State Politics

Democrats want voters to know that this Manny Diaz didn’t invent the turnover chain

Democrats are worried that voters in northwest Miami-Dade mistakenly believe that state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. is the same Manny Diaz who was mayor of the city of Miami.
Democrats are worried that voters in northwest Miami-Dade mistakenly believe that state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. is the same Manny Diaz who was mayor of the city of Miami.

One of the biggest and first challenges new political candidates face is the task of introducing themselves to voters. In a crucial Florida Senate race for a northwest Dade seat, Democrat David Perez must explain who he is — and, apparently, explain who his opponent is not.

Perez and the Democratic Party are so concerned that voters are mistaking Republican candidate and state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. for former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz — or his son, Miami Hurricanes coordinator Manny Diaz Jr. — that they’re airing a commercial to brand the Republican as “Bad Manny.”

The ad, which Perez’s strategist says began running in mid-September on Spanish-language stations and on digital platforms, begins by introducing the former mayor, who occupied the second floor office at Miami City Hall from 2001-09. Then it introduces Diaz Jr., and casts his legislative priorities on education as bad for teachers and students.

“Manny Diaz is running for the state Senate? Wait, what?” a narrator says as a record scratches. “No. Not the mayor or the coach. The Manny Diaz running for Senate is a different Manny.”

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Democrats are apparently concerned that voters are confusing state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. with former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz (seen here).

The ad, which was cut by the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, goes on to make a series of claims about Diaz Jr.’s voting record. The state lawmaker says those statements are spurious, but we won’t get into that debate here.

More interesting at the moment is whether the former mayor, a Democrat and Cuban-American attorney, is popular enough to move the needle in a heavily Hispanic district on the other side of the county, and whether voters actually believe one is the other.

“It’s a gimmick from a desperate campaign with no platform,” Diaz Jr., the lawmaker, wrote in a text message, saying that he was born and raised in the district. “Voters in my district know exactly who I am .. they are not fans of the former Miami mayor at all. The obsession with this item is rather odd.”

Diaz, the former mayor, was famously unpopular in Miami when voters elected Tomás Regalado to replace him in 2009. But, then again, that was a decade ago and time has a way of changing perspective. And Diaz’s son is now the defensive coordinator for a college football unit synonymous with the bedazzled turnover chain, a nationally copied motivational tool discussed every Saturday during college football season.

Diaz (the mayor) didn’t respond to a text message seeking comment.

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Miami Hurricanes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz Jr. said Wednesday he wants to start substituting more players on the front line, especially facing hurry-up offenses. The Canes face Duke on Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium. David Santiago dsantiago@miamiherald.com

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