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As ballots hit mailboxes, Miami House race hits TV airwaves

@martindvassolo @PatriciaMazzei

With mail-in ballots sent to voters Tuesday, two Republicans running for a special Miami House seat unveiled new TV ads aimed at reaching voters who have already been getting an onslaught of campaign fliers in their mailboxes.

In his ad, Daniel Perez accuses opponent Jose Mallea, who helped run U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's 2010 campaign, as disloyal for then working for Jeb Bush's 2016 presidential campaign. Before working for Rubio, Mallea worked for Bush when Bush was governor.

Jose Mallea continued to try to tie himself to President Donald Trump's Cuba policy in the ad, released in English and Spanish. It echoes a robocall Mallea put out the day Trump announced his harder Cuba line in Miami two weeks ago.

"Jose Mallea supports Donald Trump and his policy on Cuba," says the ad, which also calls Mallea a "true conservative" who wants to "eliminate property taxes for our seniors and create better jobs." 

The 30-second TV spot comes after a series of Mallea fliers have tried to paint his opponent, Daniel Perez, as soft on Cuba because Perez and his fiancée took wedding engagement photos earlier this year in Havana.

"Daniel Perez lied to us!" one of the recent fliers reads, accusing Perez of being a Havana tourist.

Perez has dismissed the suggestion, saying he and his fiancée went to Cuba to visit family, though they did take down the engagement photos that once were online.

"That's a matter we already addressed," Perez's political consultant, David Custin, said Wednesday.

Perez's campaign also planned to debut a TV ad Wednesday, but it couldn't immediately provide video of the spot.

An robopoll conducted Saturday by AI Advisory, a local Republican firm unaffiliated with either candidate, found Mallea leading Perez by 32-19 percent, with 49 percent undecided, after having been trailing him earlier in the race. The poll had a relatively small sample size of 204 likely voters and an error margin of plus-or-minus 6.8 percentage points.

A June 13-15 live poll of 234 likely voters commissioned by Perez found Perez ahead of Mallea by 37-13 percent. A turnaround the likes of what AI Advisory says it found would be unusual over such a short period of time; Mallea claims his stepped-up media campaign over the past two weeks has helped increase his name ID.

His relentless Cuba efforts suggest Mallea's own polling, at least early on, showed him trailing Perez. Two weeks ago, he added a new Miami consultant, Jose Luis Castillo of Green Point Group, to a campaign team that already included Brett Doster and Pablo Diaz of Front Line Strategies in Tallahassee. Mallea said Wednesday adding Castillo was intended to "complement" the existing team and not a sign of a campaign reshuffle.

Meantime, a third-party political committee has also been hammering Mallea as a tax raiser, pointing to when he worked as an aide to former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz.

The primary is July 25. Special elections, especially when they're held in the summer, tend to draw relatively few voters, which is why candidates push so hard for the people they identify as their reliable base to cast ballots by mail.

The Republican-leaning House District 116, in Southwest Miami-Dade County, is currently held by GOP Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, who is running for state Senate.