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220 posts from May 2012

May 31, 2012

Attorney General Pam Bondi: 'We are blessed to be happily in love'

After the Times/Herald published a story Wednesday night about Attorney General Pam Bondi's postponed wedding, Bondi got in touch by email from the Cayman Islands wanting to set the record straight about her relationship with ophthalmologist Greg Henderson.

They are still planning to marry, she said, and both are hurt by speculation that the cancellation of their destination wedding indicates trouble in paradise.

"We never dreamed we would be subjected to this contrived fabrication during such a joyful time in our lives," Bondi wrote. "Your 'speculative' statements are inaccurate and are without merit. We are blessed to be happily in love and are enjoying our life together."

Bondi has refused to clarify why she and Henderson made the last-minute decision despite repeated requests to do so.

That led outsiders to question whether the postponement reflects political positioning, the couple's desire to keep the events private, or a possible prenuptial disagreement. Bondi says any speculation that her relationship is in trouble is inaccurate.

The couple is currently vacationing together at an undisclosed location. Via Bondi's email account, Henderson confirmed that the relationship is going strong: "We are enjoying a happy and blessed trip and are deeply in love with each other."

Florida's congressional Democrats talk Medicare -- without Republicans

Florida's congressional delegation has traditionally banded together on such issues as hurricane insurance, NASA, transportation spending and the Everglades -- relatively nonpartisan topics that have an effect on most of the state's population.

But Medicare is no longer one of those issues, despite Florida's large senior population. Polarizing election year politics and the federal spending debate have changed what used to be an untouchable issue in Florida.

Democratic Reps. Alcee L. Hastings of Miramar, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, Kathy Castor of Tampa, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, and Frederica Wilson of Miami met Thursday to talk about Medicare -- without the Republicans in the Florida delegation. They haven't met all together since early 2011.

The five Democrats (Rep. Corinne Brown of Jacksonville was not present) heard from several health care experts about proposed changes to the program.

Hastings, the Democratic chairman of the delegation, said his aim for Thursday morning's meeting was "to highlight the importance of Medicare to Florida, and the impact of Medicare changes on Florida's beneficiaries."

"I believe our colleagues on the other side should have an equal concern," Hastings said.

But the Democrats were political, too. Wasserman Schultz, who serves as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said her Republican colleagues were focused less on seniors and Medicare than on "one job, in one house, down the street."

And Wilson told the group they need to come up with some buzz words that warn seniors about proposed Republican changes to Medicare under the budget offered by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.

Hastings said after the meeting that he had invited Florida's congressional Republicans. Until early 2011, they had been meeting monthly on bipartisan issues for two decades, Hastings said.

He said he doesn't exactly miss the monthly 8:30 a.m. meetings. But he does miss some of the bonhomie they used to enjoy. "Let's don't pretend there's great harmony in the Florida delegation," he said.

Florida's congressional Democrats talk Medicare -- without Republicans

May 30, 2012

Attorney General Pam Bondi's Cayman trip looked like a wedding; many wonder why it wasn't

It looked like a wedding.

Sixty or 70 guests at a luxury Caribbean resort, including the governor and a former Tampa mayor. A beaming bride in a white dress with a flower in her hair. A photographer flown in to take pictures of the smiling couple with aqua water behind them.

But Attorney General Pam Bondi says no ceremony took place at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman on Saturday. And many questions remain about when and why Bondi made the last-minute decision not to get married.

Did Bondi bow to conservative critics who felt her jaunt across seas was politically tone deaf? The 46-year-old now says she will be wed in a small, private ceremony at a Tampa-area Baptist church.

Did leaks on gossip blogs and social media sites cause the couple to shy from the publicity? A photo of Bondi serving cocktails during the plane ride to the Cayman Islands quickly made the rounds online.

Or is something more personal and heartbreaking involved? Bondi and her fiance, 62-year-old ophthalmologist Greg Henderson, spent the weekend entertaining family and friends and are still on vacation together. But that hasn't stopped people from wondering whether one of the two got cold feet or if there was a prenuptial disagreement.

Continue reading "Attorney General Pam Bondi's Cayman trip looked like a wedding; many wonder why it wasn't" »

David Rivera introduces immigration bill with Daniela Pelaez


Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, is proposing an alternative plan to the DREAM Act, the legislation that allows kids who came to this country with their parents illegally to stay in the United States under certain conditions.

Rivera introduced his bill this week, and was joined Wednesday by Daniela Pelaez, the 18-year-old North Miami High School valedictorian who was threatened with deportation. Pelaez's lawyer, Nera Shefer, and her sister, Dayana, also attended the press conference for what's known as the Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status -- or STARS Act. 

Rivera has already introduced legislation to allow young, undocumented immigrants who came to this country through no fault of their own to stay in the U.S. if they serve in the military; the STARS Act would allow kids who are going to college to stay in the country.

The bill's prospects are unclear. Rivera was recently cleared of a state inquiry but still faces FBI and IRS probes -- which makes him an awkward ally for other House members interested in immigration reform.

He also must get the blessing of Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Smith has said previously he wouldn't hear the DREAM Act in his committee. Rivera said Smith hasn't said yes, but he also "has not told me 'no.'"

Here's Rivera's description of the proposal: "The bill will allow undocumented immigrants who are 19 years of age or younger, or 21 years of age or younger and have been granted voluntary departure, arrived in the United States before the age of 16, and have maintained residence in the United States for at least the previous five consecutive years, the opportunity to adjust their residency status if they achieve a degree from an accredited four year institution of higher education and meet certain other criteria."

Like a similar as-yet-unfiled idea, from fellow Florida Republican, Sen. Marco Rubio, it does not put the students on a path to citizenship. They wouldn't be eligible to start that process until they have completed their college degree.

Pelaez, who is going to Dartmouth College in the fall, met with Smith herself to persuade him to consider the bill. She and her sister have started a foundation to help boost efforts to get legislation passed that benefits young people like themselves. And she's hopeful other kids will benefit from their efforts: "A couple months ago, I was going to get deported," she said. "And look where I am today."

Race to replace disgraced ex-state Rep. Richard Steinberg begins to take shape in Miami Beach

While Miami Beach commissioners played hokey pokey in the race to replace disgraced state Rep. Richard Steinberg -- they put their name in, they took their name out -- a surprise candidate mounted a serious campaign to claim the House District 113 seat.

Attorney, entrepreneur and political newcomer Adam Kravitz filed papers to run May 17. He said he quickly poured $250,000 into his campaign.

By comparison, Steinberg raised $330,000 when he ran a contested campaign for the seat in 2008.

"I believe in this and that's why I'm putting money into this," he said. "The first question you get asked [when courting investors for a business] is 'if you think it's so great where's your money?'"

Kravitz, 47, said he has been active in campaigns and politics from San Francisco to the United Kingdom, where he ran for municipal office for the Labour Party. The married father of two owns a home on Miami Beach's Alton Road and said he made a small fortune selling his interest in the Jewish internet dating site JDate.com in 2004. He said he also co-founded the non-partisan elections website eVoter.com.

Continue reading "Race to replace disgraced ex-state Rep. Richard Steinberg begins to take shape in Miami Beach" »

Despite top Democrat concerns, WH spox Jay Carney sounds clueless about Castro visit brouhaha

Wow. Just wow.

Miami Herald alum and McClatchy White House correspondent Lesley Clark asked White House spokesman Jay Carney about the concerns over the administration's decision to give Mariela Castro a visa last week. And Carney, who likes to scold the press for covering trivial things like the birther issue, sounded so unprepared that he wanted to talk about something else. Donald Trump, anyone?

Here's a refresher: Democratic National Committeewoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (also a Congresswoman) and Sen. Bill Nelson (the only statewide elected Democrat in Florida who has helped vote in unpopular Obama programs like the stimulus and ObamaCare) couldn't make sense of giving the face of the Cuban dictatorship a U.S. visa.

For a White House that criticizes the press for focusing on the trivial, it might help if its top mouth piece had more of a clue about an issue of real substance that matters to a sizable group of citizens in the nation's largest swing state. So it might not be that Obama's administration forgot to read the Castro memo -- it might not care.

Anyway, here's the transcript:

Clark: “Last week the State Department issued a visa and Mariela Castro, Raul Castro’s daughter, visited and created quite a stir. There was one in 2002. Were you taken aback by that, and do you know if the President had any talks with any of the Democratic critics of that decision?”

Carney: “I don’t know. I don’t know that he did, but you know I think, I don’t have any additional comment beyond what others have said on that matter. I think the State Department took those questions because it’s a Visa issue.”

Clark: “And her endorsement of the President?”

Carney: “Uh, again, I wasn’t even aware of that.”

Changes coming to Univision's influential AM radio stations in Miami

Univision, the Spanish-language broadcast network, plans to revamp the lineups of its two Miami AM radio stations, which have long provided a platform for local politicians to discuss current issues and air campaign ads.

WQBA-AM (1140) will become part of a new, national AM radio network, Univision America, scheduled to launch on the Fourth of July. The new network will feature more national and international news and link stations in nine of Univision's major markets, including Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles.

As a result, WQBA and its sister station, WAQI-AM (710), known as Radio Mambí, will undergo a lineup change that is still in the works, said Claudia Puig, a senior Univision vice president and the stations' general manager.

"We're gong to take the 'best of' and put it in Mambí," she said.

Continue reading "Changes coming to Univision's influential AM radio stations in Miami" »

More on the poll showing former Gov. Charlie Crist beating Gov. Rick Scott 48-34

From pollster Paul Fallon on yesterday's poll:

Picture 6I just completed the spring installment of the quarterly Florida Omnibus SurveyTM for my various clients, and decided to also include a question to test a hypothetical gubernatorial match-up between Republican Rick Scott and Charlie Crist, running as the Democrat Party’s nominee. The results indicate that, overall, 34% of voters in Florida would vote to re-elect Governor Scott, while a plurality of 48% would opt for challenger Crist, running as a Democrat. The remaining 18% of voters were either undecided or volunteered that they prefer other candidates. As the graphic insert illustrates, while Scott leads among Republican voters, his net advantage is only 39%, while Crist has a net advantage of 61% among Democrat voters and 30% among independents and voters of other minor parties or those who are unaffiliated.

Looking more closely at the detailed analysis, Crist leads among all major voting sub-groups in the state, except Hispanic/Latino voters, among whom Scott holds a 3% net advantage (38% to 35%). Crist’s net lead is strongest among women at 20% (50% to 30%), 18-to-29 year olds at 25% (52% to 27%), and African-Americans at 84% (88% to 4%).

While there is still more than 2 years until the next gubernatorial election in Florida, and the candidate field could change in many ways, including the entry of life-long Democrats, who could serve as spoilers, the data suggests that such a hypothetical match-up has the potential to dramatically transform the political environment. Please note that this question was not funded or commissioned by any candidate, organization, association or committee. It was included in the survey because I believe that this is a topical matter that may be of interest to people with whom I work and professionally associate. If you have any questions about this data or would like to discuss it, please feel free to call me at 813-283-2665

This information is based on survey data that was gathered through telephone interviews that specially-trained opinion research interviewers conducted with 802 randomly-selected registered voters in the State of Florida who had valid residential or cellular telephone numbers and recent histories of voting in past even-year general elections. The interviews were performed during the period of May 23, 2012 through May 25, 2012. The overall estimated margin of sampling error is +/- 3.46%, based on a confidence level of 95%, although it varies for each individual question. This means that if this survey was repeated, 95 times out of 100 the results would be within plus or minus 3.46% of those provided herein. Adjustments were made to weight the results toward geographic and demographic characteristics of the state, in order to account for under- and over-sampling that normally occurs as a result of the random selection process, to ensure that all major subgroups are represented in proportion to their actual percentages of the electorate.

Yup, "VoteForEddie.com" qualifies for FL ballot to challenge Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart

Picture 4Unknown independent Eddie Gonzalez probably knew he'd get little money, no attention and have almost no shot against popular Republican incumbent Rep. Mario Diaz Balart.

So Gonzalez did the logical thing. He legally changed his name to “VoteForEddie.com.”

Apparently, "Don'tVoteforMarioDiazBalart.com" was already taken. Gonzalez.....er... VoteForEddie.com  petitioned a Miami-Dade judge to have his new name on the ballot and, viola, it happened and the Associated Press noticed. See AP story here.

The stunt aside, there's some precedent for people running on the ballot under different names. Just ask Cornelius McGillicuddy and John Ellis Bush.

Still, he's the first candidate in Florida to be named for a website. He has a Twitter handle as well, @VoteForEddie.com. Below is his campaign video in which he promises  to steer gas tax money into an effort to end our "economically crippling oil addiction."

Paging Solyndra. Oh, and the road-builder lobby as well.

The disclaimer is priceless: "I am VoteForEddie.com and I approved this message."




Opponents of SW Ranches prison protest Wasserman Schultz ... in Aventura

An immigration rights group that is fighting against a planned privately-operated immigration detention facility in Southwest Ranches will hold a protest tomorrow at 11 a.m. at U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's (D-Weston) office in Aventura.

The prison has created a war between the tiny Broward town of Southwest Ranches and neighboring Pembroke Pines -- read more about the about-face from Pines at PolitiFact.com and Wasserman Schultz's letter about the project. And it has created an odd coalition in an attempt to stop it: immigration rights supporters and suburban residents whose fears include living near immigrants accused of crimes.

From the press release from the Florida Immigrant Coalition:

"Since 2011, residents of Southwest Broward, immigrant communities and diverse advocates have been working to stop the building of this massive immigration prison in the town of Southwest Ranches by for-profit prison giant, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). These efforts include several requests to Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to withdraw a letter of support she sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director, Gary Mead, in April 2011, and to intervene with ICE to stop the project. Despite overwhelming and broad opposition, she has refused to withdraw her support to the proposed prison.
"For close to a year, we've been nicely yet persistently saying that Latino and immigrant families in her district and all over South Florida will be hurt by this prison.” says Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “Our fears and tears will no longer go unheard and ignored! The Congresswoman should represent the interests of all Florida families, not for-profit prisons."