A Miami candidate for the Florida House has released a new web video slamming his Republican primary opponent for taking wedding engagement photos in Havana.
Jose Mallea's campaign produced the video attacking Daniel Anthony Perez, whose photos were online until the Miami Herald reported on them earlier this week. It's the first negative campaigning in a race where the candidate field hasn't even been settled yet.
"He says he's a Republican running for the Legislature, but here we see him having a great time in Cuba," the video begins. "Daniel Perez is enjoying the connection that [former President Barack] Obama made with the Castros, allowing trips that feed the dictatorship while the Ladies in White are beaten, while dissidents are represents and while exiles long for their homeland. Daniel Perez cannot be trusted."
Mallea and Perez are running for House District 116 in a special July 25 primary to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, who resigned to run for Senate. Candidates can qualify for the ballot through Tuesday.
In any other place in the country, Havana wedding engagement photos would probably not matter. But District 116 leans Republican, and older Cuban exiles vote reliably in local GOP primaries.
In a statement, Perez called Mallea a "deceiving liar" who's "desperate."
"I have never supported Obama's travel policy," Perez said. "As the only Cuban American in this race, I take issue with Mr. Mallea's exploitation of the suffering of the Cuban people for his political gain."
Perez noted he's lived in Westchester "since I was 6 years old" and accused Mallea of not living or being registered to vote in the district. Florida law requires legislators to live in the district they represent by Election Day.
Mallea, who lives outside the district, in the city of Miami, told the Miami Herald he is moving into the district by June 15. His mother is from Ecuador and his father is from Cuba, he added: "I'm proud of my heritage: I'm Cuban and Ecuadorean."
This post has been updated.