The political hits just keep on coming. It seems that Susannah Randolph’s campaign for Congressional District 9 is imploding with bad publicity. Then the data dump of Florida Democratic Party documents is chock-a- block with unsavory details about some local Democrats.
First, to Susannah Randolph, who in the last month is scoring 0-4, a development that in large part benefits her Democratic rival State Sen. Darren Soto.
This week, a former Randolph mentee Holly Fussell issued a thunderclap against Randolph heard across Central Florida. In a Facebook post, Fussell accused Randolph of “being no champion of women” – as her campaign states – because Randolph was not supportive of Fussell’s allegations of sexual harassment from an unknown assailant while under Randolph’s tutelage. Fussell urged her followers not to vote for Randolph.
No word yet from Randolph.
In addition, Randolph earlier got it embarrassingly wrong about Soto and the 43 Days Initiative legislation to extend the reporting time for sexual assaults, approved by the Legislature. He co-sponsored the bill; she stated in a mailer that he opposed it. Victims’ rights advocate Danielle Sullivan later did a promo for Soto.
Then the Orlando Sentinel endorsed Soto, saying in part that Randolph is too partisan and wouldn’t do well in Congress.
Congressional District 9, which leans Democrat and is 40 percent or more Hispanic, is being hotly contested by four Democrats – Soto, Randolph, Dena Minning Grayson and Valleri Crabtree – who face off in the August 30 primary. The Democratic winner very likely will be the next representative in Congress.
The seat currently is held by Alan Grayson, who is running for the U. S. Senate against fellow Democrat Patrick Murphy.
And finally, Florida Democratic Party data that was hacked earlier was made public this week.
It includes internal profiles of Randolph, Bob Poe and his investor relationship with Grayson, as well as Geraldine Thompson’s dubious financial dealings.
Poe and Thompson are Democratic rivals for Congressional District 10, which is over 20 percent Latino.
The info, which is not necessarily new, is likely to make oppo fodder.
The numbers are in. How many Hispanics are registered to vote in the August 30 primaries? The figures, calculated by the state Division of Elections, are encouraging.
Hispanic voter registration has climbed in all of Florida since the March presidential primary, with Hispanic Democrats up nearly 9 percent, the highest of any major party registration. That compares to a nearly 6 percent increase among Hispanic Republicans and nearly 4 percent for Hispanic no party affiliation or NPA.
Historically, primaries and mid-term elections – or any election that occurs in a non-presidential year – sees a big drop off in Hispanic voters. Thus, it’s unclear whether the higher Hispanic registration will translate to an uptick in voter participation in the August 30 primaries.
Some notable observations:
• There are more than 3X as many Hispanic Democrats than Republicans in the Orange-Osceola-Seminole county region, an indication of how Latinos are changing the face of Central Florida political parties as well as their potential for determining election outcomes. (The trend holds true for the state as well. ) • There are more Hispanic NPA voters in Central Florida than Hispanic Republicans. This is also true for all of Florida.Hispanics voters may need to reassess their preference for NPA status since NPA voters cannot cast ballots in party primaries, where many elections are decided.
For instance, the Democratic winner of the Congressional District 9 primary – State Sen. Darren Soto, Susannah Randolph, Dena Minning Grayson or Valleri Crabtree – essentially will be that area’s next representative in Congress. That’s because Democrats predominate in Congressional District 9 and the Republican field is weak.
Yet, Hispanic voter registration in Congressional District 9 looks like this: 193,000 Hispanic Democrats, 136,473 NPA and 139,318 GOP. Which means 136,473 Hispanic NPA voters cannot weigh in on that or any other primary election.
Central Florida’s Hispanic voters are mosty Puerto Ricans, since that is the group that predominates among all area Hispanics – 50 percent or more, in fact.
In all of Florida, Latinos are:
• 11.3 percent of all Republican voters.
• 16 percent of all Democrat voters
• 22 percent of all NPA voters. Again, Hispanics signal a higher preference for NPA status.
Although the number of registered Latinos is up, bear in mind that over 2.5 million Hispanics are eligible to vote in Florida, but only 1.8 million are registered. About 28 percent of Hispanics are not registered, which means there is room to grow.
A quick look at Miami-Dade shows that:
• The number of Hispanic Democrats is approaching that of Republicans, 230,517 vs. 267,881. And growth rate among Hispanic Democrats vs. Republicans in Miami-Dade mirrors that of the state, 8 percent vs. 3 percent.
Which means it’s entirely plausible that Hispanic Democrats in Miami-Dade may soon surpass Hispanic Republicans.This is bad news for Republicans, since the days of Hispanic GOP dominance in Florida are waning.
A big BUT: A lot depends on voter turnout. Hispanic Republicans often are more motivated to vote than Hispanic Democrats, a determining factor in election results.
Despite what is happening at the state level, however, Miami-Dade will continue to be dominated by Hispanic Republicans. About 53 percent of all Hispanic GOP voters in Florida reside in Miami-Dade. This explains why in the March presidential primary Sen. Marco Rubio lost the entire state of Florida – except for Miami-Dade.
His lack of popularity among non-Cuban Hispanics also helps explain why Rubio appears to be spending more time in Central Florida lately. He was at Telemundo’s Feria de la Familia this weekend in Kissimmee. And the Senate Leadership Fund’s July $1.4 million ad buy for Rubio (broadcast and cable) focused on Central Florida:
The election season is heating up as we close in on the August primaries and march toward the November election, which is less than three months away.
Campaign developments are coming fast and furious. Here are some local, state and national campaign notes that caught my eye.
Florida GOP Spokesman Resigns
Wadi Gaitán, communications director of the Florida Republican Party, left his post this week over differences of opinion with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. He has joined the LIBRE Initiative, a Koch brothers-led effort to attract more Hispanics to the conservative cause.
It’s big news because it indicates the GOP daily defections from Trump occurring on the national level is giving permission – and cover – to state officials to do the same without major pushback from the Republican Party.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Gaitán said he “was avoiding efforts that support Trump.”
The LIBRE Initiative, Gaitán’s new employer, disagrees with Trump too, especially on immigration. Executive Director Dan Garza had a sharp exchange with party leaders on national public television over immigration during the Republican National Convention. LIBRE favors a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, among other policies. Trump does not, pushing instead for deportation and building a wall along the Mexican border.
Gaitán had been Florida GOP communications director since 2015.
Earlier this year, some Central Florida Hispanic Republicans complained to Orlando Latino that the state GOP had dismantled outreach to the Hispanic community. Gaitán’s resignation completes the circle.
Fellow blogger Evelyn Pérez Verdía of Political Pasión makes an excellent point: While the state Republican Party lost their Hispanic spokesperson, the Florida Democratic Party never hired one.
It’s going to be a tough haul fighting the Zika virus.
Not only because Congress left town without authorizing additional funds to combat the mosquito-borne virus. Not only because the Obama administration states that it’s almost out of money left over from the Ebola scare to fight Zika. But also because there’s a great deal of skepticism particularly among Puerto Ricans about whether Zika exists or if the whole thing is a plot to reduce the Puerto Rican population.
Yes, you read correctly.
The New York Times recently wrote about the laissez faire attitude re Zika among Puerto Ricans on the island, which is making it hard to fight the virus. Puerto Rico has the largest Zika outbreak under the U.S. flag – nearly 5,482 cases as of August 3 and counting, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Cases jump 20 to 30 percent a week, according to island health officials. A 79-year old island man died due to Zika.
I heard the skepticism for myself this week during a presentation about the growing numbers and influence of Puerto Ricans in Florida.
But I strongly dissent.
I’m paraphrasing here but during the presentation a pastor said to strong audience approval, “I’m suspicious about the Zika ‘crisis.’ This could be a plot to reduce the population of Puerto Rico.”
The relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico is fraught with distrust – a distrust that has always been latent but is now in full bloom, given the island’s financial crisis and the U.S.-controlled financial oversight board that soon will govern Puerto Rico, in a throwback to the U.S. takeover of the island in 1898.
Many instances of “colonial” mismanagement and downright experimentation – the sterilization of women and birth control pill, for instance – on the Puerto Rican people have led to this day. In a huge bungle, most recently the CDC sent a shipment to Puerto Rico of the Zika-fighting pesticide Naled, apparently without the governor’s or administration’s consent, creating an uproar.
As of August 5, Puerto Rico has no effective way of fighting the Zika virus. None.
Science doesn’t appear to be on the side of the conspiracy-minded folks. And the skeptical attitude among authority figures and others is detrimental to Puerto Ricans.
Detriment to Puerto Ricans
The fact is, the island is a haven for the aedes aegypti, the same mosquito that spreads dengue and chikungunya, also widespread on the island. The mosquito bears the Zika virus.
The CDC reports 1,800 Zika cases in the continental United States, almost all travel-related. However, the 5,482 cases found in Puerto Rico are nearly all mosquito-transmitted.
A sampling of blood donations in Puerto Rico found that nearly 2 percent carried the Zika virus, which can lead to birth defects in the fetuses of pregnant women. That is only among a small sample of blood donors, not the general population in which the infection rate may be higher. Many people do not know they are carrying Zika because they do not experience symptoms.
Here’s a sobering figure: The CDC estimates 25 percent of the island’s population may contract Zika. That’s close to 900,000 people.
Don’t forget – Zika can be sexually transmitted, so it’s not only the mosquito you have to watch out for but also your partners. “Sex includes vaginal, anal, oral sex, and the sharing of sex toys,” states the CDC.
In a bid to fend off Zika, the abortion rate is rising among women in Puerto Rico, plus doctors are advising patients to delay pregnancy – all of which may make the island’s population decrease more acute.
The Puerto Rico Planning Board already reported that there are more deaths than births in Puerto Rico as a result of historical outmigration. Zika may accelerate the downward population spiral.
Zika in Florida
Zika-carrying mosquitoes were found in the Wynwood area of Miami-Dade, the nation’s first area of active mosquito-borne Zika transmission. Wynwood is a gentrifying neighborhood for decades known as “Little San Juan,” meaning it contains a large Puerto Rican population.
The Miami Herald reported that aerial spraying of Naled over Wynwood this week significantly reduced the Zika-carrying mosquitoes – so much so that the state lifted the public health alert in the one square-mile area. After only one spraying.
The messy U.S.-Puerto Rico relationship has created denial among Puerto Ricans about Zika. I get that.
But Puerto Ricans need to cast aside their doubts and do all they can to fight the Zika disease. Puerto Ricans will be the biggest beneficiaries.