The fierce battle between Republican insider Jose Mallea and political newcomer Daniel Perez will wind to a close Tuesday, when the two political hopefuls will face off for the Republican nomination to represent Florida’s 116th House District.
The campaign between Mallea and Perez has, at most times, been a rancorous showdown between Mallea, a well-connected figure in the GOP, and Perez, a newbie to the world of Florida politics.
Mallea is a GOP operative who has jumped from campaign to campaign over the years, heading up U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s senatorial campaign committee in 2010 before joining Newt Gingrich’s Florida team in 2011.
The South Florida Republican also served as a senior adviser for Hispanic outreach to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Bush endorsed Mallea for the Republican nomination earlier this summer and on Monday made one final plea to South Florida voters to choose Mallea on Tuesday.
“Encouraging my Miami friends to Get Out the Vote tomorrow for @TheMallea, a strong and principled conservative leader for HD-116!” Bush tweeted.
Perez, on the other hand, is a newcomer to politics. He works as an attorney and is a first-time candidate for the House of Representatives.
At the center of the Republican primary were allegations of carpetbagging from both candidates, lawsuits over residency and one very, very unhappy Marco Rubio.
Earlier this month, Mallea’s campaign filed a lawsuit against Perez, alleging his entire candidacy should be revoked after it was uncovered Perez was not actually living in the house listed on his voting records.
The suit alleged Perez made false claims about his residency in his campaign filing documents and asked the court to nullify his candidacy entirely.
Mallea requested the court declare Perez ineligible to be a candidate for office, to decertify his candidacy, remove his name from the ballot and refuse to certify any votes cast for him because he allegedly doesn’t live in the district.
The requests apparently haven’t held up well since Perez is still in the race.
Perez’s team fired back at Mallea, accusing him of simply moving into the district to seize upon an opportunity to run for political office.
“He’s basically a carpetbagger,” Perez’s consultant David Custin said. “He’s never lived in the district. He just moved in after he filed. If he wants to make that case to the district, good luck.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio also made an appearance in the campaign fray between Mallea and Perez, appearing in a mailer which featured photographs of Mallea and Rubio.
The men smile in the shot, but Rubio was quick to fire back after discovering his image had been without his permission.
"Sen. Rubio did not see the mailer before it was sent, and he was never asked to approve the use of his name and picture,'' said Olivia Perez-Cubas, Rubio spokesperson, to the Miami Herald.
Mallea has led Perez in the money chase throughout the campaign, raising a total of $226,000 for the seat. Campaign finance reports showed Perez raised a total of $168,000 during the campaign.
HD116 was vacated in May after Rep. Jose “Pepi” Felix Diaz announced he would run for SD40 to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles.
The winner of the Republican primary will run against Democrat Gabriela Mayaudon, who is running unopposed, in the general election Sept. 26.