Tuesday’s special election in Senate District 40 in Miami-Dade is coming down to the wire. The latest polling shows a tight race with former Republican State Rep. Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz just edging Democrat Annette Taddeo by a few percentage points. But the polls could be wrong.
Regardless of which candidate prevails on election night, they will have big shoes to fill: those of Frank Artiles, who was forced to resign after a blowing his lid and hurling a series of controversial remarks and insults directed at his colleagues and senate leadership.
But while senate leadership, the media and public opinion quickly dismissed Artiles, his actual legislative record is worthy of trying to emulate. Here’s why:
Of the 33 bills signed into law by Governor Rick Scott this past year, six of them originated with Artiles. If the math is tough to grasp, think of it this way: 33% of all legislation signed into law last year started with Frank Artiles’ help in the Senate. He was just one lawmaker in a combined body of 160 members, or just 0.6% of the total membership.
Artiles always maintained that as a Marine, he approached his job as Senator with that same mindset. His viewed his “mission” to represent his district and protect families, which is evident through his championing of the farm share program, which this year alone Artiles helped secure $2.5 million in funding before his hasty exit.
South Florida transportation will be forever transformed in part because of a bill Artiles introduced: SB 842, designed to improve public transportation in South Florida and reduce traffic congestion by taking about 3 million cars off the roads. That could help create more jobs around the state, curb pollution and significantly lower fuel consumption.
A pair of Florida families got relief through two bills Artiles pushed, seeking justice for the families of the late Christian Darby Stephenson, who passed away while driving a gasoline tanker (SB 12) and the family of nine-year-old Aaron Beauchamp who passed away in a school bus crash in St. Lucie County (SB 14). Governor Scott signed both of these bills into law.
Privacy protection for Florida’s first responders now includes firefighters and their families, again because of a bill proposed by Artiles: before SB-1108, anyone could find information about a firefighter’s family, including photographs, phone numbers, and location of schools and day care facilities attended by the firefighters’ children. Scott also signed that bill into law.
Inarguably, Artiles exit from the public eye was less than graceful, leaving a gaping hole in Miami-Dade’s legislative delegation. Now, the Florida Senate needs another leader who will bring Artiles’ sense of mission and dedication, albeit with a more delicate touch.
Pepi Diaz is the perfect fit. Diaz gave up his House seat and also passed up other political opportunities to run in this important special election. Diaz consistently sticks his neck out for the betterment of his community, and in a Republican-controlled senate, will be far more effective than three-time loser Annette Taddeo, who’ll accomplish even less there than she could as the head of the Florida Democratic party.
After Artiles’ mishaps in April, Republicans owe the state of Florida another effective political leader. Diaz’s record demonstrates he can fill those shoes.
Born and raised in Miami, Pepi Diaz knows his state and his constituents. He won his seat in the Florida House with over 62% of the vote. He is a champion for small business, helping to relieve middle-class families of high taxes and working to improve education in Florida. He supported legislation that cut taxes by $500 million, while simultaneously pushing for the largest funding of education to ever occur in the history of Florida.
Pepi Diaz can step in and fill the void left by Artiles, a foundation that takes most senators years to create. Diaz will pick up where Artiles left off, with the same work-ethic as his predecessor, and better control of his mouth.