Political newcomer Daniel Perez is leading his GOP primary opponents by double-digit numbers in the race to replace Jose Felix Diaz in Florida’s 116th House District.
According to a poll released Monday, voters would select lawyer Daniel Perez over Miami-Dade Republican Jose Mallea by a 24 percent margin, with 37 percent saying they support Perez while 13 percent would vote for Mallea.
When voters were given both positive and negative statements about the two candidates, including their personal backgrounds, issue positions and list of endorsements, Mallea’s lead decreased while Perez’s lead increased to 50 percent.
The two Republicans will face off July 25 in the primary to replace Jose “Pepi” Felix Diaz, who is resigning from the Florida House to run for the Florida Senate to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned in April after hurling racially-tinged and sexist insults at a black lawmaker.
Despite Perez’s lead in the poll, which his team commissioned, Mallea still leads Perez in the money chase. Just last month, the well-connected GOP insider raised over $50,000 for his campaign, ending the month with $88,000 cash on hand.
Perez, meanwhile, raised $33,000 during the same time, ending the fundraising period with $40,000 in his campaign warchest.
Mallea has already dipped his hand into Florida politics -- he’s a well-connected GOP operative who has jumped from campaign to campaign over the years, heading up U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s senatorial campaign committee in 2010 before leaping to Newt Gingrich’s Florida team in 2011.
Mallea also served as a senior adviser for Hispanic outreach to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign.
High-profile Florida politicians have thrown their names in the ring for Mallea, including former Gov. Jeb Bush and former House Speaker Will Weatherford, who both say he is the best-equipped for the job.
Perez, on the other hand, is a newcomer to politics. He works as an attorney and is a first-time candidate for the House of Representatives. He made headlines last month after taking engagement photos in Cuba, a hot-button issue for some Miami Republicans.
The winner of the special election primary will face off against Democrat Gabriele Mayaudon. Former community newspaper publisher Ross Hancock also qualified for the Democratic primary but withdrew from the race.
Hillary Clinton carried the district last November, but HD116 is susceptible to ticket-splitting, with Republicans like Diaz handily winning elections each cycle.
The poll of 234 likely July 2017 special election voters was conducted by McLaughlin & Associates from June 13-15. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 6.4 percent at a 95 percent confidence interval.