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Republicans pump $100,000 into Senate committee to help Diaz in SD 40 race -- but is it insurance or worry?

DiazAndTaddeoInsurance money or concern? That is the question after the Republican State Leadership Committee sent a $100,000 check late Wednesday to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, run by state Senate leaders, to boost the chances of Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in the Miami District 40 special election. 

A Democratic poll conducted in June and released on Wednesday found that Democratic nominee in the race, Annette Taddeo, edged Diaz 42-38 percent. According to the memo by pollster Anzalone Liszt Grove Research for the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, Taddeo was also ahead by 16 percentage points among voters without party affiliation who couldn't cast primary ballots.

But, as the primary turnout showed, ensuring voter enthusiasm in the district for the Sept. 26 general election is going to be a challenge -- and margins will matter.

On Tuesday, only 10.4 percent of the district's registered Democrats showed up to vote and 13.5 percent of the registered Republicans. Diaz collected more total votes against his two rivals, 7,678, than Taddeo -- who got 7,101. 

The poll also suggests that Diaz's allegiance with Donald Trump could spell trouble in the district. Hillary Clinton beat Trump in SD 40 but the same voters also preferred Republican Marco Rubio over Democrat Patrick Murphy in the U.S. Senate race and elected Republican Frank Artiles over Democrat Dwight Bullard for the Senate seat that's now open as a result of Artiles' resignation.

Diaz, a former contestant on Trump's "The Apprentice" reality TV show, did not distance himself from the president in the primary and included pictures of himself with Trump in campaign materials. He has, however, removed all but one photo from his Facebook and Twitter feeds of him attending inaugural events, including one of him posing with the president. He cited “aggressive trolling” from enemies as the reason.

Diaz, an attorney and lobbyist who was the favorite of Tallahassee Republicans, spent more than $2 million between his campaign and political committee, Rebuild Florida -- much of it after the poll was taken. Taddeo, by contrast, spent $60,000.

The Republican State Leadership Committee has raised and spent much in Florida in recent election cycles. In February it gave $125,000 to the Florida Republican Party. It's chair is former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and former Republican House Speaker Will Weatherford sits on its board of directors. 

Here's the RSLC announcement: 

RSLC President Matt Walter released the following statement on Jose Felix Diaz’s victory in Florida’s 40th Senate district Republican primary: 

“I would like to congratulate Jose Felix Diaz for all the hard work he put into winning his primary election last night. Diaz has been a tireless advocate for Floridians during his tenure in the state House and will continue this work when he joins the state Senate in September. The citizens of the 40th Senate District know Diaz will fight for lower taxes, smaller government and more economic freedom when they send him to Tallahassee in the fall. We are looking forward to helping him keep his district under Republican leadership and are ready to assist him with whatever resources he needs during his general election." 

Today, the RSLC sent a $100,000 contribution to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee to help ensure the Florida state Senate maintains its strong Republican majority in 2017 and 2018.

Diaz has served on the Board for the RSLC’s Future Majority Project (FMP), which seeks to identify, recruit, train and support candidates who better reflect the full diversity of our nation. Launched in 2011, FMP supports men and women from diverse communities as they run to grow the economy, support job creators and focus on ways to keep more money in the pockets of working families. The efforts are helping to build a strong bench of current and future Republican leaders. For the 2015-2016 cycle, FMP invested $7 million – in partnership with the RSLC’s Right Women, Right Now initiative – to identify, recruit and support 200 new, state-level diverse candidates in 36 states.

Photo: Republican candidate Jose Felix Diaz, is surrounded by supporters after he won the primary for Florida's Senate District 40 race. Democrat Annette Taddeo, right, celebrates her victory with supporter Venus Lovely at BJ’s Restaurant in The Falls. Photos by Charles Trainor Jr.| ctrainor@miamiherald.com and Patrick Farrell | pfarrell@miamiherald.com

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