David Rivera says he’s running for Florida House again

David Rivera speaks to reporters in 2014.
David Rivera speaks to reporters in 2014. EL NUEVO HERALD

Now that his friend Marco Rubio is out of the Republican presidential race, former U.S. Rep. David Rivera plans to formally get back into politics.

Rivera emailed supporters Wednesday, the day after Rubio’s candidacy ended, to say he’s filed to run for the Florida House of Representatives, where Rivera began his political career.

“Exciting News!” read the subject line for the email, sent from Rivera’s personal Comcast account. “Today I launched my candidacy for the Florida House of Representatives in District 118!”

Florida’s Division of Elections listed Rivera’s candidacy on Thursday.

The former congressman first revealed his plans to try to return to the Florida Legislature back in 2014. On Election Day that year, he showed up at at least one Southwest Miami-Dade County precinct to collect petition signatures to qualify for the 2016 ballot.

In his email Wednesday, Rivera bragged that the “best part” about his new candidacy is, “I have already gathered nearly 2,000 petition signatures from voters within the district who want me to serve as their representative in Tallahassee.”

The problem: The elections division only validates signatures collected after candidates file a specific form that Rivera has yet to submit. To qualify via petition, Rivera would need 904 valid signatures.

Rivera asked supporters to join “Team 100,” a group of the first donors to his campaign. They can donate on his website, davidrivera.org, which includes his old candidate photo and logo — and a biography that at least doesn’t say Rivera worked for USAID, a claim the Miami Herald debunked in 2010.

“You may recall that during my eight years of service in the Florida House I worked hard to achieve many legislative accomplishments for our community and our state,” he wrote in the email.

District 118 is currently represented by Republican Rep. Frank Artiles, who’s announced he’ll run for state Senate in November. Rivera said two years ago he supported Artiles and was preparing to seek the House seat on the assumption that Artiles — who is not term-limited — would run for something else.

Rivera served in the statehouse from 2002-10. That year, he won a congressional seat, despite being under a state criminal ethics investigation and a federal tax investigation. Neither went anywhere, though the state case resulted in a recommendation last year from the Florida Commission on Ethics that Rivera be fined nearly $58,000. Rivera has appealed.

Rivera lost his post two years later, after he became embroiled in a separate federal criminal investigation into an unlawful 2012 campaign-finance scheme he’s suspected of orchestrating. He’s yet to be charged and has repeatedly denied being under investigation, though a judge twice forced prosecutors to identify Rivera in open court as “Co-Conspirator A.”

Becoming a candidate again would allow Rivera to claim that any indictment now might be politically motivated. The statute of limitation in the case expires in 2017.

Last month, Ana Alliegro, the Rivera accomplice convicted in the finance operation, filed a police report accusing Rivera of simple battery for grabbing her arm and taking her cellphone after she snapped a photo of him sleeping in her house. Rivera says Alliegro made up the incident.

Rivera had been Rubio’s one-time Tallahassee housemate and enforcer in the statehouse (then-Speaker Rubio made Rivera his budget chief). Though Rubio’s presidential campaign insisted that the candidate kept the embattled Rivera at a distance, Rivera was spotted working on Rubio’s behalf on the trail.

Rivera kept his own candidacy mostly quiet while news reports retold the story of the two men’s friendship. Republican front-runner Donald Trump featured Rivera in an ad that attacked Rubio for the company he kept.

On Tuesday night, after Rubio conceded the Florida primary to Donald Trump, some of his supporters gathered for a late dinner at Versailles Cuban restaurant.

Rivera showed up after 11 p.m. He wore his vintage white polo shirt embroidered with the title, “Congressman David Rivera.”