Congressional candidate under fire for saying Puerto Rican evacuees shouldn’t vote in Florida

A Florida congressional candidate is under fire for saying that he didn’t believe hurricane evacuees from Puerto Rico should be allowed to register to vote in the Sunshine State, a comment that some fellow Republicans denounced as complicating GOP efforts to reach out to a growing segment of voters.

Amid the blowback at his remarks, political newcomer John Ward clarified his comments Monday to POLITICO to stress that he believes Puerto Rican voters are U.S. citizens and that they should be allowed to register to vote in Florida if they decide to become permanent residents of the state.

Ward’s GOP primary opponent in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, former state Rep. Fred Costello, called Ward’s new position “horse manure.” He noted that Ward didn’t clarify his remarks at the time — even when a lawyer of Puerto Rican descent chastised Ward immediately after the comments he made April 23 Continue reading “Congressional candidate under fire for saying Puerto Rican evacuees shouldn’t vote in Florida”

Trump’s team gets payback for Rubio on Venezuelan assassination plot

When one of Venezuela’s top leaders was suspected of conspiring to assassinate Florida Sen. Marco Rubio last year, the reaction of the United States was uncharacteristically tame.

Stiffer sanctions against Venezuela languished at the National Security Council. And Diosdado Cabello Rondon, the vice president of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, wasn’t touched by targeted sanctions even though the U.S. government has accused him of being a narco-trafficker.

But all of that changed in the past five days as Mike Pompeo, President Trump’s new Secretary of State, and National Security Adviser John Bolton began flexing their muscles in the run-up to Sunday’s elections in Venezuela — elections that the U.S. government called a “sham” perpetrated by “kleptocracy.”

On Friday, Cabello and his relatives had his assets frozen by the U.S. Treasury, and on Monday further U.S. investments in Venezuela were limited as the Continue reading “Trump’s team gets payback for Rubio on Venezuelan assassination plot”

Levine’s social media blocking haunts Florida gubernatorial campaign

MIAMI — Philip Levine blocked a Twitter critic back when he was mayor of Miami Beach and got sued. Now it’s starting to haunt the Democrat’s bid for governor of Florida and threatens to paint him as a thin-skinned bully.

First, Twitter accused the city of threatening its officials as part of a legal strategy to keep Levine from being deposed during his campaign for governor. Then, Levine’s top adviser had to take the stand on his behalf this month and admit the former mayor blocked Twitter comments he didn’t like, setting the stage for a potentially precedent-setting case concerning social media and government censorship.

In the coming weeks, the likely Democratic front-runner faces the prospect of a deposition in the case, which also raises broader questions about his temperament and his mayoral legacy.

“He’s totally unfit for office. Here he is wasting tax money to hide his mistakes rather Continue reading “Levine’s social media blocking haunts Florida gubernatorial campaign”

With Shalala endorsement, EMILY’s List hits trifecta in Miami congressional races

MIAMI — EMILY’s List, the largest Democratic group supporting women candidates, endorsed Donna Shalala in one of the party’s most coveted congressional seats, marking the first time it has three solid candidates in each of the Republican-held U.S. House seats in Miami.

The group’s support of Shalala — a former University of Miami president and longtime friend and appointee of the Clinton family — isn’t too much of a surprise because Shalala helped found EMILY’S List in 1985. Since then, the group says it has raised more than $500 million to ensure that more women who support abortion rights won office.

Behind the scenes, EMILY’s List has already played a big role in Shalala’s bid to replace outgoing Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

The organization’s president, Stephanie Schriock, helped pressure one of Shalala’s onetime Democratic opponent, former Judge Mary Barzee Flores, to leave the 27th Continue reading “With Shalala endorsement, EMILY’s List hits trifecta in Miami congressional races”

2 parents of murdered Parkland teens run together for Broward school board

MIAMI — Two parents of children murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School turn their grief into political activism Tuesday as they announce they’re running together for two seats on the Broward County School Board to bring more security, accountability and transparency to a system in which many have lost faith.

Lori Alhadeff and Ryan Petty say they want their campaigns and public service to honor their 14-year-old daughters, Alyssa Alhadeff and Alaina Petty, and help ensure there’s never a tragedy like the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland that claimed the lives of 17 and injured 17 others.

“I don’t want Alyssa’s life to be in vain. I’m doing this because I don’t want another parent to go through the pain and anguish that I have to go through every day,” Alhadeff told POLITICO. “I don’t want any child to have to say to their mom, ‘Mommy, am I Continue reading “2 parents of murdered Parkland teens run together for Broward school board”

Graham considers Jolly for running mate

MIAMI — Democrat Gwen Graham said she would consider Republican David Jolly as a Florida gubernatorial running mate, a move that opens her to criticism from a progressive rival, and that contradicts her own campaign and supporters who had said a bipartisan ticket isn’t legal in the state.

Graham, who has been under attack from Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and his supporters for not being progressive enough, told the Miami-based "Strange Days" podcast last week that she wanted “someone who can help me govern” and called Jolly a friend.

An anti-Trump Republican who had served in the House with Graham in 2015 and 2016, Jolly was first mentioned as a possible running mate for yet another former Democratic member of Congress from Florida, 2016 Senate candidate Patrick Murphy, whose allies want him to run for governor this year. Graham said she might pick Murphy as well.

“I see my lieutenant Continue reading “Graham considers Jolly for running mate”

Florida to monitor Broward election chief after judge finds ‘unlawful’ ballot destruction in Wasserman Schultz race

MIAMI — The elections supervisor in Florida’s second-most populous county broke state and federal law by unlawfully destroying ballots cast in Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s 2016 Democratic primary, a judge ruled Friday in a case brought by the congresswoman’s challenger who wanted to check for voting irregularities.

In light of the ruling, Gov. Rick Scott’s administration — which has expressed concerns with how Broward County Election Supervisor Brenda Snipes has handled the case — told POLITICO that he’s reviewing the judge’s order and will have her office monitored.

“During the upcoming election, the Department of State will send a Florida elections expert from the Division of Elections to Supervisor Snipes’ office to ensure that all laws are followed so the citizens of Broward County can have the efficient, properly run election they deserve,” Scott’s office said in a written statement.

Snipes and her lawyer, Burnadette Norris-Weeks, did Continue reading “Florida to monitor Broward election chief after judge finds ‘unlawful’ ballot destruction in Wasserman Schultz race”

‘Skank’ and racism charges: Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary gets ugly

MIAMI — Florida’s Democratic race for governor has become a debate about race and gender. And it’s getting ugly.

The flare-up began Tuesday when an African-American woman who supports Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum called former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham a “skank” on Twitter. Graham surrogates then called on Gillum to denounce the comments from his supporter, Leslie Wimes, who amplified the slur Thursday morning in a column she writes for a conservative publication, the Sunshine State News, that bore the headline “Skank, Oh, My!”

By noon, the group EMILY’s List, which backs women abortion-rights Democrats, called on Gillum “to make clear to his supporters that negative, gendered attacks have no place in political discourse.” In its press release, EMILY’S List also criticized Gillum over the primary’s first new negative ad campaign, launched by a pro-black super PAC called The Collective, that casts Graham Continue reading “‘Skank’ and racism charges: Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary gets ugly”

Poll: Murphy leads Democratic gubernatorial primary with GOP running mate Jolly

MIAMI — Former Rep. and 2016 Senate candidate Patrick Murphy would be tied for second if he jumped into Florida’s Democratic primary for governor, according to a new poll that shows he could nudge into first with one unorthodox move: Picking a Republican running mate.

The survey, conducted by Murphy’s former pollster and paid for by an unnamed Murphy supporter, bucks the commonly held notion that centrism — including a Murphy unity ticket with former Republican Rep. David Jolly — has no place in a partisan Democratic primary in Florida.

“There’s a lot of conventional wisdom that’s wrong,” said pollster Keith Frederick, whose firm surveyed 750 Florida Democrats from April 23–28. “What this poll shows is this idea — of a new approach to politics with a bipartisan team that works together to solve problems — has currency in the Democratic primary.”

But this and other polls show the Continue reading “Poll: Murphy leads Democratic gubernatorial primary with GOP running mate Jolly”

‘WTF!!’ South Florida paper runs gun show ad below stories of mass shootings

MIAMI — After a Parkland school victim’s dad sounded the alarm, the publisher of a major South Florida newspaper that circulates in the city, where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting, apologized for running a gun show ad at the bottom of Wednesday’s front page that featured two stories about shooting rampages.

The Fort Lauderdale Gun Show ad at the bottom of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s front page stood out because of its presentation — a dark semiautomatic pistol and red letters on a yellow background — and because of its juxtaposition. The front page featured a large centerpiece photo of mourning teens titled “Remembering Alyssa” that referred to a story about the birthday of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School murder victim Alyssa Alhadeff. She would have turned 15 on Tuesday.

Intensifying the contrast between the news and ad content on the front page was a story about Continue reading “‘WTF!!’ South Florida paper runs gun show ad below stories of mass shootings”

‘Let the blue wave continue’: Democrats notch 4th Florida bellwether win

MIAMI — Strike … four.

In the fourth and final Florida bellwether election since 2016, the Democratic candidate beat the Republican in a contested race, providing the best evidence yet that the GOP is in retreat heading into the midterm elections under an unpopular president.

On Tuesday, in Florida’s 114th House District in Miami, Javier Fernandez beat Republican Andrew Vargas by about 4.1 percentage points, despite being outspent by at least 2-1 in a swing seat where voters split their tickets between both parties in the 2016 elections.

“Let the Blue Wave Continue!" crowed the chairwoman of Florida’s Democratic Party, Terrie Rizzo.

"Tonight’s special election victory is the latest of a string of special election victories for Florida Democrats which shows us that after nearly 20 years of failed Republican leadership — people are ready for change,” she said in a written statement.

Fernandez’s win follows a shocking Continue reading “‘Let the blue wave continue’: Democrats notch 4th Florida bellwether win”

‘Let the blue wave continue’: Democrats notch 4th Florida bellwether win

MIAMI — Strike … four.

In the fourth and final Florida bellwether election since 2016, the Democratic candidate beat the Republican in a contested race, providing the best evidence yet that the GOP is in retreat heading into the midterm elections under an unpopular president.

On Tuesday, in Florida’s 114th House District in Miami, Javier Fernandez beat Republican Andrew Vargas by about 4.1 percentage points, despite being outspent by at least 2-1 in a swing seat where voters split their tickets between both parties in the 2016 elections.

“Let the Blue Wave Continue!" crowed the chairwoman of Florida’s Democratic Party, Terrie Rizzo.

"Tonight’s special election victory is the latest of a string of special election victories for Florida Democrats which shows us that after nearly 20 years of failed Republican leadership — people are ready for change,” she said in a written statement.

Fernandez’s win follows a shocking Continue reading “‘Let the blue wave continue’: Democrats notch 4th Florida bellwether win”

‘Let the blue wave continue’: Democrats notch 4th Florida bellwether win

MIAMI — Strike … four.

In the fourth and final Florida bellwether election since 2016, the Democratic candidate beat the Republican in a contested race, providing the best evidence yet that the GOP is in retreat heading into the midterm elections under an unpopular president.

On Tuesday, in Florida’s 114th House District in Miami, Javier Fernandez beat Republican Andrew Vargas by about 4.1 percentage points, despite being outspent by at least 2-1 in a swing seat where voters split their tickets between both parties in the 2016 elections.

“Let the Blue Wave Continue!" crowed the chairwoman of Florida’s Democratic Party, Terrie Rizzo.

"Tonight’s special election victory is the latest of a string of special election victories for Florida Democrats which shows us that after nearly 20 years of failed Republican leadership — people are ready for change,” she said in a written statement.

Fernandez’s win follows a shocking Continue reading “‘Let the blue wave continue’: Democrats notch 4th Florida bellwether win”

Grayson says he’ll challenge Soto in Florida’s 9th

Former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson announced Tuesday morning that he’ll mount a primary challenge against his successor, Rep. Darren Michael Soto, setting up a major primary fight that Florida and Washington Democrats had hoped to avoid.

Grayson, who had flirted with running for another congressional seat, indicated to WFTV in Orlando that he doesn’t care what party elites think of his decision to run for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 9th congressional district in Orlando.

“I don’t need anyone’s permission to run for office. What I’ve done is ask the people,” Grayson told the station. “I can run anywhere in the state; I could run from Key West to Pensacola.”

The primary will be a rematch of last names between Soto and Grayson. Soto beat Grayson’s wife, Deena Grayson, and Grayson’s former adviser, Susannah Randolph, in the 2016 Democratic primary for the seat, which is heavily Democratic. Continue reading “Grayson says he’ll challenge Soto in Florida’s 9th”

Grayson says he’ll challenge Soto in Florida’s 9th

Former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson announced Tuesday morning that he’ll mount a primary challenge against his successor, Rep. Darren Michael Soto, setting up a major primary fight that Florida and Washington Democrats had hoped to avoid.

Grayson, who had flirted with running for another congressional seat, indicated to WFTV in Orlando that he doesn’t care what party elites think of his decision to run for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 9th congressional district in Orlando.

“I don’t need anyone’s permission to run for office. What I’ve done is ask the people,” Grayson told the station. “I can run anywhere in the state; I could run from Key West to Pensacola.”

Soto said he “will run another inspiring campaign with a strong coalition of support among Hispanics, African-Americans and women.“

“This coalition propelled us to victory in 2016 as Grayson was annihilated in his primary,” said Soto Continue reading “Grayson says he’ll challenge Soto in Florida’s 9th”

Rubio recommends onetime Trump critic for Cuba broadcast job

MIAMI — Sen. Marco Rubio is backing former Miami mayor and Cuban exile leader Tomas Regalado to lead the troubled federal office that oversees Radio and TV Martí in its attempts to counter Cuba’s state-run media on the island.

But even with his recommendation from Rubio, Regalado, he has a mark against him in an administration that prizes loyalty: Regalado had been critical of President Donald Trump’s immigration rhetoric before and after the campaign.

Still, Regalado was supportive of Trump’s Cuba policy reversing Obama’s rapprochement with the island’s totalitarian regime. Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart helped shape the policy, and Regalado worked with the White House on the venue for the announcement last June at the Manuel Artime Theater in Miami. Regalado sat in the front row.

“I was very critical of Obama’s policy toward Cuba,” Regalado told POLITICO in a text message, adding that “since I do agree with Continue reading “Rubio recommends onetime Trump critic for Cuba broadcast job”

Florida’s Dennis Ross to retire from U.S. House

Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) announced Wednesday morning he won’t seek re-election because he felt that it was just time to move on after eight years in Congress and give another conservative a shot at his his Lakeland-based seat.

Ross’s surprising departure was overshadowed by the news of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision not to run for reelection. So far, 59 House Republicans are retiring as Democrats feel they have the best chance in years to take back the House.

But Ross told POLITICO that his departure, first reported by the Tampa Bay Times, wasn’t motivated by fear of losing an election to a Democrat in his heavily Republican seat.

“When you start feeling like a stranger in your hometown, that’s when you start saying ‘wait a second.’ There’s no regrets. There’s no investigation. No scandal. No nothing. I had a great fundraising quarter. Everything was good,” Ross Continue reading “Florida’s Dennis Ross to retire from U.S. House”

Scott running for Senate in epic showdown with Nelson

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Gov. Rick Scott made his long-awaited Senate candidacy official Monday, setting up an epic battle against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and testing the limits of whether a close alliance with President Donald Trump is political poison or a pathway to success in the nation’s biggest swing state.

Scott has never shied away from his friendship with Trump — who has repeatedly urged him to run against Nelson, Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat. And regardless of the constant string of White House controversies, Scott has distanced himself from the president only to the mildest of degrees.

But the self-made Scott, who was born poor and raised in public housing, then won the Florida governor’s mansion as a political novice, wants everyone to know that he’s his own man.

“I consider myself Rick Scott. I don’t consider myself any type of anything,” the governor told POLITICO in an exclusive Continue reading “Scott running for Senate in epic showdown with Nelson”

DNC official who called African-Americans ‘colored people’ expected to quit as calls for resignation mount

MIAMI — A Florida Democratic National Committee member who offended African-Americans for using the phrase “colored people” is expected to resign office Wednesday as the state party chairwoman and other officials called on him to resign — echoing the comments of his own wife, the Democratic Party chair in Duval County.

John Parker, the Duval County Democratic state committeeman, had told party officials he would post his resignation on his Facebook page.

Parker had said he meant to say “people of color” instead of “colored people” and eventually apologized for his offhanded remarks Jan. 22 after a local Democratic Party meeting in Jacksonville. But others accused him of using more racially charged language — claims he denied — and felt their complaints were being ignored in the ensuing months.

That led to increased media scrutiny and the remarkable call by Parker’s wife, Duval County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Lisa King, Continue reading “DNC official who called African-Americans ‘colored people’ expected to quit as calls for resignation mount”

DNC official quits after uproar over ‘colored people’ remarks

MIAMI — A Florida Democratic National Committee member who offended African-Americans for using the phrase “colored people” resigned his office Wednesday as the state party chairwoman and other officials called on him to quit — echoing the comments of his own wife, the Democratic Party chair in Duval County.

“I misspoke and used language that was hurtful. I apologized and pledged that I would learn from my mistake,” John Parker said in a letter to local, state and national officials that tendered his resignation as the Duval County Democratic state committeeman and as a DNC member from Florida.

“I understand my error perpetuates divisiveness and does not allow us an opportunity for the important types of meaningful discourse — a conversation our party must engage in sooner rather than later — that help us grow as individuals and a party protecting the dignity of all people,” he wrote.

Parker had Continue reading “DNC official quits after uproar over ‘colored people’ remarks”