By Jim Bleyer
A veteran Tampa political operative totally blew his cool and embarrassed himself after Florida House candidate Susan Valdes was videoed stumbling and bumbling over questions regarding her donors and would-be donors.
She made those remarks Saturday at a meeting of the Hillsborough Hispanic Democratic Caucus.
Victor DeMaio, consultant for the Valdes campaign, made good on his threat to call State Attorney Andrew Warren, the employer of videographer Justin Diaz. Warren reportedly told DeMaio that Diaz “had done nothing wrong.”
DeMaio assisted in Warren’s 2016 upset of incumbent Mark Ober and mistakenly believed he had enough cache to get someone he perceived to be a political enemy disciplined or fired.
At the caucus, Diaz asked Valdes whether or not she would accept contributions from the charter school industry, Big Sugar, the development lobby or the NRA and proceeded to video her equivocal, suspect response.
DeMaio apparently agreed with everyone else in attendance that Valdes’ lame exposition cast her in an extremely unfavorable light. Instead of moving on and coaching his candidate up for future appearances, DMaio called Diaz and made personal threats if the video was released. Then he called Warren.
Valdes’ recorded duplicity soon appeared on social media.
But that is not the end of the ugly episode. The five-minute video seen here continues to go viral and has been reported by several Tampa Bay media outlets. It calls attention to Valdes’ deceit regarding the acceptance of contributions. The candidate said she would not accept NRA money but would from the remaining three influential lobbies who only “want good government.”
That remark reflects how little regard Valdes had for the intelligence of her audience or voters in her district for that matter.
DeMaio’s well chronicled threats of retribution have, beyond Valdes’ own words, nearly cemented her fate. Her only hope is that, in a three-way race against Michael Alvarez and Chris Cano, two rational, capable candidates that appeal to a similar base, she can shoehorn her way to victory. José Vasquez, a write-in candidate, will be on the November ballot.
Valdes, a member of the Hillsborough County School Board, tripped out of the starting gate when she qualified for the House seat eleven days ago. She emailed her legally required resignation letter hours before last Friday’s deadline but after normal office courthouse hours.
On Monday, Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer announced that he had received her resignation by email at 7:30 p.m., although after regular office hours. He accepted it much to the dismay of the Alvarez campaign and independent observers.
Latimer is under close scrutiny on another issue: the transportation petition drive engineered by former hedge fund manager Jeff Vinik and other special interests.
Valdes, who made a last-minute entry to the race, was heavily subsidized by out of area, for profit, education corporations during her previous campaigns. It was during her last campaign that more than one-third of her funding was tied to those corporations and their executives.
Her anti-teacher union, pro-charter school votes reflect the return on their investment.
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