Elections

Candidate wants your vote despite not casting one himself since 2008

Voters cast their ballots at North Miami's Sunkist Grove Community Center.
Voters cast their ballots at North Miami's Sunkist Grove Community Center. Emily Michot

Jason Pizzo dislikes the political process. He hates it so much he hasn’t bothered to vote since 2008.

Turns out he doesn’t dislike it that much: Five weeks ago, he decided to run for office.

Pizzo, a Miami-Dade County Democrat running for a state Senate seat, wants voters’ support in the Aug. 30 primary. But he’s had trouble making it to the polls the past few years.

Pizzo, 40, has not cast a ballot since the 2008 presidential election, Miami-Dade records show. He chose not to participate in 17 elections at the municipal, county, state and federal level since he last voted.

He planned to vote in 2012, but did not.

“On Election Day for the 2012 Presidential Election, my family was dealing with a very difficult situation and had to leave our home,” Pizzo, a state prosecutor at the time, told the Miami Herald in a statement. “My entire family was on high alert following threats to our safety and my focus was on keeping my wife and sons safe.”

He did not elaborate on the threat.

Pizzo says he skipped the other 16 elections that he could have voted in because he was fed up with politics. He declined to comment beyond the statement. “Additionally, like many Floridians who don’t vote during non-presidential elections, I was disenchanted with the political process,” he said. “This disenchantment and frustration is what ultimately led me to run for office to represent the residents of Florida Senate District 38.”

Candidates who don’t have a history of voting sometimes come under attack from rivals who can argue infrequent voting shows a lack of civic engagement.

Pizzo was not eligible to vote in the March 15 presidential primary, which means he was either not registered as a Democrat or a Republican, or briefly not registered at all.

Pizzo describes himself in campaign literature as a “compassionate” former assistant state attorney who “focused on crimes involving exploitation of the elderly, animal cruelty, and violent crimes, while seeking to address their contributing factor.”

Despite not voting since 2008, Pizzo is acquainted with one part of the political process: giving money. Since the beginning of this year he has donated $5,500 to various local candidates; in 2004 he made a $2,000 contribution to presidential candidate John Edwards.

Pizzo is currently a land development and zoning lawyer with the Stearns Weaver firm. He graduated from University of Miami law school in 2010 and also holds degrees from Columbia University and New York University.

The District 38 race has nine candidates. Seven Democrats will compete for their party’s nomination. Longtime Sen. Gwen Margolis was originally running, but she dropped out after referring to her Democratic opponents as “three Haitians, some teacher and some lawyer.” Pizzo was “some lawyer.”

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