The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rivera Congress announcement soon.

24

February

On good information from the lobbyists he's hitting up for cash, we hear Rep. David Rivera plans to announce as early as tomorrow that he's running for Mario Diaz-Balart's U.S. House seat, thereby leaving the state Senate race where he earned raised more than $1m. Not all that can be used in the House race because a good deal of the money is corporate cash that can't be used in a federal race.

Rivera might make his announcement at Florida International University, his alma mater and a recipient of Rivera's largesse as a House budget chairman last year when, despite budget cut backs, he insisted in negotiations with the Senate that state funding be boosted by about $11m more to build an FIU medical school.

Rivera, though, said it wasn't a trade.

"I would never use that term, that it was a trade," Rivera said at the time. "I would say we came to a compromise."

But don't call it pork or (in Tallahassee parlance), a "turkey." FIU (which also hired Rivera pal, former House Speaker Marco Rubio of U.S. Senate campaign fame) said it deserved the money. Apparently big spending is fine for Republicans as long as it takes place in their districts for their alma mater.

The big winner in all of this is Rep. Anitere Flores (also an FIU alum and employee), who was running against Rivera for the Senate seat in what looked like an increasingly uphill race. Now she'll probably coast.

Rivera's announcement puts pressure on Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla to make his intentions for the seat known. His brother, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, is running for his seat and put up a Facebook page calling for the senator to be drafted in the congressional race.

Rivera and DLP are longtime friends, the latter was a young Republican leader at the University of Miami at the same time the former was a young Republican leader at FIU. Both are known as among the most crafty political operatives in the Capitol and each laughed when told that a race between the two would be "Machiavelli v. Machiavelli."

DLP jokingly adopted a Southern-ism by saying he'd subject Rivera to an "ass-whoopin'." The two faced off before in 2008 for Republican Executive Committeeman (along with Rep. Julio Robaina, who's running now against Miguel Diaz de la Portilla). Rivera won, but far outspent the other two who estimated he spent $250k, about 35 times more than Robaina and DLP say they spent

Rivera won't say how much he ponied up, or where the money came from. He doesn't have to. The post isn't covered by state campaign-finance law, making it almost impossible to track the money. Rivera would only say that ''friends and family'' helped his campaign.

By virtue of his cash and passion, Rivera has the edge in the congressional race. DLP probably has better name ID, by virtue of his long term in office and his two brothers, Miguel (a former county commissioner) and Renier (a school board member and former state Rep.)

But the longer DLP waits, the stronger Rivera grows.

Gov. Charlie Crist, now losing to Rubio in Senate race polls, sure hopes DLP doesn't run. The last thing the governor wants is a contested Hispanic race in a Miami-Dade Republican primary. It's the biggest Republican County in the state where about 70 percent of the GOP is Hispanic. Consider, in 2004, Mel Martinez garnered 102,000 of the 130,000 Republican votes cast in a crowded Senate primary election that featured seven candidates, including current Attorney General Bill McCollum, who placed third.

--Marc Caputo

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:22pm]

    

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