Florida’s most-brutal state House race is unfolding in Miami amid vicious attack mailers, phone calls and a whisper campaign involving pornography, divorce, a stalking claim, an arrest warrant and a reference to the recent Colorado shootings.
The District 112 campaign pits two well-known former Republican legislators and one-time allies against each other: former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and state Rep. Gus Barreiro.
Each accuses the other of lacking moral character.
A shadowy Melbourne-based political committee called Conservatives United has sent at least two mailers to district voters highlighting Diaz de la Portilla’s tough and messy divorce with lobbyist Claudia Davant, who is pictured in one of the flyers. In another, a stand-in female model is depicted weeping and distraught.
“I did not authorize nor do I condone anyone using me personally for political purposes,” Davant said. “I am horrified.”
Davant said she is having a lawyer send the committee a cease-and-desist order over the unauthorized use of her likeness. An agent with the committee, which Barreiro said he is not involved with, could not be reached for comment.
The divorce became news in 2010 when Davant received a now-lifted temporary restraining order against Diaz de la Portilla that accused the then-Republican state Senate leader of being abusive, sending a stalker after her and having an explosive temper.
Diaz de la Portilla denied the claims, and the restraining order was lifted as the divorce began to wind down. Then, last year, a Tallahassee judge issued an arrest warrant for Diaz de la Portilla after he refused to give Davant one of their dogs — named Priscilla and Elvis — as they divided their property in the divorce.
The arrest warrant has been stayed as Diaz de la Portilla’s brother, attorney and state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, fights the matter at the First District Court of Appeal.
“Alex has had no respect for authority for years,” Barreiro said. “Even today he’s thumbing his nose at the court system. He has no moral character. He doesn’t want to serve the district. He just wants to win a political race at any cost.”
Diaz de la Portilla’s supporters have been telephoning residents in the district and calling Barreiro a “pornographer” because he was fired in 2009 from the Department of Juvenile Justice over his apparent use of a state computer to troll the singles-and-swingers Adult Friend Finders dating website, which left hundreds of pornographic pictures on his laptop. Barreiro said he was set up.
Diaz de la Portilla said that’s not the case, and he made sure to mention the DJJ incident as well as an old child-support case that nagged Barreiro. “These people are outright liars,” Diaz de la Portilla said. “What can you expect from a desperate man who is a known deadbeat dad and a pornographer? I suspect he’s simply trying to cover up his lack of moral character.”
Two Republican blogs this week endorsed Diaz de la Portilla and took Barreiro to task for the Adult Friend Finders incident .
On the Tea Party Miami website, conservative Eric Von Tausch compared Barreiro with Colorado massacre suspect James Holmes, who had reportedly used the Adult Friend Finders site as well. “WHAT DO GUS BARREIRO AND THE AURORA MASS MURDERER HAVE IN COMMON?” read the headline.
Republican activist Christian Camara mentioned Adult Friend Finders on his Reaganista blog. He also called Barreiro a “ chivato” (Spanish slang for a “tattletale”).
Barreiro filed a complaint in 2006 against a fellow House Republican for allegedly using a racial slur amid a squabble with then-Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Rudy Crew, who refused to ban the book Vamos a Cuba, which some viewed as a work of Castro propaganda.
Crew’s name has been used as political fodder in another Cuban-American-leaning state race — House District 116 — where the respective sides have also accused the other of being either Nicaraguan or gay.
Still, that race looks almost tame compared to the over-the-top charges and countercharges between Barreiro and Diaz de la Portilla. Barreiro is the brother of County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, who is running for reelection. Diaz de la Portilla’s older brother, Miguel, was unopposed this year, and his younger brother, School Board member Renier Diaz de la Portilla, is running for another state House seat.
Gus Barreiro has a slight edge in fundraising over Alex Diaz de la Portilla. But Diaz de la Portilla has high name-recognition.
Whoever wins the Aug. 14 primary will face one of the two Democrats vying for the seat, Alex Dominguez or Jose Javier Rodriguez, whose race has been low-key compared to the Republican contest.
Barreiro said he has no regrets. “If I was told what was going to happen to me would happen to me,” he said, “I would do it over again.”