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Jose Felix Diaz defeats Alex Diaz de la Portilla, will face Annette Taddeo in general election

in 2017/Top Headlines by

The ballot is set.

Jose Felix Diaz will face Annette Taddeo in the special general election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40. Both Diaz and Taddeo came out on top, defeating well-known opponents in their respective primaries

Diaz, a state representative, leads former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, nearly 58 percent to nearly 26 percent, according to unofficial election results posted to thee Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections website. Republican Lorenzo Palomares is pulling about 16 percent of the vote.

“Thank you to all my friends, family, and constituents for their support,” said Diaz on Twitter, before congratulating Diaz de la Portilla and Palomares “on a hard fought race.”

The GOP primary was particularly nasty, with outside groups pouring money into the race to saying Diaz de la Portilla — who served in the Florida House from 1994 until 2000, when he was elected to serve in the Florida Senate — was “not a conservative” and attacking his legislative record.

Diaz de la Portilla also faced other difficulties. In the midst of the campaign, the Miami-Dade Executive Committee removed him and eight other members because they missed three consecutive meetings without an excuse. He appeared to struggle to raise money, leading Diaz de la Portilla to loan his own campaign $433,500.

First elected in the Florida House in 2010, Diaz was the establishment favorite in the GOP primary. He raised $809,725 for his official campaign account and another $420,500 for Rebuild Florida, his political committee, since jumping into the race. He had the backing of many of his House colleagues, received support from Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, and was endorsed by the Florida Medical Association PAC and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

“I applaud Jose, Alex and Lorenzo for running spirited campaigns to represent their community,” said Sen. Bill Galvano in a statement Tuesday. “Jose has earned the confidence of the people of Senate District 40 and now is the time for Senate Republicans to work together to ensure victory on September 26th.”

A well-liked and respected member of the House, Diaz served as the chairman of the Regulatory Affairs Committee and was the chamber’s point man on gambling legislation. He resigned his seat, effective Sept 26, to run for the Senate seat.

The race between Taddeo and Rivas Logan was tamer, at least until the final stretch.

Taddeo last ran for office in 2016 in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, when she faced former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia in the Democratic primary. In 2014, she was former Gov. Charlie Crist’s running mate when he ran for governor as a Democrat.

Taddeo outraised Rivas Logan, and pulled in endorsements from the AFL-CIO and the United Teaches of Dade. But in the final days of the primary, Taddeo was the target of mailers from a political committee tied to Rivas Logan.

The attack didn’t appear to work. Despite her name recognition, Rivas Logan — who challenged then-Sen. Dwight Bullard in Senate District 40 in 2016, but eventually withdrew from the race — fell short, receiving 29 percent to Taddeo’s more than 70 percent of the vote.

“I am truly grateful to my fellow Democrats in District 40 who elected me today to be our nominee in September. Our campaign is ready to take our people powered message to every voter in our district so we can bring change to Tallahassee. It’s time our community rejects the special interests and their lobbyist, Jose Felix Diaz and elect a champion who will fight for our public schools, take on traffic gridlock and enhance our healthcare system,” said Taddeo in a statement. “With tonight’s decisive victory, we can, and will, send a loud message in September that the politics of division coming from President Trump and Washington, D.C. will not be tolerated in South Florida. Together, we will make history by electing the first Hispanic Democratic woman to the Florida Senate and a champion for our families.”

The general election is scheduled for Sept. 26, and Democrats see Senate District 40 as a potential pick-up. It could be a tough for Democrats, though. While Hillary Clinton won the district by a 57 percent to 40 percent margin, it backed Republican Marco Rubio 50 percent to 47 percent.

“Jose is a strong candidate with broad community support and the experience to best represent the values and needs of this district,” said Senate President Joe Negron. “The Republican majority has made tremendous gains in Tallahassee on behalf of hard-working Floridians, and Jose’s victory in September is an important step in continuing those achievements.”

Negron, Galvano and Majority Leader Wilton Simpson have pledged the full support of the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee in the weeks leading up to the general election.

“The work to ensure the people of Senate District 40 have the strong leader they deserve begins right now,” said Simpson in a statement. “Jose’s heart and compassion for the people he serves make him a perfect fit for the Florida Senate, and we look forward to making that case over the next nine weeks.”

Diaz and Taddeo will face no-party affiliation candidate Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth in September.

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