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276 posts from May 2016

May 27, 2016

In this age of political disruption, is the party as we know it over?

Political parties KRT Tim GoheenThis summer may be remembered not only for a blue moon and the welcome end to a bitter presidential primary, it may also mark the time America’s century-old political parties went on life support.

At the top of the ticket, both the Florida Democratic Party and the Republican Party of Florida have anointed presidential frontrunners who are seen by most voters more negatively than positively. Corporate donors, the bread and butter of the party diet, are circumventing the parties in large numbers by contributing directly to candidates’ committees.


In Florida, the often-reliable bellwether for the nation, party membership is steadily eroding as the majority of new voters don’t register with any party and fewer new voters are registering than have in previous presidential years.

Then there are the casualties.

Florida Congresswomen Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the head of the Democratic National Committee, has beentargeted for defeat from within by Bernie Sanders, the 74-year-old Vermont senator who is the overwhelming favorite of the youth vote. Jeb Bush, Florida GOP’s favorite son, is so disgusted by Donald Trump and his message he has announced he won’t vote for his party’s nominee. And GOP candidates in Hispanic-rich South Florida are keeping their distance from the frontrunner.

With a battleground this bloodied, can political parties be saved?

It’s an uncomfortable question that could have serious implications for future statewide candidates like Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Congresswoman Gwen Graham. Each hopes to run for governor in 2018 relying on a durable, traditional, governing coalition.

But 2016 laid waste to durable traditions as Florida and the nation showed that its allegiance to political parties was over.

“I think we’ve got 20 more years of disruption ahead of us,” predicts Steve Schale, the Democratic consultant to who steered Obama’s victory in Florida in 2008. “You’ve got a generation of people who are growing up in a time when traditional organizations are not vital to the world. We have to figure out what do we look like in the next 20 years, and do we even exist?” 

The numbers tell just part of the story. Of the 2.1 million new registered voters in Florida since 2012, 28 percent have registered Republican, 31 percent Democrat and 42 percent registered anything else, according to data analyzed by Associated Industries of Florida.

David Johnson, former executive director of the Republican Party who worked on Bush’s Right to Rise political committee this election cycle, is among those who say his party has reached an existential crisis.

“The Republican Party is torn apart,” he said, and how it handles Trump’s divisive campaign will be the crucial test. “There is no question in my mind there is a path toward a viable third or fourth party in the future.” More here

Illustration: Tim Goheen, KRT


Broward Democrats hire deputy political director

The Broward Democratic Party hired David Metellus to serve as deputy political director and get out the vote coordinator.

Metellus has previously worked for U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- who is in a primary battle against Tim Canova -- and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch. Metellus is a native of Coconut Creek.

Particularly in presidential years the campaigns have their own turnout operations and don't rely on county party groups. But the county's Democrats have a poor record of turning out in non-presidential cycles -- see Republican Gov. Rick Scott's victories in 2010 and 2014 -- and in primaries.

The Florida Democratic Party also has 12 field staff working out of the county party's headquarters in Plantation and an office in Pompano Beach. 

Key GOP super PAC says it'd back Marco Rubio re-election

via @learyreports

Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC tied to Mitch McConnell, says it would back Marco Rubio if he decided to run for re-election — the latest sign in a coordinated effort to woo the Florida Republican.

“Florida is a huge financial commitment. We felt confident about betting on Rubio back in 2010 and would do it again in a heartbeat, but right now it's hard to imagine making that same investment without him as our candidate,”  Steven Law of SLF said in a statement Friday.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Enterprise Florida's Johnson hired second Port Miami staffer; Wilkins could earn $100K for EFI reorg plan

Bill Johnson, the Enterprise Florida CEO who resigned in March, hired a second former PortMiami colleague for a high-paying job at the state's now-weakened public-private job creation partnership.

Contract details obtained by the Times/Herald show that Johnson hired Diana Gonzalez as a senior vice president at EFI at a salary of $60,000 for five months of work that ended in August of last year. Her company, DMG Consulting, was hired "to aid incoming CEO (Johnson) with transition," documents show. 

Johnson also hired former port spokeswoman Paula Musto for $158,000 to be his speechwriter. Musto's arrangement was first reported by the Naples Daily News.

Gov. Rick Scott announced on March 28 that Johnson was resigning, but Johnson has provided no letter of resignation -- a telltale sign that Scott demanded Johnson leave. Scott also called for an audit of EFI's expenses, including its travel and payroll, and he announced that former state child welfare secretary David Wilkins would conduct an independent review of Enterprise Florida's operations.

What Scott didn't say in March is that Wilkins' company, DTW Strategies, would be paid up to $100,000 to conduct that review. Documents show that Wilkins' company has been paid about $24,000 so far, at a billable rate of $150 an hour.

Johnson, 61, was Scott's hand-picked choice to run EFI, the agency that is most closely linked to the governor's job-creating agenda. But Johnson soon wore out his welcome with legislators, and the Florida House, principally Rep. Richard Corcoran, the speaker-designate, largely sealed Enterprise Florida's fate by rejecting Scott's call for a $250 million incentive fund in the 2016 session.

During his year at EFI, Johnson also hired consultant Peter Harris for $89,000 for a one-year contract as director of minority business at the agency.


Having foregone Senate run, Jeff Atwater wants Marco Rubio to run again

via @adamsmithtimes

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a Republican who may well have cleared the field of any primary challenger had he run for U.S. Senate, has met with every leading Republican running and says he admires all of them. That said, he really wants Marco Rubio to  "pull aside some quiet time and contemplate" running for another term.

"He is the best person to serve in the United States Senate, and he would be the best candidate to prevail," said Atwater.

Rubio has said he intends to return to the private sector, but he is under heavy pressure to run for reelection from Republicans worried about losing the seat.

The CFO has known Rubio for 16 years, served with him in the Florida House, and said Rubio was "absolutely genuine" when he announced he would not seek another term so he could give all he had to the presidential campaign. In that same genuine spirit, Atwater said, Rubio should consider the many conservative leaders urging him to run. The talk that Rubio did not like serving in the senate doesn't ring true, Atwater said.

"Number one, I believe he is the man who would be the most effective senator.. And two I deeply wish us to maintain this  seat, and I believe there is no better candidate  to ensure that than Marco Rubio," Atwater told Buzz Friday morning. "No one would see it as anything other than Marco being genuine from the start. He would be answering our call."

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

Is Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera unique for skipping security detail?

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera rolls without a security detail, a fact he likes to bring up as he campaigns to replace U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. It’s an example of penny-pinching that he uses to set himself apart from the field of five Republicans vying for Rubio’s seat, as well as some predecessors who drew scrutiny over transportation spending.

"I've actually cut the budget of the office by more than half, reduced the staff," he said in an interview with Fox 13’s Money, Power, Politics show in Tampa which ran on air April 30. "I'm also the only lieutenant governor to not ever take a security detail."

Lopez-Cantera had dropped this tidbit at a speech earlier that month with theHillsborough County GOP, explaining, "It’s a waste of your money, and I’m protected by the Second Amendment."

With Lopez-Cantera playing up this factoid as an accomplishment, we wanted to know if he was really the first No. 2 guy to say "nah, I’ve got this," to taxpayer-paid protection.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Ana Rivas Logan will run for state Senate, challenging Dwight Bullard

Rivas logan@ByKristenMClark

Ana Rivas Logan is in.

After weeks of mulling a bid for the Florida Senate, the former state lawmaker and Miami-Dade School Board member plans to file her candidacy next week for the District 40 seat, Democratic sources close to Rivas Logan confirmed to the Herald/Times.

An announcement is planned around June 1.

Rivas Logan's entrance into the state Senate race means she will challenge current state Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Culter Bay, in the Aug. 30 party primary.

Rivas Logan said earlier this month that she had reservations about running against Bullard, but said "I do not want Frank Artiles to win either."

Artiles, a Republican state representative from Miami, is also running for the District 40 seat. He's campaigning hard and has racked up significant fundraising this spring to unseat Bullard.

Bullard told the Herald/Times today that he hopes Rivas Logan doesn't run. He said he plans to meet with her before the end of the month and "hopefully, we can come to an understanding."

"Anyone else is entitled to throw her hat in the race, but I just think to be fully transparent: To leave a well-funded Republican with nothing to do while two Democrats go toe-to-toe all summer puts undue pressure on a Democratic establishment that’s already strained," Bullard said, referencing other contentious state Senate races in Miami-Dade County that the party hopes to win.

"It weakens the field when you have to have a primary among Democrats, especially when one is a sitting elected official," Bullard added.

In April, Bullard raised just $2,600, compared to the $39,200 Artiles raised. Heading in to May, Artiles had $238,000 in cash on hand, while Bullard had less than $22,000.

While Rivas Logan and others have expressed concerns about Bullard's lack of fundraising, he said it's not going to be an issue. June is normally when state legislative campaigns ramp up, Bullard said, because in a normal year, the legislative session would have just ended in mid-May.

Bullard also pointed to endorsements he's already gotten from major unions, political advocacy groups and elected officials.

District 40 includes parts of central Miami-Dade County. It's heavily Hispanic and favors a Democrat. Almost 55 percent of the district voted for Barack Obama in 2012.

Rivas Logan served on the Miami-Dade School Board from 2004 to 2010. She was then elected to the Florida House in 2010 but lost her re-election race in 2012, after redistricting drew her into the same district as Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.

photo credit: Twitter

Here's Ron DeSantis' B-roll footage for super PAC ads


There's a seven-minute video on U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis' campaign YouTube page called "Ron on the Campaign Trail."

Here's DeSantis signing an autograph. Here he is talking in slow-motion at an event with soft blue lighting. Now, he and his wife are walking along the beach.

But, as shrewd YouTube user Ryan Quintero noted last week: "No volume!"

It's common for campaigns to post this "B-roll" video footage. (We wrote about some from U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy two months back.)

Campaigns aren't allowed to coordinate with super PACs and other outside groups that support them, so the only way to ensure they have video of the candidate is via public websites like YouTube.

And for DeSantis, who has been backed by major super PACs like Club for Growth and a $1.2 million fund called Fighting for Florida that is dedicated to electing him as senator, those outside ads could prove useful.

He's running against U.S. Rep. David Jolly, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, developer Carlos Beruff and defense contractor Todd Wilcox in the Republican primary to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate. The Democratic candidates are Murphy, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and attorney Pam Keith.

Tim Canova endorsed by Democracy for America PAC

Tim Canova has been endorsed by Democracy for America, the progressive PAC founded by former presidential candidate Howard Dean.

The PAC has also endorsed Bernie Sanders who is backing Canova in his Democratic primary battle against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a Broward/Miami-Dade district.

Canova got the endorsement "because he has spent his life challenging the power of Wall Street banks, multinational corporations, and the systemic political corruption that keeps them profitable at the expense of everyone else," said Jim Dean, chaor of the PAC. "From her vote in support of fast track authority for the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership to her unabashed protection of a payday lending industry that makes billions off the back struggling working families, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has aligned herself with the wealthy interests who are making income inequality worse in our country."

Democracy for America has raised $36.6 million to help elect 843 progressive candidates nationwide since 2004, according to a press release from the PAC. This cycle in Florida, the PAC also endorsed U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson who is running for U.S. Senate and Susannah Randolph who is running for Congress.

Canova's fundraising has picked up steam since Sanders announced on CNN last weekend that he supports Canova who has raised more than $1.5 million in his first bid for office. His fundraising prowess has helped land him interviews with national outlets including MSNBC and Fox News, increasing his exposure.

Wasserman Schultz, who is also the Democratic National Committee chair, raised $1.8 million through March. Her campaign has not announced how much she has raised since that date. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said a fundraiser he hosted in May raised $50,000 for her and Vice President Joe Biden will fundraise for her in June at the Coconut Grove home of Stephen Bittel.  



Carlos Lopez-Cantera responds to Marco Rubio re-election chatter


All the talk about Republicans nudging Marco Rubio to run for re-election to the U.S. Senate has got to be getting into Carlos Lopez-Cantera's head -- right?

No, he told the Miami Herald outside a Miami-Dade Republican Party meeting Thursday night.

"Marco's already said that he's not running for re-election," he said. 

That's true. And Rubio has named Lopez-Cantera, Florida's lieutenant governor and his close friend, his preferred successor.

Yet when he was asked Thursday what he'd do if Lopez-Cantera weren't running, Rubio refused to answer, calling the scenario a "hypothetical." Donald Trump, the GOP's presumptive presidential nominee, later tweeted that Rubio should run.

Doesn't that bother Lopez-Cantera, who -- like his fellow Republicans in the crowded Senate race -- has struggled to break out of the pack?

"Not at all," he said. "Marco's been really great. Obviously, he's my friend, and he's been very generous with his time and his counsel and his support. He did an event for me a couple of weeks ago. No, it doesn't bother me. A lot of people clearly trust his judgment and like him, as I do."