Saturday, July 24, 2010
RPOF "Victory" office: Rivera Country?
Several local Republicans made appearances, ate pastelitos and cake and had their photos taken with each other and the Republican die-hard supporters at the grand opening Saturday of the state party's first "Victory HQ" office in West Kendall. Two more -- one in West Miami and another in Hialeah -- are expected to open in the next couple of weeks.
But even before the first political poster was taped to the window at 14273 SW 42nd Street, there were complaints the office will favor State Rep. David Rivera in the Congressional race for District 25 -- what Rivera's opponents say is yet another advantage of the Miami-Dade Republican Committee chair.
The Victory office on Bird Road does seem, on its face, to be Rivera Country: A large Rivera banner dominates one wall. No other candidates had banners inside -- or out -- Saturday. And when Sen. George LeMieux spoke, he basically endorsed Rivera. The coffee table inside displayed a few bumper stickers and palm cards for the other Republican candidates, Marili Cancio and Paul Crespo -- dwarfed by three large stacks of Rivera calendars and mailers.
And then there's the staff connections.
"If they don't bring me anything, I can't put it out," said Alina Garcia, who two months ago was Rivera's top legislative aide and had worked with him since he was first elected in 2002. Garcia, who got plucked for the job by the Republican Party of Florida to run the Victory offices -- got help setting up Saturday from Maria Armenteros, another Rivera aide, and a woman who works in the Miami-Dade Republican Party office that shares space with the state rep in Doral.
But Garcia says there is no conflict of interest and that the other two candidates had been invited and had not taken their materials to the office yet. She showed Ladra a mail piece from Crespo with the name and address marked off with a Sharpee which she said she did so she could tape it to the window with the others.
There will be no favoritism, Garcia told Ladra. "Not from this office," she said.
"What I do in there is we call people who are Republican who don't go to vote often and urge them to register to vote or request absentee ballots," Garcia said, adding that they had been targeting the "twos." (Voters are categorized in one of five categories, with four and fives being "super voters" that cast their nods in every or almost every election).
"We are not saying vote for this or vote for that candidate," Garcia added. "We are just getting out the vote. "We need Republicans to go out and vote in every election."
She added that the space could be used by all Republican candidates.
"Everybody is welcome to come and make calls from the office and spend all day here if they want," Garcia said, moments after she posed with Rivera and members of his district office and campaign staff. (More photos on facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1357833535#!/album.php?aid=70956&id=1357833535)
(She is not, however, in any photos posted by Marili Cancio on facebook).
JC Hernandez, executive director of the Miami-Dade REC, told Ladra that there was no conflict of interest and that the offices were really going to get into full swing after the primary.
"My job is to make sure November runs smoothly," Hernandez said. "It's up to the voters at the end of the day. After Aug. 24 we'll decide who we're going to back," Hernandez said.
"Then, hopefully, we can get back to business -- which is kicking Nancy Pelosi out of office."
Cancio could not be reached for comment Saturday but posted photos of her own from the event.
Crespo, who pulled LeMieux to the side and said he was not happy about the Rivera endorsement surprise, told Ladra he plans to visit the Victory office and will ask Garcia to hang his own banner on the wall opposite the Rivera banner.
"We have to be very vigilant that the Victory office, which is right next door to where Rivera's campaign office used to be, isn't used as an extension of David Rivera's campaign," Crespo said. "We need to make sure that doesn't happen because that would be unfair and inappropriate."
He said he gave LeMieux his business card and introduced himself before the Senator spoke and said what a great Congressman Rivera would make. So Crespo went to chat with him after.
"I told him that was wrong. This was a Republican Party event not a David Rivera event."
Sometimes, apparently, the two things look like one and the same.
Posted by Ladra, the public watch dog at 12:34 PM