Miami voters have seen an uptick of mosquitoes over the past few days -- in their mailboxes.
Candidates on Tuesday's primary election ballot have raced to campaign on the local outbreak of the Zika virus.
In one flier, Democrat Scott Fuhrman, who's hoping to challenge Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, shows off photos of his wife and infant daughter. "My wife is pregnant and we live just a few miles of south of Wynwood, where the first cases of Zika were reported," the mailer says. "Like so many families, we're terrified, but Congress refuses to act."
Another flier, for Democrat Jason Pizzo, an attorney running for state Senate, screams, "Fight the bite!"
And then there's a mystery flier, shown atop this post, from a group named Stay Safe Coalition, apparently working on behalf of Republican state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla. "Zika awareness tips from Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla," the piece says. "Hang this letter on your fridge to make sure your family stays safe!"
Stay Safe Coalition isn't registered as a political organization with either the state or the county, or in state corporate records. It lists an office building on Miami's Coral Way as its address.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio told supporters in Fort Myers on Wednesday that one of the main reasons he got back into the race for the Senate was out of his concern that Democrats would control who would next be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Rubio, at the Republican Party of Florida's new victory office in Lee County, said he had a lot of reasons to rejoin the race in June, but focused on the eventual replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia who died earlier this year.
"And now the balance of power in the U.S. Supreme Court is going to be determined by the next Senate and the next president who will appoint but the next senate must confirm," Rubio said.
Rubio went further, warning that if Democrat Patrick Murphy wins in November, he would be a "rubber stamp for Hillary's agenda, if God forbid she were elected." And like he did earlier in the week, warned supporters that if Democrats win the majority in November, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is in line to become the Senate Majority Leader.
Though Rubio faces a Republican Primary on Tuesday against Manatee County homebuilder Carlos Beruff, he said nothing during his nearly 7 minute speech played live on Facebook of the contest, instead focusing on the general election regardless of which Democrat wins the primary on Aug. 30.
If his remarks in Fort Myers showed anything, it was that Rubio expects Murphy to be his opponent. He repeated past criticisms of Murphy, saying he has never had to struggle a day in his life and has been "highly unaccomplished" as a member of Congress since he was first elected in 2012.
Murphy's campaign responded by reminding reporters that Rubio missed numerous votes in the Senate while running for president.
"He cares more about his own political ambition than showing up to work and fighting for Floridians," Murphy spokeswoman Galia Slayen said. "Missing Marco's only accomplishment is leaving Floridians without a voice in Washington and there's no doubt he will be a rubber stamp for Donald Trump's dangerous agenda."
TALLAHASSEE -- Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has bragged about his influence with politicians, urged Gov. Rick Scott to give a judgeship to a Florida attorney whose work appears at odds with Trump's hard-line stance on immigration, newly released emails show.
The emails posted online late last week by the Scott administration show Trump recommended that the governor appoint Jose Izquierdo, a well-regarded attorney who had backing from several other South Florida Republicans.
"Dear Rick: A friend of mine recommended this gentleman for a judgeship in Broward County. From what I understand, he is very well-respected in the legal community. Thank you. Sincerely, Donald," read the May 10 email, to which a two-page biography of Izquierdo was attached.
Thirteen days after Trump's recommendation, Scott appointed the attorney as a Broward County circuit judge.
Izquierdo, a Cuban-American born in Florida, has represented criminal immigrants, spoken on immigration issues and once represented the consulates of Mexico and Honduras. Izquierdo highlighted on his application that he once tried to suppress a warrant used in a drug possession case. Scott has taken a harsh line against drug use and wanted at one time to require welfare recipients and state workers be tested for drugs. He also worked to protect from deportation an immigrant who had been convicted of aggravated battery in Florida in 2005.
Trump has said criminal immigrants should be deported. He has harshly criticized Mexico in particular and Latin American immigrants in general.
It's not clear whether Trump knew that Izquierdo had done work at odds with many of Trump's policy positions.
Photo credit: Gerald Herbert, Associated Press
One by one, the politicians sat before a flock of TV cameras and went around the table, commending each other for their arduous work to fend off the Zika virus.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott lauded the state’s “very good coordination” with the Miami-Dade County health department. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam praised the “extraordinary job” of local mosquito control. “Thank you on behalf of the citizens of the state of Florida,” Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera told Miami-Dade health administrator Lillian Rivera.
It all sounded very Kumbaya. But to some people waiting for their turn to speak Monday, the words seemed to ring a bit hollow.
“This roundtable that we’re sitting at now is really what we would’ve liked to have seen several weeks ago,” said Joseph Furst, chairman of the business improvement district in Wynwood, the Miami neighborhood hardest-hit by the mosquito-borne virus.
Politicians have seized on Miami’s Zika outbreak this election year to get their faces on TV camera and show hands-on involvement in a crisis. It’s a role public-health experts say elected leaders need to play, keeping the virus in the news and helping educate constituents on what to do about it.
Yet the talk has done little to help municipal leaders tasked with battling Zika day to day. And it’s led to zero action in Congress to fund a long-term Zika response — suggesting Florida, the nation’s largest swing state, may not wield any serious legislative clout.
Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff
Bernie Sanders, the politician who elevated first-time candidate Tim Canova to national attention and a rich campaign warchest, doesn’t appear to be coming to South Florida to help out his protégé in his battle against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
At a press conference Wednesday -- a week before the Aug. 30 primary -- at his Hollywood campaign office, Canova pushed back against reporters’ questions about why Sanders hasn’t appeared in the Broward/Miami-Dade district.
“You tell me why he isn’t coming,” said Canova defensively. “I don’t have an answer to that. I am very proud to have his support. Quite frankly we don’t need him here to win this election. Our field operation is growing by the day. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the one who needs to run out and get folks to come in from out of town to help protect her -- to shield her from the voters. I am out there talking to voters every day.”
Wasserman Schultz has recruited many of the party’s top names to campaign for her in the district, including Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, civil rights icon and Georgia Rep. John Lewis and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot at a congressional event in Arizona in 2011. President Barack Obama also praised Wasserman Schultz when he was in South Florida. Obama had tapped her as his Democratic National Committee chair -- a role she stepped down from in July following the WikiLeaks publication of thousands of DNC emails.
For Canova, he has only one big backer: Sanders. In May, Sanders announced on CNN that he was backing Canova and has since sent fundraising emails on his behalf.
The political novice has echoed many of Sanders’ campaign themes, such as demanding campaign-finance reform. Like Sanders, Canova’s fundraising strategy has relied on small-donor donations online while eschewing lavish fundraisers and corporate support. The two men know each other: In 2011 Sanders appointed Canova, a law professor who is an expert on finance, to an advisory committee about Federal Reserve reform.
In July, Sanders told USA Today he would support at least 100 candidates across the country in 2016 -- including Canova -- and possibly campaign for them in person.
But it appears Sanders has blown Canova off -- perhaps because Canova still appears to be a longshot.
“We need all the help we can get,” Canova told the YouTube show Young Turks, according to a clip played Tuesday night on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show. “Look, when Bernie endorsed me, he called me and gave me his number and said, ‘Stay in touch and please call.’ And I have, and I`m waiting for Bernie to return my call. .... So we are hoping that the Sanders campaign does still come through, that Bernie comes through and makes an appearance for us, or at the very least, helps us raise some more money during such a critical period down the home stretch. And that is our hope.”
Spokespersons for Sanders did not reply to emailed questions from the Miami Herald Wednesday.
At his Hollywood press conference, Canova said he had invited Sanders to come and that they had “some general conversations.” But when asked if Sanders ever told him whether he would show up, Canova bristled.
“No comment,” Canova said, referring reporters back to Sanders comments that he would probably campaign for Canova.
Canova’s campaign hired Sanders’ media consultants -- Devine, Mulvey and Longabaugh -- in late July only to see them quit about two weeks later. Canova said Wednesday his campaign rejected the consultants’ strategy of focusing money on TV ads rather than on field operations. Canova also said an attack ad the consultants pitched was “over the top.”
“Bernie Sanders’ media consultants left the campaign because we weren’t taking their advice,” Canova said. “I rejected their advice and put more money in the field than TV. I said from the beginning the campaign was not relying on Beltway consultants.”
Mark Longabaugh declined to provide specifics about what happened between his firm and Canova.
“l think it's unfortunate Tim Canova decided to characterize it that way,” he said. “We left campaign because of disagreement over strategy, the message and the professionalism of the campaign.”
Canova tried to make the case that it doesn’t matter if Sanders stumps for him in person. But a recent poll by the Sun Sentinel and Florida Atlantic University showed Canova has a wide lead among young voters and Sanders voters -- a sign that a visit by Sanders to the district could boost his campaign. However, it would be tough for Canova to win on Sanders’ supporters alone because Clinton got twice as many votes in the district than Sanders during the presidential primary.
“The voters of this district don’t much care if Bernie comes here or not,” Canova said. “They care about issues about putting food on the table -- real issues of concern to them whether social security will keep up with inflation, how a child is going to pay for higher education, whether the drinking water going be drinkable. That’s what I am talking about in this campaign and that’s why I called his press conference. Bernie Sanders is not on the ballot, Hillary Clinton is not on ballot. You might all find it very interesting to talk about -- it's not of importance to me.”
Anitere Flores is a Republican. She's been one throughout her political career -- but fails to mention her party affiliation in a recently released TV ad.
Florida election law says politicians must disclose their party affiliation in paid advertisements. On Tuesday, the Miami-Dade Democratic Party filed a formal complaint against Flores with the Florida Elections Commission.
The ad, which falsely claims Flores is a lifelong resident of District 39, refers to the senator as a "fiscal conservative" but never mentions or displays the word Republican.
Florida election law says that political advertisements paid for by a candidate, excluding a write-in, must "prominently state" the candidate's name, party and office sought.
"Someone who has run for office as many times as Flores has knows you must put party affiliation in your disclaimer," Miami-Dade Democratic Party Executive Director Juan Cuba said in an email. "This seems an intentional effort to deceive voters."
Artie Leichner, a Democratic Party senior adviser, filed the complaint Tuesday for "video advertising without display of party affiliation."
View the original ad here:
Here is the updated ad:
A recently released web ad says Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores is in cahoots with "her old friend, Donald Trump."
The ad, titled "Ironic," attacks Flores for taking the minimum-wage challenge and cutting taxes for private jets.
Flores, who has not decided if she supports Trump, is running for state Senate in a new district that extends from West Miami-Dade County to Key West.
Florida Strong, a wealthy opposition research group that has attacked Democratic state Sen. Oscar Braynon, is behind the ad. The group primarily targets Republicans on ethics issues, but also criticized Democratic state Rep. Daphne Campbell for running group homes that were shut down after it was discovered patients were living in squalor.
"We produced this digital ad because Floridians deserve to know when their lawmakers say one thing during campaign season, but do something completely different when they get to Tallahassee -- as is the case with Anitere Flores," said Florida Strong executive director Charly Norton. "Try as she might, Senator Flores cannot rewrite her record of failing working families with empty rhetoric and publicity stunts."
The ad will run online for now, Florida Strong says. Most of the group's money is funneled through "dark money" groups that do not have to disclose their donors. In April, Florida Strong sent mailers attacking Flores.
A spokesman for the Flores campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.
View the ad here:
More than 1.2 million Floridians have cast ballots for the statewide primary next week. Through Wednesday morning, more than 975,000 people had voted by mail and nearly 257,000 had cast ballots at early voting sites. Based on that pace, turnout is likely to exceed the primaries in each of the past two cycles in Florida.
About 111,000 more Republicans have voted so far than have Democrats.
The heaviest voting by mail is in Pinellas, Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough and Orange. Palm Beach is a vote-by-mail laggard, as it's No. 3 in registered voters and No. 6 in voting by mail.
The heaviest early voting turnout so far is in Miami-Dade, Duval, Broward, Hillsborough and Palm Beach.
With Donald Trump back in Tampa Bay, U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff is trying again to make a play for support from Trump backers.
"Carlos Beruff supports Donald Trump 100%," Beruff's campaign declared in a press release that went out just an hour before a rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Hillsborough County.
More specifically, Trump and Beruff see eye to eye on a temporary ban on immigration from the Middle East and on building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, the press release declares.
Beruff's big problem? When Trump's was in Florida earlier this month he left little doubt he supported Marco Rubio for re-election.
"By the way, I endorsed Marco Rubio, he endorsed me. He's doing well. Vote for Marco," Trump said at a rally in Daytona.
A new statewide poll released by Florida Atlantic University today shows the presidential contest between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump essentially a toss-up in Florida this month.
Among 1,200 registered likely voters in the November election, Trump got 43 percent support while Clinton got 41 percent. That's within the margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percent.
In Florida's nationally watched U.S. Senate race, the poll has Republican incumbent Marco Rubio and Democrat Patrick Murphy as the clear favorites in Tuesday's primary.
Rubio led the GOP field with 69 percent support, trailed by undecided voters at 15 percent and Manatee County home-builder Carlos Beruff at 8 percent. FAU said 327 registered Republican, likely primary voters were surveyed with results having a margin of error of plus or minus 5.4 percent.
Meanwhile in the Democratic race, the poll found Murphy with 54 percent support, with 22 percent still undecided. Alan Grayson got 7.6 percent in the poll, while Pam Keith received 7.4 percent. The university surveyed 364 registered Democratic, likely primary voters; the results had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.1 percent.
The poll results for the Democratic primary reflect either a recent, drastic decline in voters' attitude toward Grayson or an anomaly. Most other polls for the U.S. Senate race have consistently shown Grayson with at least 17 percent support, including one done by Suffolk University a couple weeks prior.
FAU conducted its survey Aug. 19-22 using automated telephone polling. Find the full results here.
In a potential general election match-up between Rubio and Murphy, the poll found Rubio leading Murphy, 44 percent to 39 percent, with almost 12 percent undecided. About 5 percent preferred someone else.
Rubio would have a stronger chance against Grayson, according to the poll. In that match-up, Rubio got 45 percent support to Grayson's 34 percent, with 11 percent undecided. About 10 percent preferred an alternative.
Image credit: FAU poll of 1,200 likely general election voters in Florida, Aug. 19-22. Margin of error: +/- 2.7 percent
Former North Miami councilwoman Marie Steril is one of seven Democrats vying for a Little Haiti-based Florida House seat, but her record is under fire in a recent mailer sent across District 108.
The mailer references an ethics complaint that Steril settled after allowing her mother to receive lavish upgrades on a city-subsidized home renovation. The Department of Housing and Urban Development fined the city of North Miami $154,000 for failing to report the conflict of interest.
"Think you can trust Marie Steril?" the mailer reads. "Just Google her name."
The mailer is paid for by Engaged Florida, a political action committee that spent $19,337.12 for mail pieces on Aug. 9, according to state records. The chairperson and treasurer of the PAC is Christian Ulvert, a Miami-based political consultant working for Steril opponent Francesca Menes.
Ulvert did not immediately return a call for comment.
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy took advantage of Florida's early voting by casting his primary ballot today at a polling site in Palm Beach Gardens.
The two-term congressman lives in Jupiter. Murphy invited local media to observe him this morning.
"I'm proud to cast my vote in Florida's primary election and grateful for the grassroots support our campaign has received from across the state," Murphy said in a statement afterward.
Early voting began in 24 counties last week and in all other counties this week. It ends this weekend.
Polls have shown Murphy leading the Democratic field in Tuesday's primary. He faces U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando and Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith. Former assistant U.S. attorney Reginald Luster of Jacksonville and California real estate developer "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente of Orlando are also on the Democratic ballot.
Both Murphy and Grayson are keeping relatively low profiles this week, with a handful of appearances announced by each. Keith has embarked on a statewide tour to meet with voters in the final week before the primary.
Photo credit: Patrick Murphy talks to Palm Beach County media on Wednesday after voting early for the Aug. 30 primary. (Murphy U.S. Senate campaign.)
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio turns his attention to Southwest Florida today. Rubio, 6-days from the GOP primary, is scheduled to meet with grassroots activists at the Republican Party of Florida's victory office in Fort Myers at noon.
Meanwhile, his GOP rival Carlos Beruff heads to Miami today, where he is scheduled to do interviews on television and radio interviews.
Five days ahead of Florida's U.S. Senate primary, incumbent Republican Marco Rubio will be in Coral Gables -- raising money for the next phase of the election.
A phalanx of top, longtime Rubio donors will host the senator at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Riviera Country Club, according to an invitation host Bernie Navarro published on Twitter. The minimum contribution is $2,700, with $10,800 required to co-host the event.
Rubio is so confident he'll defeat primary rival Carlos Beruff next Tuesday that he's hardly campaigning in public this week. The fundraiser is another sign that the senator is mostly focused on the Nov. 8 general election, when he's likely to face off against Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter.
Recent polls show Rubio leading Murphy, but the potential race has gotten tighter, as expected, and the Florida electorate during presidential years leans Democratic.
Augustus Sol Invictus, who once drank the blood of a freshly killed goat, is not your typical U.S. Senate candidate.
The fiery Libertarian once wrote a paper praising eugenics, is frequently blocked from Facebook for mocking his primary opponent and refuses to disclose his given name at birth.
Invictus, 33, an Orlando attorney who freely describes himself as “the most dangerous Libertarian in America,” came to South Florida on Tuesday evening to speak in front of 15 Miami-Dade party members at John Martin’s Irish Pub in Coral Gables. (He takes his name from the Latin for “Majestic Unconquered Sun,” a cult religion of the Roman Empire.)
The event was not your usual political fare.
Clad in a gray vest with slicked hair, Invictus calmly answered questions like: “Are you friends with white supremacists?” (Answer: Yes) “Would you disavow an endorsement from a white supremacist group?” (Possibly) “Would you accept campaign contributions from white supremacists? (From individuals, yes).
It took less than 10 seconds for the goat incident to come up, after forum moderator Pierre Alexandre Crevaux asked Invictus how the campaign was going.
“It’s brutal, soaked in blood,” Invictus said.
“Goat’s blood?” an audience member asked.
“Zing,” said Invictus, who drank goat’s blood in celebration at the end of a walk from Orlando to the Mojave Desert in 2013.
One judicial candidate is suing his opponent over her ownership in Miami erotic motels. A prospective judge has a résumé that includes being suspended from practicing law for three years. One incumbent judge is fighting for his seat against a former Florida House representative.
Though Florida judicial elections feature normally dry campaigns, next week’s races in Miami-Dade nevertheless offer some tantalizing story lines.
In all, 10 seats — six in Miami-Dade circuit court, four in county court — are up for grabs in the Aug. 30 election. Another 18 judges earned reelection in May when no one chose to run against them.
In Florida, candidates are limited in how they campaign. They can’t make promises other than to be fair and impartial, can’t commit to positions about the law and can’t personally solicit donations.
But allegations laid out in a lawsuit have elevated the interest in the race of incumbent circuit judge Jason Bloch, who earlier this month sued his opponent, Marcia del Rey, saying discrepancies in financial disclosures and credentials should bar her from being on the ballot.
Democrats in Florida have been fired up heading into the fall at the prospects of picking up seats in the Florida Senate and chipping away at the Republican’s 26-14 majority. But one key Republican is betting big that the GOP is in position to be the one’s flipping at least one seat that is currently in Democratic hands.
New campaign finance reporting shows Florida Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano used a political action committee he controls called Innovate Florida to drop $150,000 into Miami’s Senate District 40, where Republican Frank Artiles is hoping to knock out whoever emerges from an increasingly nasty Democratic primary race there.
Galvano’s donation went to a political committee controlled by Artiles called Veterans for Common Sense Principles. It’s the single largest donation Artiles has collected by far and nearly doubles what that committee had raised over the last four months.
“That is a very winnable seat,” Galvano said in explaining the largest single donation Innovate Florida has made this year.
Galvano said Artiles is working hard and has a real shot to win the seat.
Despite Galvano’s optimism, newly redistricted maps show Democrats have an advantage in that district. In 2012, President Barack Obama won the area that is in the new Senate District 40 by 9 percentage points. Incument Sen. Dwight Bullard is one of three Democrats on the ballot in the Aug. 30 primary.
In response to Miami’s rash of Zika infections, Hillary Clinton on Wednesday will propose the creation of a public-health fund with money available year-round to quickly respond to disease outbreaks.
Photo credit: Andrew Harnik, Associated Press
Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Raquel Regalado is the subject of a state inquiry into a possible violation of election laws.
It's not known the nature of the alleged violation. The Florida Elections Commission did not release information about the underlying complaint, except to say the board voted 6 to 0 to "find probable cause" on a violation of the state statute governing contribution limits to candidates.
Michael Montiel, Regalado's lawyer, said in a statement that the commission responded to an individual's complaint against Regalado, and that the vote followed an Aug.17 hearing where the two-term school board member could not make her case or present evidence.
"We maintain that Ms. Regalado has not violated any Florida election law, and we believe that any subsequent fact-finding hearing by the Commission will determine that there is no violation," he said.
The inquiry was included in a nine-page summary of a commission meeting posted on a state website. But it was supposed to remain confidential until after the Aug. 30 primary that could decide the mayoral race, said Amy Toman, executive director of the Florida Elections Commission. She said election staff failed to remove the notice from a summary of the commission's Aug. 16-17 meeting, and that the notice would have been public by now if not for Regalado facing an election 10 days now.
"The actual existence of the case was intended to be confidential," Toman said. "It was just an inadvertent error."
Two cases were listed as confidential in the meeting summary, so it's not known if any other candidate in the county mayoral race is also subject to an inquiry.
A campaign-finance inquiry is particularly sensitive for Regalado, since she has been fined for past violations. She was fined about $3,500 in 2011 for a late report from her first school-board campaign, and in 2012 was fined $5,000 for faulty campaign-finance reports tied to her role in 2009 as campaign manager for her father, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, a year before she won her school board seat.
The reelection effort for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez cited the 2012 fine in a recent mailer declaring Regalado was "in over her head" in seeking to run the county's $7 billion budget. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the primary vote, the election ends. If not, the top two finishers face-off in a November run-off on Election Day.
This post was updated to include the timing of Regalado's election to the Miami-Dade School Board.