Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Annette Taddeo’s official launch

Her challenge was launched in South Miami at Dante B. Fascell Park, which carries the name of an honored Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives. We wish her the best of luck! She is the future of Congressional District 18!

Here’s a link to the Channel 10 video of the event, held Tuesday morning.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Garcia the bulldozer

The first smashing political cartoon of this season has shown up -- in el Nuevo Herald. It shows Joe Garcia driving a steamroller on the trail of a nervously sweating Mario Diaz-Balart. I haven't found a link to make it appear here, but you can see it here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Economist takes note of our three Congressional races

It took Castro’s resignation, but the august British weekly The Economist has taken approving note of our three congressional challengers here in South Florida. We figured we could get national attention in the United States with three strong candidates, but it’s heartening to receive attention from the European press when the election is still eight months away.

Here's what they said about us:
Three districts in south Florida have long been the dominion of hardline Cuban-American Republicans. For the first time since 1992, the Democrats are mounting a strong challenge in the persons of Raúl Martínez, a feisty former mayor of Hialeah, and Joe García, a former spokesman for the Cuban-American National Foundation. They support the embargo but are campaigning against the travel crackdown and stressing non-Cuban issues. (A third Democrat, Annette Taddeo, a Colombian-American businesswomen, has also entered the race, but is a political unknown.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On March 10 elect one of the 3 B's

This post originally declared the election would be held on Feb. 27, but it has been set back to March 10.

Mark your calendars, please. We will elect a new chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party next Wednesday to replace Joe Garcia, who resigned to run for Congress.

The candidates, in alphabetical order, are:

--Bret Berlin, state committeeman

--Daisy Black, former mayor of the Village of El Portal

--Kevin Burns, mayor of North Miami.

Others may declare their candidacy up to the election meeting. The winner will complete the last part of the four-year term that Joe Garcia took on a year ago.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Monday March 10 -- the regular monthly meeting -- in the usual place, the American Legion just east of Biscayne Boulevard on 64th Street.

Candidates may feel free to post their platforms in the comments section.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Castro resigns -- early coverage not satisfactory

Fidel Castro resigns, and the biased and ill-informed stuff flows. Not everything, to be sure. And this one blogger can only look at so much. But a fair amount of early media coverage in South Florida seems to be excessively Republican, excessively defeatist when it comes to Cuba.

UPDATE: This also is posted on DailyKos, where one of the commenters made known another post on DailyKos, a short while earlier, which was from someone in Cuba, and very good it is. The link.

Most surprising to me was the number of Republicans in South Florida who seemed to think nothing had happened. Main spreader of this line was U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), who stood in Little Havana and told NBC Channel 6 at midday that all the Cubans were doing was changing titles, and that as long as Fidel was alive he was in power. “He can call himself the queen of England. He’s still in power.”

Well, yes, wise to be cautious, but Castro says he’s too sick to continue and he won’t run for office.

I prefer the thoughts of the challenger for District 25’s seat in the U.S. House, Joe Garcia, as much a Cuban American as the incumbent.

"We are witnessing the beginning of the end of one of the most oppressive regimes in history,” Garcia said in a statement. “Despite the symbolism of this morning's events, the world community should remain cautiously optimistic and accept nothing less than the absolute freedom of the Cuban people. The transfer of power between brothers is not change, it is nepotism. The Bush administration should act immediately with an effective foreign policy that leads to real change in Cuba, not just empty rhetoric. To help advance democracy we need to allow for the reunification of Cuban families and the direct sending of remittances to the island's brave dissidents. It's time to break from the status quo."

I looked in vain to find a comment like Garcia’s in the Miami Herald’s supposedly exhaustive wrapup of local reaction to the Castro news. The main story online at midday Tuesday had three bylines and 12 other reporters contributing, but no coverage of the Democrats challenging the three incumbent Republicans in the U.S. House. Joe Garcia had been on the Air America station commenting already at 7:30 a.m., and the statement above went to media outlets before 10:30 a.m.

Rather than the Democrats’ moderate plea to break from the status quo, the local media relied more on keep the same line. Mario Diaz-Balart, his brother Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL-21) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18) are the main proponents in Congress of the Bushite hard line – some call it cruel – that bars most Cuban family visits and sending remittances to Cuba. This is exactly what the Democratic challengers as a team are proposing should be changed: to permit family visits and the sending of remittances.

I should declare an interest here as a member of Joe Garcia’s media team as well as volunteer communications director and blogger for the Miami-Dade Democratic Party. But I still think it’s pretty clear that much of the media in South Florida had a hard time finding anyone to buck the official hard line on Castro.

The Miami Herald’s Naked Politics blog did run a few paragraphs of the Democrats’ plea for more family visits and remittances, but more space on that blog went to U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s odd comment:

"It matters nothing at all whether Fidel, Raul or any other thug is named head of anything in Cuba," she said, in part. "What the people want is freedom to express their dissent from the oppressive regime. The community machinery is enslaving them so it does not matter who the thug of the moment will be.”

She rambled on demanding indictments against the Cubans for shooting down Cuban American fliers 12 years ago.

Again from Naked Politics: “In Tallahassee, House Speaker Marco Rubio, the first Cuban-American to be elected Florida House Speaker, compared Castro to a "crazy uncle" and brushed off the news that he won't seek re-election as nothing but "40-plus years of smoke and mirrors.”

That’s another Republican saying nothing had happened. It spilled over onto CNN, where Jill Dougherty strode around in Little Havana saying on camera that few Democratic Party figures were willing to suggest changes in U.S. policy.

But Jill, what about the three Democrats running for Congress from Miami? What about Sen. Chris Dodd and others in Congress who say the whole Cuba embargo should end?

Early in the afternoon the Florida Democratic Party arranged a conference call for reporters with the chance to question Joe Garcia and his two fellow challengers for Congress, Annette Taddeo (District 18) and Raul Martinez (District 21), along with Luis Garcia, a Cuban American from Miami Beach in the Florida House of Representatives.

We can hope that from this some wider coverage will result – not so monolitihic, please.

During the conference call one reporter asked about the overall embargo – should it be lifted? Joe Garcia responded by saying the embargo was not very strong, since the United States had sold $435 million dollars worth of food to Cuba in the past year. “But it shows we stand against the brutal regime,’ he said, adding that it would be “too big a bite at once” to lift the embargo without “first steps” and signs of improved conditions in Cuba.

As always I’m too hopeful in expecting fair and broad coverage, I guess. One phrase stands out in my memory, from a Latina who called in to Nicole Sandler’s early-morning show on the Air America station, WINZ. She said she had been leery of speaking with her Cuba-born mother about the Castro announcement “because she’s so emotional about it.”

To be kept in mind: Emotional – not rational.

Joe Garcia on Castro

Thank you, Joe, for talking about breaking from the status quo.

Readers, here's what Joe Garcia said in a statement this morning after the resignation of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro:

We are witnessing the beginning of the end of one of the most oppressive regimes in history. Despite the symbolism of this morning's events, the world community should remain cautiously optimistic and accept nothing less than the absolute freedom of the Cuban people. The transfer of power between brothers is not change, it is nepotism. The Bush administration should act immediately with an effective foreign policy that leads to real change in Cuba, not just empty rhetoric. To help advance democracy we need to allow for the reunification of Cuban families and the direct sending of remittances to the island's brave dissidents. It's time to break from the status quo.

UPDATE: And here's a link to Joe's comments on the Nicole Sandler show on WINZ Am940 this morning, with a lot of solid background on Cuba. This is a link to the entire second hour of the program; drag the marker to the middle of the track to pick up Joe at the half-hour.

One more point: Before Joe comes on, Nicole talks with a woman whose mother came from Cuba, and she says one of those things that can fly over the heads of those of us who aren't Cuban: She can't talk to her mother about Cuba because she's so emotional about it.

UPDATE II: Well, I'd say Joe beats Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist in the wisdom and common sense of his statement, compared with theirs. I found this over on The Buzz where Rubio thinks it's a joke and Crist retreats into vague pieties.

The Miami Herald reports today that Rubio doesn't know what he'll do after this year when he has to leave the State House of Representatives. Maybe he could go to school and study common sense.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Once again, early voting for Joe Garcia

It's sillier than ever, but still ... Now it's Diario Las Americas that has an online straw poll between Joe Garcia and Mario Diaz-Balart. I understand it started during the weekend, and as of Monday morning Joe was ahead 62%-38%.

Check it out at The poll is down on the left side, under Amor al ARTE.

Friday, February 15, 2008

FL-18: There will be a fight: Taddeo vs Ros-Lehtinen

Lightweight? No, not Annette Taddeo. Just ask her.

There’s a cleverly worded item on The Hill that wraps up our South Florida Democratic challenge to incumbent Republicans in the U.S. House as a “fight-night boxing card.” According to this, Raul Martinez is the heavyweight, Joe Garcia is the middleweight, and Annette Taddeo is the lightweight.

She spoke briefly about this at the super fundraiser we had Wednesday night in South Miami, and it was clear she didn’t enjoy being called a lightweight. Joe Garcia got a laugh by saying he’d always wished to be a lightweight, but Annette Taddeo left no doubt that she was happy to be considered a fighter – just not “lightweight” in terms of impact.

Today I went to take a new look at her campaign website,, and understood better where she’s coming from. Look at the video featured on the site, where she speaks at a businesswomen’s award event, and hear the emotional drive behind her.

There’s a rather long introduction, but once you get past that, Taddeo’s humor and grit come through, along with a blistering event when she was running for student office in college, and one of her posters was defaced with “Taddeo for deportation.”

Now is the time to unload my notes from her recent meeting with the Miami Beach Democratic Club, where many of us are her future constituents in District 18.

If elected, Taddeo would be the first member of the House from South America, since all the Latinos so far have been from Central America or the Caribbean, she said. She’s born in Colombia to an American father and a Colombian mother, and has two teen-aged twin stepdaughters and a 20-month-ol d daughter with her husband Dr. Eric Goldstein, a sports psychologist.

“So many issues” with incumbent Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:
• Health insurance. Taddeo “couldn’t understand” how anyone could not support the expansion of children’s health insurance coverage. The Republican claim that it would hurt small businesses was “a bunch of crap.” Small businesses especially need federal health insurance programs because it is hard for them to cover the costs; this hits Florida hard because it’s a small-business state. She prefers a non-mandatory program.
• Iraq war. Pull out soon.
• Disaster insurance. Ros-Lehtinen was in Congress when Hurricane Andrew hit – wrecking Taddeo’s parents’ home among a multitude of others. The congresswoman did nothing as insurance rates went to the sky.
• Ros-Lehtinen is not a leader. She’s not on any powerful committee for domestic concerns, and is less effective than the two Democratic freshmen in the House, Ron Klein (FL-22) and Tim Mahoney (FL-16).
• Cuba. Keep the embargo, though she doesn’t agree with family travel restrictions.
• Gay rights. She supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and backed it as president of the Women’s Chamber of Commerce.
• Political courage. “I will not be quiet … even if it’s my own party.” “What upsets me the most about Ileana is the rubber-stamping.”

Go, Annette!

Time to fix primary mess? Why ask Democrats?

They believe in miracles over at the Miami Herald editorial page.

Let's see, we've got a Republican governor, a Republican legislature, and a Republican newspaper, yet they'd like the Democrats to fix the primary mess. Caused by the Republican legislature and governor, with guidance no doubt from Karl Rove. With complicity, to be sure, of some duped Democrats.

Hey, Friday's editorial suggests, why don't y'all get up a committee of elder statesmen to resolve the issue somehow?

They hint at what must be done by describing the GOP as "Solomonic" and saying the result oughta "respect both the party's rules and the Jan. 29 results." And if we can't figure out how to do that (the miracle referred to above), our party "stands to lose any claim it may have to the loyalty and support of the voters of this state."

If that doesn't confirm the Herald as a Republican newspaper, I don't know what further evidence is required.

Here's my suggestion: Demand that the Republicans fix this. They did it. They should be crestfallen with chagrin at the way they diminished the weight of all voters in the Jan. 29 primary, Republicans as well as Democrats. Get the legislature to rescind, power up a new primary in April.

Well, there you see, I'm just like the Herald: believing in miracles.

Here's the comment I posted to the Herald's editorial.

Your political colors are showing, as usual. "Solomonic GOP" is pretty ripe. It was a Republican idea in the first place, and even if Democrats in the legislature had been smart enough to see the future, they couldn't have stopped the law's passage. Then the Republicans contrived to keep half their delegates while the Democrats got none. Now your editorial wants the Democratic candidates to fix this mess. How, please? I'd be asking the Republican governor and legislature to see the light and propose a solution. But no, they're happy to have disenfranchised almost two million Democratic voters. One of their biggest successes ever!

UPDATE: On Saturday I looked at the Herald blog and saw that my comment had been deleted. Guess it hit too close to the bone.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Very, very sorry: Lincoln Diaz-Balart

Sorry, indeed. Later they had to give the sorry congressman a point of personal privilege so he could blame the whole thing on the Democrats. I guess it wasn't obvious, or otherwise it wouldn't have taken three hours to think it up.

My hat's off to Raul Martinez, Joe Garcia and Annette Taddeo for being brave enough to run for election to this legislative body.

UPDATE: This affair also has been treated on Huffington Post and on the Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog, where I put up this comment:

Was this a Democratic trap? Pretty hard to know. If yes, it was deliciously sprung on the sorry representative from FL-21. If no, the sorry representative from FL-21 was on entirely the wrong side of the issue: clear contempt of congress by Harriet Miers and Josh Bolton, and he called for the stupid procedural vote because that was the stupid Republican tactic to delay the contempt vote. Which failed: They've been voted in contempt!

Diaz-Balart Brazenly Disrupts Lantos' Memorial Service

In the middle of a memorial for Holocaust survivor and Congressman Tom Lantos, Republican U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL-21) today brazenly demanded a vote on the floor of the U.S. House, forcing members - including close friends of the late Congressman - to leave the service early.

"During what was supposed to be a somber memorial service in Statuary Hall for Rep. Tom Lantos, who died Monday, the House chamber became mired in chaos... Democrats angrily denounced the GOP as insensitive for calling a "motion to adjourn" - essentially a dilatory tactic - while dignitaries were still giving tributes to Lantos, a Holocaust survivor who was chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee," Politico's The Crypt quickly reported online.

"The scene in the Capitol was extremely tense as the procedural motion failed. The Crypt has already received several angry denouncements from both sides of the aisle as tempers flared this morning in the House."

"Everyone from the Israeli Foreign Minister to Condoleezza Rice to Bono took time out to mourn the loss of this respected Holocaust survivor and Congressman, but apparently, even a memorial service can't stop Lincoln Diaz-Balart from playing politics," Florida Democratic Party spokesman Alejandro Miyar said. "This is simply shameful."

"The disrespect that has been shown by a Republican member of Congress in calling a political procedural motion during the memorial service for the late Chairman Tom Lantos is incomprehensible," Stacey Bernards, a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, told Politico. "It is unjustifiable, and Republican leaders should restrict their members from further such action."

Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to ever serve in the U.S. Congress, represented California's 12th District for almost 28 years. He died of esophageal cancer Monday at the age of 80.

All the above is a news release from the Florida Democratic Party.

Another question is: what was going on in the House at the time? Debate topic was the motions of contempt of Congress against Harriet Myers and Josh Bolton for not obeying summons to testify about firings in the Department of Justice.

And another question is: what was Lincoln Diaz-Balart doing here? He was managing the Republican side in the debate. I happened to tune in to it on C-Span and saw the Democratic side roaring with justice on its side. Poor Lincoln D-B -- fumbling for words, on the wrong side of a clear issue, musta been wishing he'd already lost this next election.

Let's make his wish come true.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

“Team Democrat” – A sweep in view for South Florida in Congress

This is a link to Michael Putney’s column in the Wednesday Miami Herald about our three Democrats running for Congress against Republican incumbents in South Florida.

In itself the story is close to equal to all the coverage our candidates got two years ago mounting vigorous but lightly funded challenges to the same ineffective trio.

I’d pick away at things here and there in Putney’s column – Who are those people who think Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is so great? But no, let’s celebrate the fact that the coverage of our three launches is ample and pretty fair.

Last night I spent some time with Big Dave Patlak, who ran against Ros-Lehtinen in District 18 two years ago (I was his media guy and nominal campaign manager) and we marveled at the attention this year’s candidate, Annette Taddeo, is receiving. “She’s already got more publicity than we got in the whole campaign!” Dave exclaimed. In admiration, I say emphatically. And me, too.

The drift of Putney’s article is that our three candidates were recruited by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Some will dispute that, though the DCCC certainly had a role. Who found the candidates for the DCCC to vet? I think more of a South Florida grass-roots thing is at work. And they certainly wanted to run themselves.

There is a rising up here (Have I been listening to Obama and Edwards a lot in recent months?) of people who see a need to assert leadership against entrenched and ineffective (that word again) representatives in Congress.

The incumbents do not represent us well. If they did, we’d have expanded health insurance coverage for children and the troops would be coming out of Iraq, and we’d have habeas corpus back and no torture permitted.

And they do not lead well. If they did, we’d be doing a good job protecting the Everglades and advancing alternative energy, and someone would have yelled that the economy was going to tank thanks to our over-development.

They may have convinced Michael Putney that they’re popular, but I have my doubts. If I wanted to visit my sick aunt in Cuba and couldn’t go, thanks to the Diaz-Balart brothers and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, they’d be my most unpopular people of all.

They are so vulnerable. Now, if the media will just let the story roll.

Joe Garcia leading in early voting

This is still silly. Nonetheless, it feels good to see Joe Garcia winning in early voting -- on Telemundo 51's online poll that has been up since last Thursday. Yes, our outgoing chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party is still raking in electronic votes at this site, and as of Wednesday morning he was ahead of Mario Diaz-Balart 2,681 to 2,494. That's 52% to 48%, and the incumbent should think about heading home to look for work.

Congratulations, Joe!

And thanks to all of you out there clicking away on the Votar button.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

That’s it for Joe Garcia at head of Miami-Dade Democratic Party

Due to his campaign for Congress, Joe Garcia stepped down Monday as chairman of the Miami-Dade Democrats. A new election was scheduled for Wednesday Feb. 27.

Candidates may wait until a special meeting of the Democratic Executive Committee on that date to announce themselves, but this blog will gladly post the names of any who wish to run.

Joe Garcia was chairman for an eventful year in which our profile in South Florida was heightened. He’s one of three strong candidates stepping forward for the U.S. House of representatives – along with former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez and businesswoman Annette Taddeo – and this corner hopes that the next chair will be ready for progress and success.

Thanks, Joe!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Video of Joe Garcia's speech launching candidacy

Here's Joe Garcia's speech announcing his run for Congress in FL-25.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Presidential contenders back to Alben Barkley

In this Sunday’s NY Times Week in Review section something put me off my train of thought, and I’m throwing it in the pot here in case someone else can figure it out.

The lead article about vanishing political establishments included this declaration: “This year will have the first presidential election in half a century in which neither a sitting president nor a sitting vice president is vying for major-party nomination.” I’m wondering which election we’re talking about here, after all these Bushes and Clintons in recent years.

A half-century, eh? That’s back to 1958, when there wasn’t an election, so we’re into an approximate half-century.

1956? Ike and Tricky Dick were incumbent on the Republican side, so it wasn’t 1956.

1960? Nixon ran as a sitting vice president, so it wasn’t that year.

1964? Lyndon Johnson had succeeded the assassinated John Kennedy and was president as he sought nomination. Not that year.

1968? Vice President Hubert Humphrey sought and won the Democratic nomination and lost to Richard Nixon. Not that year (when I was tear-gassed repeatedly around the Democratic convention in Chicago).

1972? Nixon was renominated (here on Miami Beach). Not that year.

1976? Gerald R. Ford, who had succeeded to the presidency after Nixon’s resignation (the elected vice president, Spiro Agnew, also had resigned), became the Republican nominee. Not that year.

1980? Nope, because President Jimmy Carter sought and won the nomination (but not the election).

Wait, maybe this is the wrong direction. Should I be checking older rather than more recent elections?

1952? Harry Truman wasn’t running, but his vice president, Alben Barkley, contended for the nomination. So it wasn’t 1952.

1948? No, President Truman was nominated. Before that FDR had won re-election three times, and in 1932 he defeated the incumbent Herbert Hoover. So it’s no no no no to 1944, 1940, 1936 and 1932.

I’m wondering what kind of a half-century the NY Times is talking about in this piece. Or is there some fine print in “sitting president” and “sitting vice president” that’s not clear to this old head?

In fact I believe I’ve seen this kind of assertion repeatedly in this interminable election season. The "fact" gets fuzzy, but it seems to be rather more than a half-century since we’ve been in this situation with a “rare fluidity,” as the Times piece says.

I’ll leave it to someone else to identify another situation like the present. 1932 is well before my birth year, and who cares what they did back then, before the split atom, the cell phone and the computer. And Google to look things up.

Well, now I’ve gone and done it. Googled “presidential contenders without sitting president or vice president.” First thing that popped up was a National Journal article from last September that put it on 1952. I’d already read in Wikipedia that Alben Barkley, Truman's vice president, put himself forward for the Democratic nomination, so I guess the National Journal deemed that not a serious run. Barkley dropped out after organized labor said he was too old – at 74 -- to get their backing. And just as well, I guess. He died in 1956 before he would have completed a term as president.

UPDATE: This got a bunch of well-informed comments after I posted it on DailyKos. Consensus was that 1952 was the year in question but it was kinda murky as Truman might have run and Barkley did run, at least a little. 1928 may have been the last year when neither the president nor vice president ran at all.

Lavish coverage of Dems in races for Congress

I had hoped to pump out a couple quick links to good coverage Sunday of our congressional races, but for some reason the Miami Herald and Channel 10 aren’t cooperating, though both revealed that Annette Taddeo is challenging Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for the U.S. House in District 18.

No links available to the news:
--Channel 10’s “This week in South Florida” program covered Taddeo, along with a live interview with Raul Martinez, challenging for District 21 against Lincoln Diaz-Balart; and a reprise of the Thursday coverage of Joe Garcia’s launch of his run for District 25 against Mario Diaz-Balart.
--Miami-Herald’s story “Ros-Lehtinen Challenged” at the top of the front page of the metro section. As far as I can tell, this was the first time Annette Taddeo was identified in the Herald as intending to run for the District 18 seat in the U.S. House.
UPDATE: Curiously, the Herald waited until Monday to post the link to the Saturday story. Perhaps an oversight.

Maybe links will come later, and I’ll change this post.

But meanwhile, there is some digital coverage available.

Andres Oppenheimer’s Herald column in the main news section reminds us of another reason to vote against John McWar with the headline: “McCain’s advice Miami-bred.” Yes, our friends the Diaz-Balarts and Ros-Lehtinen, along with Sen. Mel Martinez, are influential advisers on McCain’s thinking about our hemisphere.

Count me as agreeing heartily with Oppenheimer’s opinion that McCain “would face an uphill battle to convince the world that he represents change and would bring a breath of fresh air to Washington.” His advisers are toeing a line drawn 40 years ago.

And over on the Reuters wire Miami correspondent Tom Brown has a long piece asking whether the Republicans are “losing grip” on our local Cuban vote. Well, yes, I’d say. And the Reuters report seems pretty much in agreement. Here’s its kicker (that’s news lingo for the last words in a story:

"Unless they (Republicans) address the issues that are important to this community they may be in for, unfortunately, a rude awakening," said Jorge Mas Santos, head of the once powerful but now lower-key Cuban American National Foundation.

Me, I would have left out the word unfortunately.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Naples report on Joe Garcia's announcement

Joe Garcia took his campaign launch to Naples Thursday evening and spoke to the meeting of the Collier County Democratic Executive Committee. Here's a link to the report in the Naples Daily News. Part of Congressional District 25 lies in Collier County.

Friday, February 08, 2008

YouTube remedy for wavering on McCain

Keep watching to the end, where your distaste for John McCain will be reinforced.

Joe Garcia finally official against Mario Diaz-Balart

Joe Garcia's parents, Joe and Carmen, with Joe and his wife Aileen and their daughter Gabriela, 10.

OK, the battle commences. Weasly Republican words vs. solid Democratic challenges.

This is South Florida, and Joe Garcia, a Democratic strategist and progressive leader, launches his challenge to the three-term Republican rubber-stamper, Mario Diaz-Balart, for the U.S. House in Congressional District 25.

There was some pretty good and even-handed treatment of the Garcia announcement on Thursday, but I had to shake the old head at the local Fox outlet’s report on the 10 p.m. news Thursday night. Garcia was given his Democratic say, and then the Republican incumbent is shown sitting in front of a view of the Capital dome in Washington and intoning a load of hogwash about his supposedly fine performance in the U.S. House.

There’s not a link up to the Fox-7 report, but it was like what the Miami Herald used as boilerplate in its story 24 hours earlier previewing what it called a “grudge match” election.

UPDATE: A few more details emerged on Channel 4's version, in which reporter Gary Nelson showed the same video of Diaz-Balart speaking, and said the Republicans had booked the satellite time to feed the hogwash from Washington. We can be confident they will spend to the sky to hold this seat. What does that mean to you, Democratic donors?

You can see the Channel 4 version on the campaign website, where it's showing on JoeTV.

Diaz-Balart emailed the Herald declaring: “Elections are a wonderful part of the democratic process.” (Said the master of gerrymandering who created the oddly shaped district himself while in the state legislature – perhaps not such a wonderful part of the democratic process.) And then he went on: “As I have always done, I will base my campaign on my extensive record of cutting taxes on our families and small businesses while delivering hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding for our community’s needs, including transportation, health care and education.”

Well, folks, there’s his sound bite: cutting taxes, bringing home the pork. Sounds strong, but it is oh so challengable.

His declared support for transportation must seem pretty meager to residents of the traffic-congested part of the district in the western suburbs of Miami who spend far too much of their lives in crawling traffic. Health care – are there enough fingers to count his votes against children’s health insurance? Why is education more and more expensive? And why have local taxes become so onerous?

District 25 includes most of the Everglades, one of the largest national parks in the United States, which needs aggressive defense by the federal government but receives hardly anything beyond operating expenses. Why? Ineffective representation in Congress, I’d venture. The state of Florida and the federal government agreed years ago to share costs of restoring more natural water-flow conditions in the Everglades, but the feds have been pikers even as the state has continued to pay and pay. Thank you, Rep. Diaz-Balart, for giving us another big reason to vote you out of office.

For readers not familiar with our politics in Miami-Dade County, there are two Diaz-Balarts in the U.S. House, Mario and his older brother Lincoln Diaz-Balart (District 21), and their fellow Cuban American Republican, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (District 18). This gives us three Republicans to go with presently two Democrats, Kendrick Meek (District 17) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (District 20).

The two Democrats’ districts are so gerrymandered as to be impregnable, and Republicans don’t bother to send up challengers. The three Republican incumbents are increasingly vulnerable due to demographic shifts and the unpopularity of their masters in the Bush administration, and polls show ample reason for Democratic challengers to rise and buckle up, though the battles will be tough.

For starters, I thought the broadcasters’ fairness doctrine had been abolished long ago. So it seemed from the poor treatment Democrats’ challenges received in the local media in the past. Now it seems that if a viable Democrat rises and announces a challenge, the other side gets to declare a full load of hogwash without any relation to reality – and then: Cut away! Time to cover the departure of Shaq from the Heat!

So it requires courage and a thick skin for a Democrat to gear up for nine months’ campaigning on these terms. It is so heartening that we have those qualities now in three challengers to the three Republicans. To summarize:

District 21. Announced two weeks ago, former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez is running against Lincoln Diaz-Balart. Though his city is thoroughly Republican in voter registration, Martinez won election after election and remains highly popular. Republican prosecutors tried repeatedly to put him away on corruption charges without success, and those failed prosecutions seem to be the only ammunition against him now. He was in the room Thursday as:
District 25. Joe Garcia, chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, announced his run against Mario Diaz-Balart. Garcia’s Cuban immigrant parents were in the room, too, along with cheering Democratic activists. At 44, Garcia has an impressive record of public service both in the Cuban American community and the state of Florida, along with his national role as director of the Hispanic Strategy Center of the NDN think tank. He is a ubiquitous presence in some local Spanish-language media speaking for the Democratic viewpoint, and people increasingly know him by sight.
District 18. Look for an announcement next week that Annette Taddeo, a dynamic Colombia-born businesswoman, will run against Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who was elected in 1989 while her husband prosecuted Raul Martinez (see District 21 above) and thwarted Martinez’ intent to run for Congress. Now, that would be a grudge match – if Martinez were running against Ros-Lehtinen -- but the district lines no longer call for that.

Dear me, it’s complicated, isn’t it. And we haven’t gotten into the fact that the Diaz-Balarts are shirt-tail relations of Fidel Castro, whom they hate so much. Those in need of full explanations are referred to the book “Cuba Confidential” by Ann Louise Bardach; its subtitle is “Love and vengeance in Miami and Havana,” and there’s a lot of that to expose in her thorough book. The Diaz-Balarts get about a third of a column in the index.

Dear friends out there, if you’ve got some money set aside for politics this year, click on those three links after the bullets above and find a way to help. South Florida is ready to be part of a national landslide to make Congress progressive and veto-proof, and your help is needed.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Check out

There's a website for Joe Garcia's campaign for congress in our 25th District. And Joe speaks there inviting your participation over the coming months.

And there's a button to click and contribute. Go and click it.

Clean energy? McCain couldn't lift a finger

This is something I'll remember in November when someone tells me that McCain is the one. Following are the first paragraphs of an email that came in from the Sierra Club, reporting that the "moderate" and "centrist" and "uniter" John McCain couldn't be bothered to vote on a good measure.

Dear Larry,

Last night one vote prevented the Senate from advancing an economic stimulus package that included important clean energy incentives -- a key addition to the package passed by the House last week.

Even though John McCain was in Washington last night, he was the only Senator who missed the vote, and he insured its defeat. This latest vote against clean energy comes at a time when McCain's speeches are full of promises to increase America's use of clean energy and calls to his fellow Senators to pass the stimulus package "to get some people back to work, and get our economy going, and get some investment in our economy." [PBS, NewsHour, 2/1/08]

Big talk, no action.

Joe Garcia to Naples Thursday evening

Joe Garcia's campaign for Congressional District 25 bids us to pay more attention to our neighbor to the west, Collier County, which makes up part of the district. Here the Naples Daily News reports on Garcia's plan to speak in Naples Thursday night.

Early voting opens for Joe Garcia

It's silly, of course, but it feels good to vote for Joe Garcia. Telemundo offers the chance without having to wait for November.

Link to Channel 10 on Joe Garcia for Congress

If you missed the midday news, here's a link to Michael Putney's report on today's announcement that Joe Garcia has launched his campaign to take Congressional District 25.

Joe Garcia announcing for District 25 today

Here’s great news from South Florida: Joe Garcia, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party and a national leader among Hispanic electoral strategists, will announce on Thursday he’s running for the U.S. House in Florida’s District 25.

You've seen this already if you're watching local TV news (I've seen reports on Channels 7 and 4, so I assume it's all over the place), and it's in the Miami Herald Thursday morning, too. I put a version of this up on DailyKos on Wednesday.

What a landslide awaits the Republicans – not only nationally with their meager presidential offerings, but also in Congress where once "invulnerable" incumbents now face strong challengers.

Garcia, a 44-year-old Cuban American, is taking on Mario Diaz-Balart, whose brother Lincoln Diaz-Balart also has a strong challenge from former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez in District 21. Martinez announced his candidacy two weeks ago and received a storm of publicity from local media that relish a fight. Note that the Herald's story this morning uses the term "grudge match" on the challenge Joe Garcia is mounting.

And early next week the third Miami-Dade Republican in the U.S. House, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of District 18 which includes the Florida Keys, will get her challenge from Annette Taddeo, a dynamic Colombia-born businesswoman and traveler in high national Democratic circles.

The Democrats are offering three leaders against the incumbent rubber-stampers who wield little influence in Washington and bring little home to their districts. Now their constituents can vote in November to take the future back and put it in the hands of courageous Democrats.

On the car radio I had the pleasure of hearing Rush Limbaugh bargaining with dispirited dittoheads Wednesday afternoon. They seemed to be debating how supine to be in the face of the Democratic juggernaut. They see nothing but defeat on the presidential level and wonder if it’s better to fight hard for the Senate and House, or to "act strategically" and accept defeat in Congress, too, and – in their fantasy – to let the Democrats run the country to heck. Then they dream they could recoup in 2012.

They don’t seem to accept that they’re at around 20 percent in public esteem, and that Democrats who win the mantle of leadership are going to make the Bushite era look like an unnatural disaster – never to be repeated or even hinted at again.

Not that it’s going to be easy for our side to heal an economy slumping into recession and end the worst war of modern times, plus save the environment and fix health care.

Our missions are many and difficult, and confidence is possible only when we see that our candidates are smart and courageous. I see this in the three challengers in South Florida, and I hope the rest of this beloved but misled country is having the same good fortune with Congressional candidates.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Channel 7 covers Garcia bid for Congress

You're not a Fox-watcher? Here's a little public service, then, from your blogger, who caught Channel 7 breaking the news on Joe Garcia's run for Congress on the 10 pm news.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Florida Congressional District 18: famous squatting

Thanks for the tip! Sorry to be late catching up with this one.

Some terrible people in Washington are making fun of my representative in the U.S. House. Darn, what is that Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18) doing to make them snarky?

She’s got all this influence, you know, from her zillion years in the House, so what’s wrong with her “squatting” there in the House so that she can get a little extra time with the Commander in Chief?

Wait, maybe it’s not exactly extra time. Maybe this is the only time she gets with Bush. So she squats there trying for a spot on the aisle so she can have a second or two with him. Then she goes home and flashes the photo – See! Me and the President having a chat!

Sorry, that’s it. All she got this year was three or four seats in from the aisle – maybe a wave or a fingertip brush – and that’s it for the last year of a presidential term.

And – people were watching and writing it up on blogs. Some with impolite terms of reference, which you may see if you Google “Ileana Ros Lehtinen squatting.”

Here’s part of Politico’s writeup:

Lawmakers like Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Todd R. Platts (R-Pa.), Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio), Mary Bono (R-Calif.), Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) are so-called State of the Union Day squatters.

Bachmann, you may recall, drew headlines last year after she kept her hand on Bush’s shoulder for a record 30 seconds and then reached in for a smooch.


“Being there, in that place, on that night,” Ros-Lehtinen echoed, “it’s just thrilling.”

The day of waiting, however, is not, the congresswomen said. Ros-Lehtinen always brings a “mountain of paperwork” to the chamber to kill time.


If Capito has to walk away, she always leaves the stack of paperwork on her seat, a signal to her colleagues that someone has already reserved that spot — or if she has to go far or use the facilities, she has Ros-Lehtinen hold her place for her.

“She watches my back and I watch hers,” Ros-Lehtinen confirmed.

But being on the aisle only goes so far. One must stand out in a room of black, steel gray and navy blue, the lawmakers said.

Despite her best efforts, Ros-Lehtinen couldn’t secure a seat soon enough. She and Capito had to settle for spots three and four seats away from the aisle.

“I’m not too disappointed,” Ros-Lehtinen said Monday evening. “I’ll still reach over and talk to the president about the [Florida] primary tomorrow.”

Next time we send someone to Washington from FL-18, how about a little depth? A person who will win influence? Not a fawner? We are so ready for change.

A great way to help wounded vets

Thanks to DailyKos for giving this story prominence today: an organization that helps wounded veterans get back into useful and fulfilling lives.

Here's a snip from the story:

There are men and women out there who feel they are only approached to be put on a pedestal or used as props. If you want to thank a veteran for their service, offer them a job. Give them a chance to apply their skills, work ethic and values to the civilian workforce. Let them have the opportunities to take care of their families. They’re not looking for sympathy; they just want to contribute to the society they fought for. If you are a veteran with a disability from any branch of the military who is returning from Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom, Hire Heroes USA is here for you. -- Sgt. Justin Callahan, 10th Mountain Division.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Who are YOU fighting with over politics?

This front-pager in Monday’s NY Times is a good roundup of the many families that are split over politics.

Look around the Times also for the interactive photo montage of all the endorsers and their endorsees.

With all this strife, will Super Tuesday Primaries be followed by Super Wednesday Divorce Court?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Next announcement may be on live TV

From the depths of the messy desk rose up the password to open the account at

This is live streaming television, or do we call it video? You need a video camera and an internet connection, and you use that password to get into your account at, and right on the opening screen there’s a button that says Broadcast Now.

You also can just watch what people are putting on. Live, as I tried it, was the International Beatbox Battle Convention, and for a while I was one of 162 people watching around the world as people used their voices and a microphone to make every noise on earth. It helped to speak German, as Berlin was the venue. Another choice was a livecam of a litter of dachshund puppies. There were 476 live shows at that hour Friday evening.

But I digress. has been on this blog before, back in September or so when Sen. Chris
Dodd was here giving a news conference and it was being broadcast live via, and someone watching on the internet sent in a question via email. This is opening doors, or something.

Now if you look at’s home page, there’s a panel of highlights and in the middle a Jan. 29 broadcast announcing that the Republican national convention in Minneapolis will be broadcast live gavel to gavel on The founder and CEO, Brad Hunstable, stresses that they’re open to all parties and candidates. Barack Obama has used it. John McCain, too. So look for an announcement here that we’ll promote our candidates and meetings whenever possible on live streaming video.

Darn, now the learning process begins.

First thing I learned was NOT to click on the panel with what might have been a Republican attack on Hillary Clinton. It froze my computer and made it emit a loud electronic alarm signal.

Joe Garcia vs Mario Diaz-Balart, coming soon

We’re close to the time, folks. Our future congressional delegation from Miami-Dade County will come closer to focus in the coming week. Yes, we have to get past the Super Bowl, past Super Tuesday. Finally, after these cosmic events, we can get back to local politics and think LANDSLIDE in the U.S. Congress.

We have to thank a chain of unknown people for sending this notice that our chairman, Joe Garcia, was talking about it the other day on Spanish-language TV. Here’s Mambiwatch’s take on it.

I searched around and discovered that the video is available in Spanish, and from having listened, I can say that Joe Garcia managed to get more than a few words in edgewise against the formidable Maria Elvira. Check it out. You also can vote there for Raul Martinez over Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

This approaching focus on congressional races will raise my morale after a couple weeks of defeat, a combination of walking pneumonia and John Edwards’ decision to drop out of the race. I’ll still try to be impartial in this blog until we have a presidential nominee, but let me just point you to Paul Krugman’s column of praise for Edwards in leading the way. If we’re the party of better ideas – and we are – John Edwards must be given credit for doing the early thinking and for hammering the drum.

And while we’re thinking about these big races, don’t forget the DEC meeting on Monday Feb. 11th, 7 pm at the American Legion off Biscayne Blvd, 6445 NE 7th Ave., Miami.