U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is making yet another appearance in the race for Florida’s 116th House District, but it seems Rubio might not be totally onboard with implications he’s taking sides in the bitter Republican primary to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.
At the center of the controversy: a mailer sent out this week featuring photographs with GOP primary candidate Jose Mallea and Rubio. In the photo, Mallea stands side-by-side with Rubio and Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.
The men smile in the shot, which is juxtaposed with a blurb explaining a little bit about Mallea’s political insider past.
“Jose Mallea has dedicated his life to championing the conservative values we hold dear,” the mailer reads. “He served as an aide to President George W. Bush in the White House, Senior Advisor to Gov. Jeb Bush and Campaign Manager for Senator Marco Rubio in 2010.”
Rubio, however, is not happy over the use of his photo in the mailer since it implies he may have taken sides in the race.
"Sen. Rubio did not see the mailer before it was sent, and he was never asked to approve the use of his name and picture,'' said Olivia Perez-Cubas, Rubio spokesperson, to the Miami Herald.
Mallea brushed off the issue, saying the mailer was simply a recollection of his accomplishments within the Florida political scene.
"I have high admiration and respect for Marco and his family,” he said in a statement. “They have been dear friends for over 20 years. My campaign advertisement highlights my record of service to the Republican Party and I am proud to have served as Marco’s campaign manager during his 2010 U.S. Senate campaign."
Perez slammed his opponent's statement as just another indicator to why voters shouldn't trust him to represent HD116.
"The information from Senator Rubio's office reinforces that Mallea is a typical political operative," he told Sunshine State News Friday. "He's tried to mislead voters about Senator Rubio. He's tried to mislead voters about which of us truly lives in the district. And he's tried to mislead about our positions on Cuba policy."
Perez said he was "confident" the voters would support him over "Mallea's lies and political deceptions."
This isn’t the first time Rubio’s likeness has entered into the bitter campaign to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz for the Miami-Dade seat.
Perez paid for a 30-second TV ad slamming Mallea for his “betrayal” of Rubio during the presidential primary last year.
“Mallea says he is a friend of Marco Rubio,” the ad says. “But when he had the opportunity to elect one of our own to the White House, Jose Mallea chose to spend millions of dollars in false attack ads against Marco Rubio.”
The ad then goes on to say Mallea has received money from outside special interests to run in the district, where he does not actually reside.
“Now, he has received thousands of dollars from special interests to run in a district he doesn’t live in,” the narrator continues.
“Mallea betrayed Marco Rubio, Mallea betrayed us," the ad says. "Say no to Jose Mallea.”
With less than two weeks left until the special election primary on July 25, the battle for the GOP nomination only seems to get uglier by the day.
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.
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