Sachs, Rodriguez hold off strong Republican challengers

Former Republican Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, left, and Democratic state Sen. Maria Sachs are once again vying to represent Broward and Palm Beach counties in the Florida Senate.
Former Republican Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, left, and Democratic state Sen. Maria Sachs are once again vying to represent Broward and Palm Beach counties in the Florida Senate.

Democrat Maria Sachs held onto her seat in the Florida Senate Tuesday, surviving a bare-knuckle challenge from former Republican Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff that cost the candidates a combined $1 million.

The race, a rematch of the 2012 election, was the closest watched contest in the Senate. The attack ads were attention grabbing, the stakes sky high.

If Sachs had lost, the GOP stood to grab a veto-proof majority in the upper chamber. What’s more, Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, of Clearwater, would have firmed up his chances of becoming Senate president in 2016.

Bogdanoff outspent Sachs by more than $400,000, state records show. Still, Sachs won re-election in District 34, which straddles the eastern stretches of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

The incumbent said she felt “humbled” by the voted of confidence. “It shows that money and negative personal attacks are not going to win people of this district,” she said.

Incumbent state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, of Miami, will also be returning to Tallahassee.

Rodriguez prevailed over Republican Daniel Diaz Leyva in House District 112, which spans Brickell, Key Biscayne, Coconut Grove, the Roads, and parts of Little Havana and Coral Gables.

Rodriguez said his campaign was rooted in two things: “supporting the community and trying to do good work.”

Diaz Leyva raised more than $430,000 for his bid to unseat Rodriguez. The incumbent had collected about $345,000 in campaign contributions.

A third closely watched contest — the battle for for House District 114 in Miami-Dade County — also went to the incumbent, Republican Rep. Erik Fresen.

Observers predicted a close finish in the swing district, which includes West Miami and parts of Coral Gables, Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay. But Fresen, a well-known lawmaker who was first elected to the seat in 2008, easily defeated Democrat Daisy Baez and independent Ross Hancock.

Fresen never doubted he would win overwhelmingly, he said.

“It’s a testament to the work that I’ve done and the record that I have,” said Fresen, who has chaired the House Education Budget Subcommittee. “I’m happy to be back representing District 114.”

The incumbents dominated most other South Florida statehouse races.

Sens. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens; Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah; and Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, were re-elected to their seats in the upper chamber.

The lawmakers in the House will remain largely the same.

Democratic Reps. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, of Deerfield Beach; Katie Edwards, of Plantation; Shevrin Jones, of West Park; Jared Moskowitz, of Coral Springs; Hazelle Rogers, of Lauderhill; and Richard Stark, D-Weston; all won re-election in Broward County.

The Broward delegation’s lone Republican member, George Moraitis of Fort Lauderdale, was also re-elected Tuesday.

Three new members, all of whom are Democrats, were elected to Broward seats: former North Bay Village mayor Joe Geller, Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs and Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Bobby DuBose.

Former state Rep. Evan Jenne, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, will be returning to the House. He ran unopposed in House District 99.

Most of the state representatives from Miami-Dade were also poised to return, including Democratic Reps. Sharon Pritchett, Barbara Watson, Daphne Campbell, Cynthia Stafford, David Richardson and Kionne McGhee.

Republican Reps. Manny Diaz, Carlos Trujillo, Jose Oliva, Michael Bileca, Jose Felix Diaz, Frank Artiles and Jeanette Nunez were re-elected to their seats in the Florida House, as well.

Republican Bryan Avila, an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College, won a vacant seat that covers Miami Springs, Virginia Gardens and parts of Hialeah and Miami.

Contact Kathleen McGrory at kmcgrory@MiamiHerald.com.