So Marco Rubio, Republican presidential candidate, got four traffic tickets in the past 18 years.
News? The New York Times thought so, in a blog post that also dinged his wife, Jeanette, for her 13 infractions in the same period.
But what’s news in New York — where subways and taxis rule, and it’s next to madness to get behind a steering wheel — is a yawner in Florida, where four tickets in 18 years makes you, if not a model driver, at least a pretty typical one.
“This is something that humanizes politicians,” said J.C. Planas, an elections attorney and former state representative who served with Rubio in the Legislature but supports presidential rival Jeb Bush. “We’ve all gotten tickets!”
The violations by Rubio and his wife included speeding, careless driving and running a red light, caught by a traffic camera. They’ve paid more than $1,000 in fines as a result, and attended driving school on four occasions.
On social media, the Times’ blog post drew a few kudos as a public-records scoop — and a lot of scoffing for hardly counting as news.
Rubio wouldn’t comment. But his campaign seized on the story to raise money, calling the Times’ attention to the senator’s driving record “pretty ridiculous, huh?” On Twitter, @TeamMarco embraced the hashtag “#RubioCrimeSpree,” making light of the senator’s driving record with suggestions of other “crimes” he may have committed.
Miami’s reputation for messy driving is well-earned, due in part to a robust party scene, sizable elderly population and constant influx of immigrants who bring their home-country driving habits with them. Longtime South Florida road warriors can name their favorite traffic-attorney ticket clinics; Rubio’s is apparently Alex Hanna, of “Don’t Pay That Ticket” TV-ad fame, a Rubio political donor who helped the senator get dismissed the red-light camera ticket issued to his beige Buick in 2011.
It’s not just a South Florida thing. The police department of the tiny city of Waldo (where’s Waldo? Just outside Gainesville) was disbanded last year in part because the well-known speed trap had required officers to meet a ticket quota.