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109 posts from September 2018

September 29, 2018

Gillum campaign fires staffer who wore explicit anti-Trump shirt after offensive tweets surface


@elizabethrkoh @kirbywtweets

An Andrew Gillum campaign staffer who drew controversy for an explicit shirt referencing President Donald Trump's voters was fired at the end of the week after several offensive past tweets were surfaced early Saturday morning.

Screenshots of Manny Orozco-Ballestas' now-deleted tweets, which were posted by Orlando-area fringe conservative blogger Jacob Engels, depict several messsages degrading to women and body-shaming.

The purported tweets from the former Gillum staffer date back to 2012 and 2013. They include a response to Trump saying "you need to be executed," a tweet criticizing obese people for posting food pictures on Instagram, and a graphic implying pacifiers for babies are "preparing" them for oral sex.

Engels, who has contributed to the controversial Infowars website and is a Roger Stone ally, wrote in his post that the photos were provided to him anonymously.

“The type of language this young man used on social media before his employment with our campaign is unacceptable and he will no longer be working with the campaign," said Gillum campaign spokesperson Joshua Karp in a statement.


Read the full story at the Miami Herald.

Photo: Republican Party of Florida screengrab

September 28, 2018

State Sen. Dorothy Hukill ends re-election bid, enters hospice care due to cancer




State Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, is ending her re-election bid and entering hospice care after "an aggressive recurrence" of cancer, she announced in a statement Friday.

Hukill started treatment for cervical cancer shortly after her re-election in 2016 and missed the 2017 legislative session and the special session that followed. She came back to the chamber for this year's session but said in her statement that her cancer had recently returned.

Hukill had been absent from the campaign trail in recent weeks, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

In her statement Friday, Hukill said she and her family had chosen to discontinue treatment for the disease and enter hospice care.

"I have so enjoyed serving you and the people of Florida," she wrote. "I have been honored by your friendship and the trust you have placed in me, from my very first term serving on the Ponce Inlet Town Council to the past six years in the Florida Senate."

Hukill, who turned 72 less than two weeks ago, represents parts of northern Brevard County and southern Volusia County. She was opposing Democrat Melissa Martin of Cocoa in the general election.

The New York City native and former public elementary school teacher moved to Florida in 1988 and served as the councilwoman in the town of Ponce Inlet in the mid 1990s. She was the Mayor of Port Orange from 2000 to 2004, after which she was elected to the state House through 2012.

She was then elected to the Senate, where she currently chairs the Senate Education Committee and is vice-chair of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.

In a statement, Senate President Joe Negron hailed Hukill as "a tireless, passionate and selfless advocate for her constituents."

"Even in her times of greatest medical challenge, she has remained steadfast in representing her community," he wrote. "On behalf of the Senate, I offer our thoughts and prayers to her and her family in this difficult time."

Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano added: "Dorothy is a longtime, dear friend and my heart breaks at this news. I know my friend to be a fighter and she has battled this terrible disease with everything she has. Julie and I send our prayers to Dorothy and her family at his time.”

Hukill's full note on Facebook:

Miami Herald reporter Samantha J. Gross contributed to this report.

Ex-husband’s financial woes create house of horrors for Miami congressional candidate

Maietto home

As she runs a competitive campaign for a Miami congressional seat, former broadcaster Maria Elvira Salazar is being chased by financial woes inherited from a dissolved marriage.

Now eight years past her divorce from home builder and designer Renzo Maietto, Salazar’s decision to purchase millions in Miami real estate with her then-husband ahead of the economic collapse in 2008 has left her with a mess. Her net worth is upside-down, and she’s personally on the hook for a bank note under foreclosure after her ex defaulted on a $2 million home loan.

Salazar says the problems are entirely out of her hands, both in their making and resolution: When the couple divorced in the summer of 2010, Maietto said in a settlement that he’d pay the mortgage on the now-distressed Radcliffe Manor property where the couple had hoped to live with their two children. Salazar also signed over the deed to the home to her estranged spouse.

“Mr. Maietto agreed in the divorce agreement to assume all liability for the property,” Salazar told the Miami Herald.

Click here to read the rest.

Former congressman claims vindication after Miami judge dismisses ringer lawsuit

David rivera

A Miami judge on Thursday dismissed a Federal Election Commission lawsuit against former congressman David Rivera alleging that he secretly and illegally financed a ringer candidate’s campaign in a Democratic primary six years ago in order to damage his likely opponent.

Judge Marcia Cooke tossed out the 2017 complaint, which stemmed from six-year-old allegations first documented in the Miami Herald that Rivera funneled at least $70,000 in campaign money to a novice political candidate running against then-challenger Joe Garcia. Garcia ultimately won the primary and general elections in Florida’s 26th congressional district, and the candidate who received the undisclosed money, Justin Lamar Sternad, later pleaded guilty to breaking election laws.

A political operative and former girlfriend of Rivera’s also pleaded guilty to her role in the scheme and said she acted as a go-between for Rivera and Sternad, who accepted tens of thousands of dollars in hush-hush advertising and political services that he listed on campaign finance forms as self-loans.

But Rivera has always denied any wrongdoing, and was not charged by the U.S. Attorney’s office. After the statute of limitations ran out, the FEC filed a civil action against Rivera, arguing that he’d broken campaign finance laws prohibiting secret donations. The elections watchdog was pursuing nearly $500,000 in fines, but Rivera argued that if anyone broke election law in the alleged scheme, it was Sternad.

Click here to read the rest.

Bill Nelson will vote no on Kavanaugh nomination

Bill Nelson


Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson will vote against Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination a day after Donald Trump’s pick for the nation’s highest court defended himself to the U.S. Senate on allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman 35 years ago.

Nelson, who is running for reelection against Gov. Rick Scott, made his opposition official on Friday morning after calling for an FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh last week and expressing displeasure that the two had not met in person.

“I will vote no on Judge Kavanaugh,” Nelson tweeted.

Scott has called on Nelson to meet with Kavanaugh but has not explicitly called on Nelson to vote in favor of confirmation. Multiple allegations of sexual assault have surfaced against Kavanaugh over the last 10 days after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford publicly accused Kavauangh of attempting to rape her at high school party in 1982. Kavanaugh denies all the allegations against him.

In a lengthy and emotional confirmation hearing yesterday that was called after Ford’s allegations became public, Ford recalled chilling details of the alleged assault saying that she “will never forget the laughter” from Kavnauagh and his friend Mark Judge as the assault took place. Kavanaugh offered an emotional defense of his own, breaking into tears while going over his schedule in detail during the summer of 1982.

Nelson, who is not a member of the Judiciary Committee, was not a part of Thursday’s hearing and hasn’t met face-to-face with Kavanaugh since Trump nominated him for the lifetime position in July.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said Thursday night that he planned to review Kavanaugh and Ford’s testimony overnight before making a final decision.

Other Republicans who were thought to be on the fence like Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker have publicly said they plan to vote for Kavanaugh, though Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski are seen as the crucial swing votes as Republicans only have room for one dissenter if Democrats are united against Kavanaugh.

September 27, 2018

Curbelo to vote no on Speaker of the House without lawmaking changes

IMG_IMG_curbelo_6_1_1TCH_7_1_USCSTTBR_L357400841 (1)


Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo joined a group of 19 House members from both parties who plan to vote against their party's nominee for Speaker of the House unless the nominee agrees to rule changes that would curb some of the power of party leaders and make it easier for bills with bipartisan support to pass the House of Representatives. 

The gambit, first reported by the Washington Post, is by members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of lawmakers who represent the centrist wings of both parties. Democrats who made the pledge would vote no if their party takes a majority in November while Republicans would do the same if they keep control unless the candidate for speaker supports their demands. 

The rule changes that the centrist lawmakers are demanding from either party's leadership include opening up amendments to change bills, making it easier for bills with bipartisan support to get a full vote and limiting the ability of a rogue group lawmakers to oust a sitting speaker, like conservative Freedom Caucus members did to John Boehner in 2015. The lawmakers are banking on either party winning a small majority in the November elections, meaning 9 or 10 votes could make the difference for minority leader Nancy Pelosi, majority leader Kevin McCarthy, or whoever else emerges as the front-runner for the Speaker's job. 

“We’re at a critical point in our country’s politics, and I’m proud to stand with colleagues from both parties to make Congress and its leaders work more effectively for the American people,” Curbelo said. “I truly believe the greatest challenges of our time require bipartisan solutions. We need House rules that encourage cooperation across the aisle and empower Members of the House to seek compromise and adequately represent all their constituents. I look forward to supporting a candidate for Speaker who believes in that vision as well.”

However, many of the lawmakers like Curbelo are facing tough reelection prospects of their own, meaning a portion of the 19 may not be in a position to force change next year. Curbelo faces Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in the November election and both are raising millions of dollars to win the most Democratic-leaning seat held by a Republican running for reelection. 

Two Democrats from Central Florida also signed the position, Rep. Stephanie Murphy and Rep. Darren Soto. Murphy faces a competitive reelection challenge while Soto is favored to win reelection after defeating former Rep. Allen Grayson in last month's primary.  

Hillary Clinton to campaign with Andrew Gillum in South Florida


Former first lady Hillary Clinton will join Andrew Gillum in South Florida next month, the gubernatorial candidate's campaign announced Thursday.

"I'm honored to have Secretary Clinton join me in Florida next month," Gillum said in a statement. "Hillary knows just what's at stake in this election -- affordable healthcare, a brighter future for our children -- and that the choice in this election could not be clearer."

News emerged Wednesday that Clinton would join the Democratic nominee on the trail. Gillum's campaign said Thursday that the former U.S. Secretary of State will join him in South Florida on Oct. 23. His campaign did not release any further details about the location or time of the event.

Clinton reportedly considered Gillum as a running mate during her failed 2016 presidential bid.

Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, also spoke at the Democratic National Convention. He was a Clinton delegate, though his decision to campaign during the gubernatorial primary with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton's 2016 primary opponent, has in some ways framed his general election campaign.

September 26, 2018

Leon County sheriff says Ron DeSantis is 'disrespectful' to police for criticizing Tallahassee's crime rate

Democratc Andrew Gillum, left, and Republican Ron DeSantis

The Leon County Sheriff is coming to the defense of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum's record on crime, saying that he's made the city safer and that criticism over the city's high crime rate is "disrespectful" to police.

"Under Mayor Andrew Gillum's leadership, violent crime is down 24 percent, and overall crime is down 10 percent with crime at a five-year low in Tallahassee," Sheriff Walt McNeil said in the statement released by Gillum's campaign on Wednesday. "Mayor Gillum's investments into more police officers, restorative justice, and community policing have made Tallahassee safer than when he became Mayor, period.

McNeil also took a shot at Gillum's Republican opponent in the race, Ron DeSantis, who has hammered Gillum for the city's crime rate, which is one of the highest in the state.

"The political fear mongering from his opponent is false, dangerous, and disrespectful to the law enforcement officers on the front lines fighting crime every day," McNeil said.

But it's a message that is apparently resonating - in Tallahassee, at least. Gillum's former chief of staff, who is running to replace him as mayor, is sending out mailers saying the city "must do better" to combat crime.

McNeil was Tallahassee police chief for 10 years before being elected sheriff in 2016. During that run, he, too, campaigned on the area's high crime rate.

In one dramatic television ad, McNeil showed a model home getting blown away by an apparent shotgun blast.

"Rick Scott's sheriff, Mike Wood, isn't working," the ad said. "Make Leon County safe again. Vote Chief Walt McNeil for sheriff."

Herald/Times staff writer Elizabeth Koh contributed to this report.

Andrew Gillum leads Ron DeSantis by nine points in latest poll


Via @KirbyWTweets

Andrew Gillum might be pulling away from Ron DeSantis in the Florida governor's race.

That's if a new poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University proves accurate. The survey of 888 likely voters showed Gillum, the Democratic nominee for governor ahead of the Republican, Ron DeSantis, by nine points, 54 percent to 45 percent. Just six percent of Florida voters said they were undecided, according to the poll.

Gillum has led in most early surveys of the race, but Wednesday's is the first time he's been shown to hold a lead (+9) outside the margin for error (plus/minus 4).

The survey showed Gillum doing particularly well among independents and women, with healthy double-digit leads among both groups. The Tallahassee mayor also had a plus-24 net approval rating in the survey, compared to DeSantis' minus-five rating.

"At this point, Gillum's biggest asset is just that voters like him better," Quinnipiac University Poll assistant director Peter A. Brown said in a statement accompanying the poll's release.

Of course, it's important to use caution when evaluating individual poll results — particularly outliers like Wednesday's survey. Election day is still 40 days away, and a lot can change between now and then.

The Q poll, which surveyed likely Florida voters on land lines and cell phones, was conducted from Sept. 20 through Sept. 24. The data journalism website FiveThirtyEight has given Quinnipiac an A- rating.

Agriculture commissioner candidates will debate in October



Candidates for Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services have agreed to a debate on Sunday, Oct. 21.

Republican candidate Rep. Matt Caldwell and Democratic candidate, Fort Lauderdale attorney and lobbyist Nikki Fried, will appear in Miami for the live debate, which will be hosted by CBS4 reporter Jim Defede. 

The debate will be aired on WFOR/CBSMiami. For those outside of South Florida, the debate will be streamed live on CBSMiami.com and on the station's flagship Twitter and Facebook accounts. The debate begins at 8 a.m. and will last about 30 minutes, DeFede said. 

Caldwell challenged Fried to debate in a letter sent last Friday — but Fried's campaign contended they've already offered dates to debate that the Caldwell campaign declined.

Fried's campaign spokesman Max Flugrath said Friday that the Democratic candidate had already offered dates to debate that had been rejected: “Nikki Fried stands ready to debate the issues and in the past week alone, agreed to two dates on which to do just that—yet on both, the Caldwell campaign declined any availability."

Caldwell spokeswoman Danielle Alvarez said their campaign had not previously discussed debate dates with the Fried camp before Friday's letter was sent out.

"We're thrilled that the Fried team has agreed to our debate challenge," she said Friday. "It's important to Florida voters."