The race to replace disgraced state Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned during this year’s legislative session, has had a domino effect. State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz resigned his seat in the House to run for the Senate, leaving a vacancy in House District 116 that three candidates are vying to fill. The Democrat, Gabriela Mayaudon, has no primary opposition. However, two Republicans want the chance to run against her.
The Editorial Board went from impressed to distressed as its interview with Jose Mallea and Daniel Perez wore on.
When discussing the issues, each came across as committed to public service and eager to help the district. This is Perez’s first run for elective office, and in some ways, it shows. He is an attorney who would work to bring his elderly constituents some property tax relief, a credible concern. Also high on his list of priorities are enhancing special education — he has an autistic brother — and cracking down on human trafficking. These, too, are important issues, however, not necessarily of the broad, overarching focus that could best serve the district, and the state.
Mallea, 40, a consultant and brewery owner, by far, has the meatier resume of political experience, one that should give him a huge advantage in the race, despite heavyweight backing from Republicans that Perez for some reason has garnered. In 1996, Mallea was a youth volunteer for presidential candidate Bob Dole, then moved on to George W. Bush’s Florida Victory 2000 campaign. From 2001 to 2005, he was a political appointee in the Small Business Administration, the White House, and the State Department. He was chief of staff for Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, campaign manager for Marco Rubio’s Senate run, Florida state director for Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign, and senior adviser for national Hispanic Engagement for Jeb Bush’s push for the White House.
So what could be the problem here? Negative campaigning. Mallea has made much — too much — of Perez’s trip to Cuba with his fiancée, where she has family. They took engagement pictures. The trip was in accordance with Obama administration policy at the time and a journey many like Perez have taken.
Perez, 30, is working hard — too hard — to tie Mallea to what he says was a tax increase in Miami when he worked for Diaz. Really? Mallea was not an elected official and, he told the Board, there was no tax increase: Miami’s tax base grew, there was more revenue, and Diaz lowered the millage rate.
Then there’s Perez’s offensive pitch to voters in this majority Cuban-American district: He says that he is “the only Cuban-American in this race.” Mallea’s mother is Ecuadorian, his father Cuban.
And did we mention the court case? Mallea wants Perez ruled ineligible to run, citing a Miami Herald article that found Perez does not currently live at the address he listed. However, the state Constitution mandates that legislators live in the district they represent by Election Day. And Mallea, himself, recently moved into the district, he says.
As we said, distressing. Mallea, in particular, has solid experience and ideas on which to campaign: He supports sunshine laws, the push for renewable energy, would protect Florida’s coasts from oil drilling.
He supports charter schools and says the state of Florida prisons is in “crisis.”
The Herald recommends JOSE MALLEA in the Republican primary for House District 116.