Manny Diaz Jr. has nearly $520K for unopposed SD 36 reelection

Manny Diaz 2.6.20
Medical, health care insurance and pharmaceutical companies and groups gave big.

Incumbent Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. now has nearly $520,000 to defend his seat representing Senate District 36. And he remains so far unopposed with just over a year to go before the 2022 General Election.

Last month, the Miami-Dade County Republican added $61,000 through his campaign and political committee, Better Florida Education, according to the Florida Division of Elections. He also spent about $17,000, leaving him with a net September gain of about $44,000.

The vast majority the donations Diaz received — $47,000 — came from the medical, health insurance and pharmaceutical sector, including a $20,000 gift from OD-EYEPAC, the lobbying arm of the Florida Optometric Association; and a $10,000 contribution from the Committee for Anesthesia Safety.

Last year, Diaz sponsored a bill that would have expanded health care procedures optometrists could perform, including some surgeries, and broaden the medication they could prescribe. Ophthalmologists opposed the bill, which stalled after clearing the Senate Health Policy Committee, which Diaz chairs.

Ambulance company National Health Transport gave $5,000. Liberty Dental Plan Corp., Dermatology PAC of Florida, the Florida Society of Anesthesiologists and health insurer Cigna each gave $2,500. Tallahassee-based political committee Interventional Pain Physicians and pharma giant Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., which is angling to get an emergency use OK from the FDA for an experimental COVID-19 pill, gave $1,000 apiece.

Diaz also pulled $2,000 from the agriculture industry, split evenly between two PCs. One was Florida Cow PAC. The other, Advancing Florida Agriculture, is run by Republican Ben Albritton, who in August edged Diaz to take over as Florida Senate President when Sen. Kathleen Passidomo cedes the gavel after the 2024 elections.

Other PC donations included $5,000 gifts from former U.S. Rep. Thomas Feeny III’s Floridians United for Our Children’s Future and the American Society of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Florida Engineers PAC gave another $1,500.

More than three-fifths of Diaz’s spending in September — $10,623 — was on consulting, accounting, communications, signage and banking costs. All but $2,500 of that went to two companies: Tallahassee-based firm Ross Consultants and Hialeah-based Jorge Caraza for “surveys.”

He gave $1,000 to the campaigns of three fellow GOP politicians: former Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo, who is running for Hialeah Mayor; and Cord Byrd and Alex Rizo, who are seeking reelection next year to represent House Districts 11 and 110, respectively.

Diaz also reimbursed himself $1,759 and paid another $1,000 to Manny Diaz Sr.

A former assistant principal with Miami-Dade Public Schools, Diaz has backed Gov. Ron DeSantis’ efforts to keep school districts, including his former employer, from passing on-campus mask mandates for students without a parental opt-out option.

Diaz, who caught COVID-19 last winter and had not received a vaccination as of last month, told Florida Politics he may look to revisit existing vaccine requirements long in place in schools in response to the debate around whether COVID-19 vaccines should also be required.

Diaz has held his Senate seat since 2018, when he defeated Democrat David Perez by a more than 8-percentage-point margin to keep the district in Republican hands.

He succeeded René García, who has since left the district to succeed Bovo on the Miami-Dade Commission representing District 13. Prior to his election to the Senate, Diaz served for six years in the Florida House representing House District 103.

SD 36 spans an inland portion of Miami-Dade County, including the municipalities of Medley, Hialeah, Hialeah Gardens, Doral, Miami Springs and Virginia Gardens, as well as the unincorporated Fontainebleau, Gladeview, Tamiami and West Little River neighborhoods.

The district, whose largest cities trend conservative and typically vote for Republican candidates, contains the county’s top economic generator: Miami International Airport, a self-funding hub that, pre-pandemic, made the county $32 billion annually.

Candidates faced a Monday deadline to report all campaign fundraising activity in September.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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