Note: This blog's templates will be updated this afternoon to a responsive design bringing it in line with

At that time, we will also change to the Facebook commenting system. You will need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment.

October 04, 2015

Marco Rubio invites donors to Las Vegas for football-themed summit

FullSizeRender (2)@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio has channeled his football love -- frequently displayed on the campaign trail -- into a planned two-day event for political donors. 

The "Quarter Four Strategy Summit," complete with a flag football game, will take place Thursday and Friday in Las Vegas, according to an invitation obtained by the Miami Herald and first reported by the Washington Post. The fourth fundraising quarter of the year began Oct. 1.

Rubio, a Florida senator and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, played football in  high school and college and, needless to say, remains a fan.

The agenda for the reunion, at the posh Bellagio Hotel, includes transportation to an off-site Rubio campaign rally, a picnic dinner, a "breakfast and team talk," a strategy session titled "Quarterbacking Victory" and a wrap-up lunch titled "Talking the Playbook."

Rubio has edged up in early polls after two strong primary debate performances. He's become the recent target of GOP frontrunner Donald Trump and, more subtly, of his one-time mentor Jeb Bush.

While he's in Las Vegas, a city where Rubio lived several years growing up in the the fourth early state to hold a caucus or primary, Rubio will hold four public events over three days.

Miami congressman agrees to pay another fine over misreported campaign contributions


U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo will pay a second fine to the Federal Election Commission, this time over $52,875 in campaign contributions he failed to properly report last year.

The Miami Republican settled with the FEC and agreed to pay $1,050. He reached a similar agreement earlier this year, with a fine of $3,200, for omitting $26,700 in contributions.

Both problems stemmed from data corrupted in a software switch, Curbelo's campaign has maintained since October 2014. The staff has agreed to implement stricter financial controls since then.

"We are confident that our software provider has resolved all of the issues with the reporting program, and we've taken all the steps necessary to prevent this from happening again in the future," Nicole Rapanos, his 2014 campaign manager, said in a statement to the Miami Herald.

The issue over Curbelo's omitted and mislabeled contributions erupted in the home stretch of the tense campaign he waged against then-incumbent Rep. Joe Garcia.

Columba Bush pens Miami Herald op-ed on domestic violence

Presidential candidate Jeb Bush's wife, Columba Bush, writing in the Miami Herald's opinion pages:

The 2014 Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Uniform Crime Report reflects a 10.2 percent increase in domestic violence homicides, which represents a stunning 20.9 percent of all homicides in our state. During the 2014/2015 fiscal year, Florida’s 42 certified domestic violence centers provided 546,658 nights of emergency shelter to 15,397 survivors and their children, many who fled a violent home with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

For the past 15 years, I have worked side by side with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) to raise awareness about the impact of domestic violence on our state, our communities and our families. During this time, I learned that our certified domestic violence centers are the heart and soul of prevention and intervention.

My work in Florida has taught me that the strength of one shelter is a direct result of the unity of all shelters working toward the common goal of ending domestic violence.

During the past several months, I have traveled the country touring domestic violence shelters in both large and small states.

More here.

October 02, 2015

Some Florida GOPers regret winner-take-all primary

via @learyreports @adamsmithtimes

It was supposed to assert Florida’s dominance in picking the Republican presidential nominee, but a move to push back the primary and award all delegates to the winner has rankled party activists who say it has made candidates wary of the state and could disenfranchise voters.

“It was a mistake. It’s almost taken Florida out of play,” said Randy Osborne, chairman of the Marion County Republican Executive Committee, who has been trading messages with other local leaders.

Campaigns are reluctant to talk about their plans but some are clearly questioning if it’s worth engaging in a big, expensive state with two favorite-son candidates, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

Osborne, a supporter of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, said Republicans in his area are “all kind of like 'Wow, how come candidates aren’t spending money here? Where’s the signs, the bumper stickers?’ And that’s not just Cruz.”

Criticism is apparent across Florida even as the state GOP chairman relented on a hardball gambit to force candidates to show up for a summit in November or be excluded from the March 15 primary ballot — itself a sign of the reluctance from candidates.

It’s entirely possible Bush and Rubio will be locked in a Florida battle royale that would cost tens of millions of dollars, so rival campaigns are looking at Florida with some caution, if relief.

“No one is saying it’s the winner-take-all but they sure are finding a lot of excuses not to come,” said Mike Lyster, Republican chairman in Collier County, adding that grassroots activists are itching to help out their chosen candidates.

More here.

Jeb Bush's latest inartful phrase: 'Stuff happens'

via @learyreports

Jeb Bush is under siege for saying “stuff happens” in the aftermath of Thursday's mass shooting in Oregon.

Democrats pounced. But others said the comment — which spread across Twitter and made its way to a news conference with President Obama — was ripped out of context.

A review of the video (transcript below) shows that Bush was not directly asked about the tragedy.

Still, it adds to a growing list of comments Bush has had to clean up, fanning critics on the left and right.

When reporters asked Bush after he shot back, "I said what I said." He went on: "A child drowns in a pool and the impulse is to pass a law that puts fencing around a pool. ... The cumulative effect of this is that in some cases, you don’t solve the problem by passing the law and you’re imposing on large numbers of people burdens that make it harder for our economy to grow, make it harder to protect liberty."


Here's what Bush had to say on Twitter afterward:

And here's the full transcript of the exchange:

Continue reading "Jeb Bush's latest inartful phrase: 'Stuff happens'" »

More than 500 Miami-Dade teachers apply for controversial bonus


It has been called kooky, unfair and absurd -- but that didn’t stop more than 500 Miami-Dade County teachers from applying for Florida’s Best and Brightest, a controversial new bonus.

Florida Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, managed to slip $44 million into the state’s latest budget to give teachers a raise of up to $10,000. Here’s the controversial part: the money is tied to teachers’ own SAT and ACT scores -- college entrance exams they may have taken decades ago.

The test-makers themselves said they haven’t studied whether the scores correlate with teaching quality.

In July, ACT senior vice president for research Wayne Camara told the Miami Herald: "Certainly we're concerned when parties signal that they want to use ACT scores for reasons that we consider not appropriate."

Fresen did not immediately return a phone call and text message for comment. 


Thursday was the deadline for teachers to submit their scores to school districts. According to a district spokesman, 561 teachers applied for the bonus in Miami-Dade.

Teachers complained about a lack of information to apply for the program and difficulty tracking down old scores -- which could take weeks to receive. Others simply don’t have scores because they went to community or foreign colleges that didn’t require them.

Noreen Morelli is an art teacher at Miami Shores Elementary with 30 years experience and is a National Board Certified teacher -- a certification that has been linked to better teaching but which the state doesn’t provide bonuses for anymore.

“They can’t spit out a couple of bucks for that, but they’re going to make up some nonsense,” she asked. “It’s the stupidest I ever heard in my life.”

Morelli said she didn’t apply for the Best and Brightest, calling it a "slap in the face" for teachers. 

“I graduated high school in 1968. Where in the world am I going to be getting this SAT information? It’s ridiculous,” she said.  

School districts now have to process the applications for the bonuses, and teachers should see their pay boost in April paychecks.

How much money each teacher gets will depend on how many qualify. Fresen has previously said the state estimates 4,400 would meet the criteria and apply. Teachers have to had scored in the 80th percentile on the SAT or ACT and also receive top evaluation ratings. New teachers without evaluations only needed to submit test scores.

This article includes comments from the Public Insight Network, an online community of people who have agreed to share their opinions with the Miami Herald and WLRN. Become a source at

In any other election, Ted Cruz might have played big in South Florida

GOP 2016 Georgia Cruz


Ted Cruz could have been a Miami cubanito.

His father, Rafael Bienvenido Cruz, desperate to flee Cuba after his youthful guerrilla activities landed him in jail, applied to the University of Texas, Louisiana State University — and the University of Miami. He chose Texas only because it was the first school to respond.

“If the University of Miami had let him in, I might be a Floridian right now,” Ted Cruz told the Miami Herald in an interview.

In any other presidential election, one without a pair of hometown contenders, Miami Republicans might have embraced Cruz as their own. Not his ideology, perhaps — the Texas senator is too hard-core even for some devoted conservatives — but his life story, certainly.

His grandfather toiled in a sugarcane plantation. His father survived jail only to find the rebel he had fought for — Fidel Castro — turned out to be a communist. Cruz clerked for the late U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist and helped plot a legal strategy for George W. Bush to win the White House during the infamous Florida recount.

Yet the first Cuban American to ever run for president is at best an afterthought in South Florida in a GOP race dominated locally by Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.

That doesn’t mean Cruz has been a stranger.

More here.

Photo credit: David Goldman, Associated Press

Talk of tinkering with local election calendar has cities abuzz

State Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Fort Myers, chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, is working on legislation for next session that could dramatically change the timetable for city elections in Florida.

The Florida League of Cities has raised a number of concerns about the idea, including making ballots even longer and lowering voter turnouts in city elections, which are already anemically low in many places.

Florida's 410 cities, towns and villages operate on many different schedules. Some elections are in the spring, others are in the fall, and mayors and commissioners serve terms of two, three or four years.

Caldwell's proposal, still in draft form, would shift all municipal elections to November in odd-numbered years, which means all commissioners and mayors would have to serve two- or four-year terms. Fort Lauderdale has three-year terms for its city officials and others do, too.

The proposal also calls for moving local referendum elections to November of any year for bond issues, libraries, annexations and the like. A memo by David Cruz, assistant general counsel for the League of Cities, said that would cause problems for cities because their fiscal year begins Oct. 1, forcing cities to guess a year in advance whether voters will pass a referendum -- "a practical improbability," Cruz said.

Cruz also said that if Caldwell's proposal were to become law, cities would have to hold more elections to ask voters to amend city charters to conform to the new election timetable.

Joe Martinez might run for Miami-Dade mayor, and his wife for county commission


The Martinez household may have two candidates for county office next year: Joe Martinez for mayor and his wife, Ana, for the commission seat he once held and which is currently occupied by Juan C. Zapata.

Joe Martinez, the former chairman of the commission who lost his bid for county mayor in 2012, discussed both potential races in an interview with Naked Politics. Ana Martinez, a Republican who works in the insurance industry, did not respond to a request for an interview. 

"You could have a husband and a wife on the ballot, or you could have neither of us," said Joe Martinez, a Republican.  

If she runs, Ana Martinez would seek to represent District 11, which her husband represented until his failed 2012 challenge of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. Zapata won an election to fill Martinez's open seat in 2012.

Zapata recently faced a dust-up over his use of $30,000 in county funds to pay tuition at Harvard for a master's program. Zapata returned the money after a Univision inquiry about it. 

Zapata also was not available for an interview. Of the seven commissioners up for reelection in 2016, Zapata is the only who still hasn't filed to run. In the wake of the tuition controversy, Zapata said he planned to seek another four-year term. 

As a commissioner, Zapata has pushed for economic development in his western district, which includes West Kendall. He has led a campaign to rebrand the area the "West End." The former state lawmaker also has been a leading Gimenez administration critic.

Joe Martinez said his wife "is interested" in running for Zapata's seat. "If she wants to run," he said, "I would obviously support her."

Continue reading "Joe Martinez might run for Miami-Dade mayor, and his wife for county commission " »

Florida Sen. Joe Negron's fundraising surges as he eyes presidency


You’ll have to forgive state Sen. Joe Negron if he’s feeling like a million bucks these days. That just happens to be how much money the Republican from Stuart has raised since May in his quest to lock up the race to be Senate President in 2017.

When official campaign finance reports are posted next week, Negron’s political action committee will report having raised over $500,000 in just September. In fact, in just three days earlier this week, Negron’s Treasure Coast Alliance pulled in $301,000 from various businesses and interest groups to complete his fundraising surge. Since May 1, he has raised $1.2 million.

“I am fortunate to have an extraordinary team,” Negron said about supporters in the Senate who are supporting his campaign to be the Senate president. “There is a lot of momentum.”

In August, Negron declared he had enough votes to secure the presidency and current Senate President Andy Gardiner has called a caucus vote for Dec. 2 to designate his successor. However, State Sen. Jack Latvala, the Clearwater Republican who is challenging him for the powerful position, has refused to concede and is raising money aggressively in his own political action committee called Florida Leadership Committee. Not to be outdone, Latvala has raised over $300,000 just in September and has pulled in more than $830,000 since May 1.

The money is critical for the two camps because money raised in the political action committees can be used to spread their influence, and more specifically help elect Republicans who will vote to make them Senate president. 

House Speaker Crisafulli to raise money for Adkins' superintendent bid


Add this to the list of fundraisers that Florida lawmakers will be hosting and attending when they return to Tallahassee for committee work next week:

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, is helping State Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, raise money for the next job she hopes to have: Schools superintendent in Nassau County.

The event is being held at the Governor's Club on Tuesday evening, and Crisafulli is listed as the host on the invitation.  Download TallyInviteOct6

Also planned to have campaign fundraisers in their honor this week are Republican Reps. Greg Steube of Sarasota, Heather Fitzenhagen of Fort Myers, Holly Raschein of Key Largo and Brad Drake of Eucheeanna.

Photo credit:

Shhhhh. Miami mayor gets hitched


As a member of the media, and then an elected official, just about everything in Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado's adult life has been fodder for public consumption. But over the summer, a major occasion flew under the radar: The mayor got hitched.

In a private, June 1 ceremony at a Southwest 14th Street chapel of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts, Regalado, 68, wed Ana Cristina Carrodeguas, a 50-year-old, former employee of the Miami Archdiocese.

"I know a lot of people and Ana Cristina knows a lot of people. And if you don't invite everyone you know they get upset," said Regalado, explaining his decision to keep the event small and intimate. "We don't have money for that, and it' a little ridiculous at my age to do a ball."

The couple had been dating for more than a year. It is the mayor's second marriage. His first wife, radio commentator Raquel Regalado, died in 2008 of heart failure at the age of 60. The mayor said he didn't think he'd remarry, but Carrodeguas and he "connected."

"When you get old, you need somebody to take care of you in the future," he said. "And she's a very nice person, very smart and very able."


Florida Supreme Court lifts stay of execution on Orlando killer


The execution of Jerry Correll appears ready to move forward as originally planned.

On Friday, the Florida Supreme Court lifted a stay of execution it issued in February, pending a death penalty case that was before the U.S. Supreme Court. The federal justices ruled this summer in Glossip v. Gross that the drug cocktail used in Florida and Oklahoma is constitutional. It is not "cruel and unusual punishment" banned under the 8th Amendment.

Now, Correll's execution can move forward once it is scheduled.

The execution will be the first in Florida since Jan. 15, when Johnny Kormondy — convicted of fatally shooting a Pensacola banker in 1993 and raping his wife — was put to death.

This has been an unusual respite in recent Florida history, as Gov. Rick Scott has ordered execution at a pace unmatched by any governor since the death penalty was re-instated in 1977.

Early this year, Scott signed a death warrant for Correll, an Orlando man convicted in the 1985 stabbing deaths of four people, including his ex-wife and their 5-year-old daughter. Correll was originally scheduled to be executed at the state death chamber outside Starke, Fla., on Feb. 26.

At that point, the constitutionality of one of the drugs in Florida's lethal injection -- midazolam -- was in limbo.

"Without a stay of execution in this case, Florida risks the unconstitutional execution of Correll, for which there is no remedy," Chief Justice Jorge Labarga wrote in a February order postponing the execution. "In contrast, a stay pending determination of the issue in the United States Supreme Court will not prejudice the State and, more importantly, will ensure that Florida does not risk an unconstitutional execution."

Since the U.S. Supreme Court's decision this summer, Correll again appealed his death sentence. The Florida Supreme Court disagreed.

Alan Grayson blasts Patrick Murphy for previously supporting Benghazi probe



Florida Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy's support last year for a special House investigation into Benghazi proves he's only "feigning to be a Democrat" and it could make him a "major embarrassment" to Hillary Clinton if she's chosen as the party's presidential nominee, Florida Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson said this morning in a conference call with reporters.

But Murphy's campaign says Grayson is only "further politicizing" a tragedy because he and Murphy are at odds in the Democratic primary race for Florida's U.S. Senate seat.

Grayson, a liberal from Orlando, continues to paint the more-moderate Murphy, of Jupiter, as a Republican in Democratic clothing. Grayson again lambasted Murphy for being one of seven Democrats -- only three of whom are still in office -- who voted with House Republicans last year to launch the Benghazi investigation. He accused Murphy of contributing to a "political witch hunt that could dramatically affect the presidential election."

But while Grayson chastised Murphy for making political life worse for Clinton, Grayson himself hasn't endorsed her for president as Murphy has. Grayson told reporters Friday he's "keeping his options open," but "he's on the verge of making" an endorsement.

Continue reading "Alan Grayson blasts Patrick Murphy for previously supporting Benghazi probe" »

Gov. Scott doesn't plan to cancel Planned Parenthood contracts


Gov. Rick Scott has no interest in cancelling the state's Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood.

Spokeswoman Jackie Schutz confirmed that the governor has no intentions to cancel the contracts after the conservative Florida Family Policy Council went after Scott on Thursday, demanding that he cancel the contracts.

Florida has not paid a direct subsidy to Planned Parenthood since 2001, when funding was vetoed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush. But the organization does receive funds through the state's share of Medicaid reimbursements: $45,000, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration.

“We believe he has a moral, ethical and now a fiscal obligation to do this,” Florida Family Policy Council president John Stemberger said Thursday. “We believe this is what a pro-life governor could do and should do.”

Scott issued a statement in response pointing out that the state investigated Planned Parenthood in the wake of controversial videos released this summer and reminding people about his opposition to abortion.

Hillary Clinton's misleading claim about the length of Benghazi investigation

Critics of the House of Representatives’ Benghazi investigation have recently begun to make a strong claim -- that it is officially the longest congressional investigation in history.

The Select Committee on Benghazi came into existence in May 2014, charged with investigating the 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in the Libyan city that left four Americans dead. Costing $4.5 million so far, with no final report in sight, critics see the committee as a waste of taxpayer dollars and a partisan witch hunt aimed at Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton is slated to testify before the committee later in October.

In recent days, the claim that this is the longest-running investigation ever has gone somewhat viral. We saw it in The HillSalonThe New York TimesEsquire,MSNBCABC News and, notably, a Twitter account belonging to Clinton’s campaign.

The Briefing -- an arm of the Clinton campaign that aims to counter what it considers misinformation in the public sphere -- tweeted on Sept. 30 from its account: "It's the longest-running congressional investigation ever. It's cost taxpayers $4 million. And what's it about?"

See what Lauren Carroll of PolitiFact found and see Clinton's Truth-O-Meter record.

Donald Trump hires Florida campaign director


In a bid to show he's preparing for a long-run campaign, Donald Trump announced several state campaign directors Friday, including one in Florida.

Karen Giorno, a political consultant who at one point worked as Gov. Rick Scott's external affairs director, will lead Trump's Florida effort, according to a campaign statement. Trump also named directors in Texas and Virginia.

"We are in this to win it," Trump said in the statement. "These staff additions are the continuation of our plan to have a strategic and significant presence across the country...By adding to our team in these critical states we will be able to build on the tremendous support we have received and share our message with even more voters in these states.

"I look forward to being in these states even more as I continue to share my ideas about how to put America back on top!"

Florida is the nation's largest swing state, and Trump has plenty of business here -- including Trump National Doral, his single largest revenue source last year. He also owns a home in West Palm Beach.

Analysis: 1 in 3 Florida legislators were elected without a single vote

@ByKristenMClark @MaryEllenKlas

When Florida lawmakers return to Tallahassee for another redistricting special session on Oct. 19, they will talk a lot about how to comply with court guidelines when redrawing state Senate districts, but they’ll say much less about how competitive to make them.

That’s because in 2012, lawmakers redrew the House and Senate maps to adjust for population changes in the decennial census and to comply with the new anti-gerrymandering amendments to the state constitution. The result: a third of all legislators were elected in their last election without a single vote. They got here by default.

Legislators wield tremendous power in Florida — from crafting the state’s annual budget and determining how much taxes people pay to deciding whether to implement environmental preservation spelled out in Amendment 1.

Drawing the political boundaries for the next decade through redistricting is like creating the rulebook for who calls the shots.

With that as the backdrop, the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times examined how many votes each legislator received in their last election, and assessed the intensity of competition and voter support for all 160 of them.

Marco Rubio steps up Vladimir Putin criticism

via @learyreports

The U.S. and Russia are "barreling toward a Second Cold War," Marco Rubio will say in a speech Friday in Iowa, "and strong American leadership is the only force capable of ensuring that peace and security once again prevail."

Rubio, who has gotten attention for his hard-line foreign policy outlook, is to speak in Cedar Rapids at the Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security National Security Forum.

"The more our current president fails the test of leadership against [Vladimir] Putin, the more important it becomes for our next president to pass it. I will pass this test," Rubio vows in prepared remarks.

Continue reading "Marco Rubio steps up Vladimir Putin criticism" »

Politico: Marco Rubio campaign kicks out Jeb Bush super PAC tracker from Iowa event

From Politico:

The Florida family feud between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio took a surprising turn on Thursday night when a tracker for a super PAC supporting the former governor tried to slip into an Iowa event for Rubio, whose staff quickly spotted and removed him.

The incident involving the Right to Rise super PAC stripped away another veneer of civility between the two friends-turned-campaign rivals, who have been slowly escalating their criticisms of one another.

“It was ill-spirited. Republicans shouldn’t be attacking other Republicans,” said Chris Mudd, who hosted the Cedar Falls Town Hall for Rubio at Mudd Advertising, where the tracker was seen and asked to leave about 6 p.m. local time.

For Rubio backers like Mudd, the situation exposed a contradiction in Bush's “Right to Rise” rhetoric. The former governor has repeatedly invoked that phrase since the committee was set up in January, with his blessing, saying he looked "forward to an exchange of ideas and substantive policy proposals.”

More here.