Florida Democrats are, for the most part, huge failures. Democrats outnumber Republicans in both Miami-Dade County and in the state, but they're so terrible at messaging that local and state politics are dominated by GOP wackadoos. During Donald Trump's first year in office, one would think the party would undergo some serious self-reflection, figure out why it lost the state to Trump last year, and embark on a revenge tour.
Instead, we were stuck with stone-cold fools such as party Chair Stephen Bittel and milquetoast lawmakers such as Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Here's a recap of the stupidest things elected Democrats did in Miami this year:
1. Pushing for a new party chair, billionaire Stephen Bittel, who everyone said was a terrible choice. Bittel then had to resign after he said some racist stuff and then got outed as a sexual harasser, which is exactly what his critics warned would happen.
In January, Bittel, a real-estate tycoon and party megadonor with no real experience, was rammed through the state chair nomination process despite every progressive in the state warning that he sucked:
Bittel is known for chairing the secretive Florida Alliance, a group of Koch Brothers-style donors who influence elections using 501(c)(4) "dark money" donations, which don't need to be disclosed to the public. Though some say the Alliance is fighting the fire of conservative dark money with added fire, others — especially Sanders-style progressives — disagree with Bittel's approach.
Bittel's name also popped up frequently in the Russian Democratic National Committee email hack earlier this year: Party members found his personality so reprehensible they debated apologizing to the people Bittel sat next to during a large fundraiser.
Then he said some racist shit, according to Politico:
The embattled chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, Stephen Bittel, is prepared to quit if members of the legislative black caucus want him gone for dismissing them as “childish” amid a dispute at a million-dollar weekend fundraising gala, top Democrats tell POLITICO Florida.
Bittel compounded the controversy Saturday night by initially accusing the African-American lawmakers of “playing the race card” once they took offense, lawmakers say. But Bittel soon apologized and spent two days expressing contrition to party leaders.
Six former Florida Democratic Party staffers and consultants say that current party Chairman Stephen Bittel has created an unprofessional workplace environment for women that includes persistent inappropriate comments, leering at young women and even inviting them on his private jet.
The women, who were reached independently by POLITICO and insisted on anonymity out of fear for their jobs, said Bittel never inappropriately touched or threatened them. But he made them feel so uneasy that they didn’t want to be alone with him due to his body language, suggestive remarks and even the breast-shaped stress squeeze-ball he has been known to keep on his desk.
Depending on the circumstance and the person discussing Bittel, they said he would make references about women cooking dinner, showing their breasts, their age, whether they wanted to ride on his plane, come to his hotel room or if they thought he was attractive.
“There was a lot of boob stuff in his office,” said a woman who was a fundraiser years ago and had to interact with him. “I was told by other women not to go into his bathroom. I was warned.”
If you were to take the words of Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Rep. Ted Deutch, and pretty much any other Democratic congressperson in the Sunshine State at face value, Donald Trump is an unstable, proto-fascist warmonger, uncontrollable narcissist, and serial sexual predator who should never have been able to come near any sort of missile-launching device.
In the past 24 hours, however, those same lawmakers appear to have jettisoned that argument and are now totally cool with Trump firing missiles into the Middle East at a moment's notice. In fact, Florida's top Democrats are now heaping praise upon the president after he launched a bucketful of cruise missiles at Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's forces last night.
The strike, which by any measure appeared to have been barely planned and hastily thought-out, has the potential to further destabilize the Middle East and escalate tensions between multiple countries vying for power in the area. The Russian government, which backs Assad, has already announced it will "help Syria strengthen its air defenses" after Trump's strike, according to the Associated Press.
The state's top Democrats have tried to fashion themselves as a "resistance" to the Trump administration, yet they have nothing but praise for the bombing campaign. It's unquestionable that Assad's attacks on his own people are barbaric and heinous, but plenty of fair questions remain as to whether toppling his regime or shelling Syria are good ideas. Would ISIS fill a vacuum created in Assad's absence? Has any Middle Eastern nation been better off after U.S. intervention? Is a strike worth angering the Russians? Was Trump's strike yesterday even legal or constitutional?
Florida's Democratic leaders don't seem to be too curious about those kinds of questions.
Even in Miami Beach's drunken carnival of a political scene, few elected officials have had quite as colorful a term as Commissioner Michael Grieco. The attorney has brawled with the NAACP over civil rights, sprinted down a drug dealer while out on his morning job, called a former opponent a "fucking scumbag" at a debate, and been embroiled in an unseemly fundraising committee now under state investigation.
Now the Grieco show is over. The commissioner announced from the dais at this morning's commission meeting that he's dropping his bid for reelection, citing the "many sacrifices" he's made while serving in office.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
Miami Beach Commission candidate Rafael Velasquez began today by denying he whipped out his penis while sitting in the passenger seat of Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez's car. He still denies the incident happened even though Rosen Gonzalez is sticking by her allegations. He also told New Times today that "nobody has confronted me ever about sexual harassment," even as the Miami Herald broke news that a second woman has accused Velasquez of groping her.
But after a reporter pressed him, Velasquez admitted there had actually been a third incident in local political circles earlier this year.
Per the Miami Herald:
Prosecutors began investigating after the Herald reported on May 16 that Baez did not appear to live in House District 114, as required by the Florida Constitution. She claimed she rented an apartment inside the district.
“I have two residences,” she said.
But investigators found she lived in the home she owns in House District 112 — and did not lease a third rental property in House District 114 until after the Herald published its story.
The controversy forced Baez to drop out of a high-profile race for state Senate District 40. She had been tapped by top Florida Democrats, who considered her a rising party star, even though she was a freshman representative with only one legislative session under her belt.