2018 Elections

Baez: “You’re my army!”

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State Rep. Daisy Baez, under investigation by a House committee, is using her military experience to raise money for a re-election campaign.

The picture above accompanied a fundraising email sent out by the campaign of Baez, a Miami Democrat.

As a soldier I wore this nation’s uniform to give my life for the cause of freedom, justice, and democracy. Soldiers never give up, and I will never waver on my commitment to continue fighting for you.

You’re my army, and I need you to join this battle today with your support and contributions. Will you contribute $50, $25, or any other amount today?

A state House committee Tuesday found “probable cause” to proceed with an investigation of whether Baez violated residency requirements when she was elected to her Miami-Dade County seat in 2016.

After hearing an investigative report that alleged Baez used residences outside House District 114 for a homestead exemption, a driver’s license and voter registration, the Select Committee on Member Conduct voted to move the investigation forward to the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, which will likely conduct a broader inquiry into the allegations.

Baez, a Democrat in her first term, attended the meeting but did not testify, although she said she has not violated the requirement that she live in District 114 at the time of her election and subsequently as she represents the area.

“I just want to reiterate that I believe I am a resident and I have evidence to support that I am a resident of District 114,” she said, adding she would cooperate with the investigation so it can be resolved “in an expedient way.”

Rick Scott to docs: Get involved. Somebody’s going to win the next election.

Addressing the Florida Medical Association last week, Gov. Rick Scott encouraged doctors to “get involved in the political process” because “somebody is actually going to win” the next election.

Scott, who’s leaving office next year due to term limits, noted that the legislative session that kicks off in January will be his last.

“I’ve got about 458, 459 days to go,” he told a group of doctors attending a day-long opioid summit in Tampa on Friday.

“I don’t say that because I don’t like the job. This is a great job. And there’s a lot of people trying to get it,” he joked, before giving the docs some advice.

“I would recommend that everybody get involved in the political process, because somebody is actually going to win. And it’s better that you’re involved in the process and you understand what they think and how they’re going to govern and you participate in it,” Scott told the physicians at the event hosted by the FMA.

The influential doctors’ group has a lot of clout in the Capitol, with a cadre of top-shelf lobbyists and a reputation for being able to kill legislation it views as unfriendly. The FMA’s PAC has contributed over $4 million to candidates and committees over the past six years, and that doesn’t include separate contributions made individually by doctors or their practices.

Scott, who’s mulling a run for the U.S. Senate next year, then went on to make a pitch for the job he’s done since he took office in 2011.

“If you like to try to have a positive impact on people’s lives, I don’t think there’s a better job than being governor of a state like Florida,” he said. We’ve been able to, because of people like you, we’ve added over 1.4 million jobs. We’ve paid off 25 percent of the state debt. I’ve cut 5,000 regulations. We have about 20,000 new jobs a month. We have about 350,000 people moving here a year. One hundred thousand of those people are moving from another country. We’re the best melting pot around. We’re at a 46-year low in our crime rate. So this state is absolutely on a roll. There is no place like Florida right now.”

Then he veered back to encouraging the docs to get involved.

“It’s really important that you guys are politically active because somebody will win the next election. If you’re not active, it might be somebody that you disagree (with), so I’d do everything you can to get the person that you believe in is going to do the right things for this state elected,” he said.

Dems ask Scott for relief centers to aid in expected Puerto Rican migration

As conditions continue to deteriorate in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, Florida Democratic legislators are calling on Gov. Rick Scott to set up relief centers for Puerto Rican evacuees.

Friday’s ask comes as Scott, who traveled to the island yesterday, meets with President Donald Trump in Washington to give him an update of what’s going on in Puerto Rico and the Sunshine State, still recovering from Hurricane Irma.

The situation in Puerto Rico is growing dire, the Democrats wrote in a letter to Scott.

“Now more than a week removed from Maria’s landfall, nearly 3.4 million Puerto Ricans remain without power, the telecommunications grid for the island is in tatters, citizens are running low on cash due to the lack of functioning ATMs necessary to purchase supplies and are faced with an inability to process debit transactions, and large areas outside urban centers remain inaccessible as roads continue to be blocked by fallen debris or are washed away completely,” incoming Senate Minority Leader Jeff Clemens, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, and a handful of House and Senate members wrote to Scott.

The disaster could result in “hundreds of thousands” of evacuees fleeing to Florida, home to more than 1 million Puerto Ricans already, the Democrats wrote.

“To prepare for this influx of hundreds of thousands new Floridians, we believe it is vital that the state respond proactively to ease their transition and reduce the mental and financial strain this process is sure to inflict on many families,” they wrote.

The “relief centers” could provide”one-stop access to local, state, and federal officials who could offer guidance on housing aid and availability and other services, the Democrats suggested.

The request for the relief centers comes a day after Florida U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio called for the “cavalry” — in the form of the U.S. military — to come to the rescue in Puerto Rico.

 

Dems mauling Maul’s disaster creds

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Democrats and other critics of Gov. Rick Scott are creating a storm over Wesley Maul, the governor’s pick to head up the Florida Division of Emergency Management with two months left in the hurricane season.

The Florida Democratic Party questioned Maul’s qualifications, who’s now the division’s chief of staff and will take over as interim head of state emergency ops from Bryan Koon on Sunday.

“We need an experienced leader at the helm of our emergency management operations, and no one would disagree that Wes Maul is totally inexperienced and unprepared for such an important role,” FDP spokeswoman Johanna Cervone said in a statement. “Rick Scott has a clear record of propping up unqualified political appointees, but this is unacceptable.”

American Bridge 21st Century PAC, a progressive “super PAC” that targets Republicans, also piled on, outlining the resumes of prior division leaders to highlight the contrast with Maul.

“Wesley Maul’s resume would only be impressive to Tallahassee lobbying firms,” American Bridge said in a memo released Thursday. “He has only one year of experience working at the Division of Emergency Management. He has no degrees or professional credentials in emergency management. Just four years ago, Maul was a mattress delivery associate while enrolled in law school. Following that, he was a travelling (sic) aide to Rick Scott, handling the governor’s personal calendar and making sure the governor stuck to his schedule.”

Here’s the snapshots of Maul’s predecessors, provided by American Bridge :

  • Koon (Division of Emergency Management Director from 2011 to present), previously served as director of emergency management for WalMart. He was also a watch commander for the White House Emergency Operations Center.
  • David Halstead (2010-2011), had been with the division since 1998, including the 2004 hurricane season when he was an emergency services branch chief.
  • Ruben Almaguer (2009-2010), was a deputy director at the division after having worked as a division chief for the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department.
  • Craig Fugate (2001-2009), had also been a deputy director for the division before being appointed to the top job by Gov. Jeb Bush. Fugate, a Democrat, had spent a decade as emergency manager for Alachua County.
  • Joe Myers (1993-2001), was director of emergency management in North Carolina for eight years prior to taking the job in Florida.

Maul, who joined DEM in May 2016, spent about three years in the governor’s office. His duties, according to Maul’s LinkedIn page, included running Scott’s daily schedule and coordinating travel.

Prior to going to work for Scott, and while earning his law degree at the University of Florida, Maul spent a year as a delivery associate at Mattress Town of Gainesville, which the LinkedIn page said increased “average daily delivery capability by 211% through improved inventory analysis, logistics, and sales operations.”

In a press release announcing Koon’s departure this week, Scott called Maul a “valued member” of his team since 2013.

“As Chief of Staff at DEM, Wes has worked countless hours helping lead our state through Hurricanes Hermine, Matthew and now Irma,” Scott said in the release. “Since earning his law degree at the University of Florida, Wes has devoted his life to serving the families of our state and I am confident in his ability to lead DEM as Interim Director as we continue to recover from Hurricane Irma.”

By Jim Turner.

Former foes Jolly, Murphy take show on the road

 Former Florida congressmen David Jolly, a Republican, and  Democrat Patrick Murphy — political rivals who also faced off in a race for U.S. Senate — have teamed up for a roadshow.

The pair are bringing their “Why Gridlock Rules Washington” talks to college campuses in the Sunshine State, and hold another edition at Georgetown University in D.C. on Oct. 16.

Here’s the deets from a press release:

On Monday, October 16th, the two will hold a town hall at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.  The event will be moderated by USA Today commentary editor and columnist Jill Lawrence.

A town hall at the University of Central Florida in Orlando on Tuesday, October 17th has also been added to the tour.  While the University of South Florida town hall, which was postponed due to Hurricane Maria, has been rescheduled for Thursday, October 12th.

“This is a worthwhile effort to educate Floridians and build broader support for reforms that would encourage more bipartisanship and consensus-building to tackle the nation’s most pressing challenges,” recently wrote the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board about the town hall tour.

Jolly and Murphy say they are trying to pull back the curtain on Washington and shine a light on the inside reasons why D.C. is in a state of chaos and dysfunction.

Additional stops are scheduled for Florida International University on October 4th, the University of Miami on October 18th and the University of Florida in Gainesville on October 25th.

During their years in Congress, Murphy, a Democrat, represented a Republican-leaning district in South Florida, while Jolly, a Republican, represented a Democrat-leaning district on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Jolly and Murphy found ways to work together on seemingly intractable issues of responsible debt reduction, climate change and the environment, public safety, federal firearm policies, and campaign finance reform.  For nearly a year, the two also faced off as opponents in a U.S. Senate race with Jolly and Murphy both seeking their party’s respective nomination.

Chris King talks voting at universities

ChrisKing_PressImage-683x1024Chris King, a Democratic candidate for governor, wants to make it easier for Floridians to register to vote and to cast their ballots.

That was his message as King visited three state university campuses today, kicking off the campus appearances in Tallahassee at Florida State University, dropping by the University of Florida before winding up at the University of North Florida.

In a press release, King said his “Every Florida Voter” plan is part of his overall effort to make government “work for ordinary people, not special interests and those in power.”

“The first step to restore our democracy is to put that power back in the hands of the people of Florida,” King said, an attorney who graduated from Harvard University and attended law school at UF.

Among his proposals, King wants to expand the early voting period, automatically register voters and allow Election Day registration, instead of the current system of closing registration books roughly a month before each election.

King also said he supports providing a system for the restoration of voting rights for an estimated 1.6 million non-violent felons who have served their time but are denied the right to vote.

“But expanding voter registration and increasing access to the polls are not enough to increase voter participation,” King said. “Past candidates and elected officials from both parties have failed to give Floridians a reason to get out and vote.

“This campaign will be different. It will be unafraid of fighting for a new fair and Florida-focused economy that lifts up all Floridians and championing fresh ideas to give people a reason to stand and be counted,” he said.

By Lloyd Dunkelberger.

Miami Beach Mayor Levine headed to Puerto Rico — with 7,000 pounds of supplies

DKlR-5-UQAAWr0XMiami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is heading to Puerto Rico with 7,000 pounds of critical supplies for the beleaguered island to address what he called a “humanitarian crisis”  after Hurricane Maria left the U.S. territory in tatters.

Levine, who hatched the relief effort over the past two days, chartered a cargo plane to deliver the goods. He’ll be joined by state Rep. Robert Asencio, a Miami Democrat, on the trip.

The duo are slated to meet with San Juan Mayor Yulín Cruz and other local officials and tour the damage tomorrow. (Check out these tragic pics posted by BuzzFeed yesterday.)

Aside from the humanitarian motivation for the trip to Puerto Rico, Levine’s visible support for the island won’t hurt if he decides to run for governor next year in Florida. The Sunshine State is home to roughly 1 million residents with ties to the island.

Levine has said he will make a decision on a bid for governor before the end of this year.

By Lloyd Dunkelberger and Dara Kam.