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.

Drew Wilson

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.

One comment

  • Josephine Amato

    June 18, 2018 at 3:50 am

    Valdez remained silent as the Hillsborough County School District Superintendent eliminated safe school bus transportation for 7500 students without conducting hazardous walking conditions audits. She remained silent knowing 90% of the Students killed walking to school in Hillsborough County are Hospanic American, but Hispanic American students only make up 30% of the student body population. Board Member Valdez remained silent as not one parent was provided information on access to the public school buses being denied in Spanish to primarily Spanish Speaking homes. Valdez remained silent as aids for English language learners were fired in mass breaking a legally binding civil rights law agreement and further denyimg students equal access to their public education. Every picture Board member Valdez takes to promote good work in the school district is really the good work from The Brink Foundation which she takes credit for. Valdez remained silent as 3 students were hit by motor vehicles trying to access their public education at Farnell Middle school after they were unjustly denied access to the public school bus to public school. Parents from Farnell middle school pleaded with her to speak up for student safety. As Valdez remained silent on spending the $1,121 to transport a student to school on a school bus for one year she travelled to Miami and Chicago spending up $14,000. Board Member Valdez has a track record of being self serving talking big talk about advocating for Hispanic American students in our district, but her voting record does not walk the walk. As a very involved parent adovate and Hispanic American constituent in Hillsborough County it is very clear to me Board Member Valdez places her very loud soap box on the backs of our students to stand upon.

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