Welcome to Florida Politics — Fabiola Santiago in the Miami Herald.
Confirmed: There was voter fraud in Florida in the 2020 election after all.
And the alleged perpetrator, foul-mouthed Frank Artiles, is getting his due.
The disgraced former Florida lawmaker and GOP operative is charged with making a mockery of democracy: rigging a 2020 state Senate race in Miami-Dade by planting and paying $44,708 to a bogus, no-party candidate with a similar name to the Democratic incumbent.
His masterful strategy to win for the GOP — now the stuff of riveting search and arrest warrants — was to siphon off votes from the Democrat.
Who needs to rack up endorsements, debate the issues and highlight experience, when all you have to do is hire a guy who lives in Boca Raton with the last name of Rodríguez?
Two Cuban-American Rodríguezes against a Cuban-American García amounts to perfectly executed confusion for the largely Hispanic and Anglo voters of Miami, Coral Gables and Pinecrest.
The Senate 37 race between Democratic Sen. José Javier Rodríguez and his newcomer Republican opponent, Ileana García, founder of Latinas for Trump, was decided in her favor after a three-day recount — and by only 32 votes.
The shill candidate drew 6,382 votes.
García’s win was one of the upsets that expanded the majority Republican dominance of the Florida Legislature. García is there right now casting votes and shaping policy along predictable party lines — and we may never know if that was truly the voters’ will.
We do know Artiles’ intention — he even bragged about the candidate plant — and we know who benefited from his dark money criminal enterprise: the Republicans.
Like in a movie, he allegedly paid Alexis (Alex) Rodríguez for the dirty deed by repeatedly raiding his Palmetto Bay home safe, grabbing stacks of cash — from $3,000 to $5,000 — so rewarding a nondescript auto parts dealer he didn’t think anyone would bother to track down.
Idiot that he has always been underneath the bravado, Artiles didn’t think the money and paper trail would lead to him — or that three reporters, the Miami Herald’s Samantha Gross and Ana Ceballos, and WPLG TV’s Glenna Milberg, would tirelessly pursue the truth.
Or, that the cheating Alex Rodríguez would talk.
Or, for that matter, that the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office Public Corruption Task Force would investigate and pursue the case.
His home raided by law enforcement, Artiles now faces several felony campaign-finance charges and additional ones for false swearing in connection with voting or elections.
May he languish in prison for it, although that remains to be seen, given Miami-Dade’s prosecutors’ poor record for putting corrupt politicians behind bars, where they belong.
But for now, it’s democracy-affirming to see the law catch up to his shenanigans.
The ex-Miami state representative for District 118 and senator has been a slimy politician his entire career — with the support of his colleagues and his party, it’s worth noting.
He broke the law in 2010 when he ran for office in District 119, which spanned from Sweetwater to Homestead before redistricting, where he didn’t live. When caught by Political Cortadito blogger Elaine de Valle at his Palmetto Bay house wearing gym pants and socks at 9:45 p.m. on a Monday night, he claimed ignorance.
In 2016, post redistricting, he won his Senate seat using ethnic-baiting tactics in a heavily Hispanic district. He told voters that his African American contender, Dwight Bullard, supported “a terrorist organization.” It was Black Lives Matter. Shameful.
In the Senate, he bullied Senate colleagues. He bullied the Miami Dade College president.
He hurled racist and misogynist rants at an African-American senator in front of colleagues gathered at a Tallahassee bar in 2017.
He called Senate President Joe Negron a “p—y” and the senators in the GOP caucus that elected him “n—as.” He called Sen. Audrey Gibson, an African-American Democrat from Jacksonville, sitting across the table from him at the Governor’s Club, a “b—h” and a “girl.”
Trying to escape Senate censure, he made things worse with an insincere apology that blamed his lack of basic human decency on growing up in Hialeah. He was eventually forced to resign in disgrace, although not by his Cuban-American colleagues, who did all they could to torpedo Senate censure.
Nothing much was lost.
A homophobe, he had been peddling a potty bill that would have made it illegal for transgender people to use a public bathroom that doesn’t correspond to their biological gender designation at birth.
Here’s hoping he liked the bathrooms at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center, where he was booked Thursday morning and spent about nine hours before posting a $5,000 bond.
But what about the voters?
A rigged election shouldn’t be allowed to stand, but a special election can’t be called unless García is implicated, too, and so far, she hasn’t been.
For now, voters can only hope to savor the kind of justice served by the prospect of a five-year prison term for a bad actor who has long-earned banishment.
Bully, racist, misogynist, gay-hater — and hopefully soon, convicted felon, Frank Artiles is getting what he deserves.
This incident drew national attention: both the New York Times and the Washington Post covered it, and while they were at it, got the village I live in, Palmetto Bay, into the news and Google. So the Trumpers were right: there was voter fraud. And they should know, because they were doing it.
Doonesbury — Jim Crow 2.0