liberal capitulation in the face of Islamist radicals who want to murder as many Americans as possible. Florida deserves better leadership.”

Burgess said the ad will run over the holiday break only online and is being targeted across social media. He did not say how much the group is spending on it.

Murphy is running in a contentious 2016 Democratic primary against U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio.

The full ad is here:


Image credit: YouTube

December 16, 2015

Grayson hires new staff to recharge U.S. Senate campaign



U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, has hired new top-level staff for his U.S. Senate bid, replenishing his campaign's ranks following the departure of high-profile aides in recent weeks.

"As we move into the next phase of the campaign, we are re-tooling and, as always, aggressively running to win," the campaign said in a statement today, confirming the two new hires to the Herald/Times.

Among them is a familiar face from Grayson's congressional office: David Damron. Damron had been Grayson's press secretary but is now taking over press operations for his boss' Senate bid. Damron also worked on Grayson's 2014 re-election campaign and, before that, was a reporter covering politics in Florida for nearly two decades. 

The campaign also hired as political director Mario Piscatella, who was formerly the executive director of the Florida Young Democrats and has worked on a variety of campaigns throughout the country.

"As voters start to pay more attention to this race, we will continue to build up our winning team," Grayson's campaign said.

Two weeks ago, Grayson's campaign manager Doug Dodson left, and senior adviser and spokesman Kevin Franck's last day was Dec. 15. Deputy campaign manager David Keith left the campaign’s day-to-day operations earlier this fall but was to remain as an informal adviser. The departures were all mutual, the campaign said.

But critics have said those exits indicated growing turmoil in Grayson's camp, which is also grappling with sluggish fundraising and a congressional ethics investigation into the congressman's hedge funds. Grayson's campaign had shrugged off those notions, saying the staffing changes were "normal in the course of a campaign."

Grayson -- an unabashed progressive known for never mincing words -- is in the midst of a contentious primary battle with fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat. Murphy has support from the party establishment and, as of October, had $3.5 million in his campaign warchest, compared to Grayson's $250,000.

Democrat Pam Keith, a North Palm Beach attorney, is also running in the August primary.

Four candidates are running on the Republican side: U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami, and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox.

Photo credit: U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, R-Orlando, speaks during the 2015 AP Florida Legislative Planning Session for the year 2016, in Tallahassee, Fla., Wednesday, October 14, 2015. Walter Michot / Miami Herald

December 09, 2015

Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson push for opposing bills on H1-B foreign worker visas

via @learyreports

Following controversy over 250 Disney workers laid off in favor of foreign workers, Sen. Bill Nelson wants to slash the number of specialized work visas.

The Florida Democrat produced the legislation with an unlikely ally, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, an immigration hardliner. And their bill opposes an initiative co-sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio that triples the number of current H-1B visas given annually - an issue that has come up in the presidential race.

"By cutting the number of visas available each year and requiring those visas be given to the highest-wage earners first, this bill directly targets outsourcing companies that rely on lower-wage foreign workers to replace equally-qualified U.S. workers," Nelson said.

The "Protecting American Jobs Act" would cut the number of H-1B visas by 15,000. It calls on the Department of Homeland Security to allocate the remaining 70,000 visas in a way that minimizes the potential for companies to seek cheap foreign labor.

Disney sparked outrage when 250 workers in Orlando were laid off in late 2014 and replaced with workers hired by an outsourcing company based in India. The stunned workers had to train their replacements.

Continue reading "Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson push for opposing bills on H1-B foreign worker visas" »

December 08, 2015

Alan Grayson says Ted Cruz is not an American. Pants on Fire!

If Texas Sen. Ted Cruz wins the Republican presidential nomination, don’t expect Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., to send flowers.

Grayson, a U.S. Senate candidate, has threatened to file a lawsuit the minute Cruz’s nomination is confirmed, saying Cruz can’t hold the office of president because he’s not an American.  

Here’s the key exchange on Nov. 25, 2015, about Cruz between Grayson and Fox Radio host Alan Colmes.

Grayson: "Technically, he’s not even an American."

Colmes: "Well, his mother was born here, so I guess like Obama, though it’s interesting to me that the people who had a problem with Obama’s birth certificate don’t have a problem with Ted Cruz, who literally was born in another country and renounced his Canadian citizenry."

Grayson: "I don’t know. The Constitution says natural-born Americans, so now we’re counting Canadians as natural-born Americans? How does that work? I’m waiting for the moment that he gets the nomination and then I will file that beautiful lawsuit saying that he’s unqualified for the job because he’s ineligible."

Colmes: "So you’re saying should he get the nomination, Alan Grayson will file a lawsuit against his candidacy?"

Grayson: "Absolutely! Call me crazy, but I think the president of America should be an American."

Well, congressman, Cruz is an American by any definition. He travels on a U.S. passport. He's a member of the U.S. Senate, which requires him to be a citizen for nine years. There is no gray area on whether he is an American.

Keep reading Jon Greenberg's fact-check from PolitiFact.