Former State Rep. Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz is nothing if not a formidable fundraiser.

Everyone expected the Senate District 40 race to be expensive and Ladra even suggested it could be the most expensive Senate race in Florida history. We’ll have to wait until the final campaign finance reports are submitted weeks from now, but so far it looks like at least $5.5 million has been spent so far on TV and phone banks and so many mailers. Some days, there were eight pieces in our mailbox. Eight!

Maybe it will be $6 million plus by the final tally.

Is that a record? Can anyone tell me?

Diaz, a Republican golden boy who lost this heated battle in an upset against perennial loser Annette Taddeo Tuesday (51% to 47%) spent more than three times as much as the victor with a whopping $4,283,911 between his campaign account and his two PACs, Rebuild Florida and Leadership for Florida’s Future, in his bid to jump from one chamber to the next. That includes $651,694 in in-kind donations — mostly for polling, research and staff — from the Florida Republican Senatorial Committee because the GOP was just as desperate to keep the seat as the Dems were at taking it back.

And that is just as of Sept. 21, the last date on the last filed report. When the last reports are in next month, illustrating the flurry of expenses on the last five days, that number could easily be closer to $5 million.

But let’s just keep it at $4.2 mil for now. That’s $4,283,911 for a total of 20,985 votes, which comes out to $204.14 per vote. Again, so far. That number is only going to go up.

In comparison, Taddeo, spent a total of about $1,286,032 between her account and her two PACs, Fight Back Florida and the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. That also includes at least $274,213 in in-kind donations from the Florida Democratic Party for things like research and polling and campaign staff. Divided amongst the 22,649 who voted for her Tuesday, that comes out to $56.78 a vote.

Much of the spending went to the

What does this tell us? This tells us that Team Taddeo was able to do more with less and that the people on that team, which include Ashley Walker, Christian Ulvert, Carlos Odio and, I believe, Raul Martinez Jr., should be banking on the next campaign they work on. That is, if they don’t have Senate jobs by now.

It also tells us that Pepi Diaz could spend up to $200 or more per vote if/when he runs for Attorney General. He’s going to put those fundraising skills to the test.

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Proving that tenacity and good old stubborn persistence can pay off, perennial candidate Annette Taddeo finally won an election Tuesday.

And against a “titan” like former State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, who spent at least twice as much money (more on that later), too.

Taddeo beat Diaz by a comfortable edge, 50.95 to 47.21 percent for Diaz. The difference went to professor and independent candidate Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth, who managed to get 820 people to vote for him. But, let’s face it, he likely peeled votes from Annette so without him she would have won bigger.

Was this a referendum on Donald Trump?

Some seem to think so. The director of the local SEIU, which represents property service workers, including airport workers and janitors, said “Annette Taddeo’s victory is a stunning rebuke of the divisive politics of hate that have been embraced by many Republicans in Tallahassee and Washington.

“We’re excited that Annette will be heading to Tallahassee to fight for raising the minimum wage, good public schools, immigrant rights and equality for all Floridians,” finished Helene O’Brien.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee tweeted that Taddeo’s win was the seventh red-to-blue flip across the U.S. since November and “is just the latest example of voters rejecting Trump and the GOP’s dangerous agenda.”

People who voted for Taddeo and tweeted about it also indicated that anti-Trump sentiment was at least in the back of their minds. “Just did the thing! Hope everyone who cried about trump being elected went out and did their part,” tweeted Nick at @holywavve, including a pic of the “just voted” sticker.

And that was the idea. State Democrats were desperate to turn the seat back around after losing it to the GOP last year. They and Taddeo’s campaign made a lot of comparisons between Diaz and Trump and used the picture of them that Diaz tweeted from last year’s inaugural — and then deleted when he entered this race — on several mailers (sometimes in one day). One of them even blew up a picture of a Trump note from an old campaign contribution, before he was POTUS, wishing Pepi Diaz good luck.

Diaz, who was once Trump’s “apprentice” on the TV show by the same name, was definitely cast as a supporter and surrogate for the orange-haired commander in chief. Democrats are giddy that the Trump card is working — and you can bet we will see more of it.

Said Senate Democratic Leader-Designate Jeff Clemens: “I am thrilled to congratulate Annette Taddeo on her great victory. The Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee committed to righting a wrong in this district and electing a proven champion who will join our caucus to fight for an agenda that puts working families first.”

It was about “righting a wrong.” That refers to the win last year over longtime Sen. Dwight Bullard by former State Rep. and short-lived Sen. Frank Artiles, who was caught making racist remarks to black colleagues in a public restaurant and was forced to resign. And it gave Democrats — not just locally but across the state and even the nation — a second chance to win the seat back.

After his first major test, Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel — who las malas lenguas say was anti-Taddeo since they battled for the chairmanship he ultimately bought — congratulated her on the victory and said in a statement that it was a sign of things to come for other Dems.
“Congratulations to Annette Taddeo on this major victory for Miami-Dade and our entire state. This is a win for all of Florida. Democrats represent 16 of 40 state Senate seats. Annette will head to Tallahassee ready to fight for higher paying jobs, affordable healthcare and fully funded public schools. Democrats across the state are energized and mobilizing to flip Florida blue. After nearly 20 years of harmful GOP policies, voters are ready for a better deal.
The Florida Democratic Party joined progressive partners like the FDLCC, unions on a community engagement effort that sets a new standard for our Party. We actively engaged both the Latino and African American communities of SD40 in neighbor-to-neighbor conversations focused on the issues that matter most. This victory is the first of many, as we are poised to claim the governorship, we are prepared to re-elect Senator Bill Nelson, and we are within striking distance of reaching parity in the upper chamber of the state legislature.
The FDP has made significant strides in building long-term political and grassroots infrastructure that will help Democrats win critical seats at the local, state, and federal level. We are organizing year-round and we will be engaging in neighbor-to-neighbor conversations in every one of our 67 counties to turn Florida blue in 2018 and beyond.”

In a statement released at 8:40 p.m., Taddeo said it was a victory for the residents of Senate District 40, who live in Westchester, Kendall and South Dade.

 “The voters wanted a champion in Tallahassee who will fight for higher paying jobs, affordable healthcare and fully funded public schools and I am honored and humbled that they have placed their faith and trust in me. I pledge to work everyday for the families of my community and not the special interests. I would like to thank my opponent for running in a hard-fought race. Our campaign saw a strong coalition come together between the FDP, the FDLCC, labor and community organizations who unified behind a winning plan. I’m beyond thankful for all the work and their efforts and the the thousands of volunteers who committed their time, energy and resources. This was a community, grassroots driven effort and I am ready to continue the work in our state capitol.”

It was also an early voting and Election Day effort. Because Pepi Diaz — who looks optimistic in this photo with poll workers at 8:30 Tuesday morning — won the absentee ballot race by nearly 2,200 votes. It must have been a terrible tease for Diaz because Taddeo later got more than twice as many votes in early voting and made up those 2,200 votes plus a few more on Tuesday.

I have to say, while I don’t love either candidate, Ladra feels a breeze of justice going through her soul because Pepi Diaz was acting like a real piece of, er, work. He was all over social media, at the podium next to the mayor, during the preparations and warnings for Hurricane Irma and afterwards, he had a TV commercial where he said “as a state rep I will be knocking on doors” to see what people needed after the storm. Seriously? He was no longer a state rep but he was sure acting like one and he sure had the access of one. Then there was that other ugly TV commrcial where David Lawrence brags about how Pepi helped 20,000 “perfectly legal” immigrant children. Ouch. Ladra sure hopes The Children’s Trust that Lawrence doesn’t check kids’ papers before helping the neediest children in our community. That’s not what I voted for.

But if Ladra feels a breeze, Taddeo must feel a hurricane of vindication. After all, she has campaigned for about a decade and has a relentless drive to be in elected office (read: watch her like a hawk). Taddeo, who also served as chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, first ran for Congress against U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in 2008. She then made unsuccessful bids for county commission (2010), lieutenant governor with former Gov. Charie Christ (2014), and Congress again but this time against former Congressman Joe Garcia (2016) — maybe now they can be friends again — who lost anyway and again to U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Guess the fifth time (not countying the Florida Dem chair race) is the charm.

And Ladra is fairly certain that will be the final tally, despite threats from some voter rights groups to challenge the special election after Gov. Rick Scott refused to delay it to accomodate voters inconvenienced by Hurricane Irma,

That’s because those groups — Common Cause Florida, State Voices Florida, the League of Women Voters Florida, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Engage Miami, SAVE, LatinoJustice and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law — can arguably be lumped together under the blue umbrella. They were likely afraid that Diaz would benefit from a low turnout. How much you wanna bet there’s no challenge from them now that Taddeo has won?

Unless they challenge on behalf of Democrat Gabriela Mayaudón, who lost Tuesday in the House District 116 race to Republican Daniel Perez, for the seat vacated by Diaz when he resigned to run for Senate. But that would be ridiculous since Mayaudón is really only a Democrat on paper. Let her run a few times before you run to her defense, huh?

On the GOP side, it seems that at least Diaz — who some say is looking at the Attorney General seat — took the loss like a trooper, tweeting his kudos to Taddeo just after 10 p.m.

“Congratulations to Florida’s newest State Senator Annette Taddeo. I wish you nothing but success in your new role,” he said.

What a difference a few hours makes.

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Two days after he crushed it in the GOP primary for the Senate Distrit 40 seat, former State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz is getting a head start on the general campaign with a mailer that calls him a “tax cutter” and a committment of $100K from fellow Republicans.

The mailer arrived Thursday addressed to Ladra’s “family,” which include a Republican, a Democrat and an NPA who plan to vote Sept. 26. It didn’t come to the Republican. It didn’t go to the Independent. It came to the family. We imagine it was sent to both Republicans and NPAs, which could decide this election.

The district is about a third Dem, a third GOP and a third NPA. That means that the NPAs are going to be heavily courted in the general. They even have their own candidate in the race, sociology professor Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth.

Read related story: Democrats start to hit Jose Felix Diaz — before the GOP primary is over

Independents already recieved mail, during the primary, against Diaz from the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which sent at least three mailers casting Diaz as a lobbyist looking out for special interests. No wonder the Diaz campaign came back trying to define him early on as a “tax cutter.”

Or, actually, the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which paid for this mailer, which is pretty much a tit for tat, hurry-up-and-let’s-define-our-guy-before-they-do piece: “Vote for the tax cutter Jose Felix Diaz September 26th.”

It’s a tremendous reach.

It gives Diaz credit for creating the tax holidays for school supplies and storm supplies, although that was part of a package that he voted on as a member of the House. It also says he voted to put the additional $25,000 homestead exemption to voters next November, a move that many say was calculated by the Republican leadership to drum up turnout in a mid-year election. A move that cities and counties are dreading will leave them with less funds to pay for things like police and paramedics and buses and road maintenance.

One has to believe that the FRSCC — the fundraising arm for Senate Republican leaders, controlled by future Senate presidents Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson  will be more creative and more forthright with more time. The turnout for this election is going to be the super voter. Also called the “high quality” voter. That means the educated voter. They aren’t going to buy this lazy crap.

And hasn’t anyone told them not to put open scissors on a positive piece with their candidate’s name on it? Campaign 101.

Read related story: Winners and losers in special election for SD 40 and HD116

The campaign committee just announced a $100,000 donation from the Republican State Leadership Committee, an organization of Republican state officials intent on keeping this seat red, and they would do well to use the money more wisely on messages that will connect with the super voters instead of this dribble.

The Senate District 40 seat had been Democrat for decades before Frank Artiles beat former Sen. Dwight Bullard in an ugly race last year that was marked by negative ads that cast Bullard as a terrorist sympathizer. Artiles was forced to resign in April after he was caught making racist remarks to black legislators at a Tallahassee eatery one night.

Diaz, who was heavily endorsed by his BFF and former Tallahasee roommate Artiles (they are photographed at the beginning of session here), won the GOP primary on Tuesday and will face Democrat Annette Taddeo in September.

And if this mailer is any indication, it’s gonna be a busy couple of months.

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So far and between the five of them, the candidates in the Senate 40 race last week spent close to $3 million to replace Frank Artiles, who was forced to resign in April after he was caught making racist remarks to black legislators in a public place.

Key words: So far.

The Republican primary paid the bulk of that and due to former State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, who spent a whopping $2.1 million between his campaign and his political action committee, Rebuild Florida. That translates to about $274.78 per vote for the 7,678 GOP voters who made him their nominee for the September general. That is as of the latest reports through July 20. He will have spent more in the last five days and we will know how much when the next reports come in. It could easily be a total of $3 million all by himself the way Diaz was buying TV buys and mail, which would drive that ballot price up to $390 a vote.

And we can’t yet determine what was spent on his behalf through the Making a Better Tomorrow PAC because it has not reported any expenses for June (more on that later). So, his election could have. arguably, cost more than $400 a vote.

Read related story: Jose Felix Diaz and Annette Taddeo win SD40 with more money, mail

Diaz easily paid the most for his overwhelming 58-26 victory and some (read: Dem choice Annette Taddeo and her supporters) will say he bought this election.

Former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, who mostly self-funded his campaign with a $443,500 loan (for a total of $496,220), paid the next highest per vote, at $146.03 for each of his 3,398 votes. But he didn’t spend the money very wisely. Ladra didn’t hear much radio and saw one TV commercial on the weekend before the vote, after he had already lost via absentee ballots. I don’t think this house got one mailer from him. Guess most of his nut really went to buying the fake followers on Twitter.

Lorenzo Palomares, while still way behind with only $85,900 to spend (and $62,500 of that was his own loan to himself), still spent more than twice as much as the highest spending Democrat. Palomares, who might have done better had he kept the Starbuck name, spent $38 each for the 2,217 votes he got.

Read related story: Democrats start to hit Jose Felix Diaz — before the GOP primary is over

In the Democratic contest, Taddeo had more money, with $122,548 between her campaign account and her PAC, Fight Back Florida. It allowed her to spend $17.26 per vote because she had 7,101 people vote for her (only 580 people fewer than voted for Diaz with his $2.1 mil). Former State Rep. Ana Rivas Logan, who raised only $13,600, spent $4.51 for each of her 2,941 votes.

Of course, all these ballot prices — which could be record-breaking (does anyone know?) — will increase when the final reports are in next month. But this gives us a peek at the exorbitant amount of money Republicans spent to try to keep this seat, which they just flipped in November, red.

You can be sure that the general will see at least as much, if not much more spent. Diaz is a prolific fundraiser and while Taddeo is not, the Democrats want to keep that seat and will turn to national donors in order to do it. She’ll spend more than $122,000 in the next two months. She has to close the gap ($17.26 vs. $275) if she wants to compete in this next round.

The political consultants and graphic houses that are working on this campaign should send Artiles a #thanksFrank gift basket.

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Former State Rep. Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz turned a 30-plus point deficit in early polls into a 32-point lead Tuesday when he won the special election for Senate District 40, beating former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla by a whopping 58 to 26 percent.

Someone tell Ladra again how negative campaigns don’t work. Or how money doesn’t matter.

Dean DLP, who must be in Europe already, came into the #thanksFrank race — scheduled after Frank Artiles was forced to resign on the heels of some public racist and sexist comments — with high name recognition that gave him a lead in his internal poll and a state GOP poll, too. But not all name reccognition is equal. Some of it is negative. Some of the positive name ID is soft, meaning it can be easily peeled away with a negative campaign of more than $2 million — what Ladra suspects is a record for a primary (more on that later) — that hit Diaz de la Portilla with near daily mailers on not just on his voting and campaign record but his messy personal life.

In other words, people figured out it wasn’t big brother Miguel. The elder and more diplomatic DLP represented the area as a county commissioner and is much more popular than the meaner middle brother any day of the week. He didn’t even beat third place finisher Lorenzo Palomares, who got 17%, by double digits.

Even though Alex DLP loaned himself close to $443,500 — $393,500 in the last month and nobody knows where he gets that kind of money — it was too little, too late. Ditto for his short, last-minute, Spanish-language TV commercial casting Diaz as a lobbyist pushing the soccer stadium that was seen in this household exactly once. By then, Alex already had lost in the absentee ballots, even with expert AB fraudster and former Miami Commissioner Humberto Hernandez working on his team, according to the latest campaign report (more on that later).

Perennial candidate Annette Taddeo, who finally won her first race Tuesday — and how! Trouncing former State. Rep. Ana Rivas Logan with 71% of the vote — isn’t making the same mistake. Or her supporters aren’t, anyway. The Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has already been hitting Diaz with mailers to independent NPA voters casting him as a lobbyist who represents special interests in Tallahassee. It is smart to define him early as a lobbyist. Now Diaz has to spend time, and money, fighting that.

And he will. While Diaz seems to have spent his whole $2 million nut already, he knows where to get more. And the GOP will also spend its dollars to keep this seat from going blue again after winning it this past November. Taddeo, who almost physically cried to Michael Putney about the mailers that attacked how she invested her daughter’s trust fund (cue to roll your eyes) is going to have to get thicker skin. Because that is child’s play compared to what is coming. For someone as experienced in running as she is, Taddeo’s never been in a race like this.

Preparate, mujer! Her psychologisst husband may have to squeeze in a session or two for her.

She also has to raise more money than she ever has. She was able to win the primary with $120,000, between her campaign account and her Fight Back Florida political action committee combined. That was more than Rivas Logan, who maybe will have spent $15,000 of her own campaign money by the time the final reports are in. Rivas Logan did get the help from the Floridians for Accountability PAC that spent about $200,000 in the last two months, which we can guess was mostly on this race and mostly on negative attacks against Rivas Logan.

Maybe negative attacks only work when they are million dollar negative attacks.

Taddeo and Democrats are going to have to step their fundraising up if they expect to compete in the general. While the district is pretty evenly split, and was represented by Democrat former Sen. Dwight Bullard and his family for years before Artiles beat him — in, yep, a negative campaign last year — the numbers from the primary show that more Republicans voted (13,293) than Democrats (10,042) in this special election, a trend that is likely to follow into the general. Taddeo is going to need to keep her cool, raise more cash and attract more than the just the super angry Democrats to win on Sept. 26.

That’s a tall order.

Read related story: Both Democrats in SD40 race are compared to Donald Trump

And don’t expect any help from Rivas Logan, who lost with an abysmal 29% (which is still better than DLP) in a race that nobody cared much about except for the really angry Dems who remember Rivas Logan as a Republican, even before Taddeo’s PAC started attacking her as a turncoat. Which was pretty funny considering Taddeo ran for Lt. Gov. only last year with Mr. King Turncoat Charlie Crist.

Taddeo did not return calls and texts to her cellphone. But a statement she issued sounds like she is far too encouraged by the blowout in the primary, which she should not take as a sign that this will be easy.

“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. 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.”

Rivas Logan could have been that, too. But she couldn”t even motivate the 5,002 people who voted for her in last August’s primary — where she came in second without campaigning — to vote in this race, maybe it’s best that she hang up her spurs.

“Right now, I’m going on vacation,” Rivas Logan told Ladra Tuesday night, shortly after calling and texting Taddeo (and getting no response). “I wish her well,” she said, adding that she was retiring this fall as a school teacher and retiring from politics altogether. She won’t even go on TV anymore, she said.

“It was my last race. I had nothing to lose. I’m going to retire and travel.”

She also said she was a bit relieved she did not have to face Pepi Diaz again, after he attacked her in 2012 when they were drawn into the same House seat through redistricting.

“I do think the seat now will stay in Republican hands,” Rivas Logan added.

Doesn’t sound like an endorsement card to Ladra.

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Some voters in Senate District 40 got a mail piece this week that attacks former State Rep. Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz for being a lobbyist. But it wasn’t any of his opponents in the GOP primary who put the piece out. It was the Democrats.

The mailer is paid for by the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and says that “Dirty Diaz” is a “superhero for special interests, a villain to Miami families.” The front has a cartoon character in a suit or buglar eye mask — legislator by day, lobbyist by night — and while its not a Bitstrip, the character looks a little like Pepi Diaz alright. Down to the facial hair and the smirk.

“Don’t expect Dirty Diaz to represnt us in the Senate. His lobbying clients pay much more,” it says, adding that he voted to raise property taxes and increase property insurance costs.

But this may not be just bad news for Pepi Diaz. This mailer could be bad news for former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and constitutional attorney Lorenzo Palomares, who is likely to win the bronze, because it could mean the Dems think Diaz is going to win the primary. DLP might tell you that they’re hedging their bets, since he has already been hit with so much negativity.

But why waste the money if there’s a chance DLP wins? Why not wait until after the primary? Why not put everything together and have it ready to pull the trigger on Wednesday next week?

Unless… hmm, could it be they are trying to help DLP because he’s an easier target in the general? Ladra thinks that Diaz is a much tougher challenge in the general, principally because of the amount of money he has and has shown to be able to raise, but also because DLP is less moderate than Pepi Diaz, who — especially with his mother and wife being public school teachers — will be more easily able to get NPAs and peel some Democrat votes in the general than the Dean, especially when he’s been channeling The Donald.

So could this be Senate Democrats actually being smart?

Sure, the mailer was sent to an NPA. But it was sent to an NPA with a super voter Republican in the house. You don’t think they know that?

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