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Pafford’s money plan for Dems, Domino’s West-free fundraising pitch, Andel’s Rooney connection & more

Monday, September 30th, 2013 by George Bennett

Can Pafford raise money for Dems statewide?

State Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, has been a weak fundraiser throughout his political career. Now he’s in charge of recruiting candidates and raising money for Democratic state House races across Florida.

Subscribers to can read about Pafford’s approach to his new job in this week’s Politics column. Low-price one-day passes are also available.

Also in this week’s Politics column…

– Find out the name of the fourth Democrat considering the open Palm Beach County Commission primary for the western District 6 seat of term-limited Jess Santamaria.

– After invoking former Rep. Allen West’s name in recent fundraising pitches, Republican congressional hopeful Carl Domino doesn’t mention the conservative firebrand in a Friday solicitation. Domino explains why.

– Two members of the Rooney family hosted a fundraiser for Republican congressional candidate Ellen Andel last week. Will Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, get involved?

– The latest anti-Obamacare effort from Boca Raton orthodontist and conservative activist Larry Kawa.

Palm Beach County Dems get high marks from lefties

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Five Palm Beach County Democrats earned “Champions of the Florida’s Middle Class” status from progressives for their votes during the 2013 legislative session that ended in May.

The scorecard is a counterpoint to business-backed Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce ratings in which, as expected, the Democrats received mostly failing marks.

Florida Watch Action, Progress Florida and America Votes identified 18 Florida lawmakers members – all Democrats – who voted with the left 100 percent of the time, according to a press released issues by the groups today.

The 18 include Palm Beach County Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth and Reps. Lori Berman, D-Lantana; Dave Kerner, D-Lake Worth; Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach; and Irv Slosberg, D-Delray Beach.

“These eighteen lawmakers deserve Floridians’ thanks for their unwavering support and leadership on the issues that matter most to middle class families,” said Progress Florida Executive Director Mark Ferrulo.

House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, also made the progressives’ top 18 list; his Senate counterpart Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, did not.

West Palm Beach legislator featured in Mother Jones Scott-bashing cover story

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013 by Dara Kam

State Rep. Mark Pafford, a West Palm Beach Democrat, is featured in a Mother Jones cover story blistering Gov. Rick Scott.

The left-leaning mag piece, entitled “What’s It Like to Wake Up From a Tea Party Binge? Just Ask Florida!” focuses on the impact of Scott’s first-year budget-cutting that received praise from his tea party supporters.

Pafford, a leader in the Democratic caucus in the GOP-dominated state House, weighs in on how the Sunshine State is the proving ground for many tea party issues.

“Florida is where the rhetoric becomes the reality. It’s kind of the tea party on steroids,” Pafford is quoted as saying. “We’ve lost all navigation in terms of finding that middle ground.”

And he talks about the impact of the budget cuts that slashed spending on the environment and health and human services and imposed new abortion restrictions.

“They don’t realize the damage done when you remove revenue from the budget,” says Pafford, the Democratic legislator from Palm Beach, whose district has seen record flooding in the past year. “We defecate in the water we drink because we don’t want government control. At the same time we offer 18 bills on whether a woman can have an abortion. There are a lot of people who miss Gov. [Jeb] Bush—that’s where we are.”

Abruzzo will run for new Senate District 27

Saturday, March 17th, 2012 by George Bennett


Within an hour of the new map’s release, state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, announced that he will open a campaign for the new District 27 Senate seat that is generally west of Florida’s Turnpike in Palm Beach County.

State Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, said he is likely to run in a new Democratic-leaning District 29 if it makes it through the Senate and legal challenges. State Rep. Mack Bernard, D-West Palm Beach, is also eyeing that Senate seat, which is roughly 26 percent black and 27 percent Hispanic.

In the new Senate District 32, which includes southern Palm Beach County and coastal Broward, Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, said she expects to run for reelection even though the district appears to have become more favorable for Democrats.

State Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Boca Raton, could not immediately be reached but several Democrats said they expect her to run against Bogdanoff.

Former Democratic state Rep. Kevin Rader, who recently launched a primary challenge against Sachs, said he’s weighing which seat he will seek if the new map becomes final.

* See the revised state Senate redistricting map

House passes random drug tests for state workers

Friday, March 2nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

State workers would have to agree to and submit to random, suspicionless drug tests under a measure approved along party lines by the GOP-dominated Florida House.

The bill, a priority of Gov. Rick Scott’s, would allow state agencies to order the tests of up to 10 percent of workers four times a year. Agency heads would have to use the money already in their budgets to cover the costs of the tests for the state’s 114,000 workforce.

Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, tried to amend the bill to require that the governor, members of the Florida Cabinet and the 160 members of the state House and Senate also be required to submit to the urine tests. The bill’s sponsor Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness, dismissed the amendment, set aside over Pafford’s objection, as “political theater.”

But, calling the House an “elitist body,” Pafford chided his colleagues, saying “Shame on you,” for being unwilling to go on the board with a vote on his amendment.

Drug testing government workers is a violation of the constitution’s guarantee of unreasonable search and seizure by the government, Democratic lawmakers argued.

Last week, a federal judge heard oral arguments in a lawsuit over a challenge to a drug-testing policy imposed on state workers by Scott last year. After the ACLU and the state workers union sued the state, Scott in June quietly reversed his order for all but corrections officers pending the outcome of the case.

Scott last year also pushed the legislature to pass a law requiring that food stamp and emergency cash assistance applicants pass drug tests before receiving benefits. In October, a federal judge temporarily put that requirement on hold, ruling the drug screens were unconstitutional.

Rep. Perry Thurston, a lawyer, argued that Smith’s measure goes after the wrong population.

“You pick on people who you can bully around. Tell the lawyers of the Florida Bar as a condition of practicing law you’ve got to submit to suspicionless drug testing. That’s where you change society,” Thurston, D-Plantation, said.

Other Democrats called the proposal (HB 1205) a solution in search of a problem. Only two of 500 Department of Transportion – .004 percent – tested positive for drugs in recent screenings, Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, said.

But a fired-up Smith insisted his proposal (HB 1205) is necessary to combat drug abuse and said it would make Florida a model for the nation.

“People are dying. And then you make an assumption because these are state workers this doesn’t affect their lives,” Smith said. “The state of Florida by taking this vote becomes a laboratory that…eventually leads the way of the entire nation. You will be having the courage, making the difference, for this entire country.”

Smith made his final pitch before the 79-37 vote: “The word is on the street. People are starting to realize it. Drugs are bad.”

A Senate companion bill is scheduled for a vote in the budget committee this afternoon.

Bittersweet cupcake amendment fails to move GOP lawmakers

Monday, January 30th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The state’s neediest families shouldn’t be able to use emergency cash assistance to buy booze, watch strip shows or gamble, most GOP lawmakers agree.

But they’re divided over whether Floridians should be allowed to use food stamps to buy cupcakes, Cokes or candy.

A measure that would impose those prohibitions passed a House committee this afternoon but not before some Republicans on the panel told the bill (HB 1401) sponsor they’d kill the bill if he didn’t trim out the food stamp restrictions, also opposed by retailers, soda companies and convenience store owners.

Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, said he got the message and would consider modifying the measure to get limits on where individuals getting Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) can use their state-issued debit cards.

Rep. Mark Pafford tried to sweeten the bill with a “cupcake amendment” that would have allowed food stamp users to purchase cakes or cupcakes for birthdays.

“It’s just an exception for a child to celebrate a birthday by having a cake or a cupcake,” Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, explained.

But Plakon wouldn’t swallow.

He said that a birthday cake can cost up to $40 while a cake mix costs just $4. Pafford’s amendment failed.

Rep. Dana Young was on the 8-6 winning side in favor of the bill, but let Plakon know it was the end of the line if he doesn’t make the changes.

“I’m all about good nutrition,” Young, R-Tampa, said. “But I don’t want people to tell me what to eat. And I just don’t think it’s right for us as legislators and as a government to tell anyone what they can eat, even if they happen to be poor. Even if they happen to be on food stamps.”

Chances are it won’t matter whether the lawmakers approve the ban on junk food or not.

The feds would have to sign off on a waiver to impose the restrictions. Several states have applied for the waiver but the U.S. Department of Agriculture has denied them all.

Allen West draws wrath for comparing Democrats to Nazi propagandists

Friday, December 16th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Florida Democrats and Jewish groups expressed outrage over U.S. Rep. Allen West’s comments yesterday likening Democrats to Nazi leader Joseph Goebbels.

“This outrageous comparison is extreme, even for Congressman Allen West,” state Rep. Mark Pafford, a West Palm Beach Democrat who is Jewish, said in a statement issued by the Florida Democratic Party on Friday. “Likening Democrats to Nazis is despicable and offensive. Floridians deserve more from their elected officials than inflamed rhetoric that has brought Washington to a stand-still and left the middle class out-to-dry.”

Politco reported the blunt-speaking West’s comments yesterday:

Tea party favorite Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) said Thursday that Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels would be “very proud” of Democrats for shifting public sentiment against Republicans, and he blamed the press for helping spread their message.

“If Joseph Goebbels was around, he’d be very proud of the Democrat Party because they have an incredible propaganda machine,” West told reporters in the Capitol. “I think that you have, and let’s be honest, you know, some of the people in the media are complicit in this, in enabling them to get that type of message out.”

No stranger to controversy, the freshman Republican whose district lies largely in Palm Beach County clarified that he wasn’t linking Democrats to the Nazi party and predicted the fall-out from his remarks.

Again, from Politico:

“I’m talking about propaganda, OK,” he said. “Don’t start taking my words and twisting it around. I’m talking about propaganda. And I think that’s a very important thing. When you tell me that everyone thinks that the only people on Capitol Hill are House Republicans, it’s because that’s what’s being portrayed, is that there’s nobody else up here.”

“Once again, you guys will take whatever I say and you will spin it to try to demonize me or demagogue me,” West added. “What I’m talking about is a person that was the minister of propaganda. And I’m talking about propaganda. So please. I’ll be prepared to wake up tomorrow and you guys make up some crazy story. Whatever.”

The Anti-Defamation League called West’s comments “outrageous” and demanded an apology in a letter to West Friday.

“Such outrageous Holocaust analogies have no place in our political dialogue. They are offensive, they trivialize real historical events, and they diminish the memory of the six million Jews and millions of others who perished in the Holocaust,” ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said in a press release.

In his letter to West, Foxman – a Holocaust survivor – wrote: “It is high time to excise analogies to Nazi and Hitler from the political vocabulary. It doesn’t serve us as Americans, and cheapens our political discourse.”

It’s not the first time West provoked Jewish groups. In his campaign last year, West accused Democratic campaign trackers of using “Gestapo-like intimidation tactics.” (Read the ADL’s first demand for an apology on that here.)

The American Jewish Committee also slammed West on Friday.

“To make a linkage between any mainstream political party in the United States and the heinous atrocities committed by the Third Reich should be simply beyond the pale, whatever political differences may arise in a heated electoral season,” AJC Executive Director David Harris said.

Democratic Senate nominee Meek touts three Democratic endorsements

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010 by George Bennett



A Democratic Senate nominee touting endorsements from Democratic state legislators during a general election campaign suggests something unusual is going on in Florida’s Senate race.

Fighting independent candidate Charlie Crist for Democratic votes and bracing for former Democratic U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler’s rumored endorsement of Crist, Democrat Kendrick Meek announced today that three more Democratic state House members are backing him, including Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach.

Says Pafford, who represents many former Wexler condo constituents: “Kendrick Meek’s career has always been defined by his commitment to the people of Florida. Like me, he has stood in opposition to big oil and offshore oil drilling to protect Florida’s coastlines. Kendrick also understands the importance of protecting another natural resource: our children. As a father I am grateful that Kendrick fought to restrict class sizes so that our children can excel. I am honored to give Kendrick my support and will continue to fight with him for Florida.”

Read the whole Meek campaign release after the jump…


Wexler & Co. unload on Burkert for criticizing their candidate Rader in Democratic state Senate primary

Monday, April 5th, 2010 by George Bennett

Democratic state Senate hopeful Peter Burkert says he’s merely offering some legitimate, issue-based criticisms of his primary rival, state Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach.

But after Burkert rapped Rader for an insurance vote and for failing so far to fulfill his promise of Acreage tax relief legislation, Rader’s campaign accused Burkert of “desperate…vicious and misleading” attacks. And some of Rader’s big-name backers — former U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson and state Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach — accused Burkert of endangering the party’s chances of hanging onto the seat now held by Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres.

Read about it in this week’s Politics column.

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