Miami-Dade mayoral race goes negative as group drops attack ads against Esteban Bovo, Xavier Suarez

Esteban Steve Bovo
The two are competing in a seven-person field.

A new group is releasing a pair of advertisements hitting Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Esteban “Steve” Bovo over his association with former U.S. Rep. David Rivera.

Rivera has been in hot water after news broke his consulting firm, Interamerican Consulting, agreed to a $50 million deal with a Venezuelan oil company while it was controlled by the Nicolás Maduro regime.

Bovo has since taken steps to distance himself from Rivera. A group called A Better Miami Dade is still going after Bovo in a 30-second Spanish-language ad highlighting those ties.

“Don’t believe the lies about Alex Penelas coming from Esteban Bovo’s buddies. We know Penelas,” the narrator begins in Spanish.

“As Mayor, he helped create thousands of jobs, lowered crime and cracked down on corruption. Bovo is the one surrounded with corrupt characters. His confidant, David Rivera, took $15 million from Nicolás Maduro and is under investigation. Bovo’s fundraiser took $3 million of that dirty money for herself. Voters need to know how much of Maduro’s money is being used to attack Penelas.”

Bovo’s mayoral campaign returned a $1,000 donation from Interamerican Consulting after the New York Times reported on the $50 million deal. Bovo also ended his relationship with the fundraiser in question, Esther Nuhfer.

“Any kind of financial link to the source of so much pain for so many is completely unacceptable and I condemn it,” Bovo said at the time.

Bovo currently represents District 13 on the Miami-Dade County Commission and is seen as one of the more conservative candidates in the Miami-Dade County mayoral race.

A Better Miami Dade — not to be confused with Bovo’s political committee “A Better Miami-Dade” (note the hyphen) — is also putting out a 30-second Spanish-language radio ad hitting Bovo from another angle.

The ad also name checks mayoral candidate Xavier Suarez, who serves on the Miami-Dade County Commission as well.

“President [Donald] Trump is warning us about possible ‘vote by mail’ fraud. Sadly, we know a lot about that here,” the ad begins.

“Xavier Suarez was removed by a judge as Miami Mayor during the famous ‘dead voter’ scandal. We were a national laughingstock. Esteban Bovo was investigated twice when thousands of signed and sealed absentee ballots were found in his public office. Protect your ballot, watch out for Bovo, Suarez and their balloteers trying to steal your ballot.”

Bovo was not charged with a crime during either investigation. An appeals court did remove Suarez from office after the 1997 election was tainted by a voter fraud scandal, which helped put him into office. Suarez was never charged criminally, but several campaign operatives connected to his and other campaigns were arrested.

A Better Miami Dade is backed by Carlos Condarco, a press secretary for U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala. While the TV ad defends Penelas — a former Miami-Dade County Mayor now running for that post again — Condarco also appears to be behind another PAC which has sought to go negative against Penelas.

That second committee, Defender La Justicia, is registered as a political committee, though has not reported any information regarding its financial backers. A Better Miami Dade has not yet even registered as a PC.

David Winker, an attorney for Commissioner Suarez, took issue with that fact.

“What A Better Miami Dade is doing is prohibited by law and intentionally confusing,” Winker wrote to a radio station airing the ad.

This isn’t likely to be the last mudslinging in the contest. In addition to Bovo, Penelas and Suarez, the seven-person field also includes Carlos Antonio De Armas, entrepreneur Monique Nicole Barley, real estate agent Ludmilla Domond and County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez is facing term limits. That leaves the race to lead the most populous county in the state wide open.

The election will take place alongside Florida’s primary elections Aug. 18. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote — a high likelihood in the seven-person field — a runoff between the top two candidates will be held during the Nov. 3 general election.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected]


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