Tumultuous state Senate race upended once again

Andrew Korge, left, and state Sen Dwight Bullard, right, are competing to represent a Southwest Miami-Dade County district.
Andrew Korge, left, and state Sen Dwight Bullard, right, are competing to represent a Southwest Miami-Dade County district. COURTESY (KORGE), AP (BULLARD)

The most tumultuous Florida Senate race in South Florida became even more so Tuesday, after local prosecutors revealed they’re investigating two of the Democratic candidates — and after a third candidate dropped out.

The Miami-Dade County state attorney’s office reached out to Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, after he told the Herald/Times last month that rival Andrew Korge offered to pay $25,000 to get him to run for a different seat.

“Sen. Dwight Bullard has now contacted us today to discuss his allegations,” spokesman Ed Griffith said in an email. The Miami New Times first reported Tuesday that prosecutors had opened the investigation.

Korge, a businessman and the son of Democratic fundraiser Chris Korge, allegedly tried to persuade Bullard to run for the coastal Miami-Dade District 38 seat recently vacated by Sen. Gwen Margolis and not for District 40, in the county’s southwest corner.

Bullard could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

In a statement, Korge reiterated his position that Bullard’s llegations “are unequivocally false.” He said Bullard asked him to raise money for him if he switched district.

“Dwight Bullard has completely mischaracterized and exploited for political gain our conversations by saying that I offered him ‘cash’ to switch races from District 40 to 38,” Korge’s statement read in part. “I welcome any inquiry by the appropriate authorities so that any manipulation of the facts and misconceptions that have been created for political gain can be cleared up.”

Both are vying for the chance to go up against state Rep. Frank Artiles, who as the race’s only Republican candidate doesn’t have to get muddied — or spend money — in a primary.

Korge switched races at the last minute to compete against Bullard, newcomer Missalys Perez and former state Rep. Ana Rivas Logan. But Rivas Logan made news of her own Tuesday, announcing she was suspending her campaign.

In an email to supporters, Rivas Logan said she has to take time to care for her parents. She also mentioned the heated primary contest.

“Balancing the care my parents need and what will be in-the-gutter campaign tactics by some in the race, I have chosen to suspend my campaign today knowing that my future in public service is not over,” Rivas Logan wrote.

She did not mention Korge by name, but she had claimed he previously tried to nudge her out of the race as well. She has also trailed him in fundraising.

“[T]he race changed at the close of qualifying and this has a major impact on our path forward,” Rivas Logan said. “I firmly believe that I could win this race, but unfortunately, know all too well that this race could turn to distractions rather than focus on the best ideas on how to deliver a strong education system and fighting to raise the wages for our workforce.”

There’s been drama in the race from the start. Newly redrawn district lines made District 40 more competitive and put Bullard at a disadvantage among Democrats because the district is majority Hispanic. Neither Rivas Logan nor Korge OK’d their candidacies with party leaders eager to help elect more Democrats with their limited resources.

Rivas Logan, a former Miami-Dade School Board member, served in the statehouse as a Republican before publicly disavowing the GOP.

Mail-in ballots will be sent Friday to overseas voters — with Rivas Logan’s name on them. It’s unclear how the Miami-Dade elections department will handle the end of her candidacy, but in past similar cases, voters have been informed — with a notice at the polling place or mailed with domestic ballots, for example — that the candidate has withdrawn.

Miami Herald staff writer David Ovalle contributed to this report.