Monday, July 26, 2010

Canine stand-in for candidate

Juan D'Arce (Rep), candidate for state rep in District 112, was too busy knocking on the doors of Broward voters to get to the state GOP's Victory office grand opening in West Kendall Saturday.

But he had two stand-ins: His wife Madelin and their dog, Cookie, a "Rat Pincher" that was given to him by one of his students about a year an a half ago.

And Cookie is no slouch when it comes to politics: The canine has her own facebook profile page with 164 fans (or "likes," as it were) as of today, including Arthur Arnau and Barbara Howard. Heck, that is more than some pols (like Richard Tapia (151 fans), who lost his second bid for city commission earlier this year or Ernie Martinez, a candidate for state rep in district 117 (112 fans), or Coral Gables Commissioner Ralph Cabrera, who has 137 friends, which is better than Mayor Don Slesnick, whose "We Love Don Slesnick" page has 55 fans (though, in all fairness, there has been no activity since last October so maybe the love is secret admiration?), and Pinecrest Councilman Joe Corradion who has 37 friends on his page (but he, too, has not signed in since last year and probably has hundreds of friend requests waiting... ahem, including one from me). State rep candidates John Patrick Julien (District 104) and Daphne Campbell (108) have 78 fans and 52, respectively. Hope they can get more votes at the polls.

They could all learn from the enthusiasm of young Enbar Cohen, an LGBT activist who is running for a commission seat in Aventura in November 2012 and started her fan page about a month ago. She already has 184 "likes" and is someone to watch. But to prove that social media is not just for politicians under 40 anymore, Eduardo Zayas-Bazan, a grandfather running for a school board seat (district 6) in this election has a whopping 345 people on his page.

And Ladra spends waaaay too much time on facebook.

Cointoss time: Ethics or Democrats?

An example of really bad timing is happening tonight when two events that should appeal to the same crowd will occur simultaneously.

The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics will present a "campaign skills seminar" to review the laws and standards for political campaigns, focusing on financial reporting, fundraising and ethics (a little late on this are we? But it's a great idea). Called "a must" for "current and future politicians," candidates, treasurers, campaign workers and volunteers, the seminar is from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Miami Shores Community Center, 9617 Park Drive.

Too bad dozens of those very people will be at the Miami Dade Young Democrats meeting -- the last before the Aug. 24 primary so it is going to be a packed Chop House, 300 Biscayne Blvd. Among the candidates expected to make a last-minute stump: Scott Maddox, candidate for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, both candidates for attorney general Dave Aronberg and Dan Gelber, Congressional candidates Joe Garcia of District 25 and Marleine Bastien, Yolly Roberson and Sen. Frederica Wilson of District 17, Florida Senate candidates Kevin Burns and Gewn Margolis (District 35), State Rep. candidates Dwight Bullard (118), Daphne Campbell and Alix Desulme (108), John Patrick Julien and Matthew Tisdol (104), Millie Herrera (114), Lisa L'Esperance (117), Sandra Ruiz (112), Cynthia Stafford (109), Miami-Dade Commission candidate (District 2) Florence "FloMo" Moss and school board candidate Darryl Reaves (District 2). That's according to the email and website.

But Johnny Farias, the other Dem running in 112, told Ladra he would go to the meeting as well. And we expect to see other school board candidates there in some races that could go any way.

Another speaker noted in the invitation: Leslie Meek, wife of Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Kendrick, who has been sitting in for her hubby at local Dem gatherings while the obvious party favorite (despite claims they are not backing anyone before the primary) is in D.C. (He is expected back for a "special reception" Aug. 14).

The YD meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. and, with that many candidate speakers, will go on and on way after the ethics seminar has ended. This is one night when some people should definitely split themselves in two. (They're pols; they are used to it).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

RPOF "Victory" office: Rivera Country?

Several local Republicans made appearances, ate pastelitos and cake and had their photos taken with each other and the Republican die-hard supporters at the grand opening Saturday of the state party's first "Victory HQ" office in West Kendall. Two more -- one in West Miami and another in Hialeah -- are expected to open in the next couple of weeks.

But even before the first political poster was taped to the window at 14273 SW 42nd Street, there were complaints the office will favor State Rep. David Rivera in the Congressional race for District 25 -- what Rivera's opponents say is yet another advantage of the Miami-Dade Republican Committee chair.

The Victory office on Bird Road does seem, on its face, to be Rivera Country: A large Rivera banner dominates one wall. No other candidates had banners inside -- or out -- Saturday. And when Sen. George LeMieux spoke, he basically endorsed Rivera. The coffee table inside displayed a few bumper stickers and palm cards for the other Republican candidates, Marili Cancio and Paul Crespo -- dwarfed by three large stacks of Rivera calendars and mailers.

And then there's the staff connections.

"If they don't bring me anything, I can't put it out," said Alina Garcia, who two months ago was Rivera's top legislative aide and had worked with him since he was first elected in 2002. Garcia, who got plucked for the job by the Republican Party of Florida to run the Victory offices -- got help setting up Saturday from Maria Armenteros, another Rivera aide, and a woman who works in the Miami-Dade Republican Party office that shares space with the state rep in Doral.

But Garcia says there is no conflict of interest and that the other two candidates had been invited and had not taken their materials to the office yet. She showed Ladra a mail piece from Crespo with the name and address marked off with a Sharpee which she said she did so she could tape it to the window with the others.

There will be no favoritism, Garcia told Ladra. "Not from this office," she said.

"What I do in there is we call people who are Republican who don't go to vote often and urge them to register to vote or request absentee ballots," Garcia said, adding that they had been targeting the "twos." (Voters are categorized in one of five categories, with four and fives being "super voters" that cast their nods in every or almost every election).

"We are not saying vote for this or vote for that candidate," Garcia added. "We are just getting out the vote. "We need Republicans to go out and vote in every election."

She added that the space could be used by all Republican candidates.

"Everybody is welcome to come and make calls from the office and spend all day here if they want," Garcia said, moments after she posed with Rivera and members of his district office and campaign staff. (More photos on facebook here:!/album.php?aid=70956&id=1357833535)

(She is not, however, in any photos posted by Marili Cancio on facebook).

JC Hernandez, executive director of the Miami-Dade REC, told Ladra that there was no conflict of interest and that the offices were really going to get into full swing after the primary.

"My job is to make sure November runs smoothly," Hernandez said. "It's up to the voters at the end of the day. After Aug. 24 we'll decide who we're going to back," Hernandez said.

"Then, hopefully, we can get back to business -- which is kicking Nancy Pelosi out of office."

Cancio could not be reached for comment Saturday but posted photos of her own from the event.

Crespo, who pulled LeMieux to the side and said he was not happy about the Rivera endorsement surprise, told Ladra he plans to visit the Victory office and will ask Garcia to hang his own banner on the wall opposite the Rivera banner.

"We have to be very vigilant that the Victory office, which is right next door to where Rivera's campaign office used to be, isn't used as an extension of David Rivera's campaign," Crespo said. "We need to make sure that doesn't happen because that would be unfair and inappropriate."

He said he gave LeMieux his business card and introduced himself before the Senator spoke and said what a great Congressman Rivera would make. So Crespo went to chat with him after.

"I told him that was wrong. This was a Republican Party event not a David Rivera event."

Sometimes, apparently, the two things look like one and the same.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Judge to hear resign to run lawsuit

Doral Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz (Dem.), who is running to replace State Rep. David Rivera (Rep.) in District 112, could be removed from the ballot over a technicality if a Miami-Dade judge agrees with two opposing candidates who filed lawsuits last month alleging the front runner violated state law when she did not resign from her current office by the deadline.

County Judge Jerald Bagley decided Wednesday that he would hear arguments from the attorneys representing Johnny Farias (Dem.) and Jeanette Nuñez (Rep.), who seek to have Ruiz removed from the Aug. 24 primary because she did not resign from her current elected office as required by the resign to run law. Attorneys for Ruiz -- Dem veterans Ben Kuehne and Joe Geller -- lost their motion to dismiss the case. Their argument is that there would be no overlap of the terms and that the law's intent was to prevent "back door safety valve" exits for the sitting electeds who run for another seat. Kuehne said the suit is "gameplaying" -- a vanilla word for political machinations.

Judge Bagley set a hearing for July 30 to consider both sides.

Ruiz sounded tired when she took a call from Ladra late Wednesday.

"The worse part about this is that you have people within the [Democratic] Party trying to tear down the most viable, eligible candidate," said Ruiz, who was endorsed by the Miami Herald and some of the big groups, like the AFL-CIO, the United Teachers of Dade and the PBA. Most observers agree that she is a stronger candidate against a Republican for the November election.

"It's a sad day for Democrats," Ruiz said.

She did not name him but obviously referred to Farias, who has complained that the Party has favored Ruiz before the primary. His attorney, William Peña Wells, argues that there could be overlap in the two terms if the election is close in Doral or there is a recount.

Farias could not be reached for comment, but was optimistic on his facebook page Wednesday morning when he posted between 8 and 9 a.m.: "Good morning FB family, should be a great day today." His wife (who, by the way, is running for a seat on a community council -- and we will blog more on that later) commented: "Go get them babe. Today belongs to you."

Ruiz told Ladra that she was confident she would win the court battle and said she would continue to court voters in the meantime. In fact, she is slated to speak at the Miami Dade Young Democrats meeting Tuesday at Chop House on Biscayne Boulevard.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fired Gables B&Z chief runs for elected office

Margaret Pass, the Coral Gables building and zoning director fired in 2007 after the city arrested her administrative assistant for some bogus employee paycheck scheme and a slew of allegations about theft and misconduct in the department surfaced, is running for a seat on the Port LaBelle Community Development District in Glades County, where she now lives.

It would be her second... er, pass... at the elected office. She lost a bid for the seat in 2006.

Pass was fired from her $122,000-a-year job 13 months after the city began an investigation into claims that she had some of her employees work on her land in Glades County during their public workday and allowed her inner circle to purchase digital cameras and supplies, even art, with the city's accounts. That investigation is still ongoing (Ladra thinks the case is going slow because it is being directed good friends of the former B&Z chief and city manager).

At the threat of a lawsuit, the city settled with Pass for $99,000 in 2009 and changed the data on her personnel folder from terminated to retired. Maybe so it wouldn't turn up when she ran for office? We hope this also means her health has improved (during the trial board/termination appeal process, her attorney requested continuances due to a debilitating illness that prevented Pass from appearing and defending herself appropriately).

Her qualifying papers say her primary source of income is the Coral Gables pension. She also still owns property here, at 1530 San Remo Ave., according to the qualifying papers. According to Miami-Dade property records, it is a 720-square-foot one-bedroom condo purchased in 1995 for $65,000 and worth more than twice that, assessed at $134,000, today.

She also has three properties in Glades County: 2140 Birchwood Parkway, listed as her mailing address, 1810 Cowgirl Way and an unnumbered lot on Mission Lane. She seems to be kicking things up there, going to commission meetings and demanding the city manager be fired, according to published reports found in a google search.

Pass would not return Ladra's repeated calls and emails for comment.

Campaign finance records for the Port LaBelle race are not due until his coming Friday. But Ladra will be watching for it and will let you know if any of Pass' old Gables friends turn up.

State race runs to county court

Half of the candidates in the race for state rep in seat 112 will take their campaigns to court tomorrow: Two candidates sued to have Doral Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz (Dem), taken off the Aug. 24 ballot because they say she violated state law when she did not officially resign from her municipal seat.

Johnny Farias (Dem) and Jeanette Nuñez (Rep) each filed separate lawsuits last month seeking to remove Ruiz (Dem) from the race because she failed to resign from her post on the Doral City Council. Farias, an electrician, sued Ruiz on June 21. Nuñez, VP of exterior affairs for Kendall Regional Medical Center and Aventura Hospital and a former lobbyist for Jackson Health (who also worked for almost a decade as chief legislative aide to Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla), filed her suit the 29th. Both will be heard at 4 p.m. Wednesday by Judge Jerald Bagly.

Six candidates are seeking the seat for 112, which encompasses Doral, Sweetwater and West Kendall as well as parts of Broward and Collier counties. Ruiz is seen as the frontrunner. The three who have not sued are Doral Vice Mayor Robert VanName (Rep), schoolteacher Juan D’Arce (Rep) and Naples insurance adjuster James Guerrero (Rep). Florida law requires candidates who are already sitting electeds to resign from their current seats before qualifying begins for the post sought if there is any overlap in the terms.

Ruiz, who is term-limited out of the Doral seat this year, did not. But she says there is no overlap.

Her attorneys -- Democratic Party election law veterans Ben Kuehne and Joe Geller (former North Bay Village mayor and one-time hopeful for state rep in district 106) -- have asked the judge to dismiss the case. They argue Ruiz could not resign from a seat she will technically not have come the day after Election Day.

"There's not even a minute of overlap," Kuehne said, adding that the "resign to run" law is clear.

"This law was designed to prevent elected officials from having a back door safety valve so if voters reject him or her, they can't fall back to the same positions they had before. And because she is term limited out, there is no possibility Sandra Ruiz is going to hold two offices at one time," Kuehne said.

"This law was never designed to be a technical gotcha," he said, rejecting arguments from Farias' attorney, William Peña Wells -- an active local Dem Party member -- that the Doral council member elected to replace Ruiz will not be sworn in until the day after and that there could even be a runoff forced because of a close race.

But Peña says that Kuehne is misinterpreting the law and pointed out in his motion that Van Name, who is also term limited out, did resign his council seat effective Election Day.

Keuhne told Ladra Tuesday that the lawsuit was an obvious political ploy, machinations to impact the race and said Nuñez, the Republican, also sued because it is in her best interest to face what she considered a weaker Democratic candidate for the November general election.

"The Republican is trying to get my client kicked out of the primary becasue she knows she will have an easier time in November," Kuehne said. "This is pure gamesmanship in what is a very important race."

Peña Wells also believes the law is clear and would use the city's own charter in his argument. He also said, when asked, that he had never had any contact with Van Name and that he got the other Doral Council member's resignation to run from public records.

"I have never laid eyes on the man or spoken to him. He is a complete stranger to me," Peña said. "If I bumped into him, I wouldn't know him."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Congressional candidates and cops

The Republican candidates in the election for U.S. House in District 25 are all having close encounters with law enforcement in recent days.

First Paul Crespo had that caught-on-tape brush with West Miami Police who asked him to leave a meeting of the local Reps during a candidate forum and told Ladra he would follow up with a request for internal affairs to look into it.

Then, Monday morning, State Rep. David Rivera was at the Miami-Dade Police Department Monday to be fingerprinted -- but not because he committed a crime. In fact, it may be because he never did.

And Marili Cancio told Ladra today that she will take a letter delivered to her campaign office this afternoon to the police to report it as an anonymous threat to slander or libel her if she does not drop out of the race.

Is there no real crime in Miami anymore?

Allegations of domestic violence that surfaced (again) last week against the front-running Rivera -- most likely fueled by opponents in that election -- may have forced Rivera, who has otherwise not responded to the "desperate, false accusations" to go to the Doral station and clear his name.

Last week, Ladra called Rivera on Friday and left him a voice mail message about what we had learned from a Det. Rebeca Perez at MDPD. She told me a David M. Rivera with his date-of-birth (he's a Libra) was arrested once. But she could not tell me the charge or the date, which indicates the record was sealed or expunged. She also said that people who are falsely accused of crimes -- either through identify theft or because they simply share a common name and birthday with someone else -- could take steps to clear their names by running their prints in the system. She said people often did.

On Monday, Rivera was fingerprinted and had those prints run. And he has no record.

So says a document signed by records technician Retha Nelson. Ladra is looking at it, dated today, stamped with the official department seal.

I am also holding another record, this one dated Friday and also stamped, signed by technician P. Rogerson, which says he does have a local misdemeanor arrest record.

But there seems to have been a computer glitch because when someone pulled that case up, it corresponds to another David Rivera -- a Capricorn (different DOB). Instead of the 44-year-old legislator (accused by people with a political agenda of repeat domestic violence in 1994) we are looking at the record of a 40-year-old with a 2003 misdemeanor charge for petit theft from a Home Depot in Miami Gardens. Not the same guy, we assume.

(Huh? And it is just a coincidence that the computer glitch had David Rivera's dob, the David Rivera who is a sitting State Rep., Congressional candidate and rising political star? Um, I would like to see someone look into how that happened. Computer forensics could tell us all if this was truly computer or human error or intentional sabotage. We deserve to know.).

We are impressed that Rivera went through the trouble of going to the police and having his hands inked for fingerprints at 8:15 a.m. And we are pleased. Candidates too often dismiss false allegations as negative campaigning without trying to set the record straight. In this case, only Rivera -- by providing fingerprints -- could have shown that the record in police files was not his. While it does not clear up the family court case with his name on it (but no DOB, and need we remind people how common David Rivera is?), it also, naturally, throws doubt onto it. Particularly with no paperwork or public documents to back it up and when the alleged victim told me herself that it is not the state rep she dated 16 years ago.

(We were also reminded by people who know that while Rivera worked from 1991 to 1999 at the Office of Cuba Broadcasting within the U.S. State Department, the feds ran background security checks regularly. Ladra has seen the 1996 and 1997 reports that give him clearance).

Rivera had earlier told me that it was a case of mistaken identity. But he has since declined to "dignify these false allegations with a response." Asked Monday why he felt compelled to take steps to clear his name in the police case, Rivera repeated that the allegations do not deserve the dignity of a response, but added: "I have never been accused of anything in my life."

Reached by phone, Marili Cancio (Rep), who is running against Rivera, said the fingerprints prove nothing because you do not have to be fingerprinted to have a temporary restraining order against you. I believe that might be true, but the fact that this was so easily debunked certainly casts a pall of doubt on everything else.

"It's great if he is innocent," said Cancio, who said she was not the one who originated the story.

"I said that he was a coward if he hit a woman," she told Ladra. "I did not say he hit a woman."

Uh huh. That's like asking "When did you stop smoking crack?"

Cancio also hints at a conspiracy: "You can make anything disappear."

Then again, she was a little distracted during the interview -- and maybe ruffled -- as she awaited a staffer coming with an anonymous letter that arrived in the mail at the campaign office Monday. She had a staffer read it to her over the phone and then asked him to bring it to her.

"I'm taking it to the police," Cancio said. "This is a fun, fun campaign."

She said the letter had a fictional return address but was mailed from the 33152 zip code.

"The contents are intended for me to back down or they are going to say things about me," Cancio said. What things? She would not get into the details.

"I don't get intimidated," Cancio said. "I just get mad."

Ladra has a feeling there is more to come on all of this. We will keep checking with the cops.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Democratic dinner in Hollywood attracts big Dems in hot races

Some of Florida's biggest and most well-known democrats -- including a surprise appearance by former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate George McGovern, who got a standing ovation -- are in Hollywood this weekend for the Florida Democratic Party's Jackson-Jefferson fund-raising dinner and conference at the Westin Diplomat Hotel, with more than 1,200 attendees.

But candidates will have to shell out precious campaign dollars to eat. Christina Boltin, finance director for the Florida Democratic Party, told me none of the $180 tickets for the dinner event Saturday night were comped to candidates or their campaign staff. So we expect to see those expenses -- and vendor tables at $500 a pop -- on future finance disclosure reports. Who got vendor tables? According to Boltin, gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink (who had technical difficulties with the mic during her speech Saturday night), Loranne Ausley, Democratic candidate to replace Sink for CFO, both Democratic candidates for Attorney General Dan Gelber and Dave Aronberg, and dueling Dem U.S. Senate candidates Kendrick Meek and Jeff Greene (blogs and websites already reporting that Meek got a bigger applause. That's news? It's the worst kept secret that the party is already behind Meek.)

Among candidates making appearances were U.S. Senate candidate Maurice Ferre, who was giving away free "Win With Ferre" t-shirts, and U.S. Congressional candidate Joe Garcia, who spoke at the dinner and was "looking forward to sitting with" Alex Sink, he said on facebook.

Most of the committee meetings and caucuses (Hispanic, Haitian, LGBT, students, and more) met on Saturday. But a few meetings were left for Sunday. The legislative committee will meet from 9 to 10 a.m. in the Atlantic Ballroom, a campaign committee meets at 10 a.m. in room 214 and the Democratic county committee chairs meet from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. All meetings are open to all Democrats. I guess Republicans and Independents are not welcome, but do they really ask for your voter's reg at the door?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Alex Sink with "one of every color" on the campaign trail in Little Havana

Thursday was a busy day for several political aspirants -- from county commission candidates to state rep wannabes -- who tried to squeeze a little more coin into their campaign coffers before Friday's cutoff for the quarter.

But the big event Thursday night had to be the Miami Dade Democratic Party's fete for gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink at the Cuba Ocho Art and Research Center -- think a cross between a museum and an after hours -- on Calle Ocho in Miami's Little Havana.

Ladra feels honored that this is where Sink spent the last crucial hours of this collection period, even if we all know she is not sweating the primary. She told WPLG Channel 10 she would not buy ads until after August.

"There's not really a primary," she told a Univision reporter at the event Thursday while the camera man took B-roll after the on-air interview. (That surely is not news to Brian Moore, the other Democrat in the race who has hardly made a blip on the radar).

Dave Patlak, president of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Committee (who lost his 2006 bid for Congress against Ileana Ros-Lehtinen), said it was significant that Sink chose "the heart of Miami" for her last fundraiser of this period and he was glad that several local candidates took time out of their campaigning to come by. State Rep. Luis Garcia introduced the party's top state candidate and both Joe Garcia, who is running for congress in District 25, and Maurice Ferre, a candidate for U.S. Senate, made short appearances, Patlak said (Ladra got there a little late after another fundraiser.) Kendrick Meek, who is the party favorite even though they don't publicly say so, did not swing by but Platka said he was in DC. "His wife has been coming to our events," he said. But Mrs. Meek was not there either.

Ladra did run into Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, a school board candidate in district 2, and was introduced to John Paul Arrien, a candidate for community council in district 11, by David Carcache-Guzman, a Sweetwater activist believed to have aspirations to that city's council. We are sure there are others we are forgetting or did not see. Doesn't matter because we get the gist: Photo ops abounded and even Sink, who is known to believe in and use the power of social media, told the crowd (of about 100 people, according to Miami-Dade Dems Executive Director Ric Herrero) that if they were going to take photos with her, they had to put them on facebook. She must have been stopped more than a dozen times as she walked the long path to the door to pose with candidates and saner people who wanted to pose with her for their profiles.

(Full album here: Ladra apologizes for the not-so-good quality of the photos and blames it on the fact that she had to use her camera phone. But it was her fault the digital camera battery ran out.)

"It's for facebook," said Gabriel Mendoza, an active member one-time precinct chair with the Miami-Dade Dems, as he and Sink stood in front of a huge painting of a silhouette of an old American car with the Cuban flag superimposed.

At one point, the candidate was posing for a photo with Miami Commissioner Willy Gort when Henry Crespo, outreach vice chair for the Miami Dade Dems, placed himself between them (at this point the group's executive director Ric Herrero had come up, and said, "This is for diversity." It was an innocent joking remark.

Everyone laughed, if maybe a little awkwardly, then Sink said, "In Miami, you have to have one of every color."

Now, Ladra likes Sink somewhat and would like to say that Florida has had an elected female governor -- which, sadly, we cannot say today. But that remark made me squirm a little. Not because it makes me uncomfortable. Ladra is immune to political correctness maybe because she knows it doesn't exist. But if only because this is Miami, and the Hispanics don't really consider themselves a "color"(many of them marked "white" on demographic studies, so watch out for those skewered numbers). Whether it is right or wrong is moot (Ladra happens to consider herself one of the green people), if she wants to reach the Hispanic voters here, she needs to be more sensitive to the fact that Miami is not LA or NY or even, dare I say it, Orlando. The Hispanics here might be snobby about that whole "Hispanic white/non-Hispanic white thing" but they vote, and she would do well to take that into account. Just sayin'.

Speaking of Hispanic outreach, Ladra asked Herrero what she was doing in our county, where the majority of voters are of some Hispanic descent, whether they are white or black. He said he did not know and to ask the campaign. But he also said the local dems will do their part to reach the Hispanic voters and community.

Maybe Miami Commissioner Willy Gort can help in that area. Prior to the "diversity photo," Sink and Gort got a chance to share a little one-on-one out of earshot. Ladra could not make out what Gort was telling her but the word, or rather number 2012 was in there (maybe his next run for office?). Another thing rang clear from Sink's nods, approving body language and the way the state CFO told one of her lackeys to follow up with Gort: She seemed to offer assistance or support.

So, does that mean that the leading Democratic candidate for governor -- who had an event Friday night at the Westin Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, where she will also be at the Florida Dems Jefferson-Jackson fundraising dinner (more on that in a bit) in town more often?

Will the REAL David Rivera please stand up?

Blogs have been abuzz since last week (WFOR Channel 4 News and The Miami Herald are working on a real story, we hear) about a 16-year-old Miami-Dade Family Court document that paints a David M. Rivera -- purportedly the state rep who is running for Congress -- as a repeat domestic abuser.

Rep. David Rivera (whose barely uses his M for Mauricio) says it's not him and that he doesn't know the victim named in the document, Jenia Dorticos. He says the allegations are "desperate, false, negative attacks." The woman, who Ladra reached in Brooklyn by telephone this week (as far as we know, the only source she talked to), also said it was a case of mistaken identity.

"It's not him," said Dorticos, a software engineer who contributed $474 to the Obama campaign in 2008.

"That guy was a musician," Dorticos said about her David M. Rivera.

And in an only in Miami twist: Dorticos is said to be the grand niece of Osvaldo Dorticos Torrado, the second president of Cuba under Fidel Castro's rule and a close Castro ally. Ladra is still trying to reach her brother, Jorge Raul Castro Dorticos (I did not make that name up), a personal trainer in Miami Beach. Another relative is Catherine Dorticos, who works for the Cuban Institute of TV and Film, according to her facebook profile, which also lists several pages that could be seen as friendly to the regime. A facebook photo trail also led to Dr. Francisco Dorticos, who was chief the department of bypasses at Cuba's Institute of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Surgery and a vocal opponent of the embargo. Likely a coincidence but just wait for the allegations of espionage and sabotage here (3...2...1...).

What we do know is that according to a courthouse document obtained by Ladra (which does not prove who the abuser is), a temporary injunction or restraining order was granted on Oct. 13, 1994 against Jenia's David M. Rivera and an emergency hearing was scheduled for Oct. 28. The hearing was reset for Nov. 7 and the restraining order was automatically extended to Nov. 9 to cover the time delay. (Standard procedure).

But Jenia Dorticos never showed up for the hearing and the case was dismissed. That certainly doesn't mean the abuse never happened because victims get scared and discouraged all the time.

But it also doesn't mean it was the David M. Rivera, chairman of the Miami-Dade Republican Party.

Rivera was living in D.C. during much of the Cuban rafter crisis and the aftermath, or from about August 1994 well into 1995, at the home of Yvonne Soler McKinley, who today is Doral City Manager and was former city manager in South Miami. She confirmed this to Ladra.

But that doesn't necessarily clear him, either. He certainly could have commuted to Miami once in a while.

Rivera's facebook page has him mugging in two photos with Hilda Rabilero (photo above with Steven Bauer and an unidentified man), who is apparently Jenia Dorticos' mother and lives in the same Collins Avenue condominium as Jorge Raul Castro Dorticos.

But that still doesn't mean he knows her daughter. It's a small world. (Who isn't in photos on some profiles of people we don't really know or never met before that event.).

Dorticos confirmed to Ladra that she lived in Miami in 1994 and had dated a David who became a bit of a problem. She would not go into details, saying also that she barely remembered the incident, and did not return repeated follow-up calls since Monday. (Five times. Ladra left her five messages and she has not called back).

But she clearly told Ladra her David was not a rising Republican political star. "He was doing nothing, going nowhere," she said about her musician boyfriend.

That year, Rivera got a master's degree from Florida International University, lived part time at least in D.C., worked for TV and Radio Marti and traveled back and forth to GITMO. Hardly doing nothing. Ladra has heard him sing -- at the same fundraiser last year attended by Dorticos' mom (see? small world, indeed) -- with Steven Bauer of ¿Que Pasa USA?, Scarface and Thief of Hearts. And while he is no Willy Chirino, he can carry a tune. (Not, however, a good career choice if this race sours for him.).

So far, the accusation -- which first appeared in 2002 in a mailer from Rivera's then opponent and again last week in the Down With Tyranny blog by Howie Klein, a known Democrat supporter -- is unsubstantiated and circumstantial at best. Machiavellian at worst. Ladra had been working on clearing up the hearsay with facts since last week and spoke to Jenia Dorticos Monday. She had wanted to wait for more solid proof before posting. But since it has now been repeated and recirculated on the Miami-Dade Democratic Party blog and the Huffington Post ( as well as published in Diario de las Americas, we decided to put it all out there now and let the readers decide.

It also serves as a be-on-the-lookout: Ladra is still on the prowl to find the real David M. Rivera of this document. It has become important and, frankly, bigger than the incident itself. While I abhor domestic abuse -- whether it be physical, verbal or emotional -- we all know that there are false accusations, or not just false but impulsive and exaggerated, born from arguments and breakups and infidelities. It's just very difficult to know exactly what happened 16 years ago. (Unless the real David M. Rivera stands up).

No. That has become background now. The real story, the reason I have to post this already and keep sniffing out the truth is because we could be looking at one of two possible scenarios: It could turn out that the second most influential Republican in South Florida lied repeatedly rather than own up to the truth. Or it could be that the Democratic Party or one of its zealots took advantage of a long-whispered piece of trashy gossip and used a document that was either simply conveniently vague or, worse, known to be false to smear the front-running Rivera (unnecessarily, really, because David has been doing a good job of smearing himself lately).

Case in point: Ladra first got flagged to the Tyranny blog by Ric Herrero, the new executive director of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, who emailed me. He later told me he got it sent to him from someone at the Joe Garcia (D) campaign.

"It's not my job to verify the veracity of things that [I] come across," Herrero told Ladra last week when she asked him why he shared it with who knows how many contacts on his personal gmail email list without confirming it. (It was his personal gmail account, but he and I met a few weeks ago at a Latin American Democratic Club event and I gave him my business card).

Ladra found Jenia Dorticos pretty easily. She is on facebook (isn't everyone?) and we have a few friends in common. Among them is a woman who actively supports Obama and Joe Garcia. She and another friend uninvolved in the campaign told me Dorticos had moved to New York (Brooklyn jived with my internet research). I dialed 411 and a day after leaving a voice mail message, Dorticos called me back and provided a cellphone number on my voice mail (I still have it, but now she hasn't called back after five more messages. That still doesn't prove anything.).

The Tyranny blog also said the other two Republican candidates in the District 25 race, Marili Cancio and Paul Crespo, would raise the issue last week at the REC meeting. That didn't happen. While the two said Rivera should step down because his chairmanship of the party is a conflict of interest and made it unfair for their campaigns, they never brought up any domestic incident.

On Wednesday, though, Cancio posted the link to the Huffington Post as her status on facebook. This morning, she told me she knows that the David Rivera in the document is the state rep. She repeated a claim made to Ladra by other, unnamed sources who do have an agenda or are involved in the campaign, that they had document to link this David with that David. None of that documentation has materialized.

Again, none of the promised documentation has materialized.

My sources also tell me that Channel 4's Jim DeFede and the Miami Herald's Scott Hiassen are also working on this story. I wonder if they got the documents. And when will they weigh in. I can't wait.


Will the real David M. Rivera please stand up? Will Jenia Dorticos ever call me back? Will Hilda Rabilero, please call me (and invite me on her GenTV show)? Will anybody who knows this family please tell them to just come let us know one way or the other if this is true or false?

Stay tuned... Ladra is restless and sniffing the air... more about this will surely come.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

School Board candidate: No coverage = No ads.

Don't expect to see too many ads for Miami-Dade School Board candidate for district 7 Nathasha Alvarez in the Community Newspapers.

"At the moment, I am unable to buy advertising into these community newspapers. For one major reason; none of these newspapers have bothered to interview me about the campaign," Alvarez responded to an email from a salesman.

"I am 3 foot tall, in a wheelchair, and a teacher in Miami Dade County Public Schools. I am also the editor and founder of I am also the President of the Alliance, a professional organization for educators and support staff. I am also the only candidate in my district who has been publicly active at school board meetings to discuss the quality of education and the funding issues that our present leadership has been giving our children," she wrote, probably with no idea that Ladra would get a copy when she hit "reply to all".

"If this isn't news to your community newspapers then how can I possibly buy ads in it," Alvarez asked, thanking Delzin Miles nonetheless.

No knowledge yet of Miles' response back. He probably did not hit "reply to all."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Crunch time: Big push for July fundraisers before Friday deadline

Candidates in our local county and state elections have only four more days to rake in as much race cash as they can before the July 16 reporting deadline. There are a few fundraisers planned for this crunch time and these are some of those, in case anybody wants to attend.

BTW, suggested contribs are just that: Suggested.

Brickell will see supporters for two democratic candidates for the state house tomorrow night. You can do both. A fundraiser for Millie Herrera (D), running for seat 114, begins at 6 p.m. at 1925 Brickell Ave. in Building C, according to the Dems of South Dade. In the lobby, you are supposed to ask for the event hosted by Marcelino Miyares, a Cuban-executive media and marketing executive and president of the Christian Democratic Party of Cuba. Co-hosts are Pepe Vazquez and Rene Hernandez, two of the three vice presidents of the exile organization ( It goes 'til 8, but leave in the middle if you want to catch a reception for Katie Edwards, the farm bureau chief running for seat 119, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Epic Hotel, 270 Biscayne Blvd. Way. Be prepared to fork over $100 for complimentary drinks and "the ambience of the posh Epic hotel" at the event, according to the invite from a group calling itself "young professionals." While that host committee has more than 20 hosts -- including Kim Bokamper, State Rep. Evan Jenne, Andrew Korge, Cameron Sisser, Cedric McMinn and Laura Murray of the Miami-Dade Young Dems, Franco Ripple of Obama for America -- it was still "in formation" Sunday.

A bigger crowd is expected Thursday as the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink llega a la pequeña habana. The local DEC hosts the 7 p.m. fundraiser at the Cuba Ocho Art and Research Center, 1465 SW 8th St., for $20 a head -- but $100 gets you on the host committee and $200 lists you as a sponsor.

One Sink supporter, Annette Taddeo, will likely skip the Little Havana fete -- unless the Miami-Dade Commission candidate, one of Sink's hosts at the Biltmore brunch in December is a little late to her own fundraiser in Pinecrest that evening hosted by founding Pinecrest Mayor Evelyn Greer and founding Pinecrest councilman Leslie Bowe, among others.

Republicans don't have to stay home, though. The Broward Women's Republican Club and a few other groups will host a lunch reception for Bill McCollum at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at YOLO Restaurant, 333 East Las Olas Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale. In addition to the BWRC, the hosts are the Coral Springs/Parkland Republican Club, the East Broward Federated Women’s Republican Club, the Greater Deerfield Beach Republican Club, the Lauderdale Beach Republican Club and the Republican Business Network. Cost is $15 and is considered a contribution.

Local Reps can support Ralph Rosado (R), a candidate for state house in district 117, at a "fundraiser cocktail" at Novecento, 121 Alhambra Plaza, in Coral Gables starting at 6 p.m. Hosts Gonzalo Acevedo, Ariana Fajardo, Jack Gonzalez, Carlos Hernandez and Jose Perez de Corcho call it "a night of conversation and good fun" on the facebook invite.

Attorney Lisa V. L'Esperance (D), is running in the same seat but has her next fundraiser next week, after the deadline, on July 22 in the Atrium at the Palmetto Bay Village Center, 18001 Old Cutler Road, a 300,000 square-foot office center that opened in 2004. No time yet on the notice from the Democrats of South Dade Club. But the visit could be a two-fer if you are looking for office space: There is more 20,0000 square foot available, according to the site plans on the website. (; 6th Floor South (PDF)).

(Photo caption: Lisa V. L'Esperance, Sandra Ruiz and Millie Herrera are all running in different house districts. L'Esperance and Herrera have fundraisers planned this week).

Mayor Kerdyk in the Gables future? Maybe

Vice Mayor William "Bill" Kerdyk, a 16-year commissioner long considered a mayor-in-grooming by many, would not commit to a run for the seat next April at the Ponce Business Association lunch Monday.

But he clearly said, and repeated, that he was "strongly considering it" and would not "make a decision til after September."

Kerdyk, a local favorite, said it has nothing to do with who else was running, but just depended on the answer to two questions: "Is it the best thing for Coral Gables? And is it the best thing for my family?

"And not necessarily in that order."

Ladra's just a really good watchdog, but she thinks he's being smart. That way, it doesn't turn the budget into a campaign issue before it's passed. And people won't connect Kerdyk's mayoral campaign to the budget concerns that are likely to rile up the Gables masses -- such as ballooning pension costs that take up nearly 15 percent of the budget and a proposed 45 percent hike in building fees commissioners will consider at tomorrow's meeting.

The business and civic leaders in the upstairs room at JohnMartin's Monday were mostly disappointed. Many of them have urged Kerdyk to run for mayor (as far back as two terms ago).

Gables voters adopted term limits in the 2009 election and Kerdyk has one more term as commissioner before he is termed out if he decides to stay put. Nobody has stepped up to run in Kerdyk's commission group. (Probably because he is hard to beat. I mean, the guy could be mayor).

The other seat open is the one held by Commissioner Wayne "Chip" Withers for more than 20 years. He has announced that he is not seeking re-election and three men have expressed interest: Richard Martin, who lost in 2009 to Commissioner Ralph Cabrera, Brad Rosenblatt, a businessman who served as president of the Coral Gables Business Improvement District, and attorney Frank Quesada, who worked for Kerdyk Real Estate once and now works at the law firm of former Gables Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli.

It's a small city (50,000 or so residents -- and almost 30,000 registered voters, according to the county's elections department).

Attorney Tom Korge, a past chair of the city's planning and zoning board, and former U.S. Ambassador James Cason -- who headed the U.S. Interest Section in Havana from 2002 to 2005 and is now president of the Center for a Free Cuba -- have expressed interest in the mayor's seat, said City Clerk Walter Foeman.

Mayor Don Slesnick, first elected in 2001, has said he will not seek a fifth term (though he has not been definitive about it and hints that he might be forced to run, or obligated, if the people want it. No petition drive yet but we will let you know if that starts.

Slesnick is already the longest serving mayor in the City Beautiful's 84-year history.

Will Kerdyk announce run for mayor at lunch?

Coral Gables Vice Mayor William "Bill" Kerdyk, who has been on the dais for 16 years and is considered a prime mayoral candidate this April when his current term ends, might just make the awaited announcement over sheperd's pie today at the Ponce Development Association lunch.

Or he could disappoint the business owners and civic leaders who will be there and who have publicly and privately pushed Kerdyk -- who owns a real estate firm near the Mile and is known for his Parknership prorgram and the Gables popular trolley program -- to run for mayor. He could also run for commissioner again.

Many say Kerdyk has been slow to decide on making a choice because his good friend Tom Korge has talked about running. Others say he has too much on his plate between his realty business, the Bank of Coral Gables, which he helped found, and his role as Chairman of the Toyota Junior Golf World Cup in Japan. But they are still hopeful he will take up the seat that many consider a legacy.

The lunch costs $22 and begins at noon upstairs at JohnMartin's, 253 Miracle Mile.

Gables PAC meeting right now to tackle upcoming budget

Coral Gables Citizens Political Action Committee President Vincent Damian sent an email last week to members of the group -- which consist of some of City Hall's most vocal and consistent critics -- asking them to come to a meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the Boy Scout Cabin on Granada Golf Course, 1107 S. Greenway Drive, at the corner of Cordoba.

The meeting goes 'til at least 7 p.m., so anyone driving by can still make it.

The main agenda: The city budget.

"It's mid-summer, but many of you are inquiring as to what we can do to get this City to take action on its continuing fiscal problems," Damian wrote. "These include the continuing and increasing personnel costs and the over burdensome pensions. We all know that the salary issues and personnel issues at City Hall must be addressed. The pension system that we have is unsustainable."

And he probably had not yet seen the proposed 45 percent building permit fee increases across the board that the city manager will ask the commission to approve at Tuesday's meeting. A building site plan permit could go from $7,500 to $10,875; an application for a variance, from $1,000 to $1,450; an additional floodlamp in your yard, from $10 to $14.50.

Damian also wants to talk about unpaid rent on city properties -- the commission will also on Tuesday discuss the Biltmore Hotel management's request to pay about $3 million in back rent by July 2012 on Tuesday -- and the "looming" April elections, the email says.

"We must encourage and assist capable candidates," Damian urges.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

No big surprises on morning debate

The three Republican candidates for U.S. House in district 25 did not reveal anything new when interviewed by Michael Putney this morning on WPLG ABC 10's This Morning in South Florida.

But, as expected, both Paul Crespo and Marili Cancio took the opportunity to hit State Rep. David Rivera, the GOP favorite, again.

"He has wrapped himself around the Cuban flag," Cancio said. "Yet he has taken an endorsement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce [which supports lifting the embargo], so there is a lack of consistency between his acts and his words."

Rivera said that he got their support "because I cut taxes and I create jobs. They know my position on Cuba and if they don’t know it now they will know it when I am in Congress."

But Crespo challenged his budget record, saying he voted for increased spending by millions and increased fees across the board to motorists and then repeated his claim that Rivera's title as chairman of the local REC is a "conflict of interest" with the race and asked him again to resign. Crespo has repeatedly said that Rivera's campaign is unfairly and unethically benefiting from his chairmanship. Putney asked Rivera to give a reason why he didn't step down.

Asked Putney: "Why don't you?"

Rivera said there has been plenty of precedents -- including RPOF chairman John Thrasher and Sen. Mel Martinez who was chairman of the Republican National Committee -- but Crespo said Martinez did not serve during his campaign. (Still, is that the best reason you could come up with David? Precedent? You are doing it because you CAN? Not because you still have important work to do?).

Putney also showed a video of Crespo being asked to leave the REC candidate forum by West Miami Police Thursday night and called it "a civil exchange."

Said Crespo: "The police were summoned and sent to me to harass me and intimidate me and take me out of the room."

Rivera, who was speaking when Crespo was led from the room and said he had nothing to do with the involuntary police escort, said the REC fracas would not matter to voters.

"There were 100 people in that room. There are hundreds of thousands of voters here worried about losing their jobs, their homes," Rivera said.

Like good Reps, all three said they would vote against a new stimulus plan, extending unemployment benefits and any off-shore drilling ban. Rivera stuck to his "because we can" argument: "We can't ban off-shore drilling because other nations are doing it all around the world," he said. "So, if we are not doing it, someone else is going to be doing it." Cancio said that this was not a time to make an impulsive decision like that one: "We don’t know what happened. Right now a very emotional time we need to investigate what happened in the gulf before we make any decision. I'm against the Crist ban. It is politicizing something that is affecting our environment." Crespo wouldn't commit, but said the U.S. has "oil and gas reserves to last us 300 years" if we can tap into the off-limits areas like Alaska. "Part of the reason we are out in 500 feet of water is because these other areas are not open up to explore.

Like I said... absolutely nothing new.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Congressional debate and futbol!

Congressional candidate Joe Garcia (D) is hoping to score a few goals with supporters Sunday at a World Cup party at the Sports Bar and Grill, 11995 SW 26 St., beginning at 1:30 p.m.

We'll know by then if he scored any at the District 25 congressional debate on the Michael Putney show at 11:30 a.m. Expect it to be lively after the fracas at the local REC meeting Thursday night, where Paul Crespo (R) was asked to leave by West Miami Police in what he says was an abuse of power by David Rivera (R), the chairman who is getting a lot of heat for an FIU-wide email sent by two profs drumming up donations.

Marili Cancio (R) is also expected to be at the televised debate. We also expect to see District 25 candidate Luis Meurice (D), who scored the AFL-CIO endorsement (which Garcia had in 2008 when he ran against Mario Diaz-Balart in an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. House).

I can't wait to tune in.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Wake up and drink a cortadito!

Do you like yours dark, like I do? With just a touch of condensed milk?

People close to me know that I have wanted to do this for a while -- and maybe not wanted to do it at the same time. Why? Some people don't like it when you tell the truth if and when the truth isn't pretty (it happens). And, truth is, I have friends and business associates, even clients, who are involved at varying levels in the world of PoliMiami who might not like this (too bad). And I'm not in the mood to be preyed upon by interesados who pretend to be friends or promise to send you business to gain favor (read: everyone wants a piece of you. Warning: Been burned already and I learn fast). And it opens you up to verbal attacks, slander and abuse live and in the form of anonymous comments from anyone threatened by the truth (it happens. But I'm ready).

Still, the reasons to blog outweighed those arguments not to.

Through no fault of their own, just an evolution of the information universe, more traditional news providers, emaciated from their budget cuts and staff slashing, are seriously failing to provide timely and valuable information about the smaller elections and government bodies in our communities where decisions can sometimes more directly affect our lives, families, livelihoods, health, wealth and lifestyles. They have less resources, so they put them on the big races and you read about them over and over again. But the others get very little notice. One example: Wednesday's Chamber South networker event, a "meet the candidates" in the municipal elections in Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay. No major media was there. I did not see Community Newspapers either. Yet these candidates could be in a position to spend our/your tax dollars and reroute streets on your daily commute or approve zoning changes and increase density at a condo near your house. They should not be given a free pass.

And then there are the little details that voters should or might want to know, the insider information that news reporters and political junkies like me come across on a regular basis. Like when Congressional candidate and former Democratic Party Chairman Joe Garcia called State Rep. David Rivera, now his opponent, the "closest thing to the anti-Christ we have in Tallahassee" at a Democratic Federation of America meeting in Coral Gables. The gold parties, paint-gun competitions and garage sales being held as campaign fundraisers to offer contributors something more, a result of the economic downturn. The debate at last month's joint meeting of the Cuban and Latin American democratic clubs about the local DEC seeking more absentee ballots, to fight the Republicans at their own game. The awkward moment when three candidates for the same county commission seat bumped into each other in the lobby at the office where they interviewed with the Builders Association of South Florida.

But that's all espuma anyway. That's the light cortadito. The dark stuff, my weakness, is what is really important for you to know. Like how two campaign managers planned a political action committee to funnel a large donation from a local business to their candidates' campaign accounts. Like the political operatives rumored to be behind no-name candidates accused of entering the race to hurt any real threat to an incumbent. Like elected officials hosting fundraising events on the taxpayer time and dime.

This space aims to provide interesting if not vital information on local governments and elections in a manner that is fair, ethical, accessible, consistent, persistent, independent and in context, something that is sadly lacking in some other places. This space aims to fill some of the void that traditional media outlets have left in their budget and staff costs with an a new, rational voice for the people. Because it is still important that voters, taxpayers and residents have vital information -- okay, maybe sometimes not vital but interesting nonetheless (la espuma) -- on those who make or seek to make the policy and decisions that govern our lives.

Because, either oscuro or not, a cortadito can wake you up in the middle of a weekday afternoon stupor. Which is what many of us are in when it comes to our elected leaders and public servants: long, boredom-induced and apathetic stupors.

Drink a cortadito and wake up!