Florida Politics: “Florida Young Dems endorse Sean Shaw, Jeremy Ring, 11 congressional candidates”

Sean Shaw and Jeremy Ring have gotten the backing of the Florida Young Democrats in their quests for the Florida attorney general and chief financial officer posts, as have 11 candidates in their congressional races.

The YoungDems did not endorse in the governor’s race, the agriculture commissioner’s race, or 16 other congressional races, including several in which incumbent Democrats are seeking re-election, notably U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Al Lawson, and Stephanie Murphy.

Shaw, the state representative from Tampa, faces attorney Ryan Torrens in the August 28 Democratic primary. The winner would face one of several possible Republican nominees, state Rep. Jay Fant of Jacksonville, state Rep. Frank White of Pensacola, and former Circuit Judge Ashley Moody of Tampa.

Ring, the former state senator, is unopposed among Democrats heading toward a November showdown with incumbent Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis.

The Florida Young Democrats’ board recommends endorsements, and the candidates were voted on at the annual young Democrats convention, May 18-20 in Miami, by the organization membership.

The organization said it did not endorse if there were two or more Democrats and the vote was close and the candidates were all considered strong progressives, or if the candidates did not meet the organization’s vision on issues. The organization’s bylaws require two-thirds vote backings from both the executive board and the voting membership.

The congressional endorsements went to former U.S. Ambassador Nancy Soderberg in Florida’s 6th Congressional District; Sanjay Patel in Florida’s 8th Congressional District; U.S. Rep. Darren Soto in Florida’s 9th Congressional District; U.S. Rep. Val Demings in Florida’s 10th Congressional District; U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in Florida’s 13th Congressional District; Andrew Learned in Florida’s 15th Congressional District; David Shapiro in Florida’s 16th Congressional District; U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District; U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson in Florida’s 24th Congressional District; Mary Barzee Flores in Florida’s 25th Congressional District; and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

“Our priorities in races were trying to support young people and trying to support candidates who had messages that support young people,” said Florida Young Dems President Jake Sanders.

“We’re endorsing our own; that means we’re endorsing some young people against people who are favorites,” he added. “We want to make sure that people who speak to youth issues get recognized for it.”

In the governor’s race, which features two Young Dems, Chris King and Andrew Gillum, along with Philip Levine, Gwen Graham and newly-filed candidate Jeff Greene, “We have people on our executive board for every single candidate,” Sanders said, adding, “Except no one for Jeff Greene.”

In one race – Florida’s 18th Congressional District – the Florida Young Dems decided not to endorse because Sanders has been involved in the campaign of Lauren Baer, who faces Pam Keith in the primary.

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E&E News: “Republican promises climate action — if he wins”

It’s not surprising that the race for the southernmost district of Florida is between two Hispanics who have made climate change one of their key issues.

Like the entire state of Florida, the 26th District has become a purple battleground where voters, Republicans and Democrats alike, worry about rising seas. Much of the district felt the punch of Hurricane Irma last year as it swept over the low-lying Keys and inundated island roads.

Elections can be as unpredictable as a storm’s path. Hillary Clinton won the district by 16 percentage points in 2016, even as its Republican congressman, Carlos Curbelo, sailed to victory with a 12-point advantage.

This year promises to be rockier.

Democrats have a 6 percent advantage in voter registration. The Cook Political Report calls the race a toss-up, and Democrats see the district as a cornerstone in their effort to grab the 23 seats they need to take control of the House in November. It stretches from Miami to the tip of the Keys.

Curbelo, a 38-year-old born to Cuban immigrants, is facing a tough opponent in Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a 46-year-old born in Ecuador who is expected to win the Democratic primary in August. A relative newcomer to politics, Mucarsel-Powell has spent 20 years working for nonprofits and colleges. She already has the backing of prominent Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.

In 2016, the district hosted one of the most expensive races in the nation. It promises to be the same this year. Democratic donors are already pouring money in. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reserved $2 million in TV and radio ads in Miami, and a group of New York progressive donors — dubbed the House Victory Project — identified the race as one of 10 to support, according to The New York Times. The latest campaign finance filings show that Curbelo had about $2 million on hand, compared with $700,000 for Mucarsel-Powell.

Both Curbelo and Mucarsel-Powell have spoken passionately about environmental issues, particularly climate change. Voters see them as being in agreement on the issue, said Susan MacManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida.

‘We are ground zero’
Co-founder of the Climate Solutions Caucus, Curbelo credits himself for bringing together 78 bipartisan lawmakers for action on climate change.

“When I arrived here in Congress, there were maybe two or three Republicans willing to talk about the issue and acknowledge it,” Curbelo said in an interview. “And today we have 39 Republicans on the record acknowledging that climate change is a serious challenge and that Congress has a role in addressing it. We’ve really helped establish a bipartisan dialogue based on science and facts on this issue.”

His critics, though, say the Climate Solutions Caucus has not gone far enough and merely provides cover for Republicans in close races. They point to the newest members of the caucus: Of the three Republicans who joined earlier this month, two are in toss-up races, according to Cook.

In an interview, Mucarsel-Powell said that the caucus has failed to introduce any climate legislation. “I think it’s very typical of Curbelo to say a lot of things that sound great,” she said. “We need action immediately. We see flooding with 2 inches of rain. We see it around the coast. There was horrendous destruction in Monroe County. We are ground zero.”

Curbelo scored 23 percent on the League of Conservation Voters’ scorecard, down 20 percent from last year. The drop is attributed in part to the congressman’s absence during a number of key votes last year in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

But Mucarsel-Powell said, “I would expect someone in a climate caucus to have an upgrade on the rating.”

The LCV is staying out of the race, and a spokesperson declined to comment. In the past, environmental groups have disagreed about whether to back green Republicans. In 2016, the Sierra Club worked against Curbelo and backed Joe Garcia, the Democrat whom Curbelo had unseated two years prior (Climatewire, Jan. 3).

Asked about his LCV rating, Curbelo told the Miami Herald earlier this year: “I don’t know and I don’t care. I don’t follow NRA ratings, chamber ratings, League of Conservation Voters ratings. I just try to do the right thing on every vote and I usually end up finding out about my scores later come campaign season.”

Mucarsel-Powell has personal experience with climate change. She worked at the Coral Restoration Foundation for three years. She has been scuba diving in Florida since 1997, she said, and in recent years, she could “really see the reefs are not as lush as they used to be.”

“It is very clear,” she said. “One of the things that I saw were farms of corals that are growing … and you can see that there is hope — things that we can actually do to address the effects of climate and the warming of our oceans.”

For his part, Curbelo pointed to last summer, when the caucus blocked an amendment that would have eliminated a requirement for the Department of Defense to report on military base exposure to sea-level rise. “We defeated [it by] voting as a bloc,” he said. “Now our hope is that this caucus can become an ideas factory — promote good legislation, not just oppose [bad legislation].”

Asked how far he would go to fight climate change — and whether he could support carbon pricing or caps on emissions from power plants — he said the caucus has been looking at all of those ideas.

“I am personally biased toward a market-based solution putting the consumer in charge of something,” he said.

‘You could easily lose’
The Climate Solutions Caucus, which was formed in February 2016, has had briefings on the impact of climate change on tourism, expanding energy efficiency and coastal impacts, according to the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. “We are figuring out what could be viable here, if not this Congress, then soon after,” Curbelo said.

Danny Richter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby pushed back against accusations that the caucus is ineffective or merely an attempt to greenwash Republicans in moderate districts.

“In our experience, the caucus has been both active and transformational,” he said. “I think the people who are most likely to throw out that greenwashing argument were more likely to say getting something like the caucus was impossible. Now that the impossible is achieved, they are attacking it.”

Mucarsel-Powell claimed she would push much harder. She would “not stop working to make an introduction to end subsidies for fossil fuel companies,” she said, adding that a coalition of both sides is necessary. “I know it’s not easy. I know it’s complicated, but it is possible,” she said.

MacManus doesn’t think Curbelo is vulnerable to attacks on his climate positions. Republicans and Democrats in Florida tend to agree on environmental issues, she said, because the changing climate is happening right in front of them. A poll by the University of South Florida found that Miami respondents said rising sea levels are a top environmental concern.

Still, Curbelo has voted against environmental stances in a number of bills, including to open up oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (as part of the tax reform proposal), in support of the Keystone XL pipeline and against clean energy subsidies.

Curbelo’s office addressed Arctic oil drilling by pointing to Curbelo’s interview with Yale University: “I’m upset about that provision as well, and it’s not the only provision in the tax bill that I would have deleted if I could have written it myself, but when you’re weighing broad comprehensive legislation such as an overhaul of the tax code, you really have to consider the bill in its entirety,” Curbelo said.

Curbelo envisioned the Climate Solutions Caucus in three stages, his office added. The first was to bring people together to talk and educate. The second — and current stage — is opposing anti-climate legislation. The third is proposing proactive bills.

Last week, the caucus sent a letter — its first — to the Appropriations Committee to oppose any policy riders that undermine action on climate change.

Is the letter an indication that the caucus will take a stronger stance?

“Yeah,” Curbelo said. “It shows we are prepared to engage in the appropriations process if we believe there is any attempt to undermine policies that mitigate policies. It is kind of a warning that we are watching.”

Politicos, meanwhile, are watching his race.

Recent polling shows that Curbelo has about a 5-point advantage, within the margin of error, according to MacManus.

“If a Republican holds on in this district, the pressure is on other [Republicans] to be more pro-environment,” she said. “Brian Mast [a GOP congressman in Florida] is in another competitive district, and even Matt Gaetz [R-Fla.] in the Panhandle. I think what you are going to see if he wins here, environmentalists will point to other parts of the state [and say] if you ignore the environment, you could easily lose.”

Read the original article here.

Roll Call: “Six Months Out: The 10 Most Vulnerable House Incumbents”

With the House GOP on defense in a difficult national environment, the 10 most vulnerable incumbents six months out from Election Day are all Republicans.

Republicans have pickup opportunities in November, but this is a ranking of the incumbents most likely to lose, not of seats most likely to flip — so there are no open seats on the list.

The biggest change from when we last compiled the list, a year out from Election Day? The most vulnerable member, California Rep. Darrell Issa, is retiring, sliding Iowa Rep. Rod Blum into the top spot. Blum was near the top of the list for most of 2016 — and then he won. But both Republicans and Democrats agree he’s in trouble this year.

Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock also moves up the list, while Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman, Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo and California Rep. Steve Knight make the cut this time in part because of the difficulty of holding their districts, all of which Hillary Clinton carried. Pennsylvania Rep. Keith Rothfus makes his debut here, thanks to redistricting.

Some familiar names shifted around. New York Rep. John J. Faso Jr. slid from third to fifth, while Minnesota Rep. Jason Lewis fell from second to fourth. New York Rep. Claudia Tenney moved up from seventh to sixth.

As always, this list is compiled after consultation with strategists from both sides of the aisle and the race ratings from Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.

1. Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa

Blum’s district is the type of seat Democrats want back in their column. (Voters here backed Trump, but Obama carried it twice by double digits). Democrats think they have the right candidate. State Rep. Abby Finkenauer still has to win the primary, but she is already up on TV with an ad featuring her dad, a retired pipe fitter. Finkenauer outraised Blum in the first quarter of the year by $180,000, but the incumbent still has a cash on hand advantage. Blum could also be dogged by a report that he violated House Ethics rules. He did not disclose that he owned a marketing company, The Associated Press reported. Blum said it was an “administrative oversight.”

2. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va

Even as one of the GOP’s stronger incumbents (she over-performed Trump by double digits last cycle), Comstock moves up on the list because of the district she’s in and the national environment. She’s broken with her party on some votes that would have hurt federal workers in her district, and she clashed with Trump (on camera) earlier this year when she told him, “We don’t need a government shutdown.” She voted against the GOP health care plan. But on other issues, such as the GOP tax overhaul, she’s stuck with leadership. That could be a vulnerability in an affluent district where many voters claim state and local tax deductions. Comstock starts with a hefty financial advantage, while Democrats still have a crowded primary to get through. But all of the top contenders have resources and the national party will make sure the nominee is well-equipped heading into the fall.

3. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Pa.

If not for a new congressional map, Rothfus wouldn’t be on this list. But the state Supreme Court imposed new district lines for 2018, and his district in southwestern Pennsylvania shifted from one Trump carried with 59 percent of the vote, to a seat Trump would have taken by 2 points with 49 percent. Rothfus represents around half of the new district. His tough spot is made even more difficult with newly elected Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb challenging him under the new lines. Lamb will benefit from a sizable war chest and high name recognition from the hotly contested March special election in a neighboring district that garnered immense media attention. He has $1.7 million in the bank, slightly more than Rothfus’ $1.6 million.

4. Rep. Jason Lewis, R-Minn.

Lewis moves down a few spots but remains vulnerable in a rematch with Democrat Angie Craig. Besides a more favorable national environment, Craig’s biggest advantage this year may be that the same third-party candidate who cut into her margin last year isn’t running. Lewis is by no means the flamethrower in Congress that his radio talk show past would have suggested. But Democrats see plenty to attack him on, starting with his vote to repeal the 2010 health care law. Lewis ended the first quarter with slightly more money in the bank than Craig.

5. Rep. John J. Faso, R-N.Y.

Faso is still looking vulnerable, even though it’s not clear whom he will face in November. Even though Trump carried this upstate New York district, Democrats view it as a target since it voted for Obama twice. Democrats are confident a strong contender will emerge from the crowded primary. Five of the seven challengers have more than $400,000 in the bank. Lawyer Antonio Delgado had more cash on hand than Faso. Some Republicans note the Democrats may be pushed too far to the left in the primary (which has started to happen on issues such as gun violence). Faso’s broken with his party and voted against the tax overhaul, but his vote for the GOP health care bill is still expected to be a major issue in the general election.

6. Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y.

Some Republicans note that part of Tenney’s vulnerability is self-inflicted, pointing to controversial statements like saying mass murderers “often end up being Democrats.” Trump carried the 22nd District by double digits, but Tenney won her first term by a narrower 6-point margin in a race with a third party candidate. Tenney is now facing a well-funded challenger in state Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, who has more cash on hand. House Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC, is already on the airwaves, attacking Tenney for supporting the GOP health care bill. Tenney said she has been outraised before and brushed off the controversial remarks by saying she is in line with her district.

7. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla.

The South Florida congressman is making the list for the first time this cycle, in large part because of the blueness of his district and his surprising vote to repeal the 2010 health care law. He generally isn’t afraid to buck his party, whether taking a stand on climate change or dropping the word “impeachment” in regard to the president. It remains to be seen how strong Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is at the congressional level (she lost a state Senate race in 2016). Curbelo started with a cash advantage and he vastly over-performed Trump in 2016, even if it was by defeating a flawed former congressman.

8. Rep. Steve Knight, R-Calif.

With retirements opening up the list, Knight is a new addition. A former state legislator, he was re-elected to a second term in 2016 by 6 points, besting lawyer Bryan Caforio. Knight is now on the NRCC’s Patriot Program. Caforio is running again, along with Democrats Katie Hill, who runs a nonprofit, and volcanologist Jess Phoenix. Democrats see both Caforio and Hill as strong challengers, and both have more than $500,000 on hand. Knight has $1 million in the bank. Hill did outraise Knight in the first quarter of the year, bringing in $421,000 to his $347,000.

9. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.

It’s possible Rohrabacher might not face a Democrat in November, but he still looks vulnerable in this Clinton district. He’s up against formidable opponents from both parties. Former Orange County GOP chairman Scott Baugh’s entrance into the race made it possible that two Republicans could advance to the general. Under California’s system, the top two vote-getters advance regardless of party. On the Democratic side, both businessman Harley Rouda and stem cell researcher Hans Keirstead have launched viable challenges. This district could also be one of the few where an investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election could actually have an impact. Rohrabacher has been known for his pro-Russia stances and ties to Vladimir Putin, and it remains to be seen whether that could hurt him should Russian meddling continue to make headlines.

10. Mike Coffman, R-Colo.

Republicans believe Coffman is one of their strongest incumbents since he’s weathered tough races before. Like Comstock, his district’s makeup and a national environment favoring Democrats make him vulnerable. And this cycle, Democrats believe they have a strong challenger in Iraq War veteran Jason Crow (despite some headlines about the national party’s involvement in the primary). Coffman has a reputation as a tireless campaigner, so the question for him is whether the national environment will overwhelm his personal brand.