Former Congressman Joe Garcia, who lost his seat to Rep. Carlos Curbelo first in 2014 and again in last year’s bid to regain it, has joined his former campaign consultant, Juan Peñalosa, at the the mostly Democrat consulting and lobbying firm Mercury LLC, which will open an office in Miami.

Garcia’s addition as co-chairman of Mercury was announced Wednesday. He is tasked with expanding the new Miami team and the firm’s reach in Florida, across the country and south of the border.

Read related story: Joe Garcia releases first web ad in congressional contest

Which means he won’t have time to run against Curbelo or anyone else in 2018. “It’s pretty certain that I won’t be on the ballot next year,” Garcia told Ladra Wednesday morning, adding that he was excited abut this new venture in government and public affairs, which is nothing new to him.

“I’ve been in public service all my life and when this opportunity came along, it was perfect. I’m working with people I highly respect and I’ve known for a better part of a decade,” Garcia said, referring not only to Peñalosa but also Mercury Partner Ashley Walker, who he worked on the Obama for America campaign.

Said Walker: “We are excited to welcome Joe Garcia to the Mercury family. His extensive policy experience will be invaluable as we expand our footprint in Miami, and across the Sunshine State.”

During his time in Congress, Garcia, an attorney, served on the House Judiciary Committee — which is where he was caught on a C-SPAN camera in 2014 eating his own ear wax — where he was on the Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Border Security, and the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law. He was also a member of the Committee on Natural Resources, including its Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources; Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs; and Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation.

Read related story: New Joe Garcia ear wax footage — great TV, bad PR

Prior to being elected, Garcia was appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama to the Department of Energy as Director of the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity. Garcia is also former Chairman and member of the Florida Public Service Commission. Before that, he served as board member and Executive Director of the Cuban American National Foundation, and is credited with the group’s softened stance on Cuba policy.

“We are pleased to welcome Congressman Garcia to the Mercury team. His extensive policy experience in the energy and utility sectors, as well as his deep relationships in Washington, will be a tremendous asset to our clients,” said Mercury Co-founder and CEO, Kieran Mahoney.

The job also gives Garcia an opportunity to work on the same issues that he held near and dear in D.C. — like immigration (where he is right) and the U.S.-Cuba relations and policy (where he is wrong). Garcia is attending a Haitian activists’ event Wednesday night to advocate for the expansion of Temporary Protected Status. And he wants to also preserve the Obama administration’s Cuba policy.

In addition to growing Mercury’s Miami and Florida presence, Garcia said he will be paying attention to issues and campaigns in Latin America, “which is playing a bigger role in local politics.”

Will he ever be on a ballot again? Ladra says probably.

“Public service is a calling. And I love doing it.”


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Somewhere around 300 immigrant advocates and social justice activists from more than a Gimenezprotestdozen organizations descended on Miami-Dade County Hall Tuesday afternoon to protest Mayor Carlos Gimenez‘s about-face on complying with federal immigration detention orders at the local level.

And they want him to take it back.

Last week, Gimenez instructed the director of the county’s Department of Corrections to start holding illegal immigrants arrested for unrelated crimes after their local charges are resolved so that U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services can pick them up. Tuesday’s protest, with close to 300 people, was the second in five days.

Read related story: Carlos Gimenez betrays the community for Donald Trump

It was also the first with a list of demands. Community leaders and organizations that signed onto the coalition that protested Tuesday — including Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), United Teachers of Dade, Service Employees International Union, Center for Community Change Action, New Florida Majority, Dream Defenders, United Families, Color of Change, Miami-Dade Democratic Party, Emerge Miami, Council on American Islamic Relations, Save Dade, For Our Future, United We Dream, We Count! and iAmerica — presented five tasks for the mayor.  

“Our coalition demands that Mayor Carlos Gimenez do the following,” read a statement issued Tuesday evening.

  1. Immediately withdraw last week’s directive to comply with Trump’s immigration order.
  2. Work with community stakeholders and legal advocates on additional steps to safeguardgimenezshrugs against Miami-Dade police officers ever acting as immigration-enforcement agents.
  3. Commit to working with mayors across the country facing the same threats from the Trump Administration, to present a coordinated response to these harmful and unconstitutional orders.
  4. Consult with commissioners and stakeholders before complying with any additional orders from the Trump Administration that contradict the laws, traditions and values of Miami-Dade County.
  5. Dedicate the remainder of his term to ensuring that Miami-Dade remains a welcoming place for all people. 

The statement says these measures will help build trust, save tax dollars from the likelihood of lawsuits, “recognize the irreplacable role of immigrants in the economy, society and history of our county,” honor the views of the majority of his constituents, who voted overwhelmingly agaisnt Trump and his policies, and “protect our entire community from the threat of Donald Trump’s hateful and un-American actions.”

Too bad that Gimenez wasn’t there, again (he was out of town during the first protest Friday). Because the protesters had some choice words for him.

“Coward,” was my favorite.

Read related story: Levine Cava questions Gimenez on sanctuary about-face

“As a Commissioner tasked with drafting policy that protects our citizens, I am frustrated and disappointed in Mayor krgprotestGimenez’ actions to comply with President Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-refugee executive order,” said Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez said. “Mayor Gimenez had many options to protect our community.  Instead of consulting with his Commission and community leaders, Mayor Gimenez has the dubious distinction of being the first Mayor in the country to succumb to President Trump’s threats.

“He didn’t even put up a fight.”

Rosen Gonzalez told Ladra later that evening that she feels the county is a sanctuary county — with or without his blessing. “This is a policy that shows that Gimenez is out of touch with his constituents,” she said, adding that she will present a resolution to the Miami Beach Commission next week offering sanctuaryprotestthat city as a sanctuary city (more on that later).

“If Gimenez is not going to do the right thing then let’s do it in Miami Beach,” Rosen Gonzalez said. 

But what boggles her mind the most is how quickly Gimenez catapulted. “He didn’t have to. He could have waited with all these other mayors around the country.”

The commissioner speaks of the mayors of New York, Boston, Buffalo, San Francisco, Chicago, Syrcause, Austin and many other U.S. cities that have chosen to question the legality of the federal mandate. She and others talked about how Gimenez couldn’t have possibly forseen all the possible legal, economic and ethical impacts of his decision.

“Mayor Gimenez’ actions have immediate and very real consequences for our schools and our education system,” said Karla Hernandez Mats, president of United Teachers of Dade.  “Miami-Dade is a majority immigrant community and by complying with President Trump’s Executive Order, Mayor Gimenez is threatening our ability as educators to provide a quality education and a safe space to all children, regardless of immigration status.

Read related story: Joe Garcia to join Carlos Gimenez protesters at County Hall

Former Congressman Joe Garcia, who helped run one of the largest garciaprotestrefugee programs with the Cuban American National Foundation, said that Gimenez had the opportunity to emulate the late Monsigner Bryan Walsh, who led efforts to bring and relocate Cuban children during Operation Pedro Pan.

“The same way Monsignor Walsh stood up for refugee childfren who had no one and nowhere to go, today those of us who benefited from his vision and courage should also stand up and fight for those who have no one and nowhere to go,” said Garcia, who was born in Miami Beach to Cuban parents.

Gimenez was presumably doing the radio and TV rounds Tuesday afternoon, but he’s been dodging the live audience for days. He’s going to have to face the music sooner or later. Probably next Tuesday when Ladra suspects that Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava will make her follow up request an official item on the commission agenda or someone else will put forth something supporting the mayor’s flip. The public will have to be given an opportunity to speak.

Maybe Julio Calderon, an undocumented young man who is a member of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, will be able to address him personally.

“I have helped contribute to this city in many ways, including paying taxes, and I am devastated that Mayor Gimenez is willing to scapegoat the immigrant community for political gain,” said Calderon said Tuesday.

“Deporting me back to Honduras is the equivalent of a life sentence, because there is no guarantee I would survive the violent conditions of my native country. This is personal for me; but for Mayor Gimenez, playing politics with Trump outweighs the value of my life.”



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Former Congressman Joe Garcia will join others at County Hall this afternoon to protest joegarciaheadMayor Carlos Gimenez‘s directive last week to have illegal immigrants who are arrested for other crimes detained for federal immigration proceedings.

“While I’m a good friend of Mayor Gimenez’s, I think this is a mistake,” Garcia told Ladra Tuesday morning.

“Hopefully, he is going to reconsider.”

The protest Tuesday, organized by immigrant activists, is the second one in five days. Close to 100 demonstrators showed up to County Hall on Friday, a day after the mayor ordered the corrections department to hold anyone who has a federal detention order and turn them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But they were blocked from entering the public building. Wonder if Gimenez’s office is going to block a former congressman, too.

The protest today starts at 4:30 p.m. — just as county employees leave for the day.

Read related story: Carlos Gimenez betrays our community for Donald Trump

Immigration issues are important to Garcia, who lost a bid to retake his seat from U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo in November. Curbelo, btw, was one of the five Republicans who voted against a House measure that passed last week cutting off federal funds from the U.S. Department of Justice to states and cities that refuse to enforce current immigration laws.

“When I served in Washington, immigration was a very important thing to me,” Garcia said, adding that he ran one of the largest refugee programs when he headed the Cuban American National Foundation in the 90s.

“And it is very important that we stand with one of the things that make our community so rich. It’s not just the Cubans, it’s the Nicaraguans, the Colombians, the Hondurans,” Garcia said. “I think the signal he [Mayor Gimenez] sent to the rest of the country is a poor one.”

On Thursday, Gimenez sent a directive to Miami-Dade Corrections Director Daniel Junior instructing him to hold gimeneztrumpanyone in county custody who has a detention order from ICE. It reversed a long-standing tradition not to do so and a 2013 county commission resolution that states that the county will only comply with detainer requests once the federal government pays the county costs. Gimenez was the first, and so far the only, mayor to cave in to Trump’s threats.

“The city on the hill is what people in Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean see Miami as. And for us to go for the false narrative from the White House is wrong,” said Garcia, whose parents came to this country when they were 18 and 17 years old.

Read related story: Levine Cava questions Gimenez on sanctuary about-face

“Our mayor is a refugee himself,” Garcia added. “He may not have thought this all the way through.”

Okay, okay, but does this mean that Garcia is positioning himself for another run for office. Maybe for county mayor in 2020 (or sooner, if there’s a recall)? After all, he sent a press release from his campaign Nation Builder account (Update: He sent two; one Monday night and a reminder Tuesday afternoon).

“There is no election going on,” he told Ladra after he laughed a little. “And anyways, I’m a poor politician. This is something that is important. That is why I’m going to be there.”

Ladra wonders how many other electeds — past and present — will be counted, too.

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The Florida Public Service Commission should change its name. Because it is of absolutely no service to the public.

This week, the PSC approved an $811-million robbery, er, we mean rate increase for poor,FPL plant old Florida Power & Light over the next three years. The utility giant was looking at a measly $1.6 billion in projected revenue next year, according to quoted experts. That just wasn’t enough for those greedy corporate monsters, who by the way got a $75.5 million rate increase approved in 2010 and both a $350 million and a $620 million rate hike in 2013. I guess we should consider ourselves lucky they didn’t get the whole $1.3 billion in increases that they asked for this year.

The amount approved translates to an increase in profits to 10.55% for the giant utility and its shareholders and about $13 more a month for the average 1,000-kWh user by 2019. The average monthly consumption for the 8.9 million residential customers in Florida is about 1,141. Observes say the average bill of $132 a month will go to $147 or so by 2019. Half of that increase will be seen in the bills that arrive in January (about $7 for the 1,000-kWh user).

Not only did the five-member PSC approve this, it did so unanimously and with no discussion of the objections raised by others, like the Sierra Club, which argued that the expansion of natural gas hurst the environment, and AARP. which argued the return on equity for investors was too high and called instead for a $300 million rate decrease for residential customers. Both organizations delived thousands of petitions and comments from Florida residents urging the PSC to deny the increase.

Instead of approving more natural gas plants, the PSC should be making it easier for consumers to choose solar.

Instead of approving more natural gas plants, the PSC should be making it easier for consumers to choose solar.

Other critics said the ruling flies in the face of the FP&L-backed amendment rejected by Florida voters Nov. 8 which would have limited consumer’s ability to use solar energy. The voters have spoken and we have said that we want solar energy alternatives. We don’t want FP&L to build two dozen new natural gas plants that we don’t even need.

It’s amazing that they would not even discuss how this ruling aligns with the stated desire of voters. Aren’t they the Public Service Commission? Key word: Public.

But while the AARP and Sierra Club fight our battles, where are our esteemed electeds? Why weren’t they at the PSC hearings advocating against this? How come none of the county lobbyists paid with taxpayer dollars were in Tallahassee urging the PSC to reject the rate increase? Why is it that the AARP, which seems to be doing all the heavy lifting in this fight, is the one calling for regulatory reform?

Where are our esteemed electeds?

Newly-minted Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, who in November beat incumbent Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla — who, ironically, works for FP&L as a lobbyist — is the first to cry foul, calling the jrodrate “disappointing” — an understatement when he could have said it was highway robbery — and calling it “further evidence of the need for reform in Florida away from a monopoly system overly controlled by a small handful of giant utilities.”

I’ll say.

“That’s bad for the consumers, bad for the market, bad for the environment and ultimately bad for our democracy,” J-Rod added in his statement.

But from the rest? Nada. Silence.

But even though I suspect other Democrats who have spoken against the rate increase — Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava — might make statements of their own, J-Rod is a lone Democrat voice in a field of Tallahassee Republicans who have long defended FP&L’s hold over us.

Maybe what we need is a Democrat at the PSC. Under former Congressman Joe Garcia‘s watch — he was chairman of the PSC from 1991 to 2000 — FP&L lowered rates by $1 billion, the single largest energy rate cut in Florida’s history.

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She may have been beaten, yet again, in the Democratic primary for the 26th Congressional district by the candidate annettetaddeowho lost anyway to U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo Tuesday. But Annette Taddeo will not go gently into the good night. She is raging against, not a dying light, but the Republican darkness.

Taddeo is still vice chair of the Florida Democratic Party, after all, and for whatever good that has done anybody. Apparently believing she is still a valid Democrat surrogate for people like Hillary Clinton and former Sen. Dwight Bullard, she has been working the Spanish TV and radio circuit in the weeks leading up to the election. She sent out an email last week also to promote the medical marijuana amendment.

You gotta admire, maybe even envy, her thick skin. But maybe she is the kiss of death. Both her candidates lost. Epic fails, man.

Then Wednesday, among the thank you emails from winners and losers alike, she sent nothing less than a digital pep talk, even encouraging we get therapy if we need it. Really.

Dear Elaine,

There is no need to repeat what we’ve already heard on the news last night and today. Many of us are grieving, scared, or still in shock. That is normal.

Today is not the day to play Monday morning quarterback. There will be time for us to regroup later, and determine what we can improve in our strategy for the next election cycle. Right now, I ask you to reach out to the people in your life who spent time on this campaign, and thank them for their hard work and the sacrifices they made. Without these dedicated organizers, interns, and volunteers, last night would have been a whole lot worse.

I strongly encourage anyone who needs help to seek it, and anyone who can help to offer it. Now, more than ever before, it is critical that we stand together and support each other. History has shown us time and time again that we can survive and thrive, even in the worst of circumstances, if only we work together.

Today we begin our efforts to emerge from the despair that has blanketed our nation with the only tool we know can overcome this, the same tool a young, energetic Senator from Illinois had the audacity to use eight years ago when we were weary from a war gone on too long and teetering on the brink of a devastating financial crisis. Hope carried us to victory in 2008 and 2012, and hope will carry us to victory again.

Last night, President Obama promised us that the sun would rise again in the morning. Today, I promise you a similar fate with the same certainty — we will rise again. Together, we will rebuild the hope that propelled all of our progress over the past eight years, and together, we will win back all that we lost last night and then some.

Today, I ask you to remind your daughters that our promise of a female president is not broken, but merely delayed. And as you remind your daughters of this, join me in recommitting to ensure that we fulfill this great promise, because you and I both know that we can achieve it together.

We are working to determine our next steps, and will keep you updated on that process. Know that I am thinking of you, and that I have faith we will get through this together.

Your friend in the fight,

Annette Taddeo

It’s actually a smart message — saying out loud what many of her core supporters and non-supporters are thinking — especially if she’s running for office again. And it sounds to me like, barring an intervention by family and friends, Taddeo may be mulling a fifth stab at it. Key words: “Next steps.”

After running for county commission, lieutenant governor and congress, twice, what is left?

Mayor of Pinecrest, perhaps?

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Most of us have been preoccupied — perhaps obsessed is a better word — with the presidential or the Miami-Dade mayoral election. But there were a lot of other races that culminated with Tuesday’s vote. Here are some highlights:

Sen. Marco Rubio beat Congressman Patrick Murphy back to gain another six years in office. Marco RubioHe has said he will serve all six years. And that is probably true — especially now that Donald Trump won the presidency. If he likes it and wants to stay, the Republican Party will have to back The Donald in 2020. So this means we will have to wait until 2024 to have our first Hispanic president. Good thing Marquito is a young man.

Rubio’s onetime BFF, former Congressman David Rivera lost his bid to go back to the State House — by 45 votes. Isn’t that close enough for a mandatory recount? His 49% showing is much better than he fared in his bid to get back into Congress in 2012, where he lost the primary with just 8 percent in a five-man field (even Joe Martinez beat him). robertdavidBut still, we have a new face in Tallahassee: Robert Asencio, a former Miami-Dade Schools Police lieutenant won one of two House seats that turned blue. Rivera had waged a negative campaign, calling Asencio a child abuser based on a 2003 complaint from the mother of a student who was physically pulled off a bus for acting inappropriately. The investigation was closed without any findings.

Read related story: ‘Child abuser’ allegations in House 118 race ring hollow

But 118 is the second of two local House seats that turned blue Tuesday after Democrat Daisy Baez eeked out a victory over Republican John Couriel to replace termed-out State Rep. Erik Fresen (who is rumored to be after J-Rod’s new Senate seat). Both of them had run previous campaigns and had the benefit of having some name recognition, despite never holding office. But Baez got just under 51% and a lead of 1,301 votes.

Former Congressman Joe Garcia lost his own bid to get his own seat back, but not as closely. There’s a glaringly wide 11-point gap between U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo‘s 52% and Garcia’s 41% performance. Ladra suspects that joecarloswhen the numbers are crunched, we’ll find a bunch of Democrats who voted for Curbelo because of his liberal ways marriage equality and sea level rise and his early rejection of Donald Trump. And I bet Garcia is rethinking those ads that compared Curbelo to Trump, who is the apparent winner of the big POTUS prize. Anyway, that giant gap in the year that Curbelo would be allegedly vulnerable — because that’s it, folks, he is welded into that seat now like IRL — should certainly encourage Garcia to stay in the private sector. Ladra said it long ago. The only person that could have beat Curbelo was Ana Rivas Logan. Too bad she decided to run for state senate. Now we’re stuck with him.

Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a former Miami-Dade Commissioner and flagship of a political dynasty, migueldlpjrodlost a heated battle with State Rep. (now Sen.) Jose Javier Rodriguez, 46 to 49% — and turned the longheld Republican seat (brother Alex Diaz de la Portilla sat there for a decade before DLP took over in 2010) blue. The senior DLP outspent J-Rod more than 2 to 1, which almost proves that it is worth more to knock on 150,000 doors than it is to buy slick commercials that tries in vain to cast a liberal onetime legal aid attorney as beholden to special interests. It’s too bad. Miguel DLP was my favorite senator and, while J-Rod will likely be stymied, the incumbent actually did some good as a senior member of the majority party and may have better represented the district. Oh well. Maybe DLP will run for Coral Gables mayor next year.

Ending another political dynasty in the other really heated and mostly negative state senate race — and flipping the seat the other way — State Rep. Frank frankdwightArtiles will move to the other chamber after he beat incumbent Sen. Dwight Bullard, 51% to 41%. Guess all that business about Bullard being a terrorist worked. It’s scary to think we may see a resurgence of Artiles’ ugly bathroom legislation targeting transgenders. But does this mean he can move back into his Palmetto Bay house? He was forced to move out after Ladra caught him living outside his state House district in 2010.

There will be two runoffs for the mayor’s seat in Doral and in Miami Lakes, where none of the candidates were able to garner 50% of the vote.

Read related story: It ain’t over in Doral, Miami Lakes with mayoral runoffs

There was a big upset in the Miami-Dade School Board race where Steve Gallon III beat hollowaygallonincumbent Wilbert “Tee” Holloway III with a resounding 61%. Gallon got a lot of the community support in a district — which includes Miami Gardens, Carol City and North Miami — where Holloway was cast as an empty suit. And it earned him a 22-point lead Tuesday. The other school board seat went to Gimenez in-law Maria Teresa Rojas, as expected. Not just because she is a longtime teacher and school administrator but also because the voters in that district probably reacted vehemently to a negative campaign in which her challenger was cast as a Fidel Castro sympathizer. Look soon for an announcement of Political Cortadito’s expansion into school board coverage.

We can also smoke pot to relieve certain debilitating conditions and chill out about having our own solar energy one day as voters approved the medical marijuana constitutional amendment but rejected the amendment on solar energy choice that would have basically limited our choices and allowed Big Energy to control everything. Voters were not fooled by that one — except in Miami-Dade where we actually had a majority vote yes on this wolf in sheep’s clothing (56 to 44%). Shaking my head.

There were also a bunch of questions in municipalities from Homestead to Sunny Isles Beach and we will get to those individually if they warrant it in the next few days. Some notable examples: Voters in Palmetto Bay rejected a proposal to annex a part of West Perrine. In South Miami, they gave the green light for the building of a new City Hall. And, in North Miami Beach, voters approved a slew of charter changes, including term limits and one that makes it easier for the council to fire the city manager. Please feel free to make suggestions/ask questions.

In fact, Ladra has a feeling we will be writing and reading about the results of this ballot for weeks to come.

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