Friday, April 06, 2018

The Worst Election You Never Heard Of: State House District 114. Guest Blog by Ross Hancock

Democrats are banking on Attorney Javier Fernandez

People in Florida once voted all on the same day — the first Tuesday in November — but in this crazy political era there is a special election going on someplace every month. Democrats have been winning most of them lately, as folks turn out just to keep child molesters and their ilk out of office.

For the May 1 special election for State House District 114 (which stretches from Flagami south to Cutler Bay), two lobbyists and a public school administrator, NPA Candidate Liz de las Cuevas, have raised about a half-million dollars to win bragging rights and a state paycheck — for a seat that will expire in five months. The victor won’t have the opportunity to cast any votes on bills, or to even show up for work. The seat will be up for grabs again in November. (I am personally in the November race.)

Journalists have made a lot of hay about what a waste of taxpayer money (an estimated $1.2 million) it is to hold an election for this lamest-of-all-possible-ducks seat. In addition to the full-fledged primary (that you probably didn’t notice) that look place in February, in which about 4,000 people voted, taxpayers are now paying for “general-special” election ballots to be mailed to absentee voters and military service personnel worldwide. Then a week of early voting will take place starting April 21 at four different libraries in the county. Finally, about 70 fully-staffed precincts will be open all day on May 1 for the three candidates and their “no show” office.

The three campaigns themselves may spend as much as the county — as much as 500 bucks per voter. Special interests have been very generous to the both party candidates. But they will have to pony up again when the winner and loser replay their battle, starting with an August primary a few months from now.

The bizarre history of District 114 has also been noted by the press. Since the district was drawn after the last census, both elected representatives have pleaded guilty to criminal charges. Erik Fresen, who I almost beat in this district in 2012, failed to file income taxes for the duration of his four terms in the state house, and is now a part-time resident of a federal lockup. Daisy Baez, who recently won the seat after Fresen vacated it, kept postponing her relocation into the district while her ailing mother clung to life in Baez’s home a few blocks outside the boundary. Rivals busted her when she announced her run to replace yet another disgraced legislator, Frank Artiles, who had left the state senate when it was revealed that he was hiring underwear models as staffers. That opened up the current mess for the May 1 special election to replace Baez.

Andrew Vargas
I think the Republican lobbyist is likely to beat the Democratic lobbyist in a low-turnout special election. Even though Democrats have been winning special elections all over the country, Republican lobbyist Andrew Vargas has been outworking and outspending Democratic Javier Fernandez. Plus, Fernandez got a bad start by hiring twice-convicted campaign-law violator Jeff Garcia, who positioned himself as Fernandez’s campaign manager.

And the press has been hard on Fernandez, asking why the Dems would even sponsor a candidate who has a checkered history as a lobbyist for Walmart developers and the like.

While his Republican opponent attacks him from one side, Fernandez is also being mocked as “Javi Lobby” and as a Republican donor in mailings and robocalls conducted by People for a Progressive Florida, which is run by activists who advocate for responsible land use and transit-friendly policies. They maintain an attack website.

Fernandez might be the only Democrat in the world who can’t win this district in the current “Blue Wave” climate. Although the Democratic Party labeled District 114 as “Republican” when they didn’t want to oppose Fresen, the party has been happy when candidates have been able to attract cash to 114, as Baez did with early money from the Dominican professional community. Likewise, Fernandez has been a big magnet for $1000 checks from real estate industry donors.

The best one could say about this expensive and bizarre special election is that it might be another indicator of anti-Trump sentiment. On the other hand, we will know a lot more about the true sentiment of the district’s voters on the first Tuesday in November, when most people will go to the polls to cast votes for a governor, a U.S. senator, members of Congress, a slew of state and local candidates, some very important constitutional changes, and for someone who will actually earn their pay as state representative for District 114.


Anonymous said...

I hate tactical political writing. It's dishonest. This contribution by Ross Hancock is an example: Of course Ross wants the Republican to win so he has a clearer shot in the next election. So of course he focuses on cheap shots against the Democrat instead of trying to be constructive.

This piece is just plain unfair to Javier Fernandez who as far as I can tell is a well-meaning, reasonably progressive, decent guy. Vargas's attempts to dirty him are all about work that Fernandez's law firm, Holland and Knight (a serious big-time firm) did, and little better than random mudslinging. There is no suggestion that firm (much less Fernandez himself) did anything even near the ethical line. It's a big place, and they just took the same kinds of cases lots of Florida firms did.

Fernadez has a good personal political history as an advocate for affordable housing. He has some brains, which is how he got a job at Holland & Knight, which isn't easy. He's not a polished speaker, but he seems to speak from the heart when he talks about wanting to give working people and the poor more of fair break than they getting from Tallahassee.

I'm going to vote for him, and without regret.

Sadly, Hancock's contribution here just continues his downward slide after his near-miss against Fresen. It began with a very dubious and disastrous campaign for a seat on the Coral Gables commission, which also included mudslinging by Hancock, and now it has descended to this. For shame.

Ross Hancock said...

I haven't really attacked the candidates here. That's another post for another day.

Anonymous said...

The sheer waste of time and money should be a talking point against Rick Scott. What could $1,5 million mean to an inner city school? $1.5 million in field trips to the new Science Museum? $1.5 million to clean up trash in the MIami River? $1.5 million to feed the elderly meals on wheels? This is malfeasance. Other Florida counties, that were more fiscally responsible, asked to wait for vacancies to be filled in November.

Anonymous said...

Besides the Javier Fernandez campaign staffer replying (hello Jeffrey), does anyone actually care about this 114 election?

We're about to have political Armageddon with the romance of the Congressional District 27 election. Expect more open seats, soon!

Anonymous said...

Pinecrest activist Albert Santana is the true Democratic progressive running in 114. Albert doesn't want to burden the county for a fake race, so he withdrew from the May election months ago. He is on the ballot for the real Democratic primary in August.

Anonymous said...

I wrote the original comment. I swear I have nothing to do with any campaign for any candidate in this election (or in 2018) except as a minor donor. I would be happy to share my identity with the Eye on Miami site owners if they want to verify this. And my name is nothing like "Jeffrey".

Anonymous said...

Javier Fernandez was a lowly staffer working on low level stuff for disgraced ex-Mayor Manny Diaz. Remember Manny Diaz demanded the taxpayers pay over $3 Billion in taxes for the Marlins disaster? Next Manny Diaz using help from Javi spent $10 Million getting a new developer friendly zoning code passed. Yup the disaster Miami 21 was Manny's pet and Javi helped sell it to commissioners.