A Diaz, but not THE Diaz, files to run for House seat 112
Ladra has to admit: This is not the Diaz I had hoped to see in the 2014 race against State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Little Havana).
That's Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen standing next to Daniel Diaz-Leyva. She would make for a powerful endorsement in 112.
Republican wonderkid and Coral Gables attorney Daniel Diaz Leyva has filed paperwork to run against Rodriguez next year.
Naturally, Ladra had hoped for a non-presidential year rematch between J-Rod and former State Sen. Alex “The Dean” Diaz de la Portilla, who was too distracted by his recent divorce, his intense personal vendettas, his twisted post-divorce love life and other elections — including the race in Hialeah Gardens that he ran for his brother, former School Board Member Renier Diaz de la Portilla — to put 100 percent of his effort into his 2012 campaign.
It’s early yet, DLP supporters tell me.
But not too early for Diaz Leyva, called DDL by his friends, who I suspect has just been itching to run for something or other. He filed last month, naming professional campaign cash man Jose Riesco — who happens to handle a lot of candidate accounts — as his treasurer.
The well-connected and noted fundraiser is BFFs with State Rep. Jose Felix “One More Pepe” Diaz (R-Kendall), whose campaign he basically ran last year. He has helped with several other campaigns, which will give him automatic momentum. He has spent the past few years building his profile on a state and national level, working with the national Republican State Leadership Committee and the state’s Sun PAC to help identify and recruit conservative Hispanics to run for office.
We guess he found one in the mirror.
Several political observers say Diaz Leyva is a natural candidate and a big threat to J-Rod, who has had an arguable good freshman year and who has always been underestimated by Team Red.
He could get by with a little help from his friends: Diaz Leyva, second from right, stands with friends, including (l-r) JC Flories, former Miami-Dade Republican chair Ben Powell, David Cardenas, Republican superwoman Marili Cancio, State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and former Miami Springs Councilman Dan Espino.
In addition to Rep. Diaz and the rest of the House support he will bring (read: State Reps. Carlos Trujillo and Michael Bileca), Diaz Leyva can likely count on some heavyweight endorsements and their money. Pals like Jeb Bush Jr and George P. Bush and former Gimenez G-man turned AT&T lobbyist JC Flores, a fellow member of the SunPAC, were gushy on twitter about his announcement. The hurrah from @JebBushJr: “Look for rising star Daniel Diaz Leyva to announce challenge to Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez in HD 112.”
Diaz Leyva may even get support from the DLPs. Who knows? Reached by phone finally after being MIA since his loss last November, Alex DLP didn’t make too much of the news.
“I’m retired,” he said, but it was after 4 p.m. so I don’t know if he was being sarcastic or just drunk already. And Ladra is sure, based on the level of activity in one of his PACs, that he is only semi-retired, still dabbling in campaigns, even if not his own, between trips to faraway lands, real or imaginary. But it would be just like him to work this one behind the scenes, where he really likes to be, rather than risk another public and bruising beat down. It was only 54 to 46 but that was brutal for Alex DLP in his home turf against a then-nobody.
The Dean did say that the district should be represented by a Republican again, even though it’s really a hybrid of two districts, one blue and one red, that got redrawn into one big purple blob last year.
“It is significantly important and critical that Little Havana is represented by someone who shares the core values and views of the people in Little Havana,” Diaz de la Portilla said, forgetting that the area includes also Brickell, Key Biscayne and Coconut Grove (which might be what he did in the race last year, too) because his home neighborhood is Camelot.
“At the end of the day, no matter whether it is Daniel Diaz Leyva or Alex Perez or Alex Diaz de la Portilla, it has to be someone who believes what the people who walk these neighborhoods and raise their kids here believe,” he added. “It has to be a conservative Republican.”
And Ladra has one question: Who on Earth is Alex Perez?
Still, rumors are persistent about either him or his other unelected brother jumping in. Which would make for a primo primary, seeing as how all three Diazes are conservative Republicans and DDL is not as easy to hit negative pieces on as DLP’s primary opponent last year.
“Time will tell,” the Dean told Ladra, being cryptic as ever.
Whatever. If it turns out to be a DDL vs. J-Rod race in the general, as it is looking, it will be a battle of the lawyers. Both are attorneys, but with two very different styles.
Diaz Leyva, who did his pre-law at UM and got his law degree at St. Thomas University, represents banks and property owners with Infante Zumpano, a Coral Gables lawfirm that is one of the largest minority-owned in the country. He previously served as Managing Partner of the Miami office for Southern Strategy Group, “one of the largest government relations firms in the country where he successfully established that firm’s presence in South Florida,” says his online bio.
Rodriguez, who boasts his Harvard creds, represented el pueblo as a lawyer with Florida Legal Services and is now suing the city of Miami Beach on behalf of the family of a young Colombian artist who was tasered by police while he tagged a McDonald’s and later died.
J-Rod has also managed to piss off Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross by opposing his public tax grab this year in Tallahassee. Ross is reportedly shopping for someone to run against Rodriguez, but I highly doubt that would be this Republican since he’s already attacked One More Pepe on that. Diaz-Leyva was also handpicked by another Ross foe, House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel), to serve on the board of Florida Health Choices.
“Voters in my district, and across the state of Florida, crave fresh thinking and real leadership to solve our very real problems,” he wrote in a statement announcing his candidacy. “I will provide a clear contrast embodied by vision, pragmatism and a set of core beliefs in what I hope will be a spirited campaign.”
He told Ladra the timing was just right.
“I had been focused on my career and starting a family and the time has come,” Diaz Leyva said, adding that he was born and raised in the district, moving from the Coral Gate area to Coral Gables when he was 8. He hasn’t hired a campaign consultant but is interviewing people, setting up his website and “focusing efforts on raising the money.”
He realizes that J-Rod is not the same candidate he was a year ago. “He has been vocal and visible on issues. I haven’t had the opportunity to do that,” Diaz Leyva said, adding that he has nothing against Rodriguez. It’s just an ideological thing.
“He’s voted consistently and I think he’s a good guy, well educated, who is committed to the betterment of our community,” Diaz Leyva said of J-Rod. “We just have different visions in how to do that.”
State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez
Sunshine State News blog, which broke the news of DDL’s filing the day before, painted J-Rod as a weak incumbent, however.
“Rep. Rodriguez is estimated to be one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the House, owing his election to his last opponent, rather than demographic,” it said.
Wait, is that a dig at the Dean?
I wouldn’t mind seeing the two Diaz’s battle it out in the primary. That could be fun. Besides, after this long absence in continued distractions, ADLP — who has been busying himself with an herb garden, of all things — may need some target practice. Some folks who know him say it would be too early for a DLP announcement and too early to rule him out.
Diaz Leyva said he, too, has heard the rumors. But it hasn’t deterred him (remember, he is friends with One More Pepe Diaz, who allegedly worked against DLP last year).
“I have a superficial relationship with Renier and Miguel,” Diaz-Leyva said, referring to Baby DLP and the oldest, Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla. “At this point, I’m the only Republican and there’s no primary right now. I’m not going to concern myself with any possible candidate for a primary.”
Okay, fair enough.
But who would J-Rod rather face — the new Republican challenger named Diaz or the known Diaz that he already has one notch on?
Guarded as ever, the representative wouldn’t choose, saying only that it was too early to comment (read: let them eat cake in the primary] but that he will have plenty to say once we know exactly who is going to run against him.