Miami Dade and Broward voters returned three incumbents to Tallahassee on Tuesday and elected the states first openly gay state representative in what was one of the most bitterly fought primary seasons on record.
David Richardson, a Democrat and CPA from Miami Beach, narrowly defeated three opponents for the District 113 seat and, with no November opponent, will become the states first openly gay member of the Legislature. The primary also signaled the end of campaign season for three other newcomers Republican Manny Diaz and Democrats Kionne McGhee of Miami and Sharon Pritchett Miami Gardens as well as seven incumbents to the state House, each of whom faces only write-in candidates in November.
Term limits and redistricting created the openings for most of the primary contests, while unlimited amounts of special interest cash financed fierce attack ads and spawned lawsuits, ethics complaints and even allegations of personal and sexual misconduct. Coalitions of legislators from outside the region also played heavily in the campaigns, in an attempt to influence who will hold the powerful posts of House speaker and Senate president for years to come.
In Miami Dade, Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, succeeded in electing more allies in his bid to become House speaker in 2018. Oliva, CEO of his familys cigar company, was first elected to the House in a special election in 2011, defeated a primary challenger on Tuesday and faces only a write-in candidate in November. He saw a key ally, Manny Diaz Jr., defeat Renier Diaz de la Portilla. Another member of the Diaz de la Portilla family, Alex, who has worked against Oliva's bid for speaker, defeated former state Rep. Gus Barreiro, also of Miami.
Also emerging victorious from bruising primary battles:
• Rep. Jose Felix Diaz defeated Rep. Ana Rivas Logan. The two Miami lawmakers, both freshmen, were drawn into District 116 as a result of redistricting. Diaz now faces only a write-in challenger in November.
• Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, defeated first-time candidate Amory Bodin who attempted to highlight Fresens finances and ethics complaints in the race for District 114.
• Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, R-Hialeah, sustained a challenge from Maykel Miguel Balboa in the District 111 House race. Gonzalez accused Balboa of violating campaign finance laws after Balboas campaign ran a Spanish radio ad attempting to link Gonzalez with the widening absentee ballot scandal in Miami.
In the Senate District 39 seat, Rep. Dwight Bullard of Miami appeared destined to win the Democratic endorsement over Rep. Ron Saunders of Key West in the four-county district. Despite Saunders capturing 88 percent of the vote in Monroe County, he couldnt compete with Bullards support in vote-rich Miami Dade. The winner would face Republican Scott Hopes in the general election to replace Bullards mother, Larcenia, who is retiring because of term limits.
Rep. Daphne Campbell defeated two Democratic challengers for the District 108 seat, despite reports that she is under investigation by the IRS and a suggestion by Democratic Party officials that she step down. The losing candidates were Alix Desulme, a fifth grade teacher in the Miami Dade School system, who lost to Campbell two years ago by 367 votes, and Pat Santangelo, public affairs officer for the City of Miami mayors office. Campbell faces only a write-in candidate in November.