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363 posts from October 2014

October 31, 2014

Inmate sentenced to life disappears at Dade Correctional; DOC remains silent


A prisoner with a long history of violent crime turned up missing Friday after a 3:30 p.m. headcount at Dade Correctional Institution, a state prison that has been plagued by mismanagement and allegations of corruption and the abuse of mentally ill inmates by corrections officers.

It's not clear when or how Ronald McCoy, who was serving life, slipped away, two sources at the prison told the Herald. The prison is located South of Homestead.

Local police and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were called to help with a search, taking place on a Halloween night filled with young trick-or-treaters. Police canines also were brought in.

There is a residential subdivision within a mile of the prison.

“The theory is he just walked out the back gate,” one source said.

McCoy, a 39-year-old who is serving life, has a lengthy record of robberies and assaults, frequently involving deadly weapons. The DOC website lists him as 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes, although his prison mugshot shows him with a shaven head.

He has a tattoo on his left arm that says bicep pysco, possibly a misspelling.

Sources said he was seen at the prison barber at 10:30 a.m. Friday, but had not been seen since roughly an hour after that.

The apparent escape was not immediately announced either by the prison or the Department of Corrections. Story here.



Outside money fuels Miami congressional race


One of the most expensive congressional contests in Florida — with a price tag of nearly $14 million as of Friday — is being waged in Miami between U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia and opponent Carlos Curbelo. But neither candidate can claim to have spent the majority of that money.

That’s because the biggest spender has been a force outside their control: third-party political groups, which have poured about $8.5 million into the campaign.

Forget all politics being local. All politics have become national.

That momentous shift can benefit challengers like Curbelo, a Republican who has raised less money on his own than Garcia, the incumbent Democrat. Outside dollars have helped Curbelo keep up — yet he says that doesn’t make him entirely comfortable.

“On balance, I think that it’s unfortunate because you don’t control the message,” he said. “While I think people running for office appreciate any support they get, there must be a better way. The candidates are — and should be — the protagonists.”

More money has been spent in the 26th congressional district race this year than in 2012 and 2010 combined. Two years ago, the campaign between Garcia and then-Rep. David Rivera cost about $2.3 million, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Four years ago, when Republicans and Democrats battled for a rare open seat, the race cost about $5.8 million, at the time an eye-popping figure.

More here.

1,800-sample poll: Rick Scott 47 percent; Charlie Crist 44 percent. RX pot in trouble


Gov. Rick Scott is leading Democrat Charlie Crist 47-44 percent in a new poll from Democratic leaning SEA Strategic Polling & Design exclusively obtained by The Miami Herald.

Scott’s 3 percentage-point lead is still no statistically significant because it’s within the 1,800-respondent poll’s error margin. The poll has been conducted in three waves, each of which is larger than many standalone polls (background here and here).

Still, the race is likely still a tie, though this poll indicates it's leaning Scott. Quinnipiac University's poll yesterday found it more Crist-leaning.

Meantime, the Florida medical marijuana initiative appears in trouble. Support is at 55 percent, with 39 percent opposed. It takes 60 percent approval to pass a proposed constitutional amendment such as this.

Scott’s job approval is at 52-44 percent. The poll shows that 50 percent have a favorable impression of him compared to 46 percent who have an unfavorable impression. In comparison, Crist’s fav-unfav: 44-53 percent. President Obama’s: 48-51 percent.

The poll of likely Florida voters screened from a voter list has more Republican respondents than Democrats, 43-41 percent. No-party-affiliation and third-party voters are 16 percent of the poll.

The survey’s screen reflects a relatively typical mid-term election in Florida, where Democrats typically stay home in greater numbers than Republicans. So far, in pre-Election Day voting, Republicans have stayed ahead of Democrats in casting ballots, about 135,000 more as of this morning.

Once change in this final pool compared to the prior two waves: Crist’s lead among independents has almost evaporated. It’s now just 1 percentage point (39-38 percent) over Scott.

Crist also faring more poorly among Democrats (82 percent of whom support him) than Scott is among Republicans (87 percent of whom support the Republican). Scott gets 9 percent Democratic support and Crist 8 percent Republican support.

Obviously, this isn’t good news for Democrats who must now content themselves with the hope that 1) they have a big turnout for early voting on the weekend to cut more deeply into the GOP-ballot margin 2) have a bigger Election Day turnout 3) the poll’s screen of likely voters who have voted in two of the three previous major elections hasn’t picked up a significant number of so-called “sporadic voters” who don’t get through tight likely voter screens.

Jeb Bush in Hialeah Sunday with Rick Scott

From a press release

Governor Rick Scott and Governor Jeb Bush to Get Out the Vote in South Florida on Sunday

TALLAHASSEE – Governor Rick Scott will be joined by Governor Jeb Bush on Sunday as the two-week Get Out the Early Vote bus tour stops in South Florida.

WHO: Governor Rick Scott and Governor Jeb Bush

WHAT: Get Out the Early Vote bus tour

WHEN: Sunday, November 2, 2:00 p.m.

WHERE: Milander Park

4700 Palm Avenue,
Hialeah, FL

Joe Biden is Miami bound for Charlie Crist, Joe Garcia

From two press releases:

Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. – Vice President Joe Biden will join Charlie Crist at a "Souls to the Polls" event in Miami on Sunday, November 2 at 2:00 PM. Doors will open to the public at 12:00PM.

This event is OPEN PRESS.

Who: Vice President Biden, Governor Charlie Crist

What: “Souls to the Polls” Rally Event

When: Sunday, November 2, 2:00PM

Where: Mt. Hermon AME Church, 401 NW 7th Terrace, Ft. Lauderdale

RSVP: Press wishing to attend the event must RSVP to [email protected] by Saturday, November 1 at 12:00 PM ET. Additional press details forthcoming, including pre-set and sweep times.

Tallahassee, FL — On Sunday, November 2 at 10:00 AM, Vice President Joe Biden, Gov. Charlie Crist, nominee for Lt. Governor Annette Taddeo, and Congressman Joe Garcia, and the Latino Victory Project will rally with supporters in Miami.

The candidates will be joined by actor William Levy, Univision host Enrique Santos and Henry Muñoz.

This event will be open to pre-credentialed media only. Reporters who wish to be credentialed must email [email protected] with the subject line “Vice President BidenEvent Credentials.” Members of the media who have not been pre-credentialed by 3:00 PM on Saturday will not be admitted into the event. 

The rally will take place at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center on Florida International University’s campus. Doors open at 10:00 AM.

DATE: Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014

LOCATION: Wertheim Performing Arts Center at FIU, 10910 SW 17th Street, Miami

Nearly 2.6m Floridians have voted; GOP ahead of Dems by 135k ballots, but lead still slipping


With four days until Election Day, nearly 2.6 million people have cast in-person early votes and absentee ballots. As in past days, the GOP is holding on to its lead in ballots cast over Democrats, who are nibbling away at the margins.

GOP lead this morning over Democrats: 134,910 or 5.3 percentage points.

Yesterday's GOP lead: 140,123, or 5.9 percentage points.

Prior posts can be found through the Florida Voters link here.

PARTY          EV           %
REP         384,159 41.1%
DEM         390,025 41.7%
IND         161,591 17.3%
TOTAL         935,775  
PARTY          AB's            %
REP         740,128 45.6%
DEM         599,352 36.9%
IND         283,804 17.5%
TOTAL       1,623,284  
PARTY       EVAB            %
REP       1,124,287 43.9%
DEM         989,377 38.7%
IND         445,395 17.4%
TOTAL       2,559,059  


Boo! PolitiFact debunks 10 scary claims

Haunted houses can be pretty scary! Ghost stories give us the chills, too. Sometimes, though, the things politicians say can be particularly frightening.

In fact, we’ve noticed several claims recently that hype the fear factor, telling us to be afraid of terrorists or deadly disease or the end of freedom.

The problem is, not all of these claims are accurate. So in the spirit of Halloween, PolitiFact put together a list of debunked scary claims for you to give out on Halloween. Trick or treat!

PolitiFact Florida's greatest hits of the governor's race

Through all the debates, TV ads, emails to supporters and appearances on the campaign trail, PolitiFact Florida has been fact-checking the race for Florida governor. We’ve published more than 80 fact-checks over the past year on everything from abortion to immigration to university tuition.

Overall, the race between incumbent Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist has been chock full of attacks, with each side sending out a barrage of negative commentary on the other guy.

Here, then, is PolitiFact Florida's rundown of our most significant fact-checks in the campaign for Florida’s governor. Since 2010, we have fact-checked Scott 125 times and Crist 77 times (the difference is due to the fact that Scott has been in office nearly all of that time unlike Crist who left the governor's job in January 2011).

Scary thought for candidates: Fundraising gates shut at midnight. Here's what we know

Gates AP photoBoom, clang, lock.

If there had been a sound associated with the end of the campaign finance season it would be that. At midnight Thursday, the gates closed on what has been the most expensive political season in Florida history.

Have citizens united to rejoice yet? 

They should. Donors can't be haunted by fundraising calls from the candidates and their surrogates any more and, in four days, the public will see the end to the incessant bloodletting of the television ad war. 

What have we learned so far? 

Through Monday, $206 million had been raised in state campaigns this election cycle, more than half of it on the race for governor.

If that fact is not enough to scare you about the fate of union, consider this: the poor accountants at the Republican Party of Florida and Florida Democratic Party have until midnight tonight, yes Halloween, to compile their reports detailing how much they raised and spent in the last three months. Talk about turning into a zombie. 

We also know that Scott’s political committee, Let’s Get to Work, raised a whopping $45.7 million while Crist’s raised a stunning $30 million through Wednesday.

Think about it. We thought it was a big deal when Crist raised $24.6 million to get elected in 2006 -- as a Republican. Now, as a Democrat, his political committee has topped that. He is expected to top the $43 million raised by the Democrats four years ago for Alex Sink, who lost to Scott by 62,000 votes -- and Scott's $85 million.

As expected, the fundraising continued into the final week. Crist’s political committee raised $624,000 through Monday, most of it from lawyers going back to the well.

Scott’s Let’s Get to Work committee would have been dry this week if it hadn’t been for the Republican Governor’s Association stoking another check for $500,000 into the campaign. The RGA total: $18.3 million.

Both candidates have steered much of their money to the political parties, which gets better rates on the massive television ads the candidates have financed. Those numbers are due at midnight. 

Another take-away: the Senate race for president in 2016 has bitterly divided the GOP. We're even watching traditional GOP backers like Disney steering money to the Democratic Party in the hopes of perhaps defeating some of the pro-casino advocates, like former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, and protecting incumbent Democratic Sen. Maria Sachs who faces Bogdanoff in Broward. 

More to come. We'll be digging into the crypt for more details. 

Photo: Courtesy of the Associated Press

October 30, 2014

With little success, Cuban dissident tries to address controversial ad in Miami congressional race


Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas tried -- rather unsuccessfully -- to address Thursday the controversy over the political commercial he taped for U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia.

In repeated interviews, he refused to offer a play-by-play of how he ended up in Garcia's ad. He said only that it was an "error" to get in the middle of a rancorous campaign between the Democratic incumbent and Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo.

But Fariñas, who lives in Cuba, stood by his praise for Garcia, and seemed to add to it. He said in a Pinecrest fundraiser last year for President Barack Obama, Garcia tried to recruit Fariñas to support an effort to bring a Havana research institute's diabetes treatment to the U.S. Fariñas said no, he said, because he felt that would undermine the U.S. trade embargo toward the island, which the dissident supports.

A few days later, Fariñas said, Garcia telephoned him to tell him he had thought about their conversation and agreed with him -- an apparent indication that the congressman had a change of heart about the drug trial. It's unclear if Garcia really did stop pushing for the treatment in the U.S. He hasn't campaigned on the issue this year.

According to Fariñas, Garcia called him in the past two days to "apologize" over any trouble the campaign ad could bring the dissident. The Cuban government likes to find new excuses to crack down on its opponents, Fariñas acknowledged, without expressing regret over praising Garcia.

Beginning in an interview with el Nuevo Herald, Fariñas also said wealthy businessmen contacted him and other dissidents last year. "They tried to buy us off with several million dollars, and we refused," he said.