David Rivera Becomes Less of a Factor With his Madcap Bid to Return to Congress
Around the State
David Rivera’s roller coaster of a ride to get back to Congress took another strange turn on Wednesday as he unsuspended his campaign against old foe Joe Garcia.
Rivera was once one of the fastest rising Republicans in Florida. Serving as executive director of the Miami-Dade GOP, Rivera knows South Florida better than most of his Republican colleagues. But he also proved to be a force in Tallahassee after getting elected to the Florida House in 2002. An ally of Marco Rubio, Rivera moved up the leadership ladder, eventually becoming the House’s budget chairman.
In 2010, Rivera took another big step, running for an open congressional seat and beating Garcia by 9 percent that November. But Rivera was the subject of several whispers about ethics, including backing a candidate against Garcia in the 2010 primaries. Those whispers turned to grumbles and shouts as Rivera served his one term in Congress with a state attorney looking at money laundering charges against him. Weighed down by constant reports of various scandals, Garcia beat Rivera by 11 percent in the 2012 rematch.
Despite news of the various investigations continuing to emerge, Rivera surprisingly entered the 2014 Republican primary for a third showdown with Garcia. This only prompted the GOP leadership to quickly coalesce behind Carlos Curbelo.
Even with so much baggage, Rivera could have been a factor in a divided primary. But the former congressman has run one of the strangest campaigns in recent memory. Rivera did next to nothing for his campaign and did not do much in the way of raising money. When a Leon County judge ruled two of the Florida congressional districts were unconstitutional and more redistricting was needed, Rivera suspended his campaign and looked ahead to 2016, hoping to head back to the Florida House.
Rivera might have suspended his campaign but his name was still on the ballot. Soon enough there were reports that Rivera was running robocalls urging South Florida Republicans to back him. This week, with the primary looming later this month, Rivera announced he was unsuspending his campaign. As Jerry Reed sang in "East Down and Bound," Rivera has a "long way to go and a short time to get there." Curbelo’s lead in the primary seems to have only increased while Rivera was off on the sidelines. Curbelo’s running TV ads across the district and, on Monday, reeled in the support of Mitt Romney. Rivera’s madcap campaign has seemingly done nothing to slow Curbelo down.
Only 34, 14 years younger than Rivera, Curbelo has taken his rival’s place as a rising star among South Florida Republicans. Rivera, who looked so good only four years ago, can talk all he wants about pulling off the upset in the primary or looking to get back to his old stomping grounds in Tallahassee come 2016. But, after the continued scandals and his bizarre efforts this year, Rivera is only making himself less of a factor with each passing day.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.