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TV debates reveal rubber and glue strategies in heated Florida Senate race


Tired of being cast by his opponent as a lobbyist choosing clients over constituents in Tallahassee, Florida Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla flipped the script on State Rep. José Javier Rodríguez during two televised Sunday debates.

“Mr. Rodriguez here is basically a lobbyist,” Diaz de la Portilla said on WPLG’s “This Week in South Florida.” “He’s worked as a lobbyist in Tallahassee. He’s beholden to special interests, particularly insurance.”

Appearing incredulous, Rodríguez said his competitor was “completely making this up” before he realized he’d registered to lobby the state in 2011 with Florida Legal Services, a nonprofit that advocates for the poor.

“It’s fantastic he’s bringing this up. ... There were two topics. One of them had to do with health insurance for extremely disabled people. The other had to do with children’s healthcare,” Rodríguez said, adding he lobbied for one day only. “He’s a for-profit, professional lobbyist.”

Diaz de la Portilla shot back: “No, I’m a practicing attorney. You have a no-show job at a Broward personal injury law firm.”

The testy exchange — part of a contentious Sunday television double-header for the Florida Senate District 37 candidates — illustrated just how nasty the race has become as Rodríguez and the Florida Democratic Party look to unseat Diaz de la Portilla, a six-year senator running in a redrawn district that spans from Key Biscayne to Cutler Bay.

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