Note: This blog's templates will be updated this afternoon to a responsive design bringing it in line with

At that time, we will also change to the Facebook commenting system. You will need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment.

September 25, 2016

Miami politicians mourn death of Marlins pitcher José Fernández


The death of Marlins superstar pitcher José Fernández in a boating accident off Miami's Government Cut early Sunday prompted an outpouring of grief from local and state politicians who remembered the ace's infectious exuberance for life and the game of baseball.

Here's a sampling of their Twitter condolences:

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, el Nuevo Herald

Hillary Clinton to campaign in Broward Friday


Hillary Clinton returns to South Florida this week when she campaigns in Broward and St. Lucie counties Friday.

The locations of the events have not been announced but the public can RSVP for the Broward event here and the St. Lucie event here. Clinton will fundraise in Miami Beach Friday night. Former President Bill Clinton will hold a bus tour in Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Panama City Friday and Saturday.

Broward has about 581,000 Democrats -- the largest contingent in Florida. Clinton's last public event in Broward was at Broward College in October. Her running mate, Tim Kaine, will speak at Miami Dade College tonight.

September 24, 2016

Snatched naked Trump statue turns up -- with a few missing body parts

via @ChuckRabin  Image1

A Coral Gables man wanted for the theft of a naked Donald Trump statue in Wynwood turned himself in to police Friday — but refused to speak and even invoked the Fifth Amendment, police said.

Pedro A. Rodriguez, 36, a graffiti guide in Wynwood with a history of minor criminal acts, refused to tell police if he stole the iconic sculpture. He wouldn’t even say if he knew where it was.

Still, police and prosecutors believe they had enough probable cause to make an arrest. So​ Friday afternoon, Rodriguez was charged with grand theft and burglary.

Here’s what police say they know: When they arrived at the Harold Golden Gallery at Northwest Second Avenue and 23rd Street​ early Thursday morning​, a witness said he saw a man walking on the roof where the statue was erected. It was about 3 a.m. Thursday.

Then, the man said, a person believed to be Rodriguez picked up the statue and dropped it into the back of a pickup truck. But before he could split, the witness took a picture of the license plate on the 2013, gray, Ford F-150. By early Friday, police linked the license plate to Rodriguez.

More here.

Florida, Miami-Dade at odds over disclosing Zika mosquito sites

via @dchangmiami

At a court hearing Friday for the Miami Herald’s lawsuit against Miami-Dade seeking the locations of traps in Miami Beach where mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus were captured, a county attorney said the Florida Department of Health had instructed local officials not to disclose the information — a statement the state agency strongly denied afterward.

The suit seeks disclosure of the Zika-positive mosquito trap locations on grounds that the information would help the public make decisions about precautions to take if they live or work nearby, and also inform the community debate on the use of the controversial insecticide naled.

Rachel Walters, an assistant county attorney, told Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Samantha Ruiz-Cohen during a scheduling conference that the county plans to file a motion to dismiss the Herald’s lawsuit. Walters said the motion to dismiss would be based on the idea that an “indispensable party” — Florida’s health department — is not included in the lawsuit.

“We’re going to continue speaking with the Department of Health and asking them to release us from their instruction that we maintain confidentiality,” Walters said.

After learning of Walters’s statements in court, however, Florida health officials issued a written statement denying the agency ever muzzled the county.

More here.

Rubio delivers weekly GOP address, criticizes Obama on Gitmo


The Republican Party gave a platform to reach conservative voters Saturday: The Florida senator delivered the GOP's weekly address.

Forty-five days before the election, Rubio's message focused largely on terrorism, citing the recent attacks in Minnesota, New Jersey and New York.

"These attacks remind us once again that evil is real, and that we remain a nation at war against radical Islamic terrorism," Rubio says in the taped message.

Rubio criticized President Barack Obama's handling of terrorist threats, and chided him in particular on his push to get detainees out of the U.S. Navy Base in Guatánamo Bay, Cuba.

"With just four months left in office, President Obama and his allies in Congress want to release every single terrorist from the military's custody at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba," Rubio says. "We've already seen why this is a dangerous mistake, as many have been released to other countries, only to quickly go missing. Others have returned to the battlefield, and replenished the forces of evil."

September 23, 2016

Latest Miami-Dade mayor cash race: Regalado raises $252K, Gimenez raises $542K


It took Raquel Regalado just two weeks in a runoff to raise a quarter of what she took in during the entire primary campaign in the Miami-Dade mayoral race. But it still amounted to less than half of the fund-raising haul of her opponent, incumbent Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Friday brought the first pure look at fund-raising in the runoff, which was required after Gimenez failed to cross the 50-percent threshold in the Aug. 30 primary against Regalado and five other challengers. The previous bimonthly report straddled the primary, but the latest one covered the two-week stretch between Sept. 3 and Sept. 16. 

Regalado, a two-term school board member an daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, raised $252,000. During the primary, she brought in about $1 million. Gimenez, in office since 2011, raised $542,000 in the latest report. That's much more than Regalado brought in but not as impressive a figure relative to his primary haul, which approached $4.5 million.  

Gimenez also has more to spend, with more than $900,000 in surplus dollars, according to the reports. Regalado has about $300,000.

On the Gimenez report, $75,000 combined came from Lennar CEO Stuart Miller and his two siblings, Jeffrey Miller and Leslie Miller Saiontz. The Capo Group, developers of the Bimini Bay resort, which has run a ferry from the county port, gave $50,000, as did Miami Perfume Junction, a global duty-free retailer out of Doral.   Each of the donors gave to Gimenez's political committee, Miami-Dade Residents First. 

Notable donors on Regalado's latest report include auto magnate Norman Braman, who has been her main backer since the start. He gave $50,000 to Regalado's political committee, Good Government in Miami-Dade. Also giving on the Regalado side: Miami developers Ricardo Tabet ($50,000) and Gary Nader ($30,000) and philanthropist Adrienne Arsht ($15,000).




Ros-Lehtinen, Ortega toss verbal grenades at each other

NP-ILR-092316-Florida_Candidates 05 EKM


Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the Nicaraguan government traded bitter criticisms Friday over charges of intimidation and repression.

The exchange started with a statement by the Managua government opposing an effort in Congress led by Ros-Lehtinen to restrict its access to loans in what would be a form of economic sanctions.

Without citing the Miami Republican by name, Nicaragua accused her and other lawmakers of having "been involved in disinformation and intimidation campaigns in the media against Democratic, pluralistic and progressive processes in Latin America and the Caribbean."

The alleged interference in Latin America appeared to be a reference to lawmakers' past criticism of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments.

Ros-Lehtinen has been especially critical of Cuba and its allies in Venezuela and Nicaragua, along with Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and other Cuban-American members of Congress.

Ros-Lehtinen fired back at the Nicaraguan government's latest salvo.

"Ortega's baseless accusations are just his latest attempt to detract attention away from the human rights abuses and the acts of corruption and intimidation he has been perpetrating in Nicaragua, but nobody is fooled," she said.

While Ros-Lehtinen targeted Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, the statement criticizing her bill came from the government he heads, not from him personally, although he all but certainly approved it.

And although Ros-Lehtinen said Ortega had attacked her, the Nicaraguan government statement did not mention her or any other lawmaker by name.

The House on Wednesday unanimously passed a measure that would place U.S. limits on loans to the Ortega government unless it accepts international observers and other steps toward holding free elections.

Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Albio Sires, a Cuban-American Democrat from New Jersey, were lead sponsors of the legislation. The Senate has not pass a companion bill.

Ros-Lehtinen said her measure's main aim was to “stop Ortega from accessing international funds until he adopts reforms that promote democracy, strengthen the rule of law, respect human rights, and celebrate free, fair, and transparent elections supervised by electoral observers.”

For more, read here.

Photo credit: Emily Michot



Kaine will campaign in Miami on Sunday

Kaa28 TKaine NEW PPP

Tim Kaine will make a Miami stop Sunday evening, ahead of Hillary Clinton's appearance Monday night at the first presidential debate.

The Democratic VP nominee plans to drop by Miami Dade College Kendall Campus to discuss Clinton's economic plans, according to the campaign. The Clinton team has spent the week trying to reach young voters, an elusive demographic for both big-party candidates this year.

Kaine last visited South Florida in late August, as part of a small-business tour. He's been a consistent presence since Clinton named him her running mate at Florida International University in July.

Clinton is expected to prep this weekend for the debate against Donald Trump, which will take place at 9 p.m. Monday at Hofstra University in New York. She planned to campaign Sunday in Charlotte, North Carolina, where a police shooting has prompted major street protests, but she cancelled the trip after the city's mayor urged presidential candidates to hold off so as not to drain local resources.

Tickets to Kaine's event can be requested here.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, Miami Herald

Ted Cruz endorses Donald Trump


Remember the Ted Cruz who stole the show during July's Republican National Convention, failing to endorse nominee Donald Trump?

He's gone now.

The Texas senator posted a robust Trump endorsement on his Facebook page Friday.

Trump issued a brief statement on Cruz's about-face.

"I am greatly honored by the endorsement of Senator Cruz," he said. "We have fought the battle and he was a tough and brilliant opponent. I look forward to working with him for many years to come in order to make America great again."

Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

Anti-pot group spends $1.3M as medical marijuana boosters keep fundraising


Supporters of a ballot question expanding medical marijuana in Florida continued fundraising the week of Sept. 10-16 while opponents started spending big money on advertising.

State campaign finance records released Friday show that United for Care, the group behind the constitutional amendment, called Amendment 2, raised $20,000 last week, most of it from donations $1,000 or less.

No on 2, the campaign opposing the measure, raised just $1, but they've started using major donations to produce and buy ads. Records show that Drug Free Florida, the political committee opposing medical marijuana, spent more than $1.3 million that same week, most of it going to Jamestown Associates, an ad buying firm.

Here's the dollars in and dollars out for the campaigns thus far:

United for Care: Raised $4.01 million ($32,162 since Sept. 1); spent $3.89 million ($40,474 since Sept. 1)

Drug Free Florida: Raised $2.86 million ($1.03 since Sept. 1); spent $1.79 million ($1.39 million since Sept. 1)

Supporters and opponents of the medical marijuana initiative have both relied heavily on big-money donors to fund their causes.

John Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer, has funded $2.7 million of the money United for Care has spent getting Amendment 2 on the ballot, though he hasn't donated to the committee since Jan. 5.

Conservative Tampa Bay developer Mel Sembler has this year spent $1 million and promised to donate or raise up to $10 million to fund Drug Free Florida. In early September, Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, dropped $1 million in campaign against Amendment 2.

Can Zika aid bill overcome its DC partisan past?



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

Read more here:

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

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

For more, read here:

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


Read more here:


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

Murphy _ ap


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florida Board of Education wants end to Best & Brightest teacher bonuses

via @JeffSolochek

The Florida Board of Education on Friday backed a budget plan that would eliminate funding for the state's controversial two-year-old Best and Brightest bonus, which rewards teachers based on their job evaluations and their SAT or ACT scores.

The board's legislative budget proposal would take the bulk of the $49 million expenditure and place it into "teacher recruitment and retention." The recommended $43 million fund would provide bonuses for "new teachers who show great potential for and veteran teachers who have demonstrated the highest student academic growth among their peers."

It would use Florida's top teacher preparation programs and also aim to address shortages in STEM fields, as well as supporting "top teacher candidates and public schools with the highest needs."

Board members asked commissioner Pam Stewart for more details on the use of the money, which represented the largest single change in its proposed budget. She said she was still collecting input from teachers and other stakeholders before writing a specific plan, and asked to discuss it more in depth in October.

The board, which approved the LBR 6-1 with Michael Olenick opposed, expressed satisfaction with the concept.

"I'd like to hear the details. I think it's in the right bucket, though," board member Gary Chartrand said.

Vice chairman John Padgetwho called for an end to the Best and Brightest in August, said he was "totally pleased" with the staff's direction.

"I'm happy to hear it," he said. "I've heard some ideas, and I like many of them."

Teachers continue to apply for the bonuses, which averaged about $8,500 in their first year, with a Nov. 1 deadline. The state has made clear that district decisions on the awards are final.

Mothers of slain children to campaign for Clinton in Florida

DEM 2016 Convention (3)


Mothers of children killed to gun violence or in incidents involving police -- including the mother of Trayvon Martin -- will go on the road in Florida beginning this weekend to campaign for Hillary Clinton.

The women, who call themselves the "Mothers of the Movement," will take part in a four-day tour of North and South Florida to try to rally black voters to Clinton, especially around issues of jobs, education and criminal justice. They will kick off their travels Saturday in Jacksonville and plan to be in South Florida on Monday.

The last time the mothers came together for Clinton was during the Democratic National Convention in July. This will be their first campaign trip since, coming days after deadly police shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte. Clinton made note of incidents in Orlando this week.

In Jacksonville, three mothers -- Lucia McBath, mother of Jordan Davis; Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, and Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontre Hamilton -- will visit historically black Edward Waters College for a panel discussion Saturday titled "Fish, Grits, and Politics." They plan church visits Sunday, along with a voter-registration event.

In South Florida, four mothers -- Carr; Hamilton; Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Sandra Bland, and Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon -- will stop in Riviera Beach and Broward County, where they'll attend a watch party for Monday night's presidential debate. They will drop in on historically black Florida Memorial University for a panel discussion Monday, and then attend a forum in Miami Gardens.

More here.


Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

Clinton's latest Florida TV ad features Trump talking about women: 'I'd look her right in that fat, ugly face'


Donald Trump's past insulting comments about women are featured in a new TV ad Hillary Clinton is airing in Florida and other battleground states.

In one clip, Trump says, "I'd look her right in that fat, ugly face of hers." In another, he says, "She's a slob."

"Is this the president we want for our daughters?" the spot concludes.

The ad is also airing in Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, per the Clinton camp.


PolitiFact: A look at Marco Rubio's record on abortion


U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy said Sen. Marco Rubio has a zero-compromise position on abortion.

In a new campaign ad that started appearing Sept. 20, 2016, Murphy’s campaign said Rubio, the Republican incumbent, refuses to give ground on the issue, even in extenuating circumstances.

"Marco Rubio would take away a woman’s right to choose for victims of rape or incest," the ad said. It included video of Rubio saying, "I don’t require there to be an exception for rape or incest."

Murphy has faced criticism that he’s a conservative in Democrat’s clothing, so his ad touted his own support for abortion.

The ad goes on to say Rubio wouldn’t allow the procedure for pregnant women with Zika.

Rubio has previously confirmed he would oppose allowing a woman who has contracted the virus to abort a fetus that potentially had severe microcephaly. He said he preferred "to err on the side of life" rather than allow the procedure.

But what has Rubio said about allowing exceptions for rape and incest victims? We checked his record and found that even though Rubio strongly opposes abortion, his stance on granting exceptions is a bit more nuanced than Murphy described.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Trump's expanded list of Supreme Court contenders includes 2 Florida judges


Donald Trump's list of potential Supreme Court nominees expanded Friday to 20 contenders -- including two more Florida judges.

The list, obtained by NBC News' Chuck Todd, names Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady and U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno of Miami.

Trump had initially put forth 11 possible candidates, in a move to ensure Republicans that he'd make conservative picks to the top court.

Clinton tops Trump in Florida fundraising

via @learyreports

Hillary Clinton exceeded Donald Trump in fundraising from Florida by more than $800,000 in August, the latest FEC reports show.

Clinton raised about $2.2 million from Florida for the month, boosting her overall Sunshine State fundraising to $15.5 million.

Trump approached $1.4 million and has so far drawn $5.5 million.

Below, the breakdown by city.


MIAMI  > $1,554,612.43

MIAMI BEACH > $993,629.84

FT. LAUDERDALE > $697,773.86

Continue reading "Clinton tops Trump in Florida fundraising" »

DCCC fully backs Garcia, after opposing him in primary

001 Joe Garcia DS

National Democrats fully endorsed Joe Garcia's congressional bid Friday, adding the former congressman from Miami to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "Red-to-Blue" program.

The DCCC had opposed Garcia in the primary, backing Annette Taddeo instead. The party wasn't quick to switch gears, though it did put out a Spanish-language radio ad two weeks ago for Garcia and against Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

"Congressman Joe Garcia has spent his entire life in public service, working for his community and making sure everyone can achieve the American dream," DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján said in a statement. "From fighting to protect the Affordable Care Act, to effectively working towards fixing our broken immigration system, Joe has always stood by these values."

The red-to-blue program is meant to highlight candidates in Republican-held districts most likely to flip to Democrats. With the designation comes additional fundraising support. Garcia has been on the program every time he ran for Congress as a challenger, in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

Garcia was ousted by Curbelo two years ago after a single term in Congress, but the 26th congressional district now leans more Democratic after having been redrawn.

Photo credit: David Santiago, el Nuevo Herald

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's the unions' ad:

Image credit: AFSCME PEOPLE / YouTube

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