[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: November 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Marlins A Step Closer To Ballpark (Again)

For the 4,038,653rd time, the Florida Marlins are a step closer to getting their new ballpark. Larry Lebowitz of the Herald reports that Judge Jeri Beth Cohen put the final nail in Norman Braman's lawsuit's coffin today.

The "next" final step: final approval by both city of Miami and Miami-Dade County commissioners. It will get through the city, but the county isn't a slam dunk.

Braman plans to appeal the ruling.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Republican Leadership in Miami-Dade County

In the past, this article by the Herald's Beth Reinhard on new leadership in Miami-Dade County Republican ranks wouldn't have garnered much attention by yours truly, but if there's one thing GOPers learned from this election is that they (we) need to do a much better job of grass-roots organization and mobilization at the local level.

The Republican leadership in Florida's biggest county is on the verge of a changing of the guard just as the GOP struggles to reinvent itself as the minority party in Washington.

Miami-Dade County Chairwoman Mary Ellen Miller, who has led the local party for most of the past 17 years, is stepping down at the end of this month. Since former Gov. Jeb Bush recruited her to become active in the party when he served as chairman in the mid-1980s, Miller's departure at the same time President Bush leaves the White House is yet another sign of the end of an era.

In a new age of texting and Twittering, the 80-year-old Miller is a throwback. She gives out her cellphone number only to family members. The home page of the local party's website still carries pictures of Jeb Bush and Ronald Reagan -- none of Gov. Charlie Crist -- and a link to 2004 election results headlined ``Florida is Bush country.''

Vying to replace the grandmother of 10, who's too modest to list her accomplishments, are two media-savvy, young guns: 43-year-old state legislator David Rivera, who worked on the January referendum to expand slot machines in Miami-Dade, and 28-year-old political consultant Carlos Curbelo, who helped steer the reelection campaigns of U.S. Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart.

Both Curbelo and Rivera are Cuban American. Rivera is closely allied with former House Speaker Marco Rubio, while Curbelo worked on the election of Rubio's sometime political nemesis, Gov. Charlie Crist. Miller has thrown her support behind Rivera and tentatively scheduled the election for Dec. 11.

The next chairman's challenge is clear: closing the gap in voter registration with the Democratic party and laying the groundwork for the reelections of Crist and Sen. Mel Martinez in 2010.

Since 2004, Miami-Dade's voter rolls have swelled to 1.2 million people, with Democrats growing by 54 percent while Republicans increased just 8 percent. Democrats now outnumber Republicans 560,250 to 384,287.

Martinez could face a tough reelection. A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday showed him receiving approval from only 42 percent of the voters.

''We need to end the infighting now more than ever,'' Curbelo said. ``If we continue down this path soon we will have nothing to fight about.''

The contest for chairman will pit concerns over who could face more competing interests: Curbelo, who is president of his own political consulting firm, or Rivera, whose legislative job forces him to spend part of the year in Tallahassee. Term limits will force Rivera out of the House in 2010, and he's expected to run for a Senate seat.

Curbelo said if he's elected chairman, he would pledge to stay out of Republican primaries.

''I would not undertake any activity that would inhibit my ability as chairman, and if that means I have to forgo working on certain campaigns, then I will,'' Curbelo said. ``I don't think David will have the time to dedicate himself to being chairman.''

Rivera said he has already proven he can represent his district and his party by serving as Miami-Dade's Republican committeeman since 2003.

''Public service and service to the Republican party are not incompatible,'' he said. ''I will dedicate whatever time and effort is required to lead the local GOP to new heights.'' Just two months ago, Rivera bested two of his legislative colleagues to win another term as committeeman, a post that allows him to help steer the state party. His rivals estimate he spent $250,000 on the campaign, which Rivera calls an ''outrageous exaggeration,'' but he won't say how much he spent or where the money came from. State law does not require him to do so.

Earlier this month, Rivera won reelection to his legislative seat after a little-known Republican-turned-Democrat who didn't collect a single donation mysteriously withdrew the day before the election. Rivera said he doesn't know the candidate, Beatriz ''Betty'' Gaffney.

Of the two persons mentioned, Rivera has the best name recognition, while Curbelo appears to be a classic "up and comer". I don't know much of anything about Curbelo, but I can offer at least a cursory view on Rivero. I like David Rivera, although I feel his explanations for his bills limiting travel to Cuba by academic groups and imposing higher fees for travel agents for Cuba trips fell short of what I would have liked to have heard, despite my general support. Perhaps this is part of the reason both bills have been shot down in Florida court. Curbelo brought up a good point about Rivera possibly being too busy to handle the job of Dade GOP chairman.

May the best man get the position, but they have a tall order ahead of them. A greater internet presence and new and innovate outreach methods especially to young people and non-Cuban Hispanics are two of the greatest needs which need to be met.

It is imperative that Republicans in Miami-Dade County not ignore this important position, but instead get involved and engage the next chairman to make sure the GOP heads down the right road.

Pitts: GOP is Racist, Homophobic

Pulitzer Prize winner Leonard Pitts wrote this in today's Miami Herald (emphasis mine):

They'll be back. Don't think for a minute that they won't.

These things run in cycles, and death in politics is about as permanent as death in Marvel Comics, which is to say, not very. Yes, Team Red had its butt kicked and its lunch money taken a few weeks back, yes Team Blue stands at the prow of the ship, arms wide, screaming ''king of the world!,'' yes the GOP slinks off into the wilderness now amid grumbles of recrimination and remonstration.

They'll be back. Count on it.

Indeed, they are already plotting their return, pundits and polls debating the best way of regaining favor. Shall they be more like Reagan or less, less socially conservative or more? Shall they groom Sarah Palin or forget they ever heard the name?

Allow me to insert into the discussion one tiny hope. Namely, that the GOP will plot a path back to power that does not require stepping on scapegoats to get there.

Ever since Richard Nixon's infamous ''Southern strategy'' of 1968, Republicans have won power largely by convincing voters that strange and exotic others were to blame for all their ills. It's the feminists' fault, they said. Or the blacks. Or the Hispanics, the Muslims or the gays.

And this:

Indeed, ''let us save you from them'' has been arguably the GOP's most enduring message for four decades, a promise to people shaken by change that the party will repeal the '60s and reinstate the '50s. And never mind that this would mean returning women to the kitchen, Muslims to invisibility, gays to the closet and blacks to the back of the bus. Never mind that it was about as likely as returning toothpaste to the tube.

What can be said in response to this hateful diatribe? It shows that Leonard Pitts, behind all the flowery talk about unity and hope and equality, is a hypocrite who doesn't have a clue what the vast majority of Republicans and conservatives really stand for. That's because he probably doesn't know more than a handful of Republicans/conservatives.

BTW, I would love to get Edward Schumacher-Matos' reaction to this column. Of course, he would probably say that it's "ideologically accurate".

Pitts is right about one thing: the GOP will be back. These type of hateful columns will just make it that much easier to get back in the game, trust me.

The entire column, if you dare, can be read here.

(Cross-posted from Babalu)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Space Shuttle Launch

A 30-second time slice. As seen from downtown Miami.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Random Thoughts on the Elections

Following up on Robert's post:

-Yes, we need more info about the voting patterns of non-Cuban Hispanic voters. I assume that a lot of non-Cuban Hispanic immigrants are like New Yorkers who move to Florida: they tend to vote for Democrats, even though they migrated from places that were mismanaged by leftist governments. What's the state of knowledge on these issues?

-I was encouraged that Ros Lehtinen won by a large margin. She is a well-established incumbent, and she ran on a pro-environment, pro-constituent service, pro-warm fuzzies platform that didn't mention her party affiliation or support for the war. But Taddeo ran on an anti-Bush, anti-war, anti-Republican platform and tried to associate Ros Lehtinen with all of those things. Even though she is politically inexperienced, Taddeo is personally compelling and seems reasonable, and I thought that she had a good chance to win on Obama's coattails. Did Taddeo fail to do better mainly because she was running against an incumbent? Her anti-Bush, anti-war partisanship struck me as shrill and opportunistic, and I wonder if it hurt her with voters.

-I was also encouraged that Margolis, the establishment candidate for Miami-Dade property assessor, who spent a lot of money on TV ads, couldn't break 50% in a four-way race and faces a runoff.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Generational Shift Among Cuban-Americans? (UPDATED)

(Just realized the first sentence of the post makes absolutely no sense. That's what happens when you throw a post up in a hurry).

At least that doesn't appear to be the case after the results of the three Miami-Dade congressional races involving Republican incumbents. Each of the three Cuban-American Republicans won: two by big margins and the other by a closer margin but still decisive.

Add this to the fact that strongly Cuban-American Miami-Dade areas remain red (or green), and there's little evidence of a significant shift. Further analysis of demographic/ethnic votes are sure to follow, and we'll have a better picture of the Cuban-American vote at that time. Until then, all media outlets such as the Miami Herald who have been hammering the "generational shift" theme can do is to try to put a spin or nuance to it:

In a nod to the new political climate, Miami-Dade's three congressional Republican incumbents -- all Cuban Americans -- kept their seats by emphasizing the economy more than Castro.

Obama won Miami-Dade by about 133,000 -- triple Democrat John Kerry's margin in 2004. Part of the reason: Most Cuban precincts didn't support McCain as strongly as precincts with the highest black populations backed Obama. Obama's biggest vote margin was in Broward: 241,000.

That Cuban-Americans didn't support McCain as strongly as blacks supported Obama is the understatement of the year. I would add: NEVER has Cuban-American support for a Republican been as strong as blacks' support for Obama.

More nuance from the Herald:

Once a reliable Republican voting bloc, Hispanics have shifted more toward Democrats in recent years as South and Central Americans started swelling the voter rolls and curbing the influence of Miami-Dade's Cuban Americans, who comprise about 70 percent of the county's Republican voters.

Give the Herald credit. They're correct in acknowledging that the real significant shift has occurred among non-Cuban Hispanics.

The Obama team comes up with this in the first linked Herald article:

''The politics driven by the embargo and Fidel Castro are becoming long gone,'' said Obama's Florida campaign manager, Steve Schale, who noted that younger Cuban Americans seemed to be shifting toward the Democrats as well.

"Seemed" is correct. We'll see how the breakdowns look.


A Pep Talk For Conservatives

Just got up after a fitful night of sleep, and something strange happened. No, I'm not referring to the fact that Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States on January 20th. I looked outside, and you know what? The sun is rising in the east. You know what else happened? My 7 and 3 year-old daughters woke up at their normal times being their normal chipper selves (although the older one wasn't too happy to hear Obama won).

(Cue Patton music)

Something else important happened. The American flag which has hung just outside my front porch for the past few years is STILL there. And it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

What's the point of this post? No matter how dejected and worried we feel this morning, today is a new day. So is tomorrow. So is the day after. Conservatives had the spotlight shine down on us for 8 years, and for a myriad of reasons already discussed and to be discussed, the spotlight has shifted to the other side. My advice to giddy Obama fans: wear lots of sunblock - the spotlight can burn.

We absolutely, positively cannot let our frustration, anger and dejection get the best of us. We saw how normally decent and highly-educated liberals totally lost their minds during the past few years accusing President George W. Bush of being a murderer, a Nazi, or just a mere idiot. Whatever we do, please let's not fall into that same trap. We're conservatives! We're strong-minded and strong-willed, and above all, we're principled. We value integrity and character.

Most of all, let's remember this one simple but crucial fact, we're AMERICANS. Keep on flying our flags. Let's hope and pray for the best during the next 4 years. This includes supporting the next president, as hard as that may seem right now. Don't be mistaken, this isn't a call for compromise and surrender of our ideals and values. We will watch Obama like a hawk, hold him accountable, and criticize him when warranted. That's our duty as Americans. Too many people on the left voted "present" during the past 8 years of the Bush presidency. The results of that negligence are as plain as the sun rising this morning. We're conservatives. We show up to the office. We do our part.

A quote from Cigar Mike's post yesterday pretty much sums up my feelings:

At the end of the day, whomever wins shall be our President on January 21, 2009 for the next 4 years. And whether I agree with any of his policies or not, I will support him. It is our duty to support the President as an institution, even if we have fundamental disagreements with their policies. We have a right to make our disagreements heard and have a duty to challenge policies we disagree with. And if we don't get our way, then it is up to us that we elect more folks in Congress with our beliefs and a new President in 4 years.
Let's hang our heads high this morning. Let's get to work. If you need any reminders of what needs to be done, just take a glance at that American flag flying outside your front door.

(Cross-posted from Babalu)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

I arrived at suburban southwestern Miami Precinct 769 in Portable H just after 630 AM with about 35 to 40 people in front of me. Folks were mostly quiet with general conversation floating around in the misty and pleasantly cool morning air. No loud or boisterous political talk, just a few women wearing McCain/Palin paraphenelia, and a woman clutching her rosary as she waited in line. A reporter from local NPR affilliate WLRN was there as well, apparently because my precinct happens to be split 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats. A battleground precinct in a battleground state: who would have thought I lived in a micro-battleground! Anyway, at around 650 AM, I heard the reporter ask: "Are there any Obama supporters here?". After a few seconds of total silence, a gentleman about 6-7 people behind me started to blurt out all sorts of stuff about the war and oil going to China, etc. etc., blah blah blah. An angry liberal. WLRN surely got some good sound bytes, but most of the people in line just murmured in a combination of amusement and disgust. The guy later commented that he wanted to move to "a liberal place like Virginia". I couldn't help but chuckle.

"So many people voting on pure emotion instead of logic and reason", I remarked to a middle-aged gentleman right behind me. He agreed.

For me, Election Day is and has always been a sacred day. No early voting, if I can at all help it. Precinct workers are always a little surprised to find me smiling and offering a hearty "Good Morning" at the crack of dawn when I walk into the portable to register. I can't help it. Election Day is a wonderful day simply because I get to do what so many Americans take for granted: choose our leaders. My parents, grandparents and other relatives lost that ability when Cuba was gripped by dictators in the prime of their lives. Because of my family's history, I will NEVER EVER take this day for granted, and neither should you.

Finally, I did something that I have never done on Election Day. I drove a few mintues down the road to my church, went inside, sat down in a middle pew for a few minutes, reflected on the important choice which faces us today, and prayed. I didn't pray for a candidate (although God surely knows who I want to win), but I did pray for America to trust God's will, as tough as that is sometimes. I also prayed for us to elect those who respect life, and finally for all of us to wake up on Wednesday morning with a commitment to stand together and do our best for this great country of ours, regardless of the outcome.

(Cross-posted at Babalu)