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Susan Valdes sidesteps special treatment allegations, refers questions to attorney

Hillsborough School Board member Susan Valdes, now running for House District 62, slammed Democratic primary opponent Mike Alvarez Thursday for running a negative campaign.

At issue is Valdes’ resign-to-run letter. A new law signed by Gov. Rick Scott earlier this year requires elected officials to turn in a resignation letter for their current office 10 days before qualifying for another.

After the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections told media and Alvarez’ political consultant that Valdes missed the deadline, the office changed course in a Monday news release, saying it had accepted Valdes’ resignation letter.

Emails released by the Alvarez campaign earlier Thursday show Valdes’ resignation letter was delivered to the home of Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer at 10:30 p.m. Friday, hours after his office told reporters Valdes had missed the deadline, interpreted as 5 p.m. Friday, June 8, by Mary Helen Farris of the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office.

In a release Thursday sent by consultant Victor DiMaio — Valdes panned Alvarez for “hiding behind his high-paid, out-of-town consultant” and for “trying to impugn the integrity of the supervisor of elections and 14-year School Board Member Susan Valdes, who are fellow Democrats.”

“Instead of having an honest discussion about education, the affordable housing crisis, healthcare and all the other critical issues facing the voters of District 62, my opponent is choosing to throw mud,” Valdes said. “Instead of a new day, Alvarez is offering politics as usual.

“That is why Rep. Janet Cruz and former Representative and Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez are endorsing my candidacy. We share a long history of service and working together to advance the cause of the people we represent and also supporting our fellow Democrats.”

Though she chastises Alvarez for mudslinging, at no point in her release does Valdes deny, or even respond to, the crux of his accusations — that through the after-hours lobbying of Latimer and the supervisor’s office, she was permitted to have her resign-to-run letter delivered to Latimer’s home, a privilege that is almost certainly unavailable to other candidates.

DiMaio referred any questions on the legality of Valdes’ resignation to Tallahassee-based election law attorney Ron Meyer. Florida Politics attempted to contact Meyer but had not received any response as of Thursday evening.

No matter Meyer’s take on how the resign-to-run law applied to Valdes, the Avalrez campaign is not backing down.

In a statement to Florida Politics, the Tampa Democrat said he “couldn’t help but notice that Board Member Valdes doesn’t deny that she received special treatment or that this is just the latest in a series of ethical lapses. When calls for accountability, transparency, and honesty are a political attack — you’ve been in politics too long.

“When I talk with the hard-working people in Hillsborough County, they value honesty and integrity above everything else. I don’t have 14 years of political favors and shady transactions with the downtown crowd, but my advice to Susan would be to stop hiding from the voters and address these issues. I think the voters deserve to know if you’ll break this streak of bad behavior and start playing by the rules that the rest of us live by every day.

“I believe the voters deserve someone who will fight to change the culture in Tallahassee — not someone who wants to join the party.”

Alvarez filed for the seat, a Democratic stronghold, in May 2017. Fellow Democrat Christopher Carlos Cano entered the race June 1.

Written By

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

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