Campaign video attacks candidate for Havana trip
Travel to Cuba is often a campaign issue in Miami-Dade races whether they are congressional or state or local. But that it would become fodder in a Republican 305 primary is something new.
And that the perceived front runner in the special House 116 race is using it to attack a relative nobody in video is somewhat interesting. Is the underdog doing better than anyone thought?
Daniel Anthony Perez is running for the GOP nomination in the special election for the seat vacated by former State Rep. Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz, who is running for Senate to replace Frank Artiles, who resigned after he was caught making sexist and racist remarks to and about his colleagues.
Suarez also traveled to Cuba earlier this year with his fiancée for a photo shoot to memorialize their engagement, as disclosed by the Miami Herald earlier this week. While he says it was a family trip to see his fiancée’s elderly uncle to take him food and medicine, two photogaphers also took the trip and he and his fiancée posed in several different outfits and several different locations for their engagement album. The photographers posted on their page, as the Herald reported, that the photoshoot took four days.
That could certainly hurt Perez with high-performing Cuban-American elderly voters in a low-turnout July election. And that is why candidate Jose Mallea, who worked on Sen. Marco Rubio‘s campaign, is using the story that his people likely planted with the Miami Herald to attack Suarez in a Spanish web video that says we can’t trust him.
“Look at him. It’s Daniel Perez. He says he is Republican, running for the legislature. But here we see him having a good time in Cuba taking his engagement photos. Because Daniel Perez is enjoying the ties created by Obama with the Castros permitting travel that feeds the dictatorship, while the ladies in white are beaten, while dissidents are oppressed, while the exile yearns. Daniel Perez. We cannot trust him.”
Ladra can already see the mailers that are coming next — right before the absentee ballots drop in about a month.
Now, let’s be clear here. Ladra is not against travel to Cuba, perse. I myself have been to the island numerous times, as a journalist and also to visit family. But the video is dishonest because we don’t need the ridiculously relaxed Obama policy as Cuban Americans. We were allowed to visit Cuba for family reunification before the closer more normalized relations began. Clearly, it is one thing to go and take family food and medicine they can’t get there and quite another to go with a couple of photographers and a wardrobe — why not a stylist? — for a four-day photo shoot using the backdrop of a crumbling city where native-born photographers and other artists do not have freedom of expression to create whatever they want. And then to post the pictures on a pubic website celebrating couples’ engagements — as if you were Jay Z and Beyonce? Shake my head. It’s not illegal or even so wrong — at least he’s Cuban — if maybe a little impulsive. It’s just kinda dumb for someone who wants to run for office locally as a Republican.
Still, travel to Cuba may not be the kiss of death it used to be. How many of the Cuban voters in Westchester know someone who has traveled to Cuba and taken medicine or other items to their family members? How many of them have family members or friends who have gone to Cuba to see relatives and taken selfies by La Catedral in Habana Vieja? Lots. Enough to perhaps make a difference in an election? We’ll see.
Perhaps it depends on how well Perez can cast Mallea as a carpetbagger who is riding his successor’s coattails.
“Mr. Mallea has shown his true colors as a deceiving liar,” Perez told Ladra late Friday, hours after the video was posted. “I have never supported Obama’s travel policy.
“As the only Cuban American in this race, I take issue with Mr. Mallea’s exploitation of the suffering of the Cuban people for his political gain. What Mallea should be explaining to the voters of District 116 is his political opportunistic interest in a district that he has not lived or been registered to vote in,” Perez said, calling his oponent “a desperate man taking desperate measures.
“The residents of District 116 have been fortunate to have been represented by one of their own, someone who grew up in our district and understands what matters to us. I aim to continue that legacy, as I have lived in the heart of Westchester since I was 6 years old,” Perez said.
And why does the trip have anything to do with how he would advocate for us in Tallahassee? How does this matter in a race that is about jobs and education and heathcare and transportation funds and workforce housing and tolls?
The bigger question is why does Mallea, who has more money and the endorsements of Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush, (Ladra thought that Diaz had also endorsed him but the state rep says he is staying out of it) need to go on the attack against this first-time candidate with zero name recognition? Why is the perceived front runner in the race giving Perez the time of day with a slick video that uses dramatic clips of activists being beaten and photos of Obama and Raul Castro and a lot of red?
Could it be that Mallea has seen the signs? No, literally, the Perez yard signs that are already popping up here and there on residential blocks from 87th Avenue to the Turnpike?
Ladra has a theory that Mallea has polled — we are certain he has a soft money PAC account somewhere, what with all his connections and endorsments — and found that he is not doing as well as he thought. Or that Perez, a good-looking, well-spoken, 29-year-old with roots in the district, is doing better than he expected.