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May 24, 2018

Sixteen states have filed for federal election money. Florida is not one of them.

Sixteen states have formally applied for federal money to improve their election security in advance of the 2018 vote.

Florida is not yet one of them.

The state's chief elections officer, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, says: "We've been working on it daily." The state hasn't specifically said why up until this week it hasn't sought the money.

Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday ordered Detzner to seek Florida's $19 million share of a $380 million fund, part of a spending bill that President Donald J. Trump signed in March.

To get the money, states must submit a 2-to-3 page narrative overview of activities to be supported with the money and a line item budget within 90 days of a notice of a grant award.

The federal Election Assistance Commission, in bold, underscored text, says on its web site that "awards will be issued and funds available for drawdown prior to receipt of the plan overview to expedite and support any needed expenditures prior to the 2018 election."

States that have applied to the EAC are Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Missouri submitted its request on April 19. This map shows the date of each state's submission.

County election supervisors in Florida, who are wrapping up their annual conference in Fort Lauderdale, are eager to get some of that money to make security upgrades, especially in small and rural counties limited by a lack of growth in tax revenues.

In a statement, Detzner's spokeswoman, Sarah Revell, said: "We are in the process of putting a budget together that supports state and local elections officials, and the department is going to move quickly based on the governor's directive to submit the required paperwork to the EAC to draw down the funding as soon as possible."

Special session to boost education funding? It's not happening. Republicans vote for status quo.

By Jeffrey Solochek, Tampa Bay Times Corcoran and Sheve Jones

To almost no one's surprise, a last ditch effort to bring Florida lawmakers back to Tallahassee for another conversation about public education funding has failed.

A group of House Democrats, led by Reps. Shevrin Jones and Nicholas Duran, used an obscure law by which 20 percent of the Legislature could require a poll to determine whether a special session would take place.

Three-fifths of the members in each chamber would have to agree. The vote fell far short.

In the House, all 41 Democrats supported the measure. Not a single Republican did.

In the Senate, all 16 Democrats backed the call. Not one Republican joined them. In fact, the nearly half the Senate Republicans did not even participate in the survey, including former president Tom Lee (Hillsborough), future president Wilton Simpson (Pasco) and president pro tempore Anitere Flores (Miami-Dade).

Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced the survey results Thursday, after the noon deadline had passed. The outcome was all but certain two days earlier, though, as the emerging tally made clear the 60 percent threshold wouldn't be reached.

The Democrats made their push amid school leader complaints that the state's public education budget for the coming fiscal year did not include enough added funding to cover rising daily costs, while also not meeting the Legislature's demands for increased school security and mental health services.

Republican leaders fired back with a video insisting the state's education funding had reached record levels, and arguing the detractors misrepresented the budget. Gov. Rick Scott also stood by the spending plan, which he signed despite calls for a veto by superintendents and others.

Rep. Jones, the ranking Democrat on the House Education committee, said it was unfortunate the effort failed.

"I'm thankful for my Democratic colleagues for understanding and keeping true to our values, which we have consistently been fighting for," he said. "We will continue our commitment to fight on behalf of our teachers and on behalf of our students.

"How do we do that? The people will always rise."

Students, parents and educators are becoming fed up with a legislative system that does not share that priority, Jones said, suggesting the electorate will take matters into its own hands.

"We fight on," he said.

Soon after Detzner's official pronouncement that the special session hadn't passed, the Florida Education Association issued a statement noting that Scott easily could have called lawmakers back on his own, if he had the will.

"This is very sad news for our schools, but no surprise given the current political landscape," FEA president Joanne McCall said in the release. "It's sad news for all of us, because the whole state loses when public education is harmed. The only bright spot I see, going forward, is that we can change our political landscape this fall at the polls."

House Democratic leaders who called for the session could not be immediately reached for comment.

Related: Florida Dems use obscure law in last-ditch effort to call Legislature back for more school funding 

Photo: Rep. Shevrin Jones confers with House Speaker Richard Corcoran in a recent Florida legislative session. [The Florida House]


How a Miami Republican is leading a last-gasp shot at an immigration vote in Congress



Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo is leading a last-gasp shot to change the nation's immigration laws after years of inaction, and he's been furiously trying to rally dissatisfied Republicans over the past three weeks to bypass House Speaker Paul Ryan and force a series of votes on the House floor on immigration in the next few days..

Here's what you need to know.

On May 9, Curbelo introduced a petition to change the rules in the House of Representatives to allow votes on four immigration-related bills. The bill that receives the most support beyond a simple majority passes the House and heads to the Senate for consideration.

Within hours, 17 Republicans signed Curbelo's petition, including Miami Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Curbelo and California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham have led an arm-twisting effort over the past two weeks to get more Republicans on board, and now they are two Republican signatures short of the 25 GOP votes they need to reach a majority if every single Democrat signs the petition.

The petition would force a vote on the following bills:

A conservative immigration bill embraced by the majority of House Republicans that doesn't have enough support to pass.

▪A bill called the DREAM Act that would protect DACA recipients and DACA-eligible young people who didn't sign up for the program from deportation and give them a path to citizenship.

▪A bill that gives DACA-eligible young people a path to citizenship while also including funding for border security.

▪A fourth bill of Speaker Ryan's choosing.

Read more here.

Adam Putnam cancels fundraiser at home of dog shooter


Via @AdamSmithTimes of the Tampa Bay Times

Adam Putnam has scrubbed plans to hold at fundraising reception today at the Orlando home of a man videotaped in 2008 shooting two pet huskies that entered a cow pasture. The cancellation came hours after The Tampa Bay Times noted that the host of the reception, businessman Christopher Comins, had caused considerable outrage after the video of the shooting became public.

"The event has been cancelled," was all Putnam Communications Director Meredith Beatrice would say about the last-minute cancellation.

Wednesday night she dismissed a question about Comins hosting Putnam, noting that fellow Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis had received money from a prominent Democratic donor.

A judge acquitted Comins of animal cruelty charges in 2011, saying that he had been authorized to shoot the dogs by the property owner who has a right to protect his cattle.

Top tier campaigns vet the hosts of their fundraising events as a matter of course. In this case a Google search would have immediately indicated to Putnam's team about Comins' dog issue.

"It's just another case of poor decision making by the same career politician who voted with Nancy Pelosi for bailouts, gave us 'Cash for Clunkers' and supported amnesty," said DeSantis campaign spokesman David Vasquez.

The Democratic group American Bridge promptly jumped on the controversy, calling on Putnam to return the $2,700 Comins contributed to his campaign two months ago.

"Canceling one fundraiser with this dog shooter means nothing if Chris Comins's checks are still sitting in Adam Putnam and the Republican Party of Florida's bank accounts," said American Bridge spokesperson Zach Hudson. "We would hope accepting thousands of dollars from someone who was caught on camera shooting dogs is a bridge too far even for Adam Putnam."

Levine is campaigning on climate change. But his sea-rise legacy is complicated.


Via @NewsbySmiley @JoeFlech and @HarrisAlexC

Philip Levine’s political prospects are intertwined with Miami Beach’s $500 million plan to survive rising seas.

When he ran for mayor in 2013 as a relatively unknown businessman, Levine promised to keep the city dry during seasonal high tides and better prepared for a future fighting back floodwater. Now that he hopes to score the Democratic nomination for Florida governor, the plan he set in motion to rapidly raise roads and protect neighborhoods with industrial pumps is a key cog in his progressive platform.

But as Levine crisscrosses the state promoting his radical sea-rise agenda on Miami Beach, his signature accomplishment is springing leaks back home.

Last week, amid questions about planning under Levine’s tenure, angst about the city’s climate change efforts effectively torpedoed the next steps of the former mayor’s agenda. Because of fierce opposition to a $24 million project that includes raising roads, a divided city commission punted on nearly $90 million of roadway and stormwater improvements in a residential swath of the city.

Following the vote, one elected official referred to the delayed project as “ill-conceived.” The criticism follows frustrations from business owners who’ve seen the city’s pumps fail during power outages and faced warnings from scientists who’ve documented evidence that those same pumps are polluting Biscayne Bay.

“I think Philip Levine helped wake everybody up. I love him for that. This is an elected official who said ‘We don’t have time to wait,” said Caroline Lewis, executive director of the climate change non-profit CLEO Institute. “But I’m not so sure everything was so well thought out.”

Click here to read the rest.

Ros-Lehtinen's would-be heirs have met aliens and dictators and slimed Al Gore

Republican Brady BunchThe heir-apparent to the first ever Latina elected to Congress could be someone who’s been on a space ship with aliens.

It could be a singer whose pop star father croons for campaign donors, or a television anchor known for snaring one-on-one sit-downs with dictators. The daughter of the last-ever Dominican Republic dictator had a shot before dropping out. But the self-described political hit man once questioned in the murder of SunCruz Casinos owner Gus Boulis is still in the running.

For the first time in nearly 30 years, someone not named Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will claim the Republican party's nomination for Florida's 27th congressional district. And the field is, in the words of the retiring congresswoman ... "interesting."

"I'm excited," Ros-Lehtinen said in an interview. "We have a real tug-of-war in the Republican primary. Some are more liberal, some are more conservative, some are practically non-existent."

Nine candidates have lined up for the Republican primary. Ros-Lehtinen called the candidates "sexy," but also admitted that she's been a little bored by the lack of action in the campaign.

"Where is the clarion call from the Republican side? They're very la-tee-da," the retiring congresswoman said. "They need somebody to really stand out."

Tough standards. For some of the candidates, it's hard to see what more they could do.

Click here to read more. (Via @AlexTDaugherty and @NewsbySmiley)

The Republican Governors Association has a target in Florida: Gwen Graham

Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 11.23.01 AM_1
A screenshot of the Republican Governors Association website from Wednesday, May 23, 2018.

If there is a candidate for Florida Governor that the Republican Governors Association doesn't seem to like, it's Gwen Graham.

Nine of the association's latest news releases from Florida take aim at the the former Congresswoman, who is considered a front-runner but slightly behind in polls to former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

The releases, all in the month of May, have the typical headlines you'd expect from members of the opposite party, calling Graham "desperate" or "phony" or having been "caught misleading voters." 

The association, whose stated purpose is "electing and supporting Republican governors," apparently has someone surreptitiously recording the candidate. Its latest release features a video by someone secretly recording while asking Graham a question about taxes at a campaign event.

The RGA hasn't focused solely on Graham, though. The last time they did a press release that targeted another candidate was back in March, when they did a post mentioning that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is "catching fire" among Democrats. (They previously noted that Gillum is "surging" among Democrats.)

Why the focus on Graham? The RGA didn't respond to a request for comment. The current chairman of the RGA is Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for senate, was vice chairman of the organization last year.

As for Graham's camp, they're brushing it off:

"Focusing so many of their attacks on Democrat Gwen Graham, seems like 'R.G.A.' really stands for 'Republican Graham Anxiety,'" Graham campaign manager Julia Woodward said in a statement. "The Republican Governor’s Association fears 20 years of one-party rule is coming to an end in Florida, and they clearly know Gwen is the one who’s going to end the Republican lock on the governor’s office in November."

May 23, 2018

No federal cyber-security money before election, state says

Florida's chief elections official, Ken Detzner, says counties desperately waiting for a new pot of federal money to fight cyber-threats to voting systems won't be getting it before the election.

"The answer is no, and the reason is, we have to go to the Legislature to get approval," Detzner says. "We don't have the authority to spend that money without legislative approval. We have to submit a budget and it has to be a thoughtful budget that looks at the short-term and long-term needs."

President Donald J. Trump signed a spending bill on March 23 that included $380 million for states to harden their election systems against the ongoing threats of cyber-attacks before the 2018 election.

The program is being run by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which said on March 29: "The EAC is releasing this money quickly so that the grants can have an immediate impact, even utilized possibly in the 2018 election cycle."

Florida's share of the pot is $19.2 million, to be divided among the state and 67 counties. Two months after the money was appropriated, Florida has not yet filed all of the required paperwork.

"We've been working on it since we first got the call," Detzner said.

Florida cannot spend new federal money without legislative approval, but that's often a perfunctory step by a panel of lawmakers known as the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, chaired by Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, the incoming House speaker.

The Times/Herald first reported mounting frustration by election supervisors over the slow pace in getting access to money.

At an elections conference in Fort Lauderdale, tensions flared  between Detzner, the Secretary of State and a Gov. Rick Scott appointee, and local elections officials over communications issues. It happened shortly after Detzner said a smooth election is possible "if we work together."

At least three counties complained to Detzner that the state fails to tell them about temporary disruptions in a statewide voter database, which prompts them to scramble for signs of intrusions — never knowing the problem is in Tallahassee.

"We're sitting there chasing our tails, trying to identify where the problem is," Darrell Tate of the Okaloosa County elections office told Detzner. "If you know that you are having an issue with (the database), just a notification."

Detzner replied: "We will address the communications question."

The election supervisors who need federal cyber-security money the most have small staffs with limited technological expertise and are in small and medium-sized counties.

Dana Southerland, who directs a staff of three in rural Taylor County, said: "I think every dollar we can get to be able to put into security procedures is worth struggling for. We're needing the money. Every small county is."

"We need that money as soon as possible," said Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton in Gainesville.

Mark Earley, supervisor of elections in Tallahassee's Leon County, said the bureaucratic delay "seems completely contrary to the intent" of improving election security, but he didn't fault Detzner.

"His hands appear to be tied on this one," Earley said.


A separate federal pot of $1.9 million is available for counties to buy special sensors to detect intrusions, which supervisors called a positive step. That money is in the new state budget that takes effect July 1.

Despite the high anxiety over real and perceived threats to Florida voting systems, the Legislature did not spend any new state dollars to attack the problem in a year when there was enough money to set aside $3 billion in reserves.

South Florida toy exec ready to pony up thousands for Murphy-Jolly run

My Little Pony Rainbow Dash [AP]My Little Pony Rainbow Dash [AP]

Politics can be a nightmarish place: Attack ads. Dark money. Political "bogeymen."

Then there are the days when My Little Pony enters the fray.

That's right. The man whose company produces your favorite classic, rainbow toy horses is getting involved in the 2018 Florida election, and has pledged to back the potential bipartisan ticket of former Congressmen Patrick Murphy and David Jolly for governor and lieutenant governor.

READ MORE: Murphy-Jolly idea comes amid a push for a new approach to politics

"I think it’s a great idea and a great opportunity for Florida, which is a swing state in so many ways, to show the country that this model works, said Jay Foreman, CEO of Basic Fun!, a Boca Raton-based toy company that, along with its conglomerates, also makes Lite-Brites and K'nex.

Under the possible plan, Murphy, a Democrat, would run for governor and if he survived the primary would nominate Jolly, a Republican, to be his running mate. While it's late in the election cycle to join the governor's race and the two still have not announced if they will pull the trigger, the idea has sparked media fascination and has polled well among prospective Democratic primary voters in Florida.

Foreman, a Democrat, said he's a longtime supporter of Murphy's and even held a fundraiser for him during one of his runs for Congress.

But Foreman, 55, was hardly aware Murphy was considering a run for governor alongside Jolly until the pair appeared on MSNBC Monday afternoon. Foreman then messaged Murphy immediately, he said, offering his support and his checkbook.

Foreman said he will likely start with a small $2,500 donation then possibly work his way up to a maximum of $20,000 to $40,000 and another hosted fundraiser.

"Jolly and Murphy get into it and I see two guys with fresh ideas and fresh faces," he said. "It gets me excited because this is the bench for future years in politics."

Foreman regularly gives to politicians in the thousands, and is someone who has supported Murphy's bids in the past. Similar is Barry Ginsburg of Stuart, a retired real estate executive who also said he's an early supporter of the Murphy-Jolly ticket.

"I think (bipartisanship) is needed at this time because it's hard to even talk to your friends and neighbors who have different affiliations … and there's something wrong with that and I think this has a shot to change it," Ginsburg said.

Finding wealthy donors is a must for politicians running statewide races in Florida, a state where expensive TV ads are king. Securing more of these donors could be a challenge for Murphy and Jolly should they decide to run, considering many heavy-hitters have already "committed" to other candidates who have been running their campaigns for months, if not years.

But Foreman doesn't think those challenges will stop them.

"Patrick looks to somebody like me for not only support on basic level, but also emotional support ... because I tell him like it is and if I thought it was a dumb idea I would tell him," he said. "But it's not. I'm guessing he's going to go for it."

May 22, 2018

Democrat finishes first in Miami-Dade as Higgins and Barreiro advance to June runoff


Via @doug_hanks

Newcomer Eileen Higgins rode a wave of support from the Democratic Party to take first place in Tuesday's election to replace Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro and will face the former commissioner's wife, Republican Zoraida Barreiro, in a runoff election next month for the non-partisan seat. Both candidates eliminated former state senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla, who finished third. 

With all precincts reporting shortly before 9 p.m.. Higgins held nearly 35 percent of the vote, followed by Barreiro at 33 percent, with 222 votes separating them. Diaz de la Portilla was in third with 27 percent, followed by former television actor Carlos Garin with less than 5 percent.

With no candidate crossing the 50 percent threshold, the top two finishers advance to a June 19 runoff, setting up a four-week contest to decide who will represent a district that includes Little Havana, South Beach and parts of downtown Miami.

The results delivered a big win for local Democrats as party support for a first-time candidate helped push Higgins ahead of candidates with two well-known names in local politics. Strategists on both sides of the aisle portrayed the strong showing by the lone Democrat in the race as evidence that a "blue wave" that has lifted Democratic candidates in special elections since Donald Trump became president had landed in a Miami-Dade commission race, too.

To read the rest, click here.

Democrats reserve $1.9 million in Miami TV airtime ahead of 2018 election

Debate 27


A Washington-based organization that seeks to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives is locking in its TV airtime for the fall. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced Tuesday that it reserved $1.9 million in the Miami market ahead of Election Day 2018. Campaign committees and other political organizations typically reserve airtime in advance to receive cheaper advertising rates. The Miami reservation, part of a $12.6 million nationwide ad buy was first reported by Inside Elections.

It's not clear yet which Democrats stand to benefit from the outside television presence. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Mary Barzee Flores will likely be the Democratic nominees challenging incumbent Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart, while five Democrats are seeking to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for an open seat that is expected to be a pickup opportunity for Democrats in November. 

None of the Broward County-based seats, currently represented by Democrats Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alcee Hastings and Ted Deutch are expected to be competitive races for Republicans. 

The GOP equivalent of the DCCC, the National Republican Congressional Committee, previously announced a $3.2 million ad reservation in the Miami media market in March as part of a $46.3 million ad buy nationwide. Running TV ads in Miami is an expensive proposition and most congressional campaigns must run English and Spanish language ads. 

The NRCC does not get involved in Republican primaries, but their money will likely be spent to support Curbelo, Diaz-Balart and whoever emerges from a nine-way GOP primary in Ros-Lehtinen's seat. 

A Super PAC called the House Majority PAC that also seeks to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives also announced a $1.1 TV ad reservation in March.

Florida's early voting ban on campuses challenged in court

A new lawsuit accuses Gov. Rick Scott's administration of making it more difficult for young people to vote by preventing early voting at public buildings on state university campuses.

The complaint filed Tuesday by the League of Women Voters and Priorities USA Foundation seeks to strike down a controversial interpretation of Florida's early voting laws by Scott's chief elections officer, Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

Detzner's office issued an opinion in 2014 that the Legislature's expansion of early voting sites to include "government-owned community centers" does not include the student union building on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville.

The city of Gainesville asked if the Reitz Student Union building on the UF campus could serve as an early voting site in 2014. The state said no.

"The result of the secretary's interpretation of the early voting statute is an unjustifiable burden on the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of eligible Florida voters," the complaint asserts. "Those burdens fall particularly and disproportionately on the state's young voters."

As a result, the lawsuit claims, many young people will find it "difficult, and in some cases, impossible" to vote in 2018.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee on behalf of five students at the University of Florida and a sixth student at Florida State in Tallahassee who said they have faced transportation and logistical barriers in trying to vote.

It's the latest case in which the governor is accused of making it harder for Floridians to vote. Scott has said he has made the state "one of the most voter-friendly states in the nation."

The legal action comes as Scott, a Republican, is campaigning to unseat three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and young voters are being mobilized to register to vote following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland.

Some of those new young voters will be incoming college freshmen in the fall and will cast their first ballots in the 2018 election.

Early voting has steadily grown in popularity since it started in Florida in 2004 in response to the chaos that surrounded the presidential recount in 2000.

Statewide, two-thirds of all Florida voters who cast ballots in 2016 voted early or by mail.

The origins of the latest legal clash between Scott and voting rights groups can be traced to Scott's first year in office in 2011.

That year, Scott signed into law a Republican-backed elections bill that reduced early voting hours. The change produced record seven-hour waits and accusations of voter suppression in the 2012 election in which President Barack Obama won a second term in Florida.

The bill, HB 1355, also greatly expanded the use of provisional ballots to include voters who had moved since they last voted but had not updated their voting address — a situation common to college students.

A year later, the Legislature backtracked and expanded early voting days, hours and locations to include a "fairgrounds, civic center, courthouse, county commission building, stadium, convention center, government-owned senior center and government-owned community center."


A ruling by Detzner's office on Jan. 17, 2014, said the UF student union building fit none of those definitions, sparking immediate controversy.

"The Reitz Union is a structure designed for, and affiliated with, a specific educational institution," said the opinion, written by Maria Matthews, director of the state Division of Elections.

"The terms 'convention center' and 'government-owned community center' cannot be construed so broadly as to include the Reitz Union or any other college- or university-related facilities that were rejected by the Legislature as early voting sites."


The League of Women Voters called that reading of the law an "unsubstantiated and unsupportable leap" that must be struck down as a violation of the First and Fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the Twenty-Sixth amendment, which gave 18-year-olds the right to vote.

Democratic legislators filed bills and amendments in 2013 that would have included state college- and university-owned buildings on the list of early voting sites, but the majority Republicans rejected them.

The chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee at the time was former Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who has said: "No, no, we really did not specifically allow for them (early voting sites) to be on campus."

Bloody Democratic primary looms in race to replace Ros-Lehtinen

David Richardson

Democrats believe they have a good shot to claim an extra seat in Congress this November as U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen prepares to retire.

But it also appears increasingly likely that the party's nominee will head into the general election bloodied and bruised.

Foreshadowing a long and contentious primary for the Miami congressional seat, state Rep. David Richardson is launching two commercials Tuesday (here and here) that promote his record in the Florida Legislature and attack former University of Miami president Donna Shalala over her stance on healthcare. The ads — the first on TV from any Democratic candidate in the race not named Shalala — tout Richardson's advocacy for Medicare for all and contrast that with a 2007 clip from a Shalala appearance on the Colbert Report in which she said she didn't support universal healthcare.

"You're not one of those universal healthcare people are you?" asks Stephen Colbert, at the time running shtick as a faux conservative on Comedy Central.

"No, actually I'm not," responded Shalala, who was Health and Human Services secretary in the 1990s when the Clintons tried to pass the Health Security Act.

Richardson's campaign says he' s putting more than $100,000 into the commercials. The spots begin airing only days after Shalala accused him of misrepresenting her stance in favor of universal healthcare as late-evolving.

"I've been for it. It's on my website," Shalala said during a debate Saturday at the University of Miami. "Let me remind you, what I’ve also said is Medicare has to be enhanced before we do it for all. It doesn’t have long-term care, it does not have dental benefits and it doesn’t have eyeglass care. I want universal healthcare and enhanced Medicare for all."

To read the rest, click here.

Patrick Murphy, David Jolly build momentum in first national TV appearance as a pair

Former Congressmen Patrick Murphy (left) and David Jolly (center) discuss their potential bipartisan ticket for Florida governor on MSNBC on May 21. | Courtesy of Preston Rudie

In a quick four-minute appearance on MSNBC Monday afternoon, former Congressmen Patrick Murphy and David Jolly gave what seemed to be an elevator pitch for their potential run for governor and lieutenant governor.

"The reality is most Floridians disagree on issues but they have to choose on lane or the other," Jolly said. "We're talking about a lane where everybody has a home."

Under the proposed plan, Murphy, a Democrat, would run for governor and would nominate Jolly, a Republican, as his running mate after making it through the primary.

The cable news spot — set against a "Purple Ticket?" broadcast news banner — marked the pair's first national TV appearance together, after a tour of college campuses and local TV stations discussing gridlock in Washington and the need for more bipartisanship. Jolly also is a regular guest on MSNBC and Fox who often criticizes President Trump.

One issue Murphy and Jolly highlighted where they find common ground is that of gun control. Ten students and teachers were killed at a school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas on Friday.

Jolly suggested universal background checks and making it more difficult for people to get assault rifles, calling his fellow Republican's post-shooting policy solutions "absolute garbage."

And Murphy called gerrymandering, or the redrawing of legislative districts to give one party an advantage in elections, "the single biggest problem with partisanship in our country." Florida's next governor will be in office when the state is required to start redrawing its districts for both the state Legislature and Congress in 2022.

But the show's anchor, Katy Tur, pressed them for more than just soundbites.

"I'm still not entirely sure why you're not running and announcing that you're running," she said to chuckles from both men.

"We've got about two to three weeks until qualifying," Jolly said, referring to the paperwork deadline to officially run for statewide office on June 22.

Jolly told the Times/Herald that the duo have ruled out any third-party run, and if they decide to join the race it will definitely be as a bipartisan ticket.

Legal experts have told them the idea is viable, according to Politico Florida, only increasing the political buzz. They have more national TV hits planned for Tuesday: on MSNBC again around 7:40 a.m. for the "Morning Joe" show and on Fox News in the 7 p.m. hour.

And supporters have conducted polling that shows they could have an edge among Democratic primary voters, many of whom are still undecided three months before the polls open.

"I don’t know whether or not they are running," said Democratic pollster Steve Vancore, who was not involved in the early Murphy-Jolly poll. "But I do know ... I have heard their plea and their ridiculously common-sense concepts about cooperation and commitment to working across the aisle to get things done."

May 21, 2018

Scott blitzes Florida with TV ads. Nelson holds off. That's how Scott won last time.

CIA Haspel


Bill Nelson is an incumbent without the advantages of incumbency.

Florida's only statewide elected Democrat is in a career-defining U.S. Senate race against Gov. Rick Scott, a multimillionaire with unlimited campaign cash and nearly universal name recognition in the state, for better or worse. And so far, Scott is attempting to define Nelson through $8 million in television ads across the state, including Spanish-language ads in Miami.

The early TV blitz raises the question: When is Nelson going to respond?

"The question is not how much money you have or how much money you spend but what is effective," Nelson said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office, where he was waiting to vote on Gina Haspel's nomination as CIA director in Washington while Scott was criss-crossing Florida switching between his official office and campaign mode. . "And so, to be determined. But I'm choosing not to use my hard-earned dollars now."

Nelson declined to say when he will spend his money and what type of message he plans to communicate to voters. But timing a television pitch too late could be Nelson's undoing.

Rep. Charlie Crist, who lost a statewide race to Rick Scott in 2014 by 1 percentage point, said months of television ads by Scott without a response from his campaign was one of the big reasons why he came up short.

"Back in '14 we were unanswering on television for like three months just because of the resource issue," Crist said. "You can handle it for a while but sooner or later you've got to start to respond."

Television advertising is essential and expensive in a state with 20 million people and six of the country's top 100 television markets, including the country's third-largest Spanish-speaking television market in South Florida.

Scott went up on television almost immediately after officially announcing his Senate bid on April 9, meaning Nelson has been playing the television waiting game for over 6 weeks, trying to amass campaign cash through fundraisers while also fulfilling his role as a lawmaker in Washington Monday through Thursday.

Crist said he expects Nelson to be up on TV imminently, though Nelson won't divulge when he'll take the seven-figure plunge. Nelson noted that he had done 44 events during the first five weeks of his campaign, though many of them were fundraisers. He took issue with the suggestion that he isn't campaigning aggressively, but acknowledged the disparity on television.

"I would ask you to question your premise there about him being more aggressive," Nelson said, as he propped his feet on a desk. "If you want to define that in terms that he has TV up, that’s correct, but not in the way the campaign is being conducted."

Read more here.

Rubio introduces bill to expand tax credits in Puerto Rico



Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio introduced a bill last week that would implement multiple tax changes in Puerto Rico after the measures were not included in a massive disaster relief bill passed late last year after Hurricane Maria. 

Rubio's bill, called the Puerto Rican Empowerment Act, would implement recommendations from a bipartisan congressional task force on Puerto Rico that finished its work in late 2016. The bill includes an expansion of the child tax credit to all children in Puerto Rico, which reduces some families’ tax bill for every child they have under the age of 17. Currently, the child tax credit doesn’t apply to Puerto Rican families unless they have three children or more.

“This bill would enact critical tax provisions for Puerto Rico excluded from the recent disaster relief package, like a payroll tax holiday and expanded child tax credit, which would help alleviate the tax burden for Puerto Ricans rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” Rubio said in a statement. 

Rubio, who introduced the legislation with Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, sparred with Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló after the GOP tax bill was passed late last year. Rosselló was unhappy that the bill did not include certain changes for Puerto Rican-based businesses, and sources on Capitol Hill complained that his administration focused solely on corporate tax changes at the expense of the task force's recommendations. 

Juan Hernández Mayoral, who led the Puerto Rican government's Washington office under former Gov. Alejandro García Padilla, said the Rosselló administration put the task force’s proposal “in a drawer” when Rosselló took office in January 2017 because eliminating tax loopholes under the U.S. territory’s current political status doesn’t align ideologically with Rosselló’s pro-statehood position.

“I mean, anyone who knows Politics 101 had to know that this would be the perfect timing for Paul Ryan to pass his tax reform he’s been working on for 10 years, it’s nothing new,” Mayoral said in February. “It’s an example of how ideology comes first before the Puerto Rican people. The current government did not advocate for it after it had worked its way through Congress for two years.”

The bill, if passed, cuts payroll taxes for Puerto Rican workers for three years, expands the federal child tax credit and establishes a data research center in Puerto Rico to improve the availability of economic statistics in the U.S. territory. The bill also includes corresponding spending cuts to pay for the proposed changes, which could make it a tricky proposition for some Democrats to support it. 

Republicans and Democrats in Florida have campaigned hard for the Puerto Rican vote since Hurricane Maria caused widespread damage in October. Rubio isn't up for reelection this year but Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson have made repeated visits to the island in recent weeks as their U.S. Senate campaigns ramp up. 



Bill Nelson gets $2.2 million in TV help from Washington

Bill Nelson


Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson's campaign isn't up on TV yet while Republican Gov. Rick Scott has spent the past month on air, but a Washington-based group that aims to elect Democrats to the U.S. Senate is coming to Nelson's aid. 

The Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, is spending $2.2 million on a statewide ad buy with an ad titled "Served" that highlight's Nelson's biography and Senate record. 

"Bill Nelson’s life has been about service to others and to his country, and he continues that tradition of service everyday as he fights and advocates for Floridians,” said Chris Hayden, spokesperson for SMP. “Nelson is not afraid to go toe-to-toe with powerful interests. From protecting Medicare and Social Security from privatization to standing up to insurance companies by stopping them from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, he never backs down from a fight. Bill Nelson delivers for Florida and there is no question he is the only candidate in this race that puts Florida first.”

The contest between Nelson and Scott could be one of the most expensive Senate races in U.S. history. The Senate Majority PAC is not allowed to coordinate with Nelson's campaign, and PAC's generally receive more expensive advertising rates than candidates do, but super PACs are able to raise unlimited amounts of money from donors while the candidates are bound by contribution limits. The Senate Majority PAC has raised $52.7 million so far this cycle, and the group recently received a $2 million donation from Seth MacFarlane, creator of the television show Family Guy. 

Watch the ad below: 



'Political hitman' gunning for Ros-Lehtinen seat shows lighter side in campaign commercial


Stephen Marks, a veteran campaign operative who 10 years ago published a book on his exploits as a “political hitman” for the Republican Party, is showing a lighter side of himself in a new commercial as he runs for the party’s nomination to replace Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Congress.

Marks, the first to go on air in the Republican primary for Florida’s 27th congressional district, explains in a 60-second ad that he decided to run after his parents recently died. His father died as a result of “malicious” medical malpractice, he says, and his mother soon after following a struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

“I’m running for Congress because they both just died from our government’s policies that makes the lives of senior citizens worthless,” Marks says in the ad, which begins with a shot of him playing dominoes with seniors at Maximo Gomez Park off Calle Ocho.

Marks says his family was unable to sue after his father died due to laws that devalue the lives of senior citizens because they’re past their “prime earnings years.” And he blames the country’s “pathetic” funding of Alzheimer’s research for his mother’s death.

The ad, which began airing a week ago in English and Spanish and will continue running this week, is the first on TV in the primary. It’s a crowded field, also featuring Elizabeth Adadi, Bruno Barreiro, Angie Chirino, Michael Ohevzion, Maria Peiro, Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, Maria Elvira Salazar and Gina Sosa.

Marks, of Coral Gables, loaned his campaign $200,000 last month. His campaign says his aim “is to have Florida’s 27th Congressional district lead the fight across America for all seniors.”   

“I promise when elected,” Marks says in the ad, “to pass legislation never before proposed that makes the lives of senior citizens just as valuable as any other life.”  

May 19, 2018

Shalala's opponents wear kid gloves in first debate with front-runner

27 debate

Donna Shalala's opponents spent the last week hammering her for skipping debates and appearing reluctant to publicly discuss her policy positions and defend her long political history.

They finally got her in a room Saturday — and treated her with kid gloves.

Without having to play much defense, Shalala killed the "she-won't-debate" line of attack lobbed at her all week and showed she can hold her own against four opponents who'll need to knock the front-runner back to claim the Democratic nomination in Florida's 27th congressional district. In the friendly confines of the Maurice Gusman Concert Hall at the University of Miami — where she was president for 14 years — Shalala swatted away skepticism about her enthusiasm for gun-control, went whole-hog on recreational marijuana, and promoted her record on the environment.

"I've never been afraid of coming to debate," Shalala said after the forum. "It's no big thing."

Shalala had been chided all week by Matt Haggman, Michael Hepburn, state Rep. David Richardson and Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez for missing a forum held Tuesday by the Miami-Dade Democratic Party — a controversy fueled by the party's decision to withhold her planned absence from the other candidates until the last minute. Shalala skipped the event to attend a screening of a Pets' Trust documentary, and in her absence her empty chair was asked questions about criminal justice, guns and why the University of Miami sold protected pine rocklands to a developer during her time as president.

The Miami-Dade Young Democrats, who hosted Saturday's forum, said Shalala initially declined an invitation to the debate before changing her mind late in the week. Tuesday's debate was the first of the campaign.

"It took a lot of effort on my part and a few others to get her to the table," Richardson said Saturday. "We had to shame her a bit publicly."

But Shalala's empty chair received tougher questions this week than Shalala herself did Saturday.

To read the rest, click here.

May 18, 2018

Miami Democrats pounce on Trump 'animals' comment — Republicans say it's overreaction

Mario Diaz-Balart

@alextdaugherty @newsbysmiley

Donald Trump used the word "animals" while talking immigration Wednesday, and Democrats pounced.

They'd been waiting.

At a White House event discussing California's sanctuary city laws, Trump listened as a local sheriff lamented that the state's policies prevent local law enforcement from referring MS-13 gang members to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation. And then Trump vented.

"You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are," Trump said in response, without explicitly mentioning the gang. "These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before."

The comments set off another round of condemnation from the left for a president who's become known for using inflammatory language to communicate a hard-line stance on immigration. Democratic leaders quickly framed the comments as the latest affront from the president who opened his campaign in 2015 by referring to Mexicans as drug dealers, criminals and rapists.

But the White House defended Trump's remarks on Thursday, and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said people decrying Trump's remarks are defending MS-13. Trump said the same Thursday evening.

"Frankly, I don't think the term POTUS used was strong enough," Huckabee Sanders said.

Regardless, Republicans spent Thursday playing defense, which is where Democrats want them.

Heading into the mid-term elections, Trump's penchant for incendiary, off-the-cuff remarks is among the reasons the country's minority party is so optimistic they can win in November, particularly in areas like South Florida, where high percentages of voters were either born in a different country or born to parents who fled to the U.S. to find a better life. The president's knack for offending other cultures and dragging lawmakers into his vortex could be a great equalizer even for strong incumbents.

As the White House tried to explain Trump's comments Thursday, Democratic challengers in South Florida sought to put their opponents in the same position. Mary Barzee Flores, a former judge and trial lawyer running against longtime Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, called the incumbent a "coward" for staying silent on Trump's latest remarks.

Read more here.