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How inexperience doomed a Miami mayoral bid

@PatriciaMazzei @msanchezMIA

The beginning of the end of Francis Suarez’s promising bid to become mayor of Miami started the day his campaign got two attractive young women to work the crowd at a Cinco de Mayo party.

The assignment was not difficult: Get voters to allow the campaign to request absentee ballots for them.

The two friends flirted, downed vodka tonics and got some signatures. But not enough.

So they improvised: They filled out forms for themselves. They called a boyfriend and a sister and forged their names.

And when they ran out of people they knew, they made up names of fake voters.

Which landed them in the middle of a criminal investigation.

“We were bored,” 21-year-old Ivana Saud told the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office.

A novice campaigner, Juan Pablo Baggini, submitted 20 ballot requests — the legitimate ones — to the county elections website.

Except Florida law prohibits anyone other than a voter or his or her immediate family from filing requests online.

Baggini and his de facto boss — the candidate’s cousin and campaign manager, Esteban “Steve” Suarez — ended up charged and pleaded out to misdemeanors.

They got probation.

The candidate quit the race. He acknowledged, among other reasons, his campaign’s “mistakes.”

A review of investigation records suggests the campaign, though well-financed, relied on neophytes — well-intentioned but inexperienced relatives and friends — in a big-time election.

“We’re just a bunch of young guys trying to become the mayor of Miami,” a candid Steve Suarez told prosecutors.

More here.

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