October 21, 2016

Rivera plays the Rubio card

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Trying to capitalize on his most famous political friend, David Rivera sent Miami voters a new flier this week prominently featuring an old photograph with none other than Marco Rubio.

"Marco Rubio and David Rivera fighting together for a better future for our families," it reads, in Spanish. "Always by your side."

Rivera doesn't tout an explicit Rubio endorsement. But it certainly implies one.

Rubio, who is busy with his own reelection campaign to the U.S. Senate, hasn't endorsed anyone in Rivera's race. Rivera is vying to return to the state House, four years after losing his seat in Congress under a cloud of political scandal.

Ever since, Rubio has maintained a public distance from Rivera. They sold the house they jointly owned in Tallahassee last year, as Rubio embarked on his presidential candidacy. Earlier this year, Rivera quietly campaigned for Rubio in Iowa ahead of the first-in-the-nation caucuses. Rivera announced his candidacy the day after Rubio lost the Florida primary and dropped out of the race.

Rivera served as Rubio's rules chief when Rubio was Florida House speaker, and their friendship dates to long before then. The photo used in the flier shows both men when they were much younger, smiling and shaking hands in what appears to be the House floor.

This year, Rivera is embroiled in an ugly contest in House District 118 against Democrat Robert Asencio.

During the primary, Rubio's former rival, Jeb Bush, endorsed a Rivera opponent, Lynda Bell.

An earlier version of this post misstated the number of the district Rivera is seeking.

October 19, 2016

Rivera recycles TV ad from 2012 congressional race


David Rivera looks a little less gray in his only positive ad running Spanish-language TV. That's because the political commercial is four years old.

The 30-second spot features Daniela Peláez, a so-called "Dreamer" whose parents brought her to the U.S. from Colombia illegally as a child. Thanks in part to intervention from then-U.S. Rep. Rivera, she was able to remain in the country.

"When I faced the threat of deportation, I went to see my congressman, David Rivera," she says in the ad.

Except Rivera isn't a congressman anymore. He lost his reelection in 2012. That's the year Peláez -- then a student -- cut the commercial for Rivera.

No matter: Rivera has brought out the old ad back. It still identifies Peláez as a student. It changes none of her words, or his.

The only difference is the campaign logo, which now says Rivera is a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives, and the written disclaimer on the end, which also correctly identifies his new campaign.

Rivera is running for the open House District 114 seat against Robert Asencio. The race is a nasty one.


October 12, 2016

David Rivera is back and he's got dirt, but it's not substantiated

A political committee supporting David Rivera is sponsoring a website and running robo calls accusing his challenger for House District 118, Robert Asencio, of being a “child abuser” based on an unsubstantiated 2003 complaint.

Asencio, a Democrat and former sergeant and police investigator with Miami-Dade County Schools, is running against Rivera, the former Republican congressman who is attempting to return to the Florida House.

David RiveraThe allegation, promoted by Rivera’s backers, is based on a complaint by a Hialeah parent in 2003 who said the officer pulled her son “out of her seat by the neck and shirt” while riding on a school bus in February 2003 because she said her son was “disrespectful.”

The school district investigated the complaint and closed the case with a memo to the file, as required by law, said Raul Correa, public information officer for Miami-Dade Schools’ chief of police this week.

“It basically means no violations of law, policy, procedures or guidelines occurred — nothing here — but we're going to put a memo in the file,’’ he said. “It wasn't even a violation of minimum standards.”

Correa also dismissed the claim that Asencio, who worked for another 13 years with the department after the complaint and was promoted to captain, was a child abuser. Robert Asencio

“Our standards are high standards and we do not have child abusers working as police officers in the school district,” Correa said, adding that his comments should not be construed as endorsing either candidate.

Asensio, who retired a year ago after 26 years on the Miami Dade Schools police force, called the allegation, and others on the website “totally false, gutter politics.”

“As police officers you deal at times with unruly people — and I’m not saying that's the case here because I don't remember it,’’ he said. “But it's common knowledge police have to take people in custody, or restrain them for their own safety or the safety of others.”

But Rivera, who initially urged the Herald/Times to review the web site and then said he did not know who was behind it, stood by the claims.

“Mr. Asencio being physically abusive toward a child is 100 percent true,’’ he said. “...There is never any excuse for any school official to put a finger on a child, much less for being ‘disrespectful.’ No parent would accept having their child grabbed by the neck by anyone. Physical and abusive behavior toward a child is unacceptable. Period. End of story.” Story here. 


September 19, 2016

David Rivera briefly listed as 'special guest' to Miami-Dade GOP campaign office opening

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The Miami-Dade Republican Party plans a grand opening for its West Dade campaign headquarters Saturday.

An invitation by the party lists the office address as 12747 SW 42nd St. and urges supporters to come by to volunteer, make calls and later be served food and refreshments. No campaigns or candidates are listed.

But a draft version of the invitation, which leaked Monday evening, listed former U.S. Rep. David Rivera -- now running for the state House -- and local GOP Chairman Nelson Diaz as "special guests." The draft also showed off logos for the campaigns of Rivera, state Rep. Frank Artiles (who is running for state Senate), U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Donald Trump, though it seemed unlikely all of those campaigns signed off.

The draft was reworked after making the rounds among local political players, who circulated it privately either to note the lack of a required political disclaimer (a sign that it was, in fact, an unfinished invitation) or to criticize Rivera's involvement. He remains under federal criminal investigation into an unlawful 2012 campaign-finance scheme but nevertheless won the Republican primary last month for state House District 118.  FullSizeRender (12)

By the time a final invitation was completed Monday night, the logos and names had been removed -- and a disclaimer had been put in. 

The West Dade HQ is one of two offices recently opened by the local party (the other one is in Hialeah). Republican National Committee Co-Chairwoman Sharon Day of Broward touted the offices Friday night at a Trump rally in downtown Miami.

September 02, 2016

Daphne Campbell celebrates her primary win -- with David Rivera



Daphne Campbell was all smiles during a post-election victory party at MOCA Cafe & Lounge in North Miami. 

And the Democratic state representative had a few guests from the other side of the aisle. 

Campbell won her state Senate primary by a comfortable margin on Tuesday -- and she celebrated with a few notable Miami-Dade County Republicans: former congressman and Republican state Rep. nominee David Rivera and Miami-Dade Republican Party Chairman Nelson Diaz.  

Campbell, who is the heavy favorite to win the Democratic-leaning Senate seat against no-party candidate Phillip Brutus in November, has a voting record on social issues like abortion that aligns more with Republicans than Democrats. 

A.D. Lenoir, a Miami pastor and 2014 county commission candidate, posted the photo with Diaz and Campbell on Facebook.

"Congratulations to Senator Daphne...the most conservative Democrat that I know!" Lenoir's post said. "Standing strong & solid on your Christian values, pays dividends in the end!"

Campbell posted the picture with Rivera herself.
"Daphne Campbell is a strong Christian woman of faith who praises God for her blessings just as I do," Rivera said in a text message to the Miami Herald.
Rivera and Campbell have dealt with legal challenges in the past. Rivera remains involved in a pending federal investigation and faces allegations of violating state ethics laws. Campbell was under investigation by the state attorney on allegations of Medicaid fraud and her campaign manager recently completed probation for campaign finance violations. Neither has been charged or indicted.

Diaz and Campbell did not immediately return a request for comment.

This post has been updated to include Rivera's comment.

Daphne Campbell (third from right) poses with supporters including Miami-Dade GOP chair Nelson Diaz (third from left).



August 31, 2016

A Miami tradition: Electing troubled candidates

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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


@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

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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


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



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