August 31, 2016

A Miami tradition: Electing troubled candidates

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@alextdaugherty

Miami-Dade County voters decided Tuesday that a candidate with 19 arrests, a candidate who has been investigated for Medicare fraud and a candidate still under suspicion of violating federal law by secretly financing a ringer campaign were all worthy of winning election.

Roy Hardemon is heading to Tallahassee as a state representative despite his lengthy rap sheet. He has no opponent in November.

Daphne Campbell is poised to move up to the state Senate from the state House despite her home healthcare business being shut down by the state. She defeated five rivals and now faces an independent candidate.

And David Rivera, a former congressman, is close to returning to the state House, where he began his political career alongside Marco Rubio, despite the ongoing federal criminal investigation into his 2012 reelection campaign. A Democrat with no political experience is the only thing that stands in his way.

In state legislative races, local voters seem to love a good political redemption story.

“It does say a lot about South Florida — and our society in general — that 33 or 34 percent of the electorate decided to vote for David Rivera,” said Emiliano Antunez, the campaign manager for Rivera’s chief primary rival, Kendall businessman Anthony Rodriguez.

August 29, 2016

What you need to know for Tuesday’s primary election

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@alextdaugherty and @doug_hanks

Planning to vote in Tuesday’s primary election? We’ve provided answers to a list of frequently asked questions.

Numerous races are on the ballot, notably the election for Miami-Dade County mayor, along with Republican and Democratic primaries for U.S. Senate. Various state legislative, school board, county commission and judicial seats are also up for grabs in Miami-Dade and Broward.

I’m not a registered Republican or Democrat. Should I bother to vote?

For some offices, like U.S. Senate and Congress, only registered members of a specific party may vote. But in Miami-Dade County, all registered voters can cast a ballot for mayor, school board, county commissioner and judge. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election will be held in November for the top two finishers.

In Broward, independents can vote in non-partisan races, including contests for judge, state attorney and school board. Voters in both counties are also voting on a constitutional amendment about solar energy.

So is the mayor’s race in Miami-Dade ending Tuesday or not?

That depends. If one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the race ends. If not, the race heads for a November run-off on Election Day between the top two finishers.

That’s just for the mayor’s race?

No, that’s the rule for all non-partisan primaries, which is how most county-level and city-level races are decided. So school board races, judge races and other local posts could wind up on the November ballot if no winner is declared Tuesday.

What about the races for Miami-Dade County Commission?

Those three races would be eligible for a run-off, except each contest only has two candidates. A run-off is only a possibility with more than two candidates.

August 07, 2016

Jeb Bush to make rare endorsement in Miami state House race

Campaign 2016 Money
@PatriciaMazzei

Jeb Bush may not be endorsing Donald Trump for president -- but he is taking sides in contested Republican primary for a Florida state House seat.

On Monday, Bush will formally back former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell over several rivals -- chief among them embattled former U.S. Rep. David Rivera.

"I'm proud to endorse my friend Lynda Bell for the Florida House in District 118," Bush said in a statement to the Miami Herald. "She's a strong, principled conservative who will continue to serve Florida well."

Rivera is considered the favorite in the five-way primary contested among Bell, Carlos Pria, Anthony Rodriguez and Steven Rojas Tallon in a heavily Hispanic, southwest Miami-Dade County district. They're vying to replace Republican state Rep. Frank Artiles, who's running for state Senate.

Rivera, a newly minted millionaire, lost re-election to Congress in 2014, when he came under federal criminal investigation in an unlawful secret campaign-finance scheme. He was an early supporter of his friend Marco Rubio for president.

Before his single, two-year term in Congress, Rivera served eight years in the state House. Four of those years, from 2002-06, coincided with Bush's tenure as Florida governor.

Rivera backs Trump.

Photo credit: Matt Rourke, Associated Press

 

July 27, 2016

Democratic poll claims David Rivera shouldn't be overconfident in Florida House race

@alextdaugherty 

Normally Democrats wouldn't bother to invest in a Florida House race where registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats by nine percentage points.

But the presence of unpopular Republicans Donald Trump and former U.S. Rep. David Rivera on the ballot in District 118 gives some Democrats hope.

A new poll from Democratic-leaning firm SEA Polling and Strategic Design for state Democrats indicates Rivera enjoys 60 percent name recognition -- but over half of respondents also view him unfavorably. 

Rivera, who is suspected of funding a straw candidate against Democrat Joe Garcia in Rivera's failed 2012 congressional re-election bid, is polling within the margin of error against Democratic challenger and retired Miami-Dade Schools police lieutenant Robert Asencio, according to the poll. Rivera trails Asencio 36-39 percent, with 25 percent of voters undecided. 

"Robert Asencio is running for office because he believes that our elected officials should be held to a higher standard than the racist bigotry put forward by Donald Trump and the outright corruption of David Rivera," Florida Democratic Party deputy communications director Anders Croy said in a statement. "This fall, we believe the voters will pick the cop over the criminal in District 118."

Trump trails Hillary Clinton in the district, which is heavily Hispanic, by 35 percent to 52 percent, with 13 percent undecided, according to the poll.

The poll was conducted from May 31-June 2 and had a relatively small sample size of 300 self-identified general election voters. Its error margin is plus-or-minus 5.64 percentage points. The party balance in the poll was 31 percent Democrat, 42 percent Republican and 27 percent with no party affiliation.

Rivera will face off against Lynda Bell, Carlos PriaAnthony Rodriguez and Steven Rojas Tallon in the Republican primary on Aug. 30. The poll did not include potential general election match-up numbers for other Republicans in the race.

Asencio is unopposed on the Democratic ticket. 

 

July 06, 2016

Appeals court OKs ethics fine against David Rivera

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@PatriciaMazzei

A Tallahassee appeals court on Wednesday upheld an ethics censure against former state Rep. David Rivera, a Miami Republican who is running again for the Florida House, now as a newly minted millionaire.

The First District Court of Appeal “summarily” rejected Rivera’s contention that the $57,821.96 fine recommended last year by an administrative law judge was improper due to “procedural errors” by the Florida Commission on Ethics.

“Rivera did not challenge the ethical violations found by the Commission and we find no merit in the due process claims he raised on appeal,” the court wrote.

However, the court left open the possibility for Rivera to sue again — if the House speaker ultimately imposes the fine.

One of Rivera’s arguments had been that it’s unconstitutional for the speaker to discipline a former House member. Florida law requires the speaker — not the ethics commission or administrative judge — to penalize a lawmaker found in violation of ethics rules. The court said it couldn’t rule on that question until if and when the speaker fines Rivera, because the disciplinary process won’t be “complete” until the speaker takes action.

More here.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald

June 30, 2016

Will secret lockbox contents shed light on how David Rivera got rich?

New+Congress

@PatriciaMazzei

How ex-U.S. Rep. David Rivera, now a Republican candidate for the statehouse, became a million-dollar man in his three years out of political office remains an enigma.

The most obvious explanation has been that he inherited his newfound wealth from his late mother, who died in 2013.

Daisy Magarino, who also went by Daisy Rivera, left no will, according to records in Miami-Dade County probate court. But she did keep a safety-deposit box at a Doral bank.

What was inside? Who knows? Like much of David Rivera’s finances, what was inside the lockbox remains a secret.

Its contents could solve the puzzle of what happened to her estate. But there’s no public accounting of them, even though a judge ordered one.

Magarino’s daughter, Diana Rivera McKenzie, asked the judge for permission to open the box. Her reasoning: A will might be inside. Her brother, the former congressman, raised no objection.

Go ahead, Judge Michael Genden said. In December 2014, he ordered the box unlocked.

Eighteen months later, there is still no record of what the Riveras found — or even if they opened the box. Despite the judge’s order that an inventory of the box’s contents be “immediately” filed with the court, no such list has been turned in.

Did Magarino leave behind a will? Jewels? Property deeds? Gold doubloons? Nothing but personal mementos?

More here.

Photo credit: Charles Dharapak, Associated Press

June 24, 2016

David Rivera, millionaire? So says his latest financial disclosure

@PatriciaMazzei

In the three years since former U.S. Rep. David Rivera left Congress -- unceremoniously, after a single term and under the cloud of a federal criminal investigation -- he’s managed to significantly grow his personal wealth, even as what he does for a living has remained a mystery.

He’s worth more than $1.5 million, according to a financial disclosure form he filed this week to qualify as a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. The last time he publicly declared his finances, in a 2012 congressional form that didn’t require a net-worth estimate, he listed just two assets -- neither of which suggested he had the makings of a millionaire.

Most of Rivera’s newfound wealth lies outside the U.S., in a pair of overseas bank accounts in Mexico and Taiwan each worth more than $300,000, his disclosure shows. He also owns three properties in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula worth $250,000, $100,000 and $50,000, respectively.

How Rivera acquired the money and the properties is unknown. He did not respond to questions a Miami Herald reporter emailed him Thursday afternoon.

For years, Rivera has claimed to be a business development consultant, an amorphous profession with unidentified clients. The only income source listed in his latest disclosure, for calendar year 2015, is $104,000. The money came from Xemma Holdings S.A. de C.V., a company in Merida, Mexico, “in partnership” with Interamerican Consulting, Rivera’s corporate entity registered at his Doral home.

More here.

Read Rivera's latest disclosure.

June 07, 2016

Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera back in court

1st dca - June 7, 2016

@ByKristenMClark

In the latest development in a years-long ethics case against former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, an attorney for the Miami Republican argued before an appeals court on Tuesday that the speaker of the Florida House has no legal authority to impose penalties on former state lawmakers who violate ethics rules while in office.

Seeking to overturn ethics violations against Rivera, his attorney Leonard Collins argued that it’s unconstitutional for state law to give authority to the House speaker or Senate president in doling out punishment for former lawmakers.

And even if appeals judges rule that that practice is OK, Collins argued that Rivera’s case should still be reconsidered because, he said, the Florida Commission on Ethics violated Rivera’s due process rights by committing “procedural errors” when it handled Rivera’s case.

An attorney for the commission defended how the case was handled but, in a painfully awkward moment, she offered no response when the three-judge appeals panel questioned why it’s allowable for the House speaker to have sole discretion in executing punishments for former House members — but a decision by the full House is needed to penalize current lawmakers.

“I can’t answer that,” assistant attorney general Elizabeth Miller said during the hearing before the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.

Read more here.

May 15, 2016

Carlos Curbelo cut David Rivera a check in 2012 but says he didn't end up voting for him

@PatriciaMazzei

Carlos Curbelo admitted to a Miami radio station recently that he didn't vote in the 2012 congressional election between then-incumbent Republican Rep. David Rivera and Democratic challenger Joe Garcia.

“When it became apparent that both those campaigns had been involved in unethical and illegal activities — because people went to jail from both campaigns — I did not vote in that election,” he told WIOD, as we reported in our story about Curbelo's political future.

Rivera is now running for the Florida House of Representatives. Garcia, who won the 2012 election and then lost to Curbelo in 2014, is running in the Democratic primary to try to oust Curbelo in November.

Curbelo may not have voted for Rivera, his fellow Republican, in 2012. But he did give him a financial contribution: $1,000 on June 29 of that year, campaign records show. The donation came before the Miami Herald revealed suspicious ties between Rivera and a ringer Democratic candidate.

But even before then, Rivera had found himself on shaky legal and ethical ground. Earlier Herald reporting led to a 2010 state investigation into Rivera's questionable use of campaign finances. Those investigations ended without charges in April 2012, a few months before Curbelo wrote his check. (A pair of separate investigations by the FBI and IRS appeared to be ongoing at the time but never went anywhere.)

So why back Rivera despite his prior troubles -- but then not vote for him?

"Once it became clear that the campaign had recruited and illegally financed a straw candidate, I no longer felt comfortable being supportive," Curbelo told the Herald in an email Saturday. "At first I figured it would be better to support him against Joe Garcia who had always shown a penchant for dishonesty, nastiness, and manipulation. Later we discovered that in fact Garcia pioneered the concept of attempting to rig elections by using straw candidates. It's all disgusting."

April 20, 2016

A GOP battle royale in South Dade: Lynda Bell vs. David Rivera

@PatriciaMazzei

Setting up a South Florida Republican battle royale, former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell plans to run for a Florida House of Representatives seat -- against former U.S. Rep. David Rivera.

Bell, who announced her candidacy late Tuesday at a meeting of the Old Cutler Republican Women's Club, told the Miami Herald on Wednesday that she looked at two open House seats in South Dade before settling on District 118, which includes neighborhoods she represented in her four-year term on the commission

"I'm not here to beat up on David Rivera, but I know I served 10 years in office, and I feel like I have a lot to offer," said Bell, who previously served as Homestead mayor. "I've accomplished very, very much."

Bell doesn't live in the district, which extends from West Miami-Dade to Richmond Heights, but said she'd move there by Election Day, as required by law. She thought about running in neighboring District 114 -- also not her home district -- but said she didn't want to challenge one of the Republicans already running, John Couriel, whom she called "a really great guy."

Neither of her choices was ideal: Both districts are heavily Hispanic, especially among likely Republican primary voters. Bell's long-shot bid might be based on the idea that other Hispanic Republicans could split the vote to her benefit, given her name recognition, but winning probably won't be easy.

More here.