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Politics

Three Conservatives Square Off in Special Election to Represent Miami-Dade in the House

May 9, 2011 - 6:00pm

With Esteban Bovo having resigned his seat at the end of March, during the middle of the legislative session, to run for the Miami-Dade County Commission, three Republicans and a write-in candidate have filed to claim the seat.

A special primary election on May 24 and a special general election on June 28 will decide the winner. The seat represents parts of Miami-Dade County.

The CEO of the Oliva Cigar Company, Jose Oliva, has his eyes on the Republican nomination. With roots in the community and having called the district home since 1974,Oliva has chosen to play up his conservatism. According to Olivas campaign team, their candidate will fight for lower taxes, small and accountable government, conservative family values and to make Florida a business-friendly state.

Oliva has relied heavily on loans and has been burning through his campaign funds. By April 22, Oliva had raised more than $33,000 and loaned his campaign $150,000 as well as relying on $655 in in-kind donations. Through April 22, the Oliva campaign spent more than $64,000.

The Oliva camp has stressed that, by self-funding, their candidate has been freed up to concentrate on working the grass-roots and building a winning coalition in the neighborhood. They are playing up Olivas push for fiscal conservatism, including his calls to lower taxes, and his ties to the community.

Rafael Ralph Perez is also seeking the Republican nomination. Perez is no stranger to politics, having served as an aide to Marco Rubio during his time in the Florida House and as a deputy chief of staff under former Speaker Johnnie Byrd. Perez ran in the Republican primary for another House seat representing parts of Miami-Dade County back in 2008, but he came up short to another former legislative aide -- current Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami.

By April 22, Perez had not taken out loans for his campaign but he reeled in more than $52,000 in cash and kept most of it on-hand, spending less than $4,000.

Talking with Sunshine State News as he walked the district on Tuesday, Perez said he was focused on the grass-roots, which he maintained was important in a special election.

The important issues in the community are jobs, taxes, insurance and the elderly, said Perez.

Noting that the construction industry was one of the most important aspects of the Sunshine States economy, Perez called for fewer restrictions and penalties for second homes and new development.

We have to get it going, insisted Perez as he talked about the construction trade. The system penalizes you for trying to invest.

Looking to capitalize on his background in the community and in city government, Frank Lago is also running for the Republican nomination. Lagos background is in city government: managing the Parks and Recreation Department of the city of Sweetwater before serving as chief of staff to Mayor Manny Maro.

Having formed a campaign committee back in February, by the last reporting deadline of April 22, Lago had raised more than $61,000 in cash, loaned his campaign $40,000 and garnered $1,000 of in-kind donations. Lago has been keeping his powder dry, spending less than $17,000 of that by April 22.

I think government needs a candidate with new blood and new ideas to solve the growing problems that face our state and our nation, noted Lago. I have seen firsthand how hard-working people have lost their homes because of increases in property taxes used to fund out-of-control government spending. I know that lower taxes and a smaller government will make our state more business-friendly so we can attract high-wage, private-sector jobs.

Lagos campaign team stresses that their candidate successfully backed and enacted fiscal conservative solutions as part of the Maro administration and would continue that fight in Tallhassee. They also pointed to Lagos family and its commitment to education, which they insisted their candidate shared. They added that their candidate would fight to lower property taxes

All three Republicans made the ballot by collecting signatures. With no Democrats or minor-party candidates in the race, the winner of the Republican primary will be a near lock to head to Tallahassee, as write-in candidate Antonio Moreno will be the only other candidate in the general election.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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