Campaign Scandals Are Weirder in Florida

A Florida state representative running for the House has been accused of beating up his girlfriend and then running a truck carrying his opponent's fliers off the highway.

Even when multiple versions of the flier/truck story are laid out, it still doesn't make much sense. Via the Miami Herald, though, here's the rough outline of the scandals David Rivera is fighting leading up to Florida's August 24 Republican primary:

  • In 1994, a woman named Jenia Dorticos filed for a domestic-violence restraining order against a man named David M. Rivera. Dorticos dropped the restraining order after a month and did not file criminal charges. Rep. Rivera, whose middle initial is M, claims he has never met Dorticos, who, when contacted, claims she has never met him. She filed the order against a different David M. Rivera, she says.
  • So what's the problem, then? Dorticos' mother is a Cuban TV personality who is friendly with Rivera and has worked for his campaign. A Miami woman claims that ten years ago, Dorticos and Rivera attended a party at her house as a couple, along with Dorticos' mother (Dorticos and Rivera deny this claim).
  • In his first campaign for the Florida House in 2002, Rivera faced a Republican opponent named Rainier Gonzalez. A few days before the primary, Gonzalez released a flier with a photo of Dorticos' petition for a restraining order along with side-by-side photos of Rivera and a woman with a black eye.    
  • Around the same time, Rivera was involved in a fender-bender on a Florida highway -- with a truck carrying Gonzalez's attack ads against him. Rivera claims that he wanted to retrieve his own fliers, which the truck was also carrying, because he didn't know the company that made them was also working for Gonzalez's campaign. An alternate account holds that Rivera forced the truck off the road in order to stall delivery of Gonzalez's ads past the 6 p.m. mailing deadline.  

Two of Rivera's opponents in the Republican primary have dredged up this scandal, prompting the local media to rehash all its strange details. The candidate's mail truck run-in could be this season's most bizarrely localized, he-said/she-said scandal.

As of July, however, Rivera had a well over $900,000-lead over his closest challenger in terms of fundraising. Florida's 25th congressional district went for McCain over Obama by just one point in 2008, so even if he wins the primary, Rivera will face a tight general election in November. The Cook Political Report gives Republicans a slight advantage but warns that if Rivera gets the GOP nomination, Democrats will work hard to air his dirty laundry, perhaps putting the district in play.  

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Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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