Barack Obama’s Florida endorsements: Who made the cut, who didn’t?

Former President Barack Obama during a 2012 campaign rally in West Palm Beach. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

President Barack Obama today endorsed Democrats Andrew Gillum for governor, Sen. Bill Nelson for a fourth Senate term and Lauren Baer for a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast U.S. House seat as part of a nationwide list of endorsements.

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Obama endorsed a total of 19 Florida candidates in competitive races from state House to Congress to the high-profile contests for Senate and governor.

From Barack Obama’s latest round of endorsements.

Noticeably absent from Obama’s list: Donna Shalala, the former Health and Human Services secretary and University of Miami president who’s running for the open Miami congressional seat of retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Ros-Lehtinen’s district voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and has been regarded as a top Democratic pickup opportunity, but many Democrats have been underwhelmed by Shalala’s campaign against Republican Maria Elvira Salazar.

Obama also declined to weigh in on Florida’s statewide races for attorney general, chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner.

Baer, who is challenging freshman U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, is the only Palm Beach County candidate on the list.


Dave Aronberg, courted by Dems for U.S. House seat, weighs in on Dem primary


Democratic congressional candidate Lauren Baer picks up an endorsement from Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg.

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who has been courted in the past by national Democrats to run for Congress, is endorsing Lauren Baer in the Democratic primary for a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast U.S. House seat.

Baer, a former foreign policy adviser in the Obama administration, is running against attorney and Navy veteran Pam Keith in the Aug. 28 primary in District 18, the seat held by freshman U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City.

“Our community is facing many challenges. From the opioid epidemic to threats to our environment, we need a representative in Washington who will seek common sense solutions — and actually accomplish them. I am proud to endorse Lauren Baer, who has the experience of bringing people together in these divisive political times,” said Aronberg in a statement released by Baer’s campaign.

Some Democrats tried to woo Aronberg to run for Congress in 2010 against U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, when he held a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast seat. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also approached Aronberg about being a 2016 candidate and again last year about running in 2018.

Aronberg’s support is the latest in a shock-and-awe endorsement campaign by Baer. She has previously announced the backing of former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, current Democratic U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch and a variety of other elected officials. In addition to Aronberg, the Baer campaign today rolled out endorsements from Democratic state Sen. Lori Berman, state Rep. David Silvers, St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky, Palm Beach Gardens Councilwoman Rachelle Litt, former Gardens Mayor Eric Jablin, Treasure Coast Black Chamber Founder and President Chauncelor Howell, Puerto Rican Association for Hispanic Affairs President Robert Roldan and Vice President Jacquelene Burke.

Mast, a decorated Army combat vet who was mentioned as a potential nominee to be secretary of Veterans Affairs, faces two GOP primary challengers: physician Mark Freeman and businessman Dave Cummings.

Mast for VA secretary? House seat would become prime Dem pickup opportunity

Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, at a town hall meeting in Stuart last year. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

If President Donald Trump taps freshman U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, to be secretary of Veterans Affairs, Mast’s already contested Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional seat would become a top pickup opportunity for Democrats.

If decorated combat veteran Mast leaves office, two Republicans would be left to contend for the 2018 nomination to represent the District 18 seat: physician Mark Freeman and businessman Dave Cummings. The deadline for congressional candidates to qualify for the 2018 ballot passed last week.

Two Democrats are running for Mast’s District 18 seat: Lauren Baer, a former Obama administration foreign policy adviser, and Pam Keith, a Navy veteran and attorney.

The Washington Democratic establishment has anointed Baer as its choice to topple Mast. She raised more than $1 million through March with fundraising help from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and has campaigned with House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. Keith, who got a surprisingly strong 15.4 percent in a 2016 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, is touting her grassroots support in the District 18 Democratic primary.

Republican Freeman spent $1.6 million of his own money to finish third in a six-candidate GOP primary for the District 18 seat in 2016. He opened a 2018 campaign last month with an introductory video urging Americans to dedicate “ourselves anew to the ascendant glory of American preordination, by which the world will ever be atoned.”

‘The most patriotic speech in all of American history?’ asks Mast GOP challenger

Republican congressional candidate Mark Freeman in his campaign video.

Mark Freeman, a physician who spent $1.6 million of his own money on a losing 2016 GOP primary bid in Palm Beach-Treasure Coast U.S. House District 18, is making another try for the seat against fellow Republican Rep. Brian Mast.

Freeman filed candidate papers with the Federal Election Commission last month and launched a campaign website last week that, so far, consists mainly of an eight-minute video of Freeman speaking.

“The most patriotic speech in all of American history? You be the judge,” says a message on Freeman’s website encouraging visitors to watch his video.

“When darkness casts its many shadows pent upon our civil land divided, let blood for blood defend these principles,” begins Freeman in an oration that touches on America’s founding principles and makes no allusion to Mast or Freeman’s campaign.

“We the American people affirm to all peoples that America must be first among the nations so that the nations shall be led in justice…We must now dedicate ourselves anew to the ascendant glory of American preordination, by which the world will ever be atoned,” Freeman says in the video.

In 2016, Freeman finished third in a six-candidate GOP primary for the District 18 nomination, garnering 15.8 percent of the vote. Mast won the primary with 38 percent and went on to win the general election.

Mast has angered some Second Amendment advocates by calling for a ban on “assault weapons” in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Gold Star mother Karen Vaughn considered challenging Mast in the primary but decided against.

Democrats Lauren Baer and Pam Keith have opened campaigns for the District 18 seat.

GOP’s Brian Mast has $1.5 million to defend congressional seat; how that compares to predecessors

Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City.. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

With two Democrats and possibly a Republican primary challenger eyeing his Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional seat, freshman U.S.  Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, raised $887,637 during the first three months of 2018 and began April with $1.5 million in cash on hand — a solid figure but not as much as some past District 18 candidates at similar phases of their campaigns.

In 2014, the last time an incumbent defended the District 18 seat, Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy ended the first quarter with $2.2 million in the bank. He went on to easily win re-election over Republican Carl Domino.

In 2012, shortly after District 18 was created by the decennial redistricting, Republican Rep. Allen West had $3.3 million in cash on hand at the end of the first quarter and Democratic challenger Murphy — who went on to win the seat that November — had $1 million.

For 2018, Democrats Lauren Baer and Pam Keith have opened District 18 campaigns. And Gold Star mother Karen Vaughn said last week she’s considering a GOP primary challenge to Mast. Vaughn is expected to announce her decision this week.

Democrat Baer announced last week that she had raised more than $450,000 during the first quarter. She didn’t announce a cash-on-hand figure.

Federal Election Commission campaign finance reports for the first quarter aren’t due until Sunday, but candidates often release select figures ahead of time.

Rep. Lois Frankel endorses Lauren Baer in Dem congressional primary

Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel (left) is endorsing Lauren Baer in a Democratic congressional primary.

Lauren Baer has picked up the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, in her bid for the Democratic nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, in a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional district.

Baer, a former Obama administration foreign policy adviser, is running against U.S. Navy veteran and attorney Pam Keith in the District 18 Democratic primary.

“Lauren was raised in FL-18 and understands firsthand the challenges facing the district and our country,” said Frankel. “Her passion, experience, and deep roots in our community set her apart and will make her a great Representative for the district. From day one, Lauren will work hard every day to find meaningful solutions. I am proud to stand with Lauren and look forward to serving together in Congress”


Rival Democrats Pam Keith, Lauren Baer spar over clip in campaign video

Democrat Pam Keith’s congressional District 18 primary foe, Lauren Baer, appears briefly in a new Keith campaign video.

Democrat Lauren Baer‘s congressional campaign isn’t pleased that Baer shows up briefly in a new campaign video by her Democratic primary rival, Pam Keith.

Keith’s campaign says the concern over the video suggests Baer might not be ready for the rough-and-tumble of a general election in Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18, where Baer and Keith are vying for the Democratic nomination to challenge freshman U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City.

The two Democrats spoke at a Jan. 28 “Progressive Pep Rally” in Stuart sponsored by the anti-Donald Trump group Indivisibles. Keith came to the event with a professional videographers, who shot footage and put together a two-minute video that mixes interviews and speech excerpts with music and a montage of slow-motion crowd shots.

Baer appears for about one second in one of the clips, seated and expressionless while others around her applaud.

“No one informed Lauren Baer for Congress that a political advertisement for Pam Keith was being shot nor was Lauren Baer asked for her consent to participate,” said Baer campaign manager Rebecca Lipson. “To our knowledge, none of the attendees were informed or asked for their consent either. From my understanding, when filming an advertisement of any kind, people should be notified and consent provided to have their image used.”

The Baer campaign response was “unfortunate,” said Keith campaign manager Rummi Khan.

“The response to Pam’s video, filmed at a public event, has been tremendous. This 100 percent positive video focuses on the passionate leadership of Pam Keith, and her incredible ability to connect with voters throughout the 18th Congressional District,” Khan said. “The response of Lauren Baer’s campaign is unfortunate. If Lauren can’t handle a positive video showing progressive values, how on Earth would she handle the negative ads from Washington Republicans this fall? Pam Keith is a proud progressive who is not afraid to take on Brian Mast and Donald Trump.”


Dem pollster: Brian Mast ‘vulnerable,’ Trump and tax cut unpopular

Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, at a town hall meeting in Stuart in June. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Freshman U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, is “vulnerable” and voters in his Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional District 18 disapprove of President Donald Trump House Speaker Paul Ryan and the Republican package of tax cuts Mast voted for this week, according to the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.

In polling last week for the liberal Patriot Majority USA, PPP focused on Mast and seven other Republican incumbents and the attitudes of voters in their districts toward the tax plan.

District 18 has a reputation as a swing district, with Democrat Patrick Murphy winning two terms there despite a slight registration edge for the GOP. In 2016, Trump carried the district with 53 percent and Mast won with 53.6 percent to 43.1 percent for Democrat Randy Perkins.

Mast has an approval rating of 40 percent and a disapproval rating of 45 percent, according to PPP’s automated telephone poll of 567 District 18 voters on Dec. 12-13. The survey has a 4.1 percent margin of error. Trump’s approval/disapproval score is 45/53 in the district. Ryan’s job approval rating is 34 percent and his disapproval score is 59 percent in the poll. The poll found only 31 percent of District 18 voters support the tax plan and 56 percent oppose it.

PPP found a virtual tie in a hypothetical race between Mast and a generic Democratic opponent, with Mast getting 45 percent and the Democrat 44 percent.

After voters were read statements about the tax bill — including a false claim about deducting state and local taxes —  Mast’s support remained at 45 percent and generic Democrat rose to 47 percent. One of the statements read to respondents describes the tax bill as “eliminating the ability to deduct for state and local taxes paid from federal income tax.” The legislation does not eliminate the state and local tax deduction, but does cap it at $10,000.

Democrats Lauren Baer and Pam Keith have opened campaigns in District 18.

Video: Democrat Lauren Baer focuses on health care in bid for Brian Mast House seat

Democrat Lauren Baer, a former Obama administration foreign policy adviser who hopes to unseat freshman Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, is introducing herself to voters with a three-minute biographical video that doesn’t mention Mast but hints that Mast’s vote for a Republican health care overhaul will be a central issue in her campaign.

Democrat Lauren Baer in her new campaign video.

Baer and U.S. Navy veteran and attorney Pam Keith have launched Democratic campaigns for Mast’s Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 seat.

Baer’s video highlights her mother’s struggles after a 1992 car crash when Baer was a middle school student.

“I know from firsthand experience from what my mother went through that someone can be healthy one day and very ill the next…People need to know that if something comes up in their life, they’re not going to have to worry about making a choice between their health and their family’s economic well-being,” Baer says.

The video also includes footage of Baer with her spouse, Emily Myers, and their baby daughter. Baer is trying to become the first woman in a same-sex marriage to serve in Congress.

Baer, an attorney who grew up in Palm Beach Gardens, is a granddaughter of the founder of the Baer’s Furniture chain. She was a policy adviser to former U.S. Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry and to Samantha Power, who was U.S. ambassador the United Nations during the Obama administration.



Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to keynote Palm Beach County Dem fundraiser

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe in Riviera Beach in 2001 when he was chairman of the Democratic National Committee. (Scott Wiseman/The Palm Beach Post)

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will be the featured speaker Saturday night at the Palm Beach County Democratic Party’s annual Truman-Johnson-Kennedy Dinner in West Palm Beach.

Two 2018 Democratic candidates for governor — Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and businessman Chris King — are expected at the $175-a-plate event, said county Democratic Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo. Congressional hopefuls Pam Keith and Lauren Baer, who are running for the seat of U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, are also expected, as is Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel and a host of local Democratic elected officials.

Palm Beach County, with more than 386,000 registered Democrats, is at the northern end of the most heavily Democratic region in Florida and always crucial to Democratic efforts to win statewide races.