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373 posts from July 2016

July 29, 2016

Carlos Beruff itching for a debate with Marco Rubio


Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff is out with a new web-ad again accusing U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of being afraid to debate him.

Rubio has yet to agree to any debates with Beruff ahead of their Aug. 30 GOP primary race.

“He won’t show up because he’s afraid to debate Carlos Beruff,” a narrator says in the 30-second web video.

Beruff has agreed to attend at least three debates, but his campaign said Rubio has yet to confirm for any. Last week, Beruff issued a similar message through a statement calling on Rubio to “man up.”

Ironically it was Beruff who was accused of ducking debates earlier in the campaign before Rubio jumped back into the contest. In June when he faced three other lesser known opponents, Beruff skipped a forum where he would have faced them. When pressed days later during an interview on a Sarasota television program about why he didn’t agree to debate them, Beruff said he’d debate when “there’s somebody worth debating. At this point, I don’t think there is any.”

In battle against Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Tim Canova hires Bernie Sanders' consultants

Tim Canova's campaign has hired three of Bernie Sanders' media consultants.

The new hires are Tad DevineMark Longabaugh, and Julian Mulvey. All three have started, said Canova's campaign manager Richard Bell. The hires were first reported by Politico. The consultants run a Washington D.C. based Democratic media consulting firm together and have represented a long list of Democratic candidates and liberal causes. Their firm was the one behind Sanders' "America" ad which the main audio features Simon and Garfunkel's America song.

Canova is battling U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Broward/Miami-Dade Congressional District 23. 

Canova's first-time race drew more attention in the past week since Wasserman Schultz stepped down as Democratic National Committee chair following the leak of more than 19,000 party emails. Those emails showed that the DNC was favoring Hillary Clinton over Sanders -- a charge that Wasserman Schultz had repeatedly denied for months. The emails also showed that DNC staffers who are not on Wasserman Schultz's campaign were tracking Canova's media coverage and appearances.

The primary in the left leaning district is Aug. 30 but voters are already starting to cast ballots by mail. So far, about 28,000 Broward Democrats in the district have requested mail in ballots. A slice of the district is also in northern Miami Dade.

Democratic groups weigh in on U.S. Senate debate controversy


Two other political groups are now voicing their opinions on whether Miami Democrat Pam Keith should be included in an Orlando TV station's upcoming primary debate for Florida's U.S. Senate race.

The Boynton Beach-based Democratic African American Women Caucus says, quite bluntly, that Keith shouldn't complain about being excluded, because the fact is she didn't meet the qualifying criteria to participate.

"Put the race card away. It doesn't apply here," caucus president Leslie Wimes said of Keith, in an email statement to the Herald/Times.

But the Democratic Progressive Caucus -- a subset of the Florida Democratic Party -- is echoing the Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women in urging WFTV Channel 9 to change its mind and invite Keith. Florida NOW, which endorsed Keith, said it was "outraged" she wasn't invited.

Keith has accused WFTV in Orlando of "blatant racism and sexism" for excluding her from its televised primary debate next month between the two leading Democratic candidates, U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy. Keith is African American and the only female candidate seeking Florida's U.S. Senate seat this year. Grayson and Murphy are white.

The station said earlier this week that Grayson and Murphy were the only two of the five Democratic candidates who'd met the qualifying criteria: 15 percent support in polls. Keith received 10 percent and 11 percent support in the two polls she has been included in.

A polling threshold is common for organized political debates. It's unclear how the qualifying criteria was set for this one; the terms are typically the subject of negotiation between the invited participants and the host.

In her email, Wimes said: "We do not think WFTV is being racist or sexist towards Pam Keith. If she doesn't meet the criteria, then she doesn't participate. Crying racism/sexism because she hasn't increased her poll numbers or her name recognition in the almost two years that she has been running does a huge disservice to women who are victims of racism/sexism."

The Democratic African American Women Caucus has not endorsed any candidate and Wimes said her statement "in no way is a reflection on Pam Keith's qualifications."

"Fair is fair, though. Not everything is racism and we would be remiss if we didn't say so," Wimes said.

The Democratic Progressive Caucus didn't address Keith's line of attack in criticizing the station and her competitors. The group, which hasn't endorsed any candidate, defended what they say is her right to participate in candidate debates.

"No one -- Democratic elites, the media or elected officials -- should put their thumb on the scale to advantage or disadvantage any candidate," caucus chairwoman Susan Smith said in a statement. "Florida Democrats who will go to the polls on August 30th deserve to hear from all three candidates so they can make a smart decision about who should represent out party in the General Election against Marco Rubio."

"By keeping Pam Keith out of the debate, WFTV is denying Democratic voters the opportunity to be fully informed of their options," Smith said.

WFTV has not responded to Keith's remarks. But the station said earlier this week that other Senate candidates, Democrats and Republicans (including Keith), would be invited to do three-minute segments “to communicate their stance on the issues to the people of Central Florida.”

Grayson hasn't commented either, and Murphy was vague when asked about the controversy on Thursday by the Miami Herald's editorial board.

The Grayson-Murphy debate is set to be taped in advance and will air at 7 p.m. Aug. 12 on WFTV in Orlando and online at WFTV.com.

Lesser-known Democratic candidates Reginald Luster of Jacksonville and "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente of Orlando also weren't invited to the debate. They each launched their campaigns last month -- just in time to qualify for the primary ballot -- and neither has been included in any polls.

Gov. Rick Scott orders testing, spraying after first Zika cases likely spread by mosquito


500409801_16660442_8col[1]Four people likely contracted Zika virus from mosquitoes in Miami-Dade County, Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday. 

One woman and three men have been infected, and all four live in Miami-Dade or Broward counties. This is believed to be the first time the virus has been spread by mosquitoes within the continental United States.

Under an emergency declaration, Scott already gave the state authority to spend $26.2 million to combat Zika, which has been linked to microcephaly, a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than normal.

“If it becomes clear that more resources are needed, we will not hesitate to allocate them,” he said in a statement Friday.

Additionally, Scott and other state leaders announced plans to double down on efforts in South Florida to fight the virus. Among them, the Florida Department of Health will give $620,000 to OneBlood so the blood bank can start testing donations for Zika.

DOH is also expected to take on the load of Zika testing within the area where the state believes the transmissions occurred, a one-square-mile zone north of downtown Miami. The area is bounded by Northwest Fifth Avenue, U.S. Route 1, Northwest/Northeast 38th Street and Northwest/Northeast 20th Street, according to Scott’s office.

“If you live in this area and want to be tested, I urge you to contact the county health department, which stands ready to assist you,” Scott said.

Scott compared the state’s preparation for Zika to that of a hurricane, a call he’s echoed since first declaring a public health emergency in February.

Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam ordered more aggressive mosquito spraying within 200 yards of the four patients’ homes for 45 days in a declaration Friday.

The state will direct $1.28 million to the mosquito control districts in Miami-Dade and Broward counties through December, according to Scott’s office.

“Floridians can do their part by draining standing water surrounding their homes, as it can serve as breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that are capable of transmitting the virus,” Putnam said in a statement.

Though these cases are being called likely local transmissions, no Florida mosquitoes have tested positive for Zika, Scott said, but DOH is testing “aggressively” to rule out other cases.

Friday morning, DOH announced three more travel-related cases of Zika in Miami-Dade County. The state has confirmed 386 cases of Zika related to travel, in addition to those that likely were contracted in Florida.

The epicenter of the virus’ spread is South Florida. Ninety-nine travel-related cases have been confirmed in Miami-Dade and 55 in Broward counties. Ten are confirmed in Hillsborough and seven in Pinellas.

Photo: Zack Wittman, Tampa Bay Times

Art dealer won't have to pay $2.3 million to contest Miami Dade College project award -- for now


Art dealer Gary Nader scored a small but significant victory in his battle with Miami Dade College Thursday when a circuit court judge ruled he doesn't have to immediately post a $2.3 million bond in order to dispute a recommendation that the college's board of trustees partner with a competitor to build a cultural center and condos on Biscayne Boulevard.

Nader + Museu I LLP informed the college last week that it intended to file a formal protest of Related Group's victory in a competitive process launched last year when Nader proposed to build a museum, theater, conference center and residential towers on a college parking lot next to the Freedom Tower. (For more background on the project click here and here.)

Meanwhile, Nader's GrayRobinson attorneys also filed an emergency motion for temporary injunctive relief after learning the college would require their client to post a bond worth 2 percent of the value of Related Group's planned cultural center, valued at $115 million.

Nader's attorneys argued that the price of the bond was prohibitive and unnecessary under the law given the public-private-partnership circumstances behind the project, and that the would-be development team may be required to past another $2.3 million bond should it want to contest the ultimate award of the project as well.

On Thursday, Judge Bronwyn C. Miller sided with Nader on what for now is a technical argument, agreeing that Nader should be allowed to move forward with the protest after posting an injunction bond of only $100,000. Whether Nader indeed must pay $2.3 million in order to dispute the college's decision should be considered down the road after a full evidentiary hearing, Miller ruled.

Fact-checking Hillary Clinton's convention speech

The Democratic Party has a new presidential nominee, and for the first time for either major political party, she is a woman.

Hillary Clinton — a former secretary of state, senator and first lady — accepted her party’s nomination on July 28, 2016, the final night of the Democratic National Convention. After being introduced by her daughter Chelsea, Clinton challenged the campaign message of Republican nominee Donald Trump as being all about himself.

"That's why ‘Stronger Together’ is not just a lesson from our history," Clinton told the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa. "It's not just a slogan for our campaign. It's a guiding principle for the country we've always been and the future we're going to build."

The night also saw speeches by Republicans who decided this election to vote for Clinton over Trump, as well as the families of fallen police officers. Several service members rallied on Clinton’s behalf, and singer Katy Perry sang her songs "Roar" and "Rise."

Clinton’s address was the night’s biggest moment. Let’s see how accurate it was.

(See our wrap-ups from night one, two and three of the Democratic convention.)

Attacking Donald Trump

Clinton critiqued Trump’s address at the Republican National Convention a week earlier, saying "he spoke for 70-odd minutes – and I do mean odd," and should not be trusted.

"And most of all, don't believe anyone who says: ‘I alone can fix it.,’ " Clinton said. "Those were actually Donald Trump's words in Cleveland."

We looked back at his speech, and Trump really did say this.

Keep reading from PolitiFact.

Women's group 'outraged' by Pam Keith's exclusion from U.S. Senate debate


The Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women says it's "outraged" that an Orlando TV station is excluding Democrat Pam Keith from its U.S. Senate primary debate next month.

Keith -- an African American from Miami and the only female candidate in the Senate contest -- wasn't invited to WFTV Channel 9's "one-on-one" debate between U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy because she hasn't polled high enough to meet the threshold to participate.

Keith received 10 percent and 11 percent support in the two polls she has been included in; the station said candidates needed to have at least 15 percent support in order to be eligible.

"This discriminating action by the station and other candidates demonstrates the ongoing fight both women and minorities face in our society," Florida NOW said in a statement. "To summarily dismiss Ms. Keith’s candidacy as inconsequential is an insult to all voters, especially women and people of color."

The group endorsed Keith's campaign several months ago.

Earlier this week, Keith also blasted WFTV and her opponents for the decision to exclude her. She decried their decision as "blatant racism and sexism."

The station hasn't responded.

But it said earlier this week that other Senate candidates, Democrats and Republicans, would be invited to do three-minute segments “to communicate their stance on the issues to the people of Central Florida.”

When asked about it by the Miami Herald's editorial board on Thursday, Murphy was vague on whether Keith should be included and he was unaware of what terms for debate his campaign staff negotiated with the station. He deferred to both his campaign and to WFTV's set criteria, and he said he personally had no part in those talks.

"If the host comes up with qualifications that she meets, then of course, by all means" she should participate, Murphy said. "I've known Ms. Keith for several years, so I don't have any personal contention or beef with her."

Grayson's campaign hasn't commented. For his part, Grayson has appeared on stage with Keith at at least a couple candidate forums during the campaign. He had agreed to debate her on radio next month, but that event was cancelled after Murphy declined to participate.

Florida NOW touted Keith's credentials as among the other reasons she should be allowed to take part in the WFTV debate, which is expected to be the only Democratic debate before the Aug. 30 primary.

"Pam Keith is uniquely qualified to run for the U.S. Senate. Her experience as a Naval Officer JAG and attorney fighting for labor workers gives her an advantage neither of the other candidates possess," Florida NOW said.

"Women and minorities make up 50 percent of the voters in Florida. To exclude Pam Keith from the Senate debates is an insult to these voters," the group added. "It demonstrates a bias that should never be included in a news organization whose duty is to inform the public. ... WFTV needs to change their position on this debate."

Keith has been campaigning full-time since November 2014, longer than any candidate from either major party. Nonetheless, Murphy and Grayson -- sitting U.S. congressmen from Jupiter and Orlando, respectively -- have garnered almost all of the attention in the Democratic field.

The Grayson-Murphy debate is set to be taped in advance and will air at 7 p.m. Aug. 12 on WFTV in Orlando and online at WFTV.com.

Lesser-known Democratic candidates Reginald Luster of Jacksonville and "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente of Orlando also weren't invited to WFTV's debate. They each launched their campaigns last month -- just in time to qualify for the primary ballot -- and neither has been included in any polls.

July 28, 2016

Clinton promises unity as she accepts historic nomination



PHILADELPHIA -- After decades wrestling with living in public, Hillary Clinton introduced herself one more time to Americans on Thursday night, no longer as a famous wife, former U.S. senator or Cabinet secretary but as a presidential nominee intent on writing a new, historic chapter in her life — and the country’s.

“It is with humility, determination and boundless confidence in America’s promise that I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States,” Clinton said. Thousands of delegates at the Democratic National Convention interspersed chants of “Hi-lla-ry” with “His-to-ry.”

Clinton accepted the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination acknowledging that both her party and the country remain deeply split — perhaps more so — eight years after her former rival, Barack Obama, won the White House.

“America is once again at a moment of reckoning. Powerful forces are threatening to pull us apart,” she said. “Bonds of trust and respect are fraying. And just as with our founders, there are no guarantees. It truly is up to us. We have to decide whether we will all work together so we can all rise together.”

Facing Clinton is one of the most difficult challenges in modern politics: succeeding a two-term president of her own party. A self-described unnatural campaigner, Clinton tried to contrast herself and her running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, as diametrically different from her unpredictable Republican rival, Donald Trump, whom she portrayed — as Democrats did for four days in Philadelphia — as reckless.

“He wants to divide us from the rest of the world and from each other. He’s betting that the perils of today’s world will blind us to its unlimited promise,” she said. “He’s taken the Republican Party a long way from ‘morning in America’ to midnight in America. He wants us to fear the future and fear each other.”

Then Clinton cited former President Franklin Roosevelt, who “came up with the perfect rebuke to Trump more than 80 years ago, during a much more perilous time.” The crowd joined her: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Top Democrats close to Clinton — including her husband, former President Bill Clinton, President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama — spent the week trying to erase what they called a caricature of Clinton with stories of the woman they know. Clinton would be the most disliked presidential candidate ever — if it weren’t for Trump.

More here.

Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

PolitiFact: Did Trump bail on building condos in Fort Lauderdale and Tampa?

Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine questioned Donald Trump’s business ethics, saying the Republican presidential candidate swindled customers in a past real estate deal in the Sunshine State.

"Retirees and families in Florida — they believed Donald Trump when he said he'd build them some condos. Thousands of them," Kaine said on the third night of the Democratic National Convention. "They paid their deposits, but the condos, they were never built. He just pocketed their money and walked away. They lost tens of thousands of dollars, all because they believed Donald Trump."

A Kaine spokesman told us the senator was referring to not one, but two failed condo projects: One in Tampa and one in Fort Lauderdale. Trump’s campaign did not respond.

We wanted to know if people lost tens of thousands of dollars in deposits while Trump took the money without consequence. Since there are two projects, we’ll take them one at a time.

Keep reading Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida.

Little jabs begin in Democratic race for Florida governor


PHILADELPHIA -- The first little jabs of the next Democratic race for Florida governor came, subtly, in a Philadelphia hotel ballroom over the past four days.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine touted “people in public office who have actually had a job, that know how to get things done.” Take that, longtime politician and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

“I don’t need a TelePrompTer,” Buckhorn boasted to a Miami Herald reporter. Here’s looking at you, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee.

“I now represent the most Republican-leaning district held by any Democrat in the entire Congress of the United States,” Graham bragged. Listen up, Levine and Buckhorn.

Just like at last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, 2016 politics made way to 2018 at the Florida delegation breakfasts of the Democratic National Convention.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is term-limited, and Florida Democrats insist that next time will be their time. Buckhorn, Graham and Levine — along with state Sen. Jeremy Ring of Parkland, who wasn’t in Philadelphia — are the biggest names considering a run.

For Democrats, though, the dearth of state political power extends beyond the Governor’s Mansion. Republicans also control the Cabinet — and majorities in the state House and Senate.

They’re sensitive to the problem — and maybe also a teensy bit defensive.

More here.