State Rep. David Rivera on Thursday became the first candidate to jump into the District 25 congressional race in Miami to replace U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who plans to switch to the district being vacated by his brother, Lincoln.
Rivera's entry into the District 25 is expected to be followed by Sen. Alex de la Portilla, a fellow Miami Republican, and the race could become one of the more crowded contests in the state if four others who are considering it get into the match.
Rivera announced his candidacy at press conferencese in Miami and Naples Thursday, the two largest cities in the sprawling congressional district originally created for Mario Diaz-Balart.
But in a sign of what is likely to be a hotly-contested rmatch-up, both candidates touted dueling polls. A poll released Wednesday by the Texas polling firm Hill Research Consulting matched up the names of the likely contenders in the Senate and showed that 67 percent of the 300 people surveyed recognized Diaz de la Portilla, while only 41 percent recognized Rivera.
In a poll released Thursday by Dario Moreno Inc. and conducted of 600 likely Republican voters Feb. 15-16, Rivera had a slightly higher name identification, especially among older Cubans. According to the poll, 44 percent recognized Rivera and 41 percent recognized Diaz de la Portilla.
Rivera said he was focused on his campaign and welcomed all opponents. "You're never going to hear me talking about other candidates," he said. "I'm going to run on the issue of concern, especially job creation and the economy, education and national security."
But, according to the Hill poll, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Joe Martinez was known by 68 percent of those surveyed, one point higher than Diaz de la Portilla. The poll also tested the name ID of other candidates, who have also expressed interest in running for the seat: Carlos Curbelo, U.S. Sen. George LeMieux's state director, who was known by 32 percent, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, known by 29 percent, and Miami Lakes Mayor Mike Pizzi, identified by 22 percent respectively.
The Moreno poll also asked about state Sen. Alex Villalobos, who was recognized by 31 percent of those surveyed, and Curbello, recognized by 11 percent.
Diaz de la Portilla said that he will likely make his decision by the end of March and chided Rivera for switching to the federal election "on the eve of the legislative session."
"It would be unfair to Floridians for me to take my focus off finding real solutions to the problems we are facing and instead turn my attention to my next campaign or career opportunity," he said in a statement.