Could El Zorro come to the rescue again?
One of the names being batted around for a special election to replace disgraced former Sen. Frank Artiles — who resigned Friday after making inappropriate and racist comments earlier in the week when speaking to a few colleagues — is his all-time rival and nemesis, former Miami-Dade Commissioner and former State Rep. Juan Zapata.
Zapata abruptly withdrew his candidacy from his re-election to the county commisison last year. He had grown sick and tired of the retaliatory tactics of the mayor and his allies and the hat trick maze that is the county budget. But he had been one of the good guys, asking the right questions, not playing politics or favorites with the other electeds and watching, more closely than anyone else, the taxpayer’s money.
Now, maybe we can have him in the Senate.
Zapata was out of the country Friday on business but returned a text message from Ladra about it.
“Yes, I am seriously considering it,” he wrote, and followed it with a smiling emoji. The big smiley one, not the little smile.
“I wasnt going to be able to contribute much in the county commission. The state senate would obviously allow for way more,” Zapata told Ladra. “This is my area. I have always fought and worked for it. Nobody knows it better than I and my experience has prepared me well.”
It would only be gravy if he gets to replace his longtime nemesis (my words, not his).
Zapata and Artiles have been rivals. Artiles ran for state rep against Zapata twice and lost. He then basically recruited and ran police officer Manny Machado against Zap in the 2012 county commission race (lost then, too).
Other Republicans being considered for the job would be State Rep. Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz — but he is being groomed for Attorney General — and State Rep. Jeannette Nunez, but she has filed to run for Sen. Anitere Flores‘ termed-out seat in 2018 in what is a slightly safer district for her and probably with Flores’ blessing. (Editor’s note: So, a reader corrected me that Flores is termed out in 2020. My bad. Nunez still wants that seat. She is not going to move to District 40 with her family)
The GOP can’t just pick anybody off the street. They are going to want someone with name recognition who can win on a shorter campaign cycle and thwart the efforts of state Democrats, who want to get their seat back in a district that slightly favors the blue. Artiles, who was a state rep for six years — only winning the House seat once Zap left office to run in the — had beaten former State Sen. Dwight Bullard by 10 percentage points, mostly by calling him a terrorist.
Naturally, Bullard is one of the Democrats being considered. But seeing how he moved out of the district to try to get the chairmanship of the Florida Democratic Party, it would be easy to attack him if he just moved back in to run for his old seat again. I can see the mailers now. Instead of Arab headwear, he’d be carrying luggage. Besides, Bullard might win a primary but he won’t win the general in a district that is about 60% Hispanic. He already tried that once and failed.
The others are perennial candidate Annette Taddeo (who would also win a primary but not the general) and former State Rep. Ana Rivas Logan, who is the person that should have won that seat from the get go, but the Democrats decided to back Bullard and she didn’t even campaign.
Rivas Logan told me she had gotten several phone calls already by lunchtime Friday. Of course, she’s the female flip version of Zapata — a moderate Democrat (she used to be Republican) who has bocoup name recognition.
“It depends on the timeline,” said Rivas Logan, a high school administrator who retires in October. “This is how I make my bread and butter. Politics is a hobby.”
A date has not been set yet for a special election, but it could come as early as this summer, with a 60 day campaign.
We are already envisioning a showdown between Zapata and Rivas Logan, which will be clean and on the issues, and we can’t wait for these two longtime public servants to show the rest of the puppies how it’s done.
“He would be a formidable opponent,” Rivas Logan said. “That would be a good race.”
Yeah boy, it would!