Annette Taddeo Archives - Florida Politics

Alan Clendenin says the FDP needs to come together in selecting a new chair

With a sudden vacancy at the top of the Florida Democratic Party, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Tampa’s Alan Clendenin is being mentioned as a possible successor to Stephen Bittel.

Bittel stepped down Friday after less than a year as the party chairman following a POLITICO Florida report of anonymous allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior. He made his announcement shortly after all four Democratic party gubernatorial nominees called for him to resign.

Clendenin automatically becomes part of the conversation, if for no other reason than the fact that he finished second in the past two elections for FDP Chair – to Bittel last January, and Allison Tant back in 2013.  And while he says his phone has been ringing off the hook over the past 24 hours following Bittel’s resignation, Clendenin says he’s much more interested in making sure that the party is unified with less than a year to go before the 2018 midterm elections.

“I think more than anything else that we have somebody in the chair’s seat who will be effective and turnkey and unifying,” Clendenin said late Saturday morning. “So whether that’s me or someone else, I think that’s the most important element of this and I think that’s more of an informal discussion everybody will have.”

FDP vice chair Judy Mount has been selected to lead the party on an interim basis, with the state executive committee scheduled to meet Dec. 9 to elect a permanent successor.

With just three weeks before that election, there will be extremely limited time for any potential candidates to campaign for the role, which Clendenin says is appropriate under the circumstances. If he were to become a candidate, he says it would be nothing like his previous two races for the position.

“It was brutal, and decisive, and that’s not what the Democratic party needs today,” he says of those campaigns in 2013 and again last winter.

The January 2017 vote for the FDP took several bizarre turns, including the byzantine party machinations that allowed Bittel and Clendenin to even become eligible to run in the contest.

A longtime member of the Democratic National Committee, Clendenin was rebuked by his own Hillsborough County Democrats in part because of a controversial by-law change, and ultimately moved to Bradford County to become a Democratic Executive Committee member eligible to run for the party chairmanship. He contends that those bylaws would not be in play in a special election to replace Bittel, but that remains to be seen.

Clendenin was elected chair of the Democratic National Committee Southern Caucus last month, and says with so much at stake in 2018, “this is not a time to screw around.”

Before Bittel’s resignation, the FDP had been on a roll this fall, capturing the special Senate District 40 election with Annette Taddeo and the St. Petersburg mayor’s contest. But there are some in the party who are fine with his resignation.

“The party works for us, not the other way around,” says attorney general candidate Jeremy Ring. He says that under Bittel, the party apparatus showed “zero interest in my race.”

“We asked them for the simplest of things, and we couldn’t even get them to do an email swap with us,” Ring said Friday, shortly before Bittel officially stepped down.

“I think it s incumbent that they stay focused on Cabinet seats and state legislative seats, ” Ring adds. “Everything isn’t just about the top of the ticket.”

Democratic party strategist Steve Schale came out on Friday in support of Mount getting the job in 2018. Clendenin says he’s a fan.

“She’s been an activist as long as I can remember, and now as first vice chair she’s really immersed herself in a party leaderhip role and I think, she’s somebody who is an effective voice for the FDP,” he says, before adding that another candidate could emerge who’s not even being discussed in FDP circles this weekend.

“We need to be professional and have that type of leeaderhop where we can all come together, have a party that is unified and ready to hit the street running and capitalize on that momentum that we’ve experienced,” he says.


Lois Frankel endorses Debbie Mucarsel-Powell for Congress

Lois Frankel is backing Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in her bid to knock off GOP incumbent Carlos Curbelo in Florida’s 26th Congressional District in 2018.

“Debbie is a leader in her community, working to expand health care access to underserved communities and provide scholarships for first-generation college students,” said the Palm Beach County Democratic congresswoman in a statement. “She understands firsthand the challenges that our communities and our country face and has the know-how to be a part of the solution. I am proud to stand with Debbie in her campaign and look forward to serving with her in Congress.”

Murcarsel-Powell announced her candidacy for the seat in August, becoming the first Democrat to get into the CD 26 race that already had been selected by national Democrats as one of the most targeted seats in the nation to flip.

That’s because the district leans Democratic, despite the moderate Curbelo defeating then-Democratic incumbent Joe Garcia by 12 percentage points.

In her first two months on the trail, she raised $177,048.

Curbelo has more than $1.3 million cash-on-hand, as of the end of September.

“It is an honor to receive the support and endorsement of numerous leaders in our community who have instilled in us the ability to believe that together we can achieve great things,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “I am committed to live by those ideals and promise to provide FL-26 with a representative who will bring progress and opportunities for all.”

This is the 46-year-old Mucarsel Powell’s second bid for political office. In 2016, she lost to Republican Anitere Flores in the Florida Senate District 39 race.

Steven Machat and Steve Smith are also running in the Democratic primary for the seat, but Mucarsel-Powell is becoming the establishment favorite. She’s being backed by Emily’s List, as well as state lawmakers Oscar Braynon, Lori Berman, Nick Duran and Annette Taddeo, as well as a host of local officials, including Broward County Commissioner Nan Rich.

Latest on the legislative staffing merry-go-round

With a tip of the hat to LobbyTools, here are the latest movements – both on and off – of the legislative merry-go-round.

On: Aisha Bien-Aime is the new legislative assistant for Ocoee Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy.

On: Amelia Johnson Smith is district secretary for Melbourne Republican Sen. Debbie Mayfield.

On and off: Staz Guntek has replaced Joseph Fluriach as new district secretary for Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry.

On: Erika Grohoski is the new district secretary for Miami Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo.

On: Josie Tomkow is the new executive secretary for the Senate Majority Office.

On: James Befanis is the new district secretary for Indialantic Republican Rep. Thad Altman.

On: Amanda Daughtry is district secretary for Monticello Republican Rep. Halsey Beshears.

On and off: Zulema Delgado has stepped down as a legislative assistant for Miami Republican Rep. Michael Bileca. Maria Lombardo has moved from district secretary to legislative assistant.

On: Sarah Pariseau has become the new legislative assistant for Ocoee Democratic Rep. Kamia Brown.

On: Christian Harvey is the new district secretary for Neptune Beach Republican Rep. Cord Byrd.

Off: Letty Burgin is no longer district secretary for Eucheeanna Republican Rep. Brad Drake.

On: Kimberly Simon is the new district secretary for Tampa Republican Rep. James Grant.   

Off and on: Cody Rogers has replaced Erik Silveira as district secretary for Coconut Creek Democratic Rep. Kristin Jacobs.  

Off: Jervonte Edmonds is no longer executive secretary for Lantana Democratic Rep. Al Jacquet.

On: Grace Moseley is a new district secretary for St. Petersburg Democratic Rep. Wengay “Newt” Newton.

On: Nikolas Pascual is the legislative assistant for Miami Lakes Republican Rep. Jose Oliva.

On: Kathy Johnson is a legislative assistant and Samantha Surdin is district secretary for newly-elected Winter Garden Republican Rep. Robert ‘Bobby’ Olszewski.

On: Daniel Leon is the legislative assistant, and Milay Ferriol is the district secretary for Miami Republican Rep. Daniel Perez.

On and off: Priscilla Grannis is replacing Victoria Gagni as district secretary for Naples Republican Rep. Bob Rommel.

On and off: Jedidiah Cook is replacing Alexis Howard as district secretary for Miami Gardens Democrat Rep. Sharon Pritchett.

On and off: Priscilla Grannis is replacing Victoria Gagni as district secretary for Naples Republican Rep. Bob Rommel.

On: Erin Shields is legislative assistant for Boca Raton Democratic Rep. Emily Slosberg.

Tom Steyer to recruit immigrant candidates for 2018

Liberal philanthropist and potential political candidate Tom Steyer announced Wednesday the creation of a nationwide program to identify, train and recruit naturalized immigrants, DREAMERS and newly-arrived Puerto Ricans to run for political office in 2018.

Steyer’s NextGen America will team up with Latino Victory Fund on what is being called the American Dream Project. It will initially train 200 potential political candidates for Congress and statewide offices, ultimately recruiting 25 of those 200 to run for political office.

“We see immigration as a matter of public justice,” said Steyer, contrasting that attitude with the one that President Donald Trump has employed regarding immigrants. “Republicans want to tell us it’s about legality or borders, but for us, it’s about something far more basic. That we’re all American and human beings, deserving dignity and respect. Period.”

Noting that foreign-born Americans are 13 percent of the public but only one percent hold elected offices, Steyer said he is committing $250,000 to the American Dream Project.

There have been reports that there could be as many as 100,000 Puerto Ricans moving at least temporarily to Florida in the wake of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria.

Recently elected Miami-Dade state Sen. Annette Taddeo joined the conference call. A Colombian native, Taddeo said that a bevy of organizations, including the Latino Victory Fund, was crucial in her electoral success in the special election for the Senate District 40 seat last month.

“This support is vital for many candidates who, despite having qualities and experience to be a great leader, lack access to resources and support,” she said, lamenting how many potential leaders in immigrant communities don’t run for office because they don’t how or where to start.

“During my campaign, I met so many people who had not previously been engaged politically but actively supported me, because they saw themselves in my story,” Taddeo said. “Many of these immigrants are energized as never before, and we will need to act immediately to seize on that energy.”

Taddeo also applauded the fact that the American Dream Project will include Puerto Ricans in their outreach, saying with so many of them coming into Florida in particular, “we want to make sure that they have a voice in elected leadership.”

Steyer recently announced his goal to get Trump impeached. While many political analysts say that’s foolhardy with Republicans in control of Congress, the San Francisco-based environmentalist isn’t conceding anything. He announced earlier this week he’s collected more than a million signatures on his impeachment petition.

Race for Senate presidency gets underway, but at stately pace

Could a third woman serve as president of the Florida Senate?

That’s one of the intriguing questions at the core of behind-the-scenes maneuvering now fully underway within the Senate’s Republican caucus (currently at 24 members) as the race to succeed Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson has quietly begun.

Galvano was designated Tuesday as the next president of the Senate by a unanimous vote by his Republican colleagues. Simpson has locked up enough support to follow the Bradenton Republican. Galvano and Simpson’s successor will come from the class of lawmakers elected last November.

But, unlike in the Florida House, where future Speakers begin soliciting support before winning their first election, the upper chamber prefers to take its time and pick a leader after members have had a session (or two or three) to evaluate the chops — and collegiality — of those who seek to lead.

Despite this stately pace for deciding a Senate presidency, two members of the 2016 class are emerging as leading contenders to hold the gavel beginning in 2022.

The two front-runners are St. Augustine’s Travis Hutson and Tampa’s Dana Young, according to more than a dozen sources, including several members, who spoke to Florida Politics on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to appear favoring one senator over another.

Florida Politics brings a well-established record of exclusive, accurate reporting on legislative leadership races.

For example, Florida Politics was first to report about the conclusion of the race between current Senate President Joe Negron and one-time rival Jack Latvala, as well as the eventual outcome of the recently concluded contest for House Speaker beginning in 2022.

It was the (unseemly, some say) pace of the most recent House Speakership race that, in part, influenced the Senate Republican caucus’ consensus decision to take its own damn time before choosing another leader.

Another difference between the House and the Senate: it’s not a given Republicans will still hold a majority come 2022.

While most capital observers, even Democrats, concede that it would take no less than a political tsunami to end Republican hegemony in the House by 2022, it’s not impossible to envision Democrats winning the four seats needed to force a power-sharing scenario with Republicans.

This is especially true after Democrat Annette Taddeo defeated Republican Jose Felix Diaz in the September Senate District 40 special election.

However, until that change comes, the action rests within the Republican caucus.

Although Hutson and Young are the probably the leading contenders to win the support of colleagues, other state senators could be in the mix.

Beyond Hutson and Young, sources say Dennis Baxley and Greg Steube should be seen as dark horses. And just because senators would like to hold off selecting a leader, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some movement in the Hutson-versus-Young scrum.

Sources close to both Hutson and Young say an unofficial coalition of as many as five freshman senators are serving as a bulwark against any rush to choose a leader prematurely.

Names most often associated with this coalition of the, um, unwilling: Baxley, Doug Broxson, Kathleen Passidomo, Keith Perry, and Steube.

Then again, another handful of sources say Perry has already thrown his support to Hutson, joining Debbie Mayfield as key supporters.

Just the whisper that Perry has accelerated the race has led many of his colleagues to say “slow down” — and let the contest unfold at a pace more befitting the upper chamber.

Another factor at play: Unlike the House, senators are not as bound to class as their colleagues across the rotunda.

Whereas Paul Renner was elected Speaker-in-waiting via a vote of exclusively freshmen House Republicans, all members of the Senate in the chamber at the time of the designation vote will decide a Hutson versus Young contest. That vote won’t happen till 2020.

For six years, Young represented South Tampa and western Hillsborough County in the House, before graduating to the Senate to represent roughly the same geography. Before crossing the rotunda, Young rose to become House Republican Leader.

Young and Hutson are both former House members.

After winning a contested battle for HD 60 in 2010 against the late Stacy Frank, Democrats failed to put up a candidate to oppose Young in her 2012 and 2014 re-election bids, before recruiting attorney Bob Buesing to face her in the Senate District 18 race.

Young defeated Buesing — as well as independent candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove — in what was a bruising campaign.

Now chair of the Senate’s Health Policy Committee, Young is also vice-chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Pre-K-12 Education. Most recently, she filed a ban on fracking for the 2018 Legislative Session.

She’s a political scion: Her grandfather, Randolph Hodges, served in the Florida Senate from 1953-63, rising to Senate President in 1961-63. And her uncle, Gene Hodges, was in the House of Representatives from 1972-88.

Hutson, chair of the Regulated Industries Committee, was in the House from 2012-15 before being elected to the Senate in April 2015.

That was when John Thrasher quit the chamber to become Florida State University president. Hutson then took Thrasher’s seat.

The St. Augustine Republican, who last reported a $7.2 million net worth, works for his family’s business, The Hutson Companies. According to its website, the company developed “more than 40 communities, encompassing more than 20,000 home sites, throughout the northeast Florida and south Georgia region.”

‘Wicked hatred’: Jewish lawmakers condemn Richard Spencer

The Florida Legislative Jewish Caucus on Thursday called white nationalist Richard Spencer, set to speak at the University of Florida later today, a “a vile, racist, carnival barker.”

Spencer’s “traveling circus of ignorance-fueled hatred is inhabited by insecure clowns unable to come to terms with a changing world,” according to a statement. “His ideology is that of a cowardly, small man, based on discredited nonsense and abject fear of those different from himself.”

It added: “Nothing less than total condemnation of this bigotry will do, as the perils of fascism are well documented in our history. For that reason, it is incumbent upon those in a position of leadership to denounce all forms of white nationalism and any belief systems that rely upon racial or ethnic superiority as their basis for existence.

The statement was signed by Rep. Richard Stark, the caucus chair, and by Rep. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat; Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat; Rep. Ben Diamond, a St. Petersburg Democrat; Rep. Katie Edwards, a Plantation Democrat; Rep. Joseph Geller, an Aventura Democrat; Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat; Sen. Kevin Rader, a Delray Beach Democrat; Rep. Emily Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat; and Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Miami-Dade Democrat.

“While respect for our Constitution should always be of paramount concern, we do commend Gov. (Rick) Scott for his commitment to ensuring the safety of all those in Gainesville tonight,” the statement said.

“Those who seek to counter this wicked hatred deserve to know they will be free to express their views peacefully without fear of suffering violence at the hands of white supremacists like those who were attacked in Charlottesville.

“As Elie Weisel said, ‘The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.’ So let no one among us be indifferent.”

Joe Negron: ‘Nothing nefarious’ in Gary Farmer’s reassignment

State Sen. Gary Farmer was taken off the chamber’s Banking and Insurance Committee, but Senate President Joe Negron told Florida Politics there was “nothing nefarious” about the removal.

Capitol insiders buzzed that Senate leadership was looking to exact revenge on the trial bar because of its financial support of Annette Taddeo, the Democratic opponent of popular Republican Jose Felix Diaz, in a special election. Farmer, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, is  a trial lawyer.

Negron says that’s not the case.

Indeed, newly elected Sen. Taddeo made a “compelling” case that she should be added to the committee, Negron said.

Committee chair Anitere Flores, also the Senate President pro tempore, said B&I “is one of the top committees in the Senate.”

“Sen. Taddeo’s district has a history of being hard hit by hurricanes and other insurance issues in her community,” said Flores, a Miami-Dade Republican. “I understand she made a compelling case (but) when a new senator joins the Senate, some of the committee have to be shuffled.”

Annette Taddeo named to insurance, environment panels

With a swearing-in ceremony scheduled Tuesday, newly elected Sen. Annette Taddeo will serve on five Senate panels, including committees that play key roles in insurance and environmental issues.

Taddeo won a closely watched special election Sept. 26 to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles, a Miami Republican who resigned in April from the Senate District 40 seat.

Senate President Joe Negron has appointed Taddeo to serve on the Banking and Insurance Committee; the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee; the Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee; the Transportation Committee; and the General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, according to the Senate website.

Also this week, Taddeo opened a campaign account as a first step in running for a full term in 2018, according to the state Division of Elections website.

Florida Latinos down big time on Donald Trump, GOP, polling shows

With Florida’s Cuban population, the state’s Latino vote has generally skewed more conservative than other states with large groups of Hispanics.

In the Donald Trump era, new polling shows that’s no longer the case.

Taken two weeks ago, a Latino Victory-Latino Decisions poll of 369 Florida Latinos gives only 36 percent support to the president; 64 percent oppose his efforts in the first eight months of the Trump administration.

Polling also showed only 21 percent saying they “generally agree” with the GOP on most issues and are likely to vote Republican in the future. Another 35 percent felt that the Republican Party was so anti-Latino they will never support them in the future.

“I want to say that we expected Florida to be an outlier. Florida had been a Republican Latino stronghold for generations, but attitudes have shifted in the last eight months,” said Cristóbal J. Alex, president of the Latino Victory Project, during a conference call.

“Despite being a more conservative population, relative to other Latinos in the U.S., this poll finds that a clear majority of Latinos in Florida are upset and oppose Trump policies,” said pollster Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino Decisions.

Referring to Trump’s pardon of controversial former Phoenix, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his rescission of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program, Alex said the president “hasn’t missed an opportunity to demonstrate his disdain for Latinos,” which helped unite the country’s disparate Latino groups.

“The poll is significant because it’s proof that President Trump and the Republican Party are alienating Latinos of all backgrounds and all political stripes,” said Congressman Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat.

Soto cited Trump’s “terrible tweets” in the past week about Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. They had been “ricocheting and reverberating” across the state, he said.

The poll showed that only 20 percent of those surveyed believed Trump’s comments about the violence which occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August was strong enough, while 64 percent said they didn’t go far enough.

Soto said that Latino groups are now looking at a Trump attack one group as an attack on the entire demographic, particularly incendiary comments made during his campaign kickoff in summer 2015.

It was then Trump famously talked about Mexicans crossing the border: “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

“It’s going to have a big effect when it comes to the election in 2018,” Soto said, referring to Democrat Annette Taddeo‘s victory last week over state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in the hotly contested state Senate District 40 race in Miami-Dade County.

In her win, Taddeo became the first Latina-Democrat in the Legislature’s upper chamber.

The poll also shows 74 percent of Florida Latinos opposed Arpaio’s pardon; only 32 percent support a proposed border wall on the Mexican border. Taddeo says the pardon sent the message that, in Trump’s eyes, “looking Latino or speaking Spanish is reason enough to detain anyone, including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.”

However, a platform of opposing Trump in 2018 won’t be enough for Florida Democrats, Taddeo said.

“We need to give Latinos and all Americans a reason to vote Democrat,” she said, adding that part of her winning platform was talking about the quality of public schools, access to health care, affordable housing and retiring with dignity.

The bilingual survey of 369 Florida Latinos, taken between Sept. 12-19, carries a 5.1 percent margin of error. The poll did not list the breakdown of Republicans versus Democrats surveyed. Instead, full data was weighted to match the adult population in the 2015 census for age, gender, education, nativity, ancestry and voter registration.

Christian Ulvert: A victory that sets a blueprint for success

Over the last 12 years, I’ve worked intimately on various legislative campaigns throughout Florida. Democrats have seen our share of wins and losses and often, many attribute those to different factors.

This week’s victory by state Senator-elect Annette Taddeo has many asking — what propelled her, and Florida Democrats to victory?

It comes down to one overarching narrative: disciplined coordination, where egos were checked at the door. Yes, there were many strategies and operatives that came together to deploy varying tactics that secured a big win for us, but in the end, it was disciplined coordination that allowed the best ideas to be executed.

I have now seen this play out in three pivotal races for Democrats, all in Miami-Dade. First, in 2014, we defeated an incumbent Republican county commissioner in Miami-Dade and elected a strong champion in County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava. This race was a high mark for our side because the three ingredients to success were in full force: a strong candidate with the right message and coordinated resources.

The race nearly topped $1 million on the Levine Cava side and ally groups and a massive field operation was executed, propelling her to a 4-point victory, resulting in only the third time in county history where an incumbent commissioner was defeated.

Next up was Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez’s victory in 2016 where he defeated an incumbent state senator and was outspent by nearly $2 million. Again, at play for us was a strong candidate with the right message and coordinated resources being deployed.

This victory brought together a candidate and our team, with the Florida Democratic Party, Florida Democratic Senate Victory and Florida Strong (a coalition of progressive groups and labor organizations). The resources again were invested strategically and a flawless field effort was executed. On election night, Sen. Rodriguez’s 3-point victory was a bright spot in what was a tough night for many.

The biggest test came this past Tuesday night with the SD 40 special election and needless to say, Taddeo and the campaign team rose to the occasion. The stakes were high and the pressure was running deep; though again, the disciplined coordination rule was applied successfully.

Again, the Florida Democratic Party, Florida Democratic Senate Victory, Florida Strong, For Our Future and labor and community groups came together to implement a strong campaign.

Despite being outspent (a regular occurrence, unfortunately), our side notched a win.

In the SD 40 special election we saw the winning formula of a strong candidate with the right message and coordinated resources once again implemented, resulting in a 3.7-point win for Taddeo. The team delivered an effective message that focused on key local issues while tapping into the growing anxiety voters feel about the White House and President Trump’s divineness.

It’s important to note though that this race wasn’t about Trump — it was about a strong candidate who delivered a message directly to the voters and responded with force and passion to one of the worst attack pieces I’ve seen in the business.

Further, the coordinated team executed a truly massive, impressive and flawless field operation- the scale of which has never been used in past legislative campaigns.

In the end, elections are about winning and our side did so because we stayed focused and disciplined.

Many deserve the credit, starting with our candidate, Annette Taddeo, who remained steady and calm even when facing some of the worst attacks that caused her family to relive a painful time in their family history.

I was proud to see a true coordinated effort launched by Florida Democratic Party President Sally Boynton Brown, the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Political Director Josh Weierbach and Field Director Brian Lacey, For Our Future Florida Executive Director Ashley Walker, Florida Alliance Executive Director Carlos Odio, and a number of ally groups and community organizations because in the end, that made the biggest difference in why we celebrate a victory!


Christian Ulvert is president of EDGE Communications, a bilingual Florida-based Political & Public Affairs consulting firm and served as Taddeo’s political strategist.


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