November 05, 2018

On "Souls to the Polls" Sunday, the North Miami voting site briefly ran out of ballots


Miami-Dade briefly ran out of ballots Sunday for some voters at its North Miami location, as malfunctioning printers upended logistics there during the final day of early voting and had people reporting wait times topping three hours.

As the sun set on the fourteenth day of early voting in the largely black neighborhood, more than 200 voters were in a line that snaked around half a block outside the North Miami library. “I would have stayed in line eight hours if I had to,” Joas Laurent, 37, said as he walked out of the library at 7:20 p.m., about three hours after he said he arrived.

The printers used to generate customized ballots for for a voter’s precinct failed early in the afternoon, and poll workers eventually had to turn to pre-printed ballots to let people vote, said Christina White, the county’s elections supervisor. When those ran out for two of the surrounding precincts, the county had to rush in replacements from nearby polling places. She said it’s the only time she can recall Miami-Dade running out of ballots at a voting site.

Read more here

November 03, 2018

Miami’s ‘sisterhood’ of Democrats makes a closing argument focused on healthcare



Zero men grabbed the microphone at a rally in front of the Community Bible Baptist Church in South Dade on Saturday.

In a year where Democrats are hoping that an uptick of women candidates can spur a blue wave across the country, Miami’s three women running for Congress — Donna Shalala, Mary Barzee Flores and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell — stood together to make their closing argument to voters and activists.

“It’s been a long road for all of us and I’ve been talking about this sisterhood that we’ve developed, Mary, Donna and I because even though we come from different background and experiences we share the same goals,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “We have to fight for the soul of our country right now.”

Democrats are hoping to send an all-female Miami-Dade delegation to Washington next year, part of 197 female candidates across the country running for the U.S. House and Senate. Their message mirrored the thousands of TV commercials being run across South Florida in the closing weeks of the campaign highlighting healthcare as the most important issue on the ballot this year, after Republicans tried and failed to repeal Obamacare during the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency.

“It’s the year of the woman and look, you know all the issues Democrats stand for,” Shalala said. “Healthcare is a woman’s issue because it’s often the women in the family who determines who goes to the doctor and usually kick their significant other to go. And so eliminating preexisting conditions means that [Republicans] are eliminating health insurance, it’s as simple as that.”

More here.

November 02, 2018

Obama went to Wynwood for tacos and everyone lost their minds

Obama coyo

Former president Barack Obama worked up an appetite during his get-out-the-vote rally in Miami Friday afternoon for Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson, so he went to Coyo Taco.

And Wynwood lost its mind.

Women screamed as Obama stepped out of a silver Chevy Suburban onto Northwest Second Avenue around 3:45 p.m. They grabbed their cellphones to snap photos and call their friends. He shook a few hands.

“I want everybody to vote!” he shouted.

Inside the venue, stunned diners gaped as Obama entered, surrounded by an entourage of Secret Service agents, reporters and camera crews. Evan Schlecker, a Morgan Group employee who stopped at Coyo for lunch, shared a tortilla chip with him and let him dip it in the guac.

They posed for a selfie, guacamole still firmly on the chip before Obama downed it.

Announcing it was his treat, Obama ordered: Cochinita Pibil, Pollo al Carbon, Camaron, Guacamole and Esquite.

He bought a bottle of Coca-Cola for Gillum. Kali Hughes took their order, and told Gillum, the Democratic nominee for governor, that he’d voted early and cast his ballot for him.

Read the rest here.

(Picture courtesy of Evan Schlecker)

Salazar files complaint with IRS for ‘misleading’ mailer attacking healthcare stance


Via @MartinDVassolo

With four days to go before the midterm election, Republican Congressional candidate Maria Elvira Salazar has lodged a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service accusing the left-leaning Center for Voter Information of mailing out fliers that “lie” about her healthcare stance.

Salazar, who is running to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional district, said she wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act but maintain the federal law’s protections for patients with pre-existing conditions.

Under current law, championed by then-President Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress, health insurance companies can’t deny coverage or charge patients more because of health problems they had before their new health coverage began.

In a political mailer sent to a voter in District 27, the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit states that Salazar does not “support requiring health insurance companies to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions” and that her opponent, Democrat Donna Shalala, does.

The mailer cites Salazar’s campaign website, which includes no mention of the Republican’s stance on maintaining coverage for pre-existing conditions. 

Shalala, the former secretary of Health and Human Services, said she would defend the Affordable Care Act if elected.

Salazar, who held a press conference at her attorney’s office in Miami on Friday, said the flier’s claim that she supports stripping money from Medicaid was also false.

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Sweetwater commission candidate who bemoaned corruption accused of cocaine dealing

Jose Mejia

Via @DavidOvalle305

A Sweewater City Commission candidate who has bemoaned the town’s long history of political corruption was arrested Friday on allegations that he was dealing cocaine.

Jose Mejia, 29, was arrested at his Sweetwater home and charged with three counts of cocaine trafficking. Two other men, Christopher Laboy, 24, and Angel Bedecia Campo, 63, were also arrested and charged.

The arrest was made by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which had help from Sweetwater police, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Miami-Dade prosecutors. FDLE did not release details of the investigation, saying only that it began after agents got “information from a confidential source.”

Mejia was booked into a Miami-Dade jail late Friday. It was unclear if he had a defense lawyer.

The candidate maintained an active campaign website and Twitter page, but is not on Tuesday’s general election ballot. Sweetwater is not scheduled for an election until 2019. He is challenging Sweetwater Commissioner Manuel Duasso.

On his website, Mejia said Sweetwater was plagued “by political corruption and the fact that we keep voting for the same old individuals with a bunch of empty promises and no ambition.”

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Obama touts Gillum and Nelson, warns voters “character of the country” is on the line


Via @LesleyClark

He never mentioned him by name, but former President Barack Obama made it clear Friday at a rally in Miami’s Overtown that by electing Andrew Gillum governor of Florida, the state can deliver a blow to President Donald Trump.

Days away from an election that could complicate his successor’s chances at re-election or make it easier for him to win a second term, Obama insisted that nothing less than American democracy — and Florida’s eroding shorelines — are on the line in Tuesday’s election.

“I’m hopeful that we will cut through the lies, block out the noise and remember who we are called to be,” Obama said at a raucous rally at the Ice Palace, where he was interrupted by protesters several times, asking them at one point: “Why is that folks who won the last election are so mad all the time?”

Obama decried Trump’s immigration and healthcare policies and warned against “a politics based on division,” saying Tuesday’s election gives voters an opportunity to embrace a “politics based on a sense we are all in this together.

“One election won’t eliminate racism or sexism or homophobia .. but it will be a start,” Obama said. “And when you start down that path momentum starts to build.”

He called Tuesday’s contest the “most important election of our lifetime” and insisted it wasn’t political hyperbole.

“The consequences of any of us staying home really are more dangerous,” he said. “Maybe most of all the character of our country is on the ballot.”

Read the rest here.

Florida DMV director calls hurricane clean-up claims 'serious and troubling'

TerryLRhodes-MediumThe state's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles issued a statement Friday night after an anonymous complaint alleged a top state official misused state resources after Hurricane Michael. 

The page-long complaint says Kelley Scott, the department’s $120,000-a-year director of administrative service, ordered three department employees to drive a “disaster recovery trailer” to her Georgia home — nearly an hour away from state offices in Tallahassee. The trailer was loaded with chainsaws, tarps and generators, and Scott wanted the state workers to clear trees and connect a generator to her well pump, according to the complaint.

Despite denying a request for an interview from the Miami Herald, Terry Rhodes, executive director of the DHSMV, sent out a mass statement calling the internal investigation a "top priority."

"I saw the destruction after the storm firsthand, and understand completely that these allegations are incredibly serious and troubling," she wrote. "A thorough investigation allows all facts to be presented and I will ensure complete accountability upon the conclusion of the investigation." 


As director of the DHSMV, Rhodes reports directly to the governor and cabinet. 

Jimmy Patronis, the state's chief financial officer and cabinet member, said his focus is always to ensure the DHSMV serves taxpayers well. 

"Any allegation that resources were diverted from those who needed it, must be taken seriously," Patronis' spokeswoman, Anna Alexopoulos Farrar, wrote in a statement. "We look forward to Director Rhodes’ detailed explanation, and the CFO is confident that the director will take swift action on this issue." 

The DHSMV is refusing to release public records that could confirm or refute the allegations citing the active investigation. It also declined to make Scott available for an interview. The Miami Herald requested emails and text messages from Scott’s work accounts, but was told they could not be released.

The department also declined to say if Scott — a high-ranking official who reports to Rhodes — remains actively employed during the investigation. Scott was at work Wednesday morning, Herald reporters confirmed. 

Independents will decide Florida’s statewide elections, but polling them is tricky



Independent voters are the white whale of Florida elections.

They cannot vote in closed primaries, so they didn’t play a part in electing Andrew Gillum or Ron DeSantis in August, and typically turn out in lower numbers in years when a president isn’t on the ballot.

But a national environment dominated by President Donald Trump, combined with record-breaking spending in the U.S. Senate race between Bill Nelson and Rick Scott, have focused the political world’s attention on Florida. The intense interest is reflected in an uptick among all voters in early voting, including independents.

Statewide polls conducted in the past month show a massive variance among voters who are not affiliated with the Democratic or Republican Party. One poll conducted by the University of North Florida this week shows Gillum with a 25 percentage point lead over DeSantis among independents and Nelson leading Scott by 17 points. Another poll conducted by CBS/YouGov this week shows DeSantis and Scott both winning independents by 13 percentage points.

and Nelson with slight leads within the margin of error. For example, the UNF poll showed Gillum with a 6 percentage point lead and Nelson with a 1 percentage point lead, while the CBS poll showed Gillum up by 1 percentage point and Nelson in a tie with Scott.

Accurately polling voters who don’t identify or aren’t registered with either party is a tricky proposition.

“When you’re dealing with small samples like that, it gets really difficult to get a good sense of what they’re doing exactly as a group,” said Michael Binder, the director of the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Library. “The margin of error for that is relatively high. That’s just a problem you have.”

More here.

November 01, 2018

Ex-Patronis staffer sues, saying she was fired after not donating to campaign


A senior employee with the Department of Financial Services has sued her boss, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, alleging she was fired for not donating to his campaign or attending a fundraiser event for his reelection.

According to a complaint filed Monday, Christine Taul, a 32-year veteran of the department, received a phone call at work from a third party inviting her to a fundraiser being held for the CFO on Aug. 20. The caller told Taul, a registered Democrat, to "bring a check." 

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Tallahassee Wednesday. 

Taul was scheduled to leave Tallahassee for a vacation on the day of the fundraiser, but said she wouldn't attend anyway because of her differing political views. 

When she returned from her vacation on Aug. 27, she was told she would be terminated. Taul, who had been an administrator for the CFO's risk management program since 1994, resigned instead. In September, Taul's attorneys sent a letter to the CFO's office in demanding she be reinstated with full backpay. 

The department's general counsel, Chasity O'Steen, said the department did not know of any third party activity, and that attributing the phone to the CFO's office was an "erroneous assumption." O'Steen said Taul was terminated because she failed to show improvement after mandatory remedial trainings in April 2018. Taul was also responsible for an employee who lied about her hours on a timesheet. 

O'Steen said the department was within its rights to discipline Taul for her poor performance, even after counseling and remedial trainings. The trainings were held by an employee relations manager, and were meant to be a "refresher," according to emails obtained from the office. 

Taul's personnel file, however, shows she received a "commendable" overall rating in 2017. Her manager wrote that she is a "valued asset to the Division" and that her "experience and knowledge are often utilized in solving complicated issues." 

Patronis, a Panama City republican and former state representative, was appointed into the role in 2017 after Jeff Atwater resigned for a position at Florida Atlantic University. He is running against former state senator and Yahoo executive Democrat Jeremy Ring, of Broward County.

"The timing of this ridiculous accusation seems like a sad politically based attack," said Patronis' campaign spokeswoman Katie Strickland. 

Taul's attorney denied that the accusation was political.

"If this was a sleazy election tactic, then we wouldn't have tried to be reinstated without litigation," Ryan Andrews. "We wouldn't have asked Mr. Patronis to reinstate with no harm, no foul. "


Trump rallies for Rick Scott, Ron DeSantis ... and himself near Fort Myers

Trump ft myers

Armed with ominous hyperbole and the aura of “winning,” President Donald Trump flew into Southwest Florida on Wednesday night to whip the Republican vote ahead of Tuesday’s elections and save America from the Democrats.

Less than a week from an election that could propel him toward reelection in 2020 or ensnare him in a fight for political survival, Trump warned the Sunshine State faithful that an Andrew Gillum governorship would take Florida’s purring economy and turn it into a Venezuela-like recession.

He cautioned that a fourth term for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson would guarantee higher taxes.

And he promised that in Florida, only Ron DeSantis and Gov. Rick Scott can stop the hordes of illegal immigrants waiting to flood into the country if Democrats win.

“In less than one week, Americans will go to the polls in one of the most important elections of their lives,” he told a raucous crowd of more than 8,000. “Though,” he said, unable to help himself, “not as important as 2016. I’d like to say it, but not really.”

If anything is true with the president, it’s that all things lead back to Trump.

And so, with the president’s future directly tied to Florida, Trump came to the Fort Myers area to make the closing pitch to voters on Scott’s Senate bid and for DeSantis, a Trump acolyte who won Florida’s Republican primary for governor in no small part because the president campaigned for him and gave him his blessing.

Read the rest here.