Archive for November, 2008

McCainomist Likes Obamanomics Team
November 25, 2008

   Tony Villamil usually has the ear of Republican politicians.  He was Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs in the George H.W. Bush administration, a top advisor to Gov. Jeb Bush, and recently an advisor to John McCain.

   But Villamil has near-universal praise for the rollout of the Obama economic team, particularly the bigger names.  He calls Treasury nominee Tim Geithner a choice “soothing” to the money markets.  Villamil’s even more enthusiastic about Larry Summers, who he thinks will be the real force behind Obamanomics, citing Summers’ writings in support of economic stimulus in the Financial Times newspaper, over the last several months.

   Obama says economists “across the spectrum” agree with him that a massive, shock-therapy stimulus package is needed.  Conservative economist Villamil agrees, saying that even though heart-stopping deficits will result, “when your house is on fire, you must put it out”.

   Villamil’s best guess is that Obama will delay his campaign-promise repeal of Bush tax cuts for the wealthy ($250k/yr and above), perhaps letting those tax cuts lapse on schedule in 2011.  He also predicts Detroit automakers will eventually get some sort of rescue plan.


Dems’ Musical Chairs
November 25, 2008

   You’d think So Fla. Democrats would just sit and bask in the glow for a while.  They delivered Broward and Miami-Dade for Obama, big time, and saw Florida finally go blue.

   But no– in both Miami-Dade and Broward and probably at the state level, too, there’ll be a fight over party chair posts.

   In Broward, 12-year county party chairman Mitch Ceasar gets a challenge from former Congressman Peter Deutsch. The Herald reports that Deutsch supporters blame Ceasar for the failure of Scott Israel’s campaign for Sheriff.  The Broward vote is December 7th.

   Miami-Dade Democrats will also have some competition to fill the county chair. B.J. Chiszar, who’s been working for the state party, organizing Miami-Dade and Monroe, faces off against Eric Copeland, a Miami lawyer who ran for State Ag Commissioner a couple of years ago.  Miami-Dade Dems will vote December 3rd.

   The Miami-Dade post is being vacated by Bret Berlin, who says he’s still weighing a challenge to State Party Chair Karen Thurman.

   Could be a continuation of the traditional Democratic circular firing squad.  Or it could be that Democratic registration gains make these party posts more attractive.

   Republicans will have their own intra-party tussles– St. Rep. David Rivera vs. political consultant Carlos Curbelo in Miami-Dade.  And it certainly looks like Jim Greer will face a serious challenge as the GOP state chair.

Hillary Helps Manny?
November 21, 2008

In the big game of Cabinet dominoes underway in DC/Chi, the now-deemed-likely prospect that Hillary Clinton will be named Secretary of State may boost Manny Diaz’s chances of getting a Cabinet post.

Choosing Clinton means that Bill Richardson– an hispanic- won’t be tapped for State,increasing the pressure on Pres-Elect Obama to pick an Hispanic for another Cabinet slot.  Richardson still gets mention as a possible Interior Secy (or Amb to China?), and there are other nombres being floated for other Cabinet and top staff positions.

The Washington Post’s Al Kamen suggests HUD is likely to be headed by an Hispanic, with Diaz a possibility: “At least four Latino candidates are said to be under consideration to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development: Miami Mayor Manny Diaz;Adolfo Carrion Jr., a longtime New York pol, and Bronx borough president; Saul Ramirez Jr., a former deputy HUD secretary; and Nelson A. Diaz, who has been a judge and a HUD general counsel.”

Inaugural Hot Tickets
November 17, 2008

Local Congress-folk are awed and a little disturbed by the fervor of constituents seeking tickets to January 20th’s Presidential Inaugural.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says she’s never seen anything like it– a nearly immediate explosion of inquiries about how to obtain tickets to the swearing-in of America’s first President of color.  Ros-Lehtinen’s office reports well over a thousand ticket requests, the number “growing all the time”. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’ office reports 603 people asking for 2000 tickets, as of this morning.

Reps in largely African-American districts, perhaps not surprisingly, are seeing the highest demand.  Spokesmen for Kendrick Meek & Alcee Hastings report requests received soaring over 2000.  Hastings chief of staff, David Goldenberg, said he had three interns going through the day’s requests, as we spoke (he says the photo below shows one of three boxes overflowing with ticket requests).


The problem?  Each Congressional office is likely to receive only about 200 tickets to distribute, though no one seems to have an exact number.  Most offices say they have yet to decide how to allot the scarce tickets, though Wasserman-Schultz’ office thinks “probably a lottery” for requestors who reside in her district, while Ros-Lehtinen’s folks figure it’ll be “first-come, first served” .

The Republican Congresswoman told me she is setting aside some tickets for her now-retired Democratic colleague Carrie Meek.  They were friends in the FL Senate and in Congress.  I did point out that Carrie Meek could probably count on her son Kendrick to come up with tickets.  Ros-Lehtinen laughed, but said she wanted to make sure Carrie was taken care of.

Indeed, the tradition seems to be cross-aisle cooperation on this ticket thing.  Democrats apparently provided extra tickets to Republicans for George W’s inaugurations, but Republicans may be hard-pressed to return the favor this year, given the massive demand.

Indeed, Cong. Hastings, according to his staff, put out feelers to 80 of his Republican colleagues, asking if they might spare more tickets from their allotments.  The response so far– 2 tickets from a GOP committee colleague from Michigan.

Lots of Capitol Hill aides I talked to worry that the ticket frenzy is way overblown. Their major concern is that constituents desperate to “share in history” will get ripped off by people selling Inaugural tickets over the internet, and they argue that there are other, easier ways to enjoy the start of the Obama era in Washington.

The 240,000 tickets to be distributed by members of Congress will get you access to the actual swearing-in at the Capitol, but hundreds of thousands of others will watch the ceremony on giant TV screens along the Capitol Mall– no tickets or lengthy security lines required, possibly a better view.

Hundreds of thousands of others may opt to Tivo the swearing-in and instead get prime viewing spots for the Inaugural Parade, from the Capitol to the White House– again, no tickets required.

About those internet offers of hot Inaugural tickets– the system will be designed to thwart scalping.  The tickets themselves will only be distributed to Congressional offices a few days before the ceremony, and constituents who get the tickets will be required to come to pick up the tickets in person.  In addition, Congress is apparently passing a law making it a crime for any Capitol Hill staffer from making money selling a ticket.

“Miami Nice” Politico Steps Down
November 17, 2008

Mary Ellen Miller, who’s chaired Miami-Dade’s Republican party for 15 of the last 17 years, is not seeking re-election.  She wants to catch up on the rest of her life.

Mary Ellen is unusual in many ways, in political circles.  She’s not in love with being in the limelight.  I may check in with her more often than anyone else in the local GOP, but I can count the times I’ve put her on camera on one hand.  She’s much more likely to refer me to someone else, and even supply me a contact number for them.

She is completely accessible, though– amazing in this age of universal Blackberrys– the best way to find her is to dial her home phone (if she can’t pick up right away, she returns calls quickly). Mary Ellen is generous with her time and knowledge, and doesn’t demonize political opponents while arguing her party’s position.

Her longevity of service defies the usual rules in So Fla politics– an “Anglo” re-elected chair of a party that’s overwhelmingly and increasingly hispanic, in a town where “Vota por lo Nuestro” (“Vote for our own”) is a familiar slogan.

Two candidates have jumped into the race to succeed her– State Rep. David Rivera (Miami-Dade’s Rep to the GOP State Executive Committee) and political consultant Carlos Curbelo, fresh from success running the re-election bids of the Diaz-Balart brothers.

Where There’s Buzz…
November 12, 2008

   Miami media’s full of “buzz” about a possible Obama Administration job for Mayor Manny Diaz.  The New Times has blogged about a different potential post every day this week.  All the TV channels have mentioned the possibility.  And today, the Herald speculated about Mayor Manny’s DC prospects, quoting the Mayor as saying “It’s nice to be in the mix”.

   The problem with all this is, it appears based largely on “buzz” at City Hall.  Indeed, virtually every article I’ve read about Manny Diaz and the Obama Administration contains the word “buzz” (or City Hall being “abuzz”).  None of the lists of potential major appointees coming out of DC contains the Mayor’s name (AP & MSNBC update their list of appointment prospects daily– neither has listed Diaz).

   Diaz and his people could be trying to create a little buzz, of course.  Hizzoner is termed out of the Mayor’s job in less than a year.  A major appointive post in Washington would be a great place to park oneself while weighing a run for Congress/Senate, and the Obama folks will feel some pressure to appoint some Hispanics to major posts. 

   The Mayor, after announcing support of Hillary Clinton right before the January primary, did not come into the Obama fold quickly.  Indeed, he spoke at the Denver convention without having endorsed Obama (the Diaz camp argued that– as head of the US Conf. of Mayors– he was just trying maximize the group’s clout with both parties).  Still, once committed, Diaz proved to be an enthusiastic Obama advocate. 

   The buzz at Miami City Hall may not be the doing of Diaz or his minions.  One ex-Dinner Key aide suggests that Commissioners who want to be Mayor have an interest in talking up Diaz for a Washington appointment.  If he goes, the City Commission would name someone to fill out his term.  Both Tomas Regalado (an announced mayoral candidate for ’09) and Joe Sanchez (unannounced but interested, by most accounts) would love to have the chance to serve out Diaz’ term, and run next year a a sort-of incumbent.

   This ex-aide– who still follows city politics avidly– says another potential mayoral candidate is sniffing around.  That would be St. Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, who will be term-limited out as of 2010.

A Florida-Free White House/Cabinet?
November 10, 2008

NBC’s excellent political unit has put out a list of all the names getting mention (as divined by NBC reporters/producers and all the papers the political unit peruses) for the Obama Cabinet and other top jobs in the new administration.  Missing?  As far as I can see, there are no Floridians on the list (though Robert Rubin… top Obama advisor, ex-Treasury Secy. under Clinton… grew up on Miami Beach).

I noticed that another Miami TV station interviewed Miami Mayor Manny Diaz about a possible post in the Obama administration, citing a “lot of talk” that that might happen.  Diaz, termed out in a year, was a person I’d thought of immediately as a potential Obama pick, but whatever “talk” there’s been has gone below my radar and apparently is escaping the notice of lots of others.

The last couple of administrations, of course, did have Floridians in top jobs (Mel Martinez at HUD, Janet Reno an 8-year AG, Carol Browner heading EPA).  Could the Sunshine State go O for Obama?  Here’s that NBC list–

Agriculture: Vilsack, Leach, Tom Buis (Natl Farmers Union), Stenholm
Interior: Richardson, Inslee, Kitzhaber, Tony Knowles, Salazar
Commerce: Pritzker, Sebelius. Furman
Justice: Holder, Napolitano, Ogletree, Deval Patrick, Comey, Patrick Fitzgerald, Artur Davis
Defense: Gates, Danzig, Hagel, Nunn, Reed, Powell, John Hamre
Labor: Andy Stern, Gephardt, George Miller, Bonior
Education: Joel Klein, Darling-Hammond, Sebelius, Powell, Jim Hunt, Arne Duncan, Inez Tenenbaum
State: Kerry, Richardson, Lugar, Hagel, Holbrooke, Dodd
Energy: Sebelius, Philip Sharp, Rendell, Schwarzenegger, Gore, Bingaman
Transportation: Rendell, James Garvey, Mortimer Downey, Blumenauer, Oberstar
HHS: Daschle, Dean, Eric Whitaker
Treasury: Summers, Geithner, Volcker, Rubin, Corzine, Buffett, Bloomberg, Laura Tyson, Dimon
Homeland Security: Tim Roemer, Ray Kelly, James Lee Witt, Tom Kean Sr., Jane Harman
Veterans Affairs: Cleland, Duckworth
HUD: Clyburn, Valerie Jarrett

OMB: Spratt, Sperling, Furman
EPA: Ian Bowles, RFK Jr, Sebelius, McGinty,

FDA: Nissen; Sharfstein,
NSA: Jim Steinberg, Dennis Ross, Greg Craig, Susan Rice, Tony Lake
FEMA: James Lee Witt

Other mentions for various White House staff posts: David Wilhelm, John Rogers, Bill Daley, Cass Sunstein
Biden chief of staff: Ron Klain

A Near-Perfect Presidential Prognostication
November 7, 2008

   Seriously– 11 months ago, who did you think would be President?  Rich Bard had Obama over McCain, back in December ’07.

   Remember, that was when Obama was one of nine Democrats in the running. He had the gift of oration and the backing of hordes of young volunteers, but most forecasters saw him as this year’s Howard Dean, not JFK.

   And John McCain was recovering from his campaign’s fall flameout.  Giuliani and Romney and even Huckabee and Thompson looked at least as strong as McCain, as Christmas approached.

   That was when my friend Frank Davies, a former Miami Herald reporter now covering Washington for the San Jose Mercury-News, renewed the quadrennial tradition he established back in 1976.  He e-mailed his politico-wonk friends around the country, asking for predictions– Who’d be the Presidential nominees? The VP picks?  Who’d win, and by what margin?  How would the House and Senate look after the voting stopped?

   53 people registered their guesses.  Only Rich Bard chose Obama over McCain.  Only ten people picked Obama.  Only one other person predicted an Obama-vs.-McCain contest, but she had McCain the winner.

   “A lot of luck involved, obviously” says Rich Bard now, but he’s hardly a monkey with a dart board.  Bard edits the Herald’s political web site, and holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in Political Science.

   He thought Hillary Clinton’s past baggage would weigh her down, and figured McCain’s ability to attract independent & Democratic votes would appeal to Republican voters. 

   Bard even got the Biden VP pick right, figuring Obama would want to shore up his sparse resume on foreign affairs.  But Sarah Palin wasn’t on his radar– he had another Governor whose name began with “Pa-“– Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty– as the GOP VP candidate. 

    So– I salute the Bard, and offer a humbling postscript.  My own forecast in the Frank Davies Forecasting Contest… Mitt Romney defeating Hillary Clinton (at least I had Joe Biden as her VP choice).

Hey Miami-Dade! How ’bout another election?
November 5, 2008

   Lost in last night’s marquee results was the fact that Miami-Dade will soon have to mount a whole ‘nother countywide election.  It’ll be a runoff for the newly-created property appraiser’s office.

   Former State Senator and County Commissioner Gwen Margolis led yesterday’s balloting.  But she got only 42% of the vote in a four-person race, and will face political newcomer Pedro Garcia in a runoff.

   When?  We don’t know yet.  County Commissioners have to set a date before December 31st.  Elections Supervisor Lester Sola is recommending December 2nd.  I bet Sola and the commissioners were secretly hoping someone would win this thing outright– a countywide special election will cost $3-4 million.

   Taxpayers approved making the appraiser’s job elective, hoping it’d keep appraisals– and therefore taxes– down.  But it looks like taxpayers will take a hefty hit to fill the job.

Another Tacky Attack
November 3, 2008

  A new nominee for sleaziest TV ad of this election cycle– the piece of political butchery currently airing in the Broward Sheriff’s race.  It compliments Democrat Scott Israel for being an upstanding guy, “vetted by the FBI”.  It accuses current Sheriff Al Lamberti of taking campaign cash from a drug dealer and having “Bush hatchetmen” on his side.

   This hatchet job is brought to us by “The Common Sense Coalition”, an ECO (Election Communications Organzation) that boasts a war chest of some $350,000.  

  This kind of poison-pen advertising by innocuous-sounding front groups turns my stomach.  Such groups are allowed to spew venom without accountability.  It’s their First Amendment right, and I’m a big First Amendment fan.  But whenever I see one of those ads, I go right to the Division of Elections web site and try to pin down who’s behind it.  (In June, I had some fun tracking down the “People for a Better Florida Fund”, a posting that remains this blog’s most-read entry).

  So– who’s behind the “Common Sense Coalition”?  If you follow the money, the biggest donor is Stuart Rosenfeldt, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer who gave $90,000.  Rosenfeldt’s firm employed former Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne after Jenne was forced from office by scandal.  One Democrat who now supports Lamberti says that makes sense: “Jenne hates Lamberti”, he told me.  “He thinks Lamberti cooperated with the Feds, to take him out.”

  Judith Stern, Jenne’s former political consultant now handling Israel’s campaign, has given $6000 to the “Common Sense Coalition”.

   The second-biggest donor to the CSC, to the tune of $70,000, is something called SJM Consulting of Hollywood.  State records list two managing members of that corporation– David Boden, a lawyer with– surprise!– Rosenfeldt’s law firm.  The other SJM partner– BAL Investments.  Miami lawyer Richard Krinzman is that firm’s only listed partner.

   More than $40,000 comes from a Universal Bond and Universal Surety, a pair of Miami bail-bond firms owned by Wayne Collins– according to press reports, a twice-convicted felon.

  And about $42,000 was donated by another benign-sounding ECO, Democrats for Truth.  Donors for D’s for T include big sugar companies, the health-care giant HCA, public employees’ unions (including the PBA! The PBA unit at BSO endorsed Lamberti.  Other PBA money’s apparently being funneled into attack ads against him).  The full list of donors to the Democrats for Truth is here:

   It’s a complicated web that I don’t pretend to have put together (for instance– flamboyant Republican political consultant Roger Stone works out of Rosenfeldt’s law firm, and he’s reportedly one of the “Bush hatchetmen” the ad says are helping Lamberti, though Stone denies being on the Lamberti team).

  But if I lived in Broward (and I don’t), this kind of ad might well sway me… in exactly the opposite direction the ad aims for.  The fact that Scott Israel accepts this kind of “ECO” help does not reassure me about his ethical standards.