Frank Artiles wasn’t on the radar.
When Republicans in the Florida Senate mapped out a plan of attack in a bid to maintain their majority, Artiles, a 3-term House member taking on a Democratic incumbent in a tough district didn’t look like a good bet.
Incoming Senate president Joe Negron said he had his eye on two other Miami-based Senate districts that needed attention, a seat based in Gainesville and another in Tampa.
“I was only going to participate in those four races,” Negron said.
But Negron said that started to change as Artiles, a Marine Corps veteran, started showing him what he was doing on the ground. He was campaigning hard, had broken his district up in quadrants to attack every day, was raising money and routinely sharing a “Daily Operations Report From the Field” document with him.
“He ran his campaign like it was a military operation,” Negron said. “From the moment you walked into his campaign office there was a military feel.”
That’s not a surprise given that Artiles, 43, was in the Marines from 1998 to 2006 and was part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
Negron admits he didn’t always understand the military jargon, but he saw the structure of a candidate who could win. That prompted Negron and other state Senators to start pouring money into Artiles’s campaign. With major backing from the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee Artiles’ main campaign account collected $1.2 million compared to Democrat Dwight Bullard who raised just $240,000 for his campaign committee.
“He won us over by earning it on the ground,” Negron said.
The final result? Artiles beat Bullard by 10 percentage points.
Negron said Clinton carried the area Artiles was running in, yet Artiles still prevailed just like Republicans did in four other seats where they were thought to be in trouble of losing.
"We shouldn't have been competitive in many of those seats," Negron said.