Delegation for 8.21.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

US Capitol AP 10.11.17

Dems win House, Florida flips one seat, says Nate Silver/538

With one week remaining before Florida’s primary election, some races for the delegation’s 27 seats in the House are beginning to take shape.

But a handful of interesting primaries remain.

Republicans have District 6, 15 and 17, where voters will pick their party’s nominee to replace retiring Reps. Ron DeSantisDennis Ross, and Tom Rooney, respectively. Rep. Al Lawson and Nancy Soderberg seem to be pulling away in Districts 5 and 6, but Democrats have at least two races to watch.

One is in Florida’s 9th Congressional District between Rep. Darren Soto and former Rep. Alan Grayson, while the other is the CD 27 race in Miami (see below).

Darren Soto, Alan Grayson make CD 9 one of the more interesting races in 2018.

Florida Democrats hope to help their party’s effort to gain a majority in the House. Pundit Nate Silver and his 538 organization give Democrats strong odds to accomplish their goal, but Florida will only contribute slightly to the effort.

Silver gives the Democrats a 75 percent chance of regaining the House by posting a net gain of 35 seats on election night. That would provide a total of 230 seats to 205 for the GOP.

In Florida, 538 predicts the only seat to flip will be District 27, giving Democrats a 97 percent chance of winning. Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo is given a 62 percent chance of holding his seat against the challenge of Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

Other projections include a 62 percent chance of the Republicans holding CD 6, a 72 percent chance of keeping District 15 and gives Democrats basically no chance to win in CD 17. GOP incumbent Brian Mast has a 92 percent chance to hold his CD 18 seat, while CD 25 incumbent Republican Mario Diaz-Balart is given a 72 percent chance.

Skeptics remember 538 famously predicting in mid-October that Hillary Clinton had more than a 90 percent chance of defeating Donald Trump. By Election Day, Trump had only a 29 percent chance.

One of the components of their model, both then and now, is polls, which favored Clinton by 3.5 percent. People forget that much of the polling was not that far off as Clinton wound up winning the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.

Trump supporters and some Republican pundits are now beginning to scoff at the notion of a “blue wave.” Trump has gone as far as to predict a “red wave.”

Silver admits circumstances could change to the point of a blue wave turning into a tsunami, or Republicans managing to hold on to their majority in both the House and Senate. He points to five factors that should lead to Democrats winning the popular vote by 7 to 8 percent, which would be enough to flip the House.

The current Real Clear Politics average of polls show Democrats with a 6.8 percent advantage in the generic ballot. As an example of the ebb and flow of campaigns, that average had dipped to less than four points one week ago.

Whether that ebb and flow makes it to Florida remains to be seen.


 Nelson, Rubio call for Lake Okeechobee reservoir vote

With the algae continuing to foul the landscape in South Florida, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio are urging Senate leaders for a vote to approve the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The bill contains a multitude of water projects, but the issue of greatest interest is a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee that looks to reduce discharges of highly polluted water to the Treasure Coast and Southwest Florida.

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson team up to call for a vote on Lake O. (Photo: UPI)

The Senators urged action in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. With no immediate end in sight to the algal bloom problem, steps need to be taken to prevent future occurrence.

“The EAA [Everglades Agricultural Area] Storage Reservoir is a critical piece of the puzzle for ending Lake Okeechobee discharges and the harmful algal blooms they help fuel,” they wrote. “We urge you to bring the WRDA bill to the Senate floor as soon as possible so that we can advance this key project.”

According to South Florida Management District (SFWMD) engineers, the reservoir will help reduce the discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers by 63 percent and send more than 120 billion gallons of clean water south to the Everglades each year.

Nelson went to the Senate floor urging quick action.

“The reservoir is just one piece, but it’s one that absolutely cannot wait,” Nelson said. “And if we don’t act soon, I’m afraid there won’t be much of an environment in South Florida left to save.”

The House approved its own version of the bill in June, but it has not moved forward in the Senate since.

Nelson claims vindication on hacking claim

A recent comment at a campaign rally is still the subject of back and forth between Nelson and Scott. When Nelson claimed Russians had already infiltrated some local election system in Florida, Scott and other Republicans demanded proof.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner and Paul Lux, President of the Florida State Association of Elections Supervisors, wrote to Nelson asking him to be specific.

Florida elections officials demand details of Bill Nelson’s Russian hacking claims. (Image via Getty)

“We are aware of the threat and the need to stay vigilant, but if you have specific information on a confirmed intrusion of any of Florida’s voting systems or databases at the state or county level, we urgently need you to disclose that information to us so we can take action,” they wrote.

At a campaign stop in St. Augustine, Scott accused Nelson of either making up the alleged intrusion, or releasing classified information. “One of those two things have happened,” he said.

On the specific question of whether there is an ongoing breach of Florida voting systems, The Washington Post Fact Checker gave Nelson’s claim “Four Pinocchios,” which is classified as a “whopper” by their grading system.

Nelson is claiming vindication, pointing to a recent report from NBC News.

The report said “three people familiar with the intelligence tell NBC News that there is a classified basis for Nelson’s assertion, which he made at a public event after being given information from the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The extent and seriousness of the threat remains unclear, shrouded for reasons of national security.”

Nelson tweeted the story crediting NBC with saying “Bill Nelson wasn’t making things up when he said Russians hacked Florida election systems.”

Dems last, best hope of stopping Kavanaugh?

Perhaps the Democrats’ best opportunity to stop the confirmation of appeals court judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court is by suing the National Archives. After the keeper of the nation’s official documents refused a request by California Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein to turn over “perhaps three million pages of documents,” Democrats are threatening to go to court to get them.

In rejecting Feinstein’s request, Archivist David Ferreiro said he could only respond to requests from a committee chair. Feinstein is the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee and chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, will receive about one million pages.

Suing the National Archives may be Democrats’ last, best hope to stop the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.

Democrats want all of the records from Kavanaugh that cover his time while serving as the White House staff secretary under President George W. Bush. Grassley has asked for records covering the nominee’s time as a White House lawyer.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would be meeting with Kavanaugh on Tuesday and expects him to call for the release of the documents.

“He can’t duck it. … He should have said already that he wants them released if he’s an open, fair, wonderful man, Supreme Court justice that he’s trying to portray himself to be,” Schumer said.

If Kavanaugh does not publicly call for the release of the documents, the Democrats’ best option appears to be going to court and convincing a judge to order their production before a hearing could begin. Such a move would likely push any confirmation vote beyond the November elections.

Grassley has scheduled a confirmation hearing for early September. Should a judge take such a dramatic step in proceedings involving another branch of government, a new issue would be ripe for cable news.

Nelson has not taken a public position on Kavanaugh’s nomination but is expected to vote against it. He indicated a meeting with the nominee will not take place until after confirmation hearings.

Rubio is solidly behind confirming Kavanaugh. Neither of Florida’s Senators are members of the Judiciary Committee.

Zombie campaigns continue

Former members of Congress who continue to spend leftover campaign funds long after leaving office will have a while longer to do so. Last week, the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) announced they would not begin to go after those former officials until sometime in 2019.

The agency had previously announced in April they would begin cracking down on those former officials who use campaign funds to pay salaries to spouses, rent office space, or other non-campaign-related expenses. The FEC pledged to act after an investigation by Tampa Bay Times and 10 News/WTSP called “Zombie Campaigns.”

Former Rep. Cliff Stearns, and the campaign that never dies.

An FEC spokeswoman said the 2019 date was the target all along, claiming the original date was a mistake. Watchdogs aren’t buying it.

“I don’t see any reason why the FEC needs to wait another six months to begin doing what it should have been doing all along,” said Adav Noti, senior director of the Campaign Legal Center and a former FEC attorney.

Among those cited in the investigation was former Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns, who is being called out for spending campaign funds on non-related items even after the FEC’s April announcement. Stearns lost his seat to current Rep. Ted Yoho in a 2012 GOP primary.

Two delegation members are working together on a bill that would take away the temptation. Palm Harbor Republican Gus Bilirakis and Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor introduced legislation requiring outgoing lawmakers to close their campaign accounts within two years. The bill has stalled on Capitol Hill.

Lawson feels victory is in sight

Things have been going Lawson’s way recently. The first-term Democratic Congressman from Tallahassee has been in a spirited primary with former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, but Lawson seems to be gaining the upper hand.

Lawson’s fundraising had been average, at best, but has recently gained momentum. The latest FEC reports showed his combined total exceeding $500,000 and still has more than $130,000 on hand.

Is victory at hand for Al Lawson?

Brown has raised just shy of $400,000 and has $84,000 left.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi recently endorsed Lawson during a campaign event in Brown’s backyard in Jacksonville. The local newspaper, the Florida Times-Union, also endorsed Lawson, as did 37 members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Brown is pointing the endorsement from 30 prominent members of the local clergy, who joined him in the biannual voter turnout effort known as Souls to the Polls.

In the only public poll released during the campaign, Lawson held a 22-point lead.

CD 9 candidates debate ICE at ‘Political Salsa’

Last week, Democratic Rep. Darren Soto and his primary opponent, former Rep. Alan Grayson were on the same stage. Unlike their previous encounter, this one was tame even when talking about one of the most polarizing government agencies in the country.

Speaking at the Political Salsa Hobnob, Grayson, Sotoand Republican Wayne Liebnitzky were asked their views on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). Each had a different thought on the future of the agency.

Alan Grayson, Darren Soto, Wayne Liebnitzky and other candidates spread on ICE in ‘Political Salsa’ CD 9 debate.

“I believe the solution is to reform ICE,” said Soto. “The reason that ICE is the way it is that there aren’t laws that are preventing them from doing the things that they do. That’s why we need a Democratic majority in back in Congress, to make family separation illegal, to make zero-tolerance illegal.”

Grayson is ready to start over.

“ICE deserves to abolished,” Grayson said. “ICE has become what amounts to an agency of viciousness. We should not have federal agents on the federal payroll, paid by the taxpayers, abusing and brutalizing people because they don’t happen to be Americans. That has to change.”

Liebnitzky said ICE is only following the law. They are “doing what they are told to do by Congress,” he said.

During the relatively mild debate, Liebnitzky seemingly tried to goad them into attacking each other, but they refrained from some of the attacks that dominated previous forums.

Political Salsa was sponsored by the Suarez Group of Companies and the Puerto Rico Bar Association of Florida.

Hastings ‘joke’ earns spotlight

Veteran Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings has nothing to worry about during next week’s primary or during the fall. He has opponents in both races, but neither will generate any headlines.

Instead, it is remarks made Sunday that caught the attention of the nation. During remarks made to a gathering of Broward County Democratic clubs billed as “Stronger Together,” Hastings made a joke that a “crisis” constituted Trump falling overboard in the Potomac River, while a “catastrophe” would take place “if anybody saves his ass.”

Alcee Hastings’ Donald Trump joke falls flat.

It was one of a number of jabs Hastings threw at the president. Hastings, the co-chairman of the Florida delegation served as the event’s emcee and took the opportunity to question the president’s mental capacity.

“There is no question that something is tragically wrong with the president of the United States in his mind,” Hastings said.

The national coverage of the controversy will open the door for the media, Trump supporters and other Republicans to remind cable news viewers that Hastings paid more than $200,000 in taxpayer funds to settle accusations of harassment. Roll Call became one of the first on Monday.

Ros-Lehtinen, Frankel condemn arrest of Saudi Arabia women’s rights activists

Two South Florida delegation members are calling on the Trump Administration to confront Saudi Arabia over recent controversial arrests. West Palm Beach Democrat Lois Frankel and Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging him to call for the immediate release of at least a dozen women’s rights activists detained by the Saudi government.

Lois Frankel and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen speak out over the arrest of Saudi Arabian women’s activists.

“Promoting human rights and democracy has long been a bedrock of U.S. foreign policy, including advancing the rights and empowerment of women and girls,” they wrote. “As such, we urge you to press Saudi Arabia to release these activists, strongly affirm the United States’ commitment to gender equality and emphasize the need for Saudi Arabia to cease its ongoing repression of human rights defenders.”

Frankel, Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues and Ros-Lehtinen, Chair of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, were joined in the letter by 12 others from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The arrests appear to be a step back for the kingdom following highly-publicized moves to allow women basic rights including driving a car.

“These brave champions should not be targeted and punished for advocating for their rights and empowering women and girls,” said Frankel. “The growing arrests are deeply concerning. I urge the State Department to press Saudi Arabian authorities to end this crackdown and immediately release the imprisoned human rights defenders.”

Ros-Lehtinen called out the apparent about-face by Saudi leaders.

“These arrests contradict the Crown Prince’s stated acknowledgment of women’s equality and his desire to improve his country’s human rights record and undermine the limited progress that has already been made,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “The United States must press Saudi Arabia’s leaders to release these women and make human rights a priority in our bilateral relations.”

Also among those signing the letter was Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton.

Richardson touts fundraising, key endorsement

Former University of Miami President Donna Shalala has been the front-runner for the Democratic nomination to succeed the retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. Shalala, who served as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Clinton Administration has led in the polls and held a fundraising advantage over several opponents.

Democratic Rep. David Richardson is claiming momentum as the campaign heads into the week. Recent fundraising reports show Richardson raised more than $364,000 between July 1 and August 8, while Shalala brought in $135,000.

David Richardson is touting key endorsement in CD 27 race.

Richardson has now brought in $2.2 million, the most among the five Democrats seeking the seat. Shalala holds the advantage of having $723,000 cash on hand compared to Richardson’s $566,000.

A third Democrat, Matt Haggman, still has $515,000 remaining.

Richardson is also touting the endorsement of Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin. Pocan is the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who has also endorsed Richardson, and authored a bill to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

“We need a true progressive like David Richardson in Congress to drive the debate forward on the issues we care about,” Pocan said. “I am proud that David stands with our Caucus in the fight to abolish ICE and pass Medicare-for-all.”

Whoever wins next week’s Democratic primary is favored to capture the seat in November. Republicans will pick among 7 candidates.

A poll taken for the Richardson campaign two weeks ago showed him trailing Shalala by 12 points.

On this day in the headlines

August 21, 1974 — President Gerald Ford nominated Nelson A. Rockefeller to be his vice president, commending him to a receptive Congress as “a good partner for me … for our country and for the world.” Rockefeller, a former governor of New York and twice a campaigner for the Republican presidential nomination, declared he was deeply honored and eager to do Ford’s bidding while “serving all the great people of this country.”

Florida Republicans had mixed feelings. Rep. Skip Bafalis of Ft. Myers said he was “disappointed, period” with the choice. Rockefeller “was not one of my choices,” said Rep. Lou Frey of Winter Park. On the other hand, Rep. Bill Young of St. Petersburg said he joined with “all Americans in wishing vice president-designate Rockefeller well.”

August 21, 2012 — Republican officials on Monday announced Gov. Rick Scott will address the Republican National Convention during prime-time Monday, capping a remarkable reversal in Scott’s relationship with the national party and presumptive nominee Mitt Romney. Tampa is hosting the convention for the first time.

Until two weeks ago, it appeared Romney’s nominating party might take place without Scott, whose popularity in polls has ranked at or near the bottom of U.S. governors since he took office last year. Scott wasn’t there when Romney made dozens of appearances in Florida during his march to secure the nomination.

Murphy introduces Chief Morale Officer

Roll Call’s video feature “Office Space” recently made a visit to the DC office of Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy. During the two-minute video tour, Murphy showed viewers, among other things, a picture of the USS Lynde McCormick, the Navy ship that helped rescue Murphy and her Vietnamese family escaping communist Vietnam.

Stephanie Murphy and her ‘chief morale officer.’

She proudly showed the “future members office,” an enclosure designed for young people, which currently has the names of her two children on the door. There was also a prominently placed poster called “Who Run the Word?” featuring famous women who displayed “girl power” and made an impact on the world.

But the video’s co-star along with Murphy was Carmela, whom Murphy describes as the “Chief Morale Officer.”

“She is a very well-behaved Golden Doodle,” Murphy said. “She greets constituents and she gives my staff a pick-me-up when they might be having a tough day.” Murphy said.

Staff Reports

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