Still, Suarez said, each of the forms had been signed by someone who wanted an absentee ballot. Though he initially said he believed the forms authorized the campaign to request the ballots, he has since backed off that position somewhat — without acknowledging any illegality.
Suarez said he is cooperating with the investigation. He said his attorney, Robert Fernandez, has spoken with the state attorney’s office.
Baggini resigned Friday to “not become a distraction,” Suarez said.
“I am confident that he did not have any intent to violate any Florida elections laws and there was certainly no fraud in any activates the [political committee] was engaged in,” he added.
But even if the investigation finds no evidence of wrongdoing, some damage may already be done.
“The people who [Suarez] hired to turn young people on to the campaign have actually done the complete opposite,” Florida International University political science professor Dario Moreno said. “They have turned them off.”
Frank Rollason, a former assistant city manager and Upper East Side activist, said the headlines will remind voters of Suarez’s father, current County Commissioner Xavier Suarez. In 1997, Xavier Suarez’s victory in a Miami mayoral race was invalidated by a judge because of massive ballot fraud. Xavier Suarez was not implicated in the wrongdoing.
“It’s the same thing, over and over and over,” Rollason said.
Regalado was quick to draw a contrast between his old-school campaign, and the tactics being used by Francis Suarez. The mayor said he has encouraged voters to request absentee ballots, too, but only by giving them stamps to mail the forms in themselves.
Despite the setback, some observers say Suarez isn’t out of the race.
“The good news is, there’s still a lot of time,” said Moreno, the FIU professor. “People haven’t really started to focus on the election yet.”
El Nuevo Herald staff writer Melissa Sanchez contributed to this report.