“It is disappointing that David's (Rivera) desperate opponent is disrespecting the voters and resorting to these outrageous antics,” spokeswoman Leslie Veiga wrote. “We call on David’s opponent to stop harassing the voters of District 25 and focus his campaign on the issues of concern.”
Garcia campaign spokesman Ariel Milian called the veiled allegations foolish. “Our campaign is in no way involved in that,” he said.
NAPLES — Across the country, all the stops are getting pulled with the general election a week away. In the race for Florida’s Congressional District 25 seat it’s no different, with front-runners Joe Garcia and David Rivera fighting for votes — and against each other.
The latest in the contentious race occurred Monday, when the Rivera campaign released a statement about voters receiving automated phone calls at inappropriate hours.
“It has been brought to our attention that voters, especially elderly voters, are receiving automated calls purporting to be from our campaign. The calls use a recording of David Rivera’s voice and are made at inappropriate hours, including late at night and very early in the morning,” Rivera campaign spokeswoman Leslie Veiga wrote in a statement.
Veiga wrote that the calls didn’t originate from the Rivera camp and insinuated the Garcia campaign is responsible for the intrusive calls.
“It is disappointing that David’s desperate opponent is disrespecting the voters and resorting to these outrageous antics,” Veiga wrote. “Resorting to publicity stunts and irritating phone calls is an insult to the voters. We call on David’s opponent to stop harassing the voters of District 25 and focus his campaign on the issues of concern.”
Garcia campaign spokesman Ariel Milian called the veiled allegations foolish.
“Our campaign is in no way involved in that,” he said.
But apart from an unexpected attack flier from Tea Party candidate Roly Arrojo aimed at both Garcia and Rivera, mailers and television ads have been the main mode of attack between the Republican and Democratic candidates.
The first salvo was shot in July, when 19-year-old Matt Slider of Ponte Vedra Beach was apparently duped by a Republican lobbyist into creating “Progressives for Prosperity,” a 527 group that sent out a mailer blasting Garcia and blaming him for the Gulf oil spill. A 527 group is a tax-exempt organization engaging in political activities, using unlimited contributions.
Another 527, Voters Response, has had complaints filed against it with the Federal Elections Commission by Garcia supporters, accusing the group of colluding with Rivera.
Voters Response, which IRS documents show is headed by Tallahassee lobbyist and Rivera supporter David Ramba, again found itself in the spotlight after it recently sent out a Spanish mailer blasting Garcia’s close relationship with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — and listing Garcia’s personal cell phone.
Garcia said the quirkiest call he got as a result of the attack mailer involved an older woman who thought he was selling hair products. In Spanish, Pelosi’s last name can be mispronounced to sound as “Pelo si” or “Yes hair.”
It didn’t help that the mailer used an old photo of Garcia before he cut his hair.
After explaining to the woman that there was no “Yes hair” product and seeing the mailer, Garcia said he wasn’t happy his cell phone number was released.
“Most people rely on their cell very heavily. When I’m not around, my daughter picks it up and takes messages,” Garcia said Monday. “This could have been something ugly. But fortunately most of the voters are nice and I’ve only gotten a few angry people calling me on the phone.”
Garcia said that 80 percent of the calls he has gotten since the mailers started arriving at voters’ homes have been positive.
And although the mailer was sent by Voters Response, Garcia said the person behind the mailer had to be Rivera.
“We have no knowledge of what Voters Response does, and only learned of the mailer when the Herald posted a story on it,” Veiga wrote in an e-mail to the Daily News.
Then there are the television advertisements and websites created by Rivera, Garcia and their respective supporters, aimed at discrediting the opponent.
From the Democratic side, websites therealdavidrivera.com, davidriveratruth.com and riverafacts.com all attack Rivera with videos and commercials.
Another spoof-ad likening Rivera to Mr. Bean — the British character made famous by actor Rowan Atkinson — and Austin Powers was removed from YouTube due to copyright infringement.
One of a series of stories about candidates and issues on the Nov. 2 ballot. Watch for the countdown series daily at naplesnews.com and in the Daily News.
Created in 2002, District 25 covers the eastern part of Collier County, western Miami-Dade County and some of Monroe.
The seat is being vacated by GOP Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, who ran unopposed for his brother Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart’s District 21 seat. In February, Lincoln Diaz-Balart announced his intent to retire from office.
Joe Garcia and David Rivera will also face off against Whig Party candidate Craig Porter and Tea Party candidate Roly Arrojo on Nov. 2.
Rivera’s campaign and supporters also have been busy, creating several YouTube videos questioning Garcia’s understanding of the voters, the fact that Garcia doesn’t live in the district and his close connection to the Democratic establishment.
However, one of Rivera’s anti-Garcia spots called “One of Them,” which has been airing throughout District 25 and claims Garcia raised utility fees in Florida, was called out by PolitiFact.com as false.
“The Rivera claim is wildly off the mark — on two counts. First, the evidence Rivera offers that Garcia ‘raised utility rates’ is for a different vote on an accounting issue. Second, the next-day vote (the one Garcia missed) to pass on fuel cost to customers wasn’t a rate hike — though we acknowledge that to customers, it surely felt like one since the monthly bill went up. The ad is plainly not accurate given Garcia’s consumer-friendly stands,” PolitiFact.com stated.
The advertisement also was discredited by National Public Radio, The Miami Herald and both ABC and CBS affiliates in Miami.
As to the tone the campaign attacks have taken, both sides agreed it has gotten nasty, but they don’t agree who is to blame.
“Our campaign message has consistently been focused on the issues of concern to the voters of southern Florida and making sure the voters know the differences between the two candidates. We have focused on David’s positions on how to improve our economy and create jobs, and on pointing out Joe Garcia’s record, and his support of the disastrous economic policies of Nancy Pelosi,” Veiga wrote.
Garcia said he sees it differently.
“It’s typical of his (Rivera’s) campaign,” Garcia said of the dirty turn the race has taken, adding that the point is brought home to him every time Rivera pulls out a document supposedly linking him to the utilities hike. “The document has been proven false and yet he pulls it out. That doesn’t stop it. If you repeat a lie long enough and it becomes the truth … It’s crazy and it’s unfortunate.”
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