Shalala lags behind in seat Democrats hoped to win easily

Former Clinton Foundation head Donna Shalala is trailing former Spanish-language TV newswoman Maria Elvira Salazar, according to a new poll of a crucial, GOP-held Florida congressional district that Democrats had once counted on as an easy pickup.

Salazar’s narrow 2-percentage point lead is well within the Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey’s 4-point margin of error. But the result stands in contrast to how the Democratic nominees for Senate and governor are faring in the Miami-based 27th Congressional District — both are ahead of their Republican opponents by 4 points — providing fresh evidence of Shalala’s underperforming campaign.

The big factor: Hispanics, who account for 57 percent of the voters and who came to know Salazar relatively well over her three decades broadcasting on Spanish language networks Telemundo, Univision, Mega-TV and CNN Español.

“Shalala definitely lags when you compare her with the other Democrats. A big part of it is Shalala’s Continue reading “Shalala lags behind in seat Democrats hoped to win easily”

Breaking taboo, negative ads fly during Florida hurricane

Once in Florida, it had been considered taboo to run negative campaign attack ads as a hurricane batters the state.

But no more.

As Hurricane Michael bore down Wednesday on the Panhandle with Category 4 winds, the Republican Party of Florida broke with that tradition and continued to air two ads bashing Ron DeSantis’ Democratic rival in the race for governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, over his city’s response to a hurricane in 2016.

And in the U.S. Senate race, the Democratic super PAC backing Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla) began running a negative commercial in strike-zone markets calling his opponent Gov. Rick Scott a dishonest “shady millionaire who doesn’t look out for you.” Also in those markets, a Republican super PAC supporting Scott is attacking Nelson in ad for being “an empty suit.”

There is a major difference between the two negative ads: The Senate campaigns have Continue reading “Breaking taboo, negative ads fly during Florida hurricane”

‘A mess’: Florida’s online voter-registration system panned

As a hurricane threatened Florida, Gov. Rick Scott balked at extending Tuesday’s voter registration deadline for a week as Democrats want, in part because the state has an online system to sign up new voters.

But thousands of Floridians have told some elections supervisors in recent days that the system isn’t working — despite claims from the state that the problems had been fixed and that the effort has been “immensely successful.”

“A mess!” Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher told POLITICO by email.

Florida Democrats are suing Scott’s secretary of state, Ken Detzner, in federal court to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline, which is Tuesday, for at least a week due to the approach of Hurricane Michael.

“We have had hundreds of complaints about the system being down or intermittent all weekend. On 10/6/18 we only received 1 online voter registration, which is highly unusual as Continue reading “‘A mess’: Florida’s online voter-registration system panned”

Florida Republican House candidate snubs Trump rally

President Donald Trump’s political team wanted to rally in Florida next week beside Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor, and the Republican who hopes to succeed him in the House.

But sources familiar with the talks say the congressional candidate, Michael Waltz, declined amid concerns about the risks of publicly stumping with Trump, and instead wanted the president to headline a private fundraiser in his central Florida-based district.

Both prospective events fell through in the end.

The episode provides a revealing glimpse into the midterm election homestretch, where many Republican House incumbents and candidates are scrambling to lock down their elections — and to keep some distance from their party’s polarizing president.

Waltz’s district is usually a safe Republican seat, but he’s facing a stiff challenge from Democrat Nancy Soderberg.

The Waltz campaign didn’t dispute the insiders’ account of the negotiations with the White House, instead issuing a statement Continue reading “Florida Republican House candidate snubs Trump rally”

Kavanaugh effect? Gillum clings to 1-point lead over DeSantis

Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis are essentially tied in the latest poll of the Florida governor’s race, which could be tightening amid the contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearings playing out in Washington.

Gillum’s 1-point lead is well within the Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy survey’s error-margin of 3.5 percentage points, and it’s smaller than 10 other public polls of Florida’s governor’s race. All but one of the polls showed Gillum’s lead inside their error margin.

Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker said the difference between his poll and other recent surveys is that his was taken from Sept. 24 through Sept. 27, the height of the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh.

“Monday through Thursday, there were lots of Kavanaugh fireworks,” said Coker, who conducted the survey for Leadership Florida, which hosts an Oct. 24 gubernatorial debate. “If you take the other polls, it could suggest Republicans might be more fired up Continue reading “Kavanaugh effect? Gillum clings to 1-point lead over DeSantis”

The liar vs. the do-nothing: Florida’s first Senate debate gets mean

MIRAMAR — Gov. Rick Scott’s a liar. Sen. Bill Nelson’s a do-nothing.

The two rivals’ descriptions for each other in their first debate Tuesday underscored the bitterness flowing through Florida’s nationally watched Senate race.

On immigration, gun control, Florida’s water pollution crisis, Cuba and health care policy, the Republican governor and the Democratic incumbent agreed on virtually nothing during the hour-long Telemundo 51 debate. (The channel plans to broadcast the debate at 7 p.m. in Spanish translation. Select NBC stations will webcast it in English.)

The two also had sharply differing takes on the Supreme Court confirmation fight over Brett Kavanaugh.
Nelson said he wouldn’t vote to confirm because of the judge’s temperament and because he believed one of the women who accused him of sexual assault decades ago, even as “11 Republican men [on the Judiciary Committee] seemed to dismiss” her.

Scott accused Nelson of being purely Continue reading “The liar vs. the do-nothing: Florida’s first Senate debate gets mean”

Progressive billionaires fall for Florida’s Gillum

Andrew Gillum, the 39-year-old candidate for Florida governor, had a promising primary campaign with a serious shortcoming: he was the only one of five Democratic candidates who didn’t have either a family legacy in politics or millions of dollars of his own to fund his race.

But Gillum’s financial fortunes changed sharply after he sat down in early May with the preeminent angel funder of the progressive movement, billionaire George Soros, in California’s Berkeley Hills.

At the Claremont Club & Spa, according to multiple people familiar with the meeting, Gillum and Soros had a sprawling after-dinner conversation about Gillum’s plans to turn out progressive and non-white voters and then, if he won, to expand Medicaid, recognize the threat of man-made climate change and enact gun control legislation after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Florida.

Plus, he said, he could help Democrats in 2020 in a state Continue reading “Progressive billionaires fall for Florida’s Gillum”

‘Playing with fire’: Rosselló expected to double endorse Nelson, Gillum

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is expected to endorse Sen. Bill Nelson (D.Fla.) and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on Monday in the heart of Florida’s Boricua community, giving both Democrats’ campaigns a potential lift with this crucial demographic.

Rosselló at 10:45 a.m. will make a “special announcement” with Nelson by his side, according to Nelson’s campaign. And at 1:15 p.m., Gillum’s campaign says, he’ll stand beside Gillum for another press conference in Kissimmee. Neither campaign would confirm the endorsement, nor could a spokesperson for Rosselló be reached.

However, two top Democratic Party officials confirmed that Rosselló will endorse both men — partly due to Democratic Party pressure and also because disgust with President Donald Trump’s controversial and inaccurate statements on the federal government’s lackluster post-Hurricane Maria recovery have proven too much for Rosselló to bear.

“Unless the governor unexpectedly changes his mind, he’s making the Continue reading “‘Playing with fire’: Rosselló expected to double endorse Nelson, Gillum”

‘Playing with fire’: Rosselló expected to double endorse Nelson, Gillum

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is expected to endorse Sen. Bill Nelson (D.Fla.) and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on Monday in the heart of Florida’s Boricua community, giving both Democrats’ campaigns a potential lift with this crucial demographic.

Rosselló at 10:45 a.m. will make a “special announcement” with Nelson by his side, according to Nelson’s campaign. And at 1:15 p.m., Gillum’s campaign says, he’ll stand beside Gillum for another press conference in Kissimmee. Neither campaign would confirm the endorsement, nor could a spokesperson for Rosselló be reached.

However, two top Democratic Party officials confirmed that Rosselló will endorse both men — partly due to Democratic Party pressure and also because disgust with President Donald Trump’s controversial and inaccurate statements on the federal government’s lackluster post-Hurricane Maria recovery have proven too much for Rosselló to bear.

“Unless the governor unexpectedly changes his mind, he’s making the Continue reading “‘Playing with fire’: Rosselló expected to double endorse Nelson, Gillum”

Scott tries to flip the script on historic Medicare fraud fine

TALLAHASSEE — The record Medicare fraud fine in Gov. Rick Scott’s past has clung to him like a “fungus,” in the words of Democrats, but his campaign team believes it has a cure with one magic word: “Responsibility.”

In a new TV ad, Scott’s campaign says he “took responsibility” for the fraud at his old hospital company, Columbia/HCA. It then pivots to accuse his Democratic opponent, Sen. Bill Nelson, of being “confused” about how the mammoth corporation came to pay a then-record record fine of $1.7 billion for Medicare and other health care fraud after Scott resigned in 1997.

Scott’s line about taking “responsibility” — which, Nelson’s campaign says, is more in word than in deed — has been poll-tested, advertised and the subject of focus groups ever since Scott decided to first run for governor in 2010. Considering he has won two statewide elections, it appears Continue reading “Scott tries to flip the script on historic Medicare fraud fine”

‘I was nailed to the cross:’ Anti-Semitic comments dog Gillum’s running mate

Ron DeSantis’ campaign for governor blasted the phones of Jewish Floridians with text messages Thursday night that draw attention to anti-Semitic remarks made by Democrat Andrew Gillum’s running mate years ago when he lost a Harvard student president race.

“BREAKING: Andrew Gillum’s Running Mate Claimed Jews ‘Nailed’ Him To ‘The Cross’,” read the text messages sent to Florida voters with Jewish surnames, many of whom live in vote-rich South Florida. ‘Newly-unearthed comments made by Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum’s running mate raise serious concerns about Gillum’s ever-mounting ties to blatant anti-Semitism’.”

Chris King, an evangelical liberal, has repeatedly apologized for the comments he made in 1999 after he felt the Harvard Crimson newspaper unfairly made an issue of his religion and cost him the student-body election.

“I was nailed to the cross,” King told reporters at the time. “And most of the editorial staff that was so Continue reading “‘I was nailed to the cross:’ Anti-Semitic comments dog Gillum’s running mate”

‘These numbers should sound the alarm for Bill Nelson’

Florida Gov. Rick Scott holds a double-digit lead over Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson among Hispanic voters 50 and older in a new Florida poll, the latest sign that Nelson is struggling to rally Hispanic voters behind his reelection bid.

Scott’s support is buoyed by strong Cuban-American backing and decent favorability ratings from Puerto Rican voters, who tend to support Democrats. Without a greater foothold among Hispanic voters, Nelson is at risk in a Senate race that is essential to Democratic hopes of winning a Senate majority this fall.

The Republican governor’s 14-percentage-point advantage in the Senate race stands in stark contrast to the essentially tied gubernatorial contest in which Republican Ron DeSantis has a slim lead of 2 points over Democrat Andrew Gillum, according to the AARP/Bendixen & Amandi International survey.

The disparity in results between the two statewide races reinforces what Democratic activists have been fretting about for months Continue reading “‘These numbers should sound the alarm for Bill Nelson’”

Frustrated over racial controversies, DeSantis claims Gillum has ‘anti-Semites around him’

Ron DeSantis, frustrated with questions about racists and accused bigots backing him, went on the counterattack Monday and said that his Democratic opponent in the Florida governor’s race has “anti-Semites around him.”

DeSantis focused his criticisms on two groups: Dream Defenders, a minority empowerment group that Andrew Gillum praised during the Democratic primary for governor, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, whose members Gillum met with as mayor of Tallahassee in 2016.

“I can find anti-Semites around him,” DeSantis said in a video clip of an exchange with reporters circulated by his campaign. “But it’s almost like ‘we don’t want to discuss that.’”

CAIR and the Dream Defenders deny being anti-Semitic, but both acknowledge being strong critics of Israel. Gillum’s campaign, which also denies associating with anti-Semites, said DeSantis is trying to change the subject away from his own campaign’s struggles.

“I do think it is interesting that Continue reading “Frustrated over racial controversies, DeSantis claims Gillum has ‘anti-Semites around him’”

UNF poll: Gillum edging DeSantis, Nelson and Scott tied

Democrat Andrew Gillum is maintaining a slight lead over Republican Ron DeSantis in Florida’s race for governor, while the U.S. Senate contest between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott is tied, according to the latest poll from the University of North Florida.

The UNF poll also shows that 71 percent of likely Florida voters back a proposed state constitutional amendment to restore the voting rights of former felons, except for murderers and sex offenders. An amendment needs 60 percent support to pass.

In showing a tied Senate race while finding that likely voters favor Gillum over DeSantis by 4 percentage points — just outside the poll’s error margin — the UNF survey reflects recent polls showing that a Democratic “blue wave” might not be strong enough to carry Nelson to a fourth term.

UNF pollster Michael Binder said the big difference between the two contests comes Continue reading “UNF poll: Gillum edging DeSantis, Nelson and Scott tied”

New racial controversy batters DeSantis

MIAMI — A Republican activist who donated more than $20,000 to Ron DeSantis and lined up a speech for him at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club called President Obama a “F—- MUSLIM N—-” on Twitter recently, in addition to other inflammatory remarks.

Steven A. Alembik told POLITICO Wednesday he wrote the Obama tweet in anger, that he’s “absolutely not” a racist and that he understood that DeSantis’s campaign for governor would need to distance himself from the comments — which the campaign promptly did.

“We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: we adamantly denounce this sort of disgusting rhetoric,” DeSantis campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson said in a written statement.

The controversy comes after DeSantis sent his campaign into a tailspin the day after the Aug. 28 primary by using the awkward phrase “monkey this up” in describing how the economy could falter under the plans of his opponent, Andrew Gillum, Continue reading “New racial controversy batters DeSantis”

Booker, Murphy to raise cash for Florida Dem gubernatorial candidate Gillum

The man who wants to be governor of the Sunshine State is looking to pluck some money from the Garden State.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a liberal who won the Democratic Party’s nomination in an upset last month, will be the “special guest” at a Sunday fundraiser in Edison, N.J. with a host committee that includes Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Gov. Phil Murphy and U.S. Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman and Donald Milford Payne, both New Jersey Democrats.

The fundraiser at the Pines Manor party venue benefits Gillum’s political committee, Forward Florida. Tickets range from $250 to $5,000, according to the invitation.

The New Jersey event marks the first major event for Gillum hosted by a senator or a governor and foreshadows the national interest in Florida’s gubernatorial race, one where there’s a stark choice between the deep-blue liberal Gillum and Trump-red conservative Ron DeSantis, who Continue reading “Booker, Murphy to raise cash for Florida Dem gubernatorial candidate Gillum”

Democrats fear Shalala campaign is in ‘sleep mode’ while challenger surges

The congressional seat was supposed to be the easiest of Democratic pickups. Hillary Clinton carried the Miami-based 27th District by nearly 20 percentage points just two years ago. Donna Shalala, the Democratic nominee, was a well-known, former Cabinet secretary with a talent for raising money.

But now local Democrats are dismayed as Shalala is struggling to put away her Republican rival, a popular former Spanish-language television newswoman named Maria Elvira Salazar.

According to internal polls from both campaigns obtained by POLITICO, Salazar is either ahead — or just narrowly trailing — Shalala.

Salazar leads the former Clinton Foundation head by 7 percentage points in a poll conducted for the Republican’s campaign that was completed Thursday. In a poll from Shalala’s campaign, completed Sept. 1, the Democrat leads Salazar by 4 percentage points.

Either way, the race is far too close for Democrats in Miami, who have been buzzing for months Continue reading “Democrats fear Shalala campaign is in ‘sleep mode’ while challenger surges”

Trump rails on top Florida ally over Hurricane Maria flap

President Donald Trump is privately lashing out at one of his top allies, Ron DeSantis, angrily accusing the Florida Republican gubernatorial nominee of publicly betraying him.

The president has told close associates in recent days that he views DeSantis — who won his Aug. 28 GOP primary thanks to Trump’s strong support — as profoundly disloyal for distancing himself from the president’s assertion that the Hurricane Maria death toll was inflated by Democrats for political purposes.

“Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life. He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated,” the DeSantis campaign said last week after Trump tweeted that "3000 people did not die” in Puerto Rico.

Trump’s comments unnerved Republicans across Florida, which is home to a burgeoning Puerto Rican population, leading DeSantis and other Republicans — including Senate hopeful Rick Scott — Continue reading “Trump rails on top Florida ally over Hurricane Maria flap”

Rubio Twitter-shames chef ‘Salt Bae’ for feeding brutal dictator

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio railed against the celebrity chef known as ‘Salt Bae’ on Monday and Tuesday for posting social media videos of him obsequiously feeding lamb to Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro, whose nation is reeling from a food-shortage crisis and failed-state economy.

“I don’t know who this weirdo #Saltbae is, but the guy he is so proud to host is not the President of #Venezuela. He is actually the overweight dictator of a nation where 30% of the people eat only once a day & infants are suffering from malnutrition,” Rubio wrote on Twitter last night at 10:22 p.m.

Rubio didn’t stop there.

About 15 minutes later, he pointed out that “this guy @nusr_ett who admires dictator @NicolasMaduro so much actually owns a steakhouse in, of all places, #Miami” — which is home to one of the nation’s largest communities of Venezuelan exiles — and the Republican senator Continue reading “Rubio Twitter-shames chef ‘Salt Bae’ for feeding brutal dictator”

DeSantis blocks fundraiser over ‘hurtful and disgusting racial slurs’

Ron DeSantis’ gubernatorial campaign blocked a former Miami state lawmaker who left office after using racial slurs and threatening a colleague from co-chairing a fundraiser.

DeSantis’ decision to block former state Rep. Ralph Arza from the post underscored the sensitivity the Republican’s campaign has to racial issues after Democrats blasted the candidate as a “racist” for using the phrase “monkey this up” in relation to his opponent, Andrew Gillum, the Florida Democratic Party’s first African-American nominee for governor.

DeSantis denies having any racial animus, and his campaign reinforced that message by blasting Arza on Friday.

"Ralph Arza’s name was removed because of hurtful and disgusting racial slurs that he has used in the past. He is not affiliated with our campaign," the DeSantis campaign said in a written statement, issued after The Miami Herald first reported the fundraiser fallout.

In 2006, Arza was accused of calling Miami-Dade County’s first black Continue reading “DeSantis blocks fundraiser over ‘hurtful and disgusting racial slurs’”