Tuesday, July 20, 2010
State race runs to county court
Half of the candidates in the race for state rep in seat 112 will take their campaigns to court tomorrow: Two candidates sued to have Doral Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz (Dem), taken off the Aug. 24 ballot because they say she violated state law when she did not officially resign from her municipal seat.
Johnny Farias (Dem) and Jeanette Nuñez (Rep) each filed separate lawsuits last month seeking to remove Ruiz (Dem) from the race because she failed to resign from her post on the Doral City Council. Farias, an electrician, sued Ruiz on June 21. Nuñez, VP of exterior affairs for Kendall Regional Medical Center and Aventura Hospital and a former lobbyist for Jackson Health (who also worked for almost a decade as chief legislative aide to Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla), filed her suit the 29th. Both will be heard at 4 p.m. Wednesday by Judge Jerald Bagly.
Six candidates are seeking the seat for 112, which encompasses Doral, Sweetwater and West Kendall as well as parts of Broward and Collier counties. Ruiz is seen as the frontrunner. The three who have not sued are Doral Vice Mayor Robert VanName (Rep), schoolteacher Juan D’Arce (Rep) and Naples insurance adjuster James Guerrero (Rep). Florida law requires candidates who are already sitting electeds to resign from their current seats before qualifying begins for the post sought if there is any overlap in the terms.
Ruiz, who is term-limited out of the Doral seat this year, did not. But she says there is no overlap.
Her attorneys -- Democratic Party election law veterans Ben Kuehne and Joe Geller (former North Bay Village mayor and one-time hopeful for state rep in district 106) -- have asked the judge to dismiss the case. They argue Ruiz could not resign from a seat she will technically not have come the day after Election Day.
"There's not even a minute of overlap," Kuehne said, adding that the "resign to run" law is clear.
"This law was designed to prevent elected officials from having a back door safety valve so if voters reject him or her, they can't fall back to the same positions they had before. And because she is term limited out, there is no possibility Sandra Ruiz is going to hold two offices at one time," Kuehne said.
"This law was never designed to be a technical gotcha," he said, rejecting arguments from Farias' attorney, William Peña Wells -- an active local Dem Party member -- that the Doral council member elected to replace Ruiz will not be sworn in until the day after and that there could even be a runoff forced because of a close race.
But Peña says that Kuehne is misinterpreting the law and pointed out in his motion that Van Name, who is also term limited out, did resign his council seat effective Election Day.
Keuhne told Ladra Tuesday that the lawsuit was an obvious political ploy, machinations to impact the race and said Nuñez, the Republican, also sued because it is in her best interest to face what she considered a weaker Democratic candidate for the November general election.
"The Republican is trying to get my client kicked out of the primary becasue she knows she will have an easier time in November," Kuehne said. "This is pure gamesmanship in what is a very important race."
Peña Wells also believes the law is clear and would use the city's own charter in his argument. He also said, when asked, that he had never had any contact with Van Name and that he got the other Doral Council member's resignation to run from public records.
"I have never laid eyes on the man or spoken to him. He is a complete stranger to me," Peña said. "If I bumped into him, I wouldn't know him."
Posted by Ladra, the public watch dog at 11:37 AM