Stephen Ross, the Miami Dolphins owner who vowed to avenge his political loss in Tallahassee earlier this year, is recruiting candidates to run against two lawmakers who opposed using public dollars to partly fund a $350 million renovation to Sun Life Stadium, the Miami Herald has learned.
Ross' political group, Florida Jobs First, is reaching out to potential candidates to pose primary challenges to GOP state Reps. Michael Bileca and Carlos Trujillo. They were perhaps the most strident opponents to the football club's proposal, which died when the Florida House failed to take a floor vote on Dolphins-backed legislation.
A spokesman for Ross' group confirmed to the Herald that the group is actively looking for candidates, though he would not identify the candidates.
"After hearing from many in the community who were upset by those who stood in the way of jobs for Miami-Dade, we have been talking to several potential candidates to challenge Trujillo and Bileca," Eric Jotkoff said.
So far, Ross' group has focused its efforts on Hispanic women in Southwest Miami-Dade, particularly members of the county's community councils that handle zoning issues, the Herald has learned.
"It's a free country," Trujillo said. "It's a democracy. Hopefully they'll find a good candidate and raise them lots and lots of money, and we'll let the voters decide."
In the past two months, Ross' group has mailed fliers attacking Bileca, Trujillo and a third Miami Republican, state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, accusing them of blocking jobs for local residents. The pieces make no mention of the Dolphins or their short-lived proposal to raise the hotel-tax rate and obtain a state sales-tax subsidy to upgrade the team's Miami Gardens stadium.
On Wednesday, House Speaker Will Weatherford, the Wesley Chapel Republican who has publicly criticized Ross for targeting the Miami trio, announced that Trujillo next year will chair the chamber's economic development and tourism subcommittee. The appointment effectively ensures that if the Dolphins intended pursue their legislative agenda again in Tallahassee in 2014, those efforts will go nowhere.