Florida Politics

Two more candidates enter Miami Senate race to replace Artiles

Florida House of Representatives members line up to congratulate Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, after he gave his farewell speech on the floor Monday.
Florida House of Representatives members line up to congratulate Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, after he gave his farewell speech on the floor Monday. AP

The race to replace state Sen. Frank Artiles got more crowded Tuesday after a pair of well-known contenders — one a Democrat, the other a Republican — announced their candidacies.

The Democrat: Miami businesswoman Annette Taddeo. The Republican: state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.

Both entered the contest a day after Gov. Rick Scott set the dates for the special Senate election. Artiles, a Republican, resigned last month after unleashing a string of offensive remarks to two African-American state senators. The special primary will take place July 25; the special general election, Sept. 26.

Diaz already has more than $820,000 in his political committee, Rebuild Florida. In a text message to a Miami Herald reporter, he said the competitive Southwest Miami-Dade County district needs “new blood.”

“Over the last seven years, I have dedicated myself to uniting our legislative delegation, and that unity has resulted in some major wins for our kids and our county,” he said. “I hope to build on my track record of being a tireless advocate for my community and an effective champion for my constituents’ needs.”

Diaz said goodbye to the Florida House on the last day of the annual lawmaking session Monday, delivering a poignant speech addressed to his two young sons. Though Diaz has a year remaining in his House term, he bid his colleagues farewell because he plans to resign to run for Senate — or be appointed U.S. attorney in Miami by President Donald Trump.

In addition to Diaz, one other Republican, former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, has filed to run. On Tuesday, Diaz de la Portilla cited a private poll conducted last month by local GOP pollster Dario Moreno, which showed Diaz de la Portilla with 51 percent positive name recognition compared to Diaz’s 26 percent. In the poll, Diaz de la Portilla bested Diaz by 43-15 percent in a two-way race.

“I am not going anywhere,” Diaz de la Portilla said. “I’m running in this seat, and I’m going to win.”

Diaz de la Portilla has represented the Westchester portion of the district. He slammed House Republicans for working to defund Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, the state’s economic development and tourism agencies, in defiance of Gov. Scott, and for conducting a secretive state budget process.

“We cannot have this House-ification of the Florida Senate,” Diaz de la Portilla said. “We need to keep the Senate a mature, deliberative body.”

The two Democratic candidates so far: state Rep. Daisy Baez of Coral Gables and Taddeo.

“Through our campaign, we can right a wrong and show how this community can come together, regardless of race, gender or religion,” Taddeo said in a statement Tuesday. “I know that in this election, residents from every part of Senate District 40, including those who stood firm in demanding Frank Artiles resign, will send a clear message to Tallahassee that the days of division are behind us.”

Taddeo is a Colombian American who owns a translation company. Baez is a Dominican-American freshman who opened a fundraising account last week.

Baez won the endorsement Monday of two Democratic contenders for Florida governor, Andrew Gillum and Gwen Graham, a sign that the state party was at least trying to consolidate support behind Baez’s candidacy.

But Taddeo, a frequent candidate who lost a Democratic primary for Congress to Joe Garcia last year, owes little allegiance to the Florida Democratic Party. She lost a bid for the local party vice-chairmanship in December and did not support the state party’s new chief, Stephen Bittel of Coconut Grove.