State House Primary Heads To Court In Hialeah
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HIALEAH (CBSMiami/NSF) – A Republican primary between Representative Eddy Gonzalez and Maykel “Miguel” Balboa is generating plenty of controversy over an alleged smear campaign and is now headed to court as Gonzalez seeks to have Balboa thrown off the ballot.
The lawsuit alleged Balboa, a Miami political operative, and an electioneering communications organization have orchestrated a smear campaign against Gonzalez through allegedly illegal robo-calls and television ads about Gonzalez’s ties to other Miami-area politicians.
The lawsuit centers on a web of connections between Balboa; G&R Strategies LLC, listed on his disclosure as his sole source of income; Sasha Tirador, a political consultant listed as owner of G&R Strategies; and Citizens for a Reality Check, an ECO.
Balboa has challenged Gonzalez in House District 111, which runs from Hialeah into parts of Miami, including most of the Miami International Airport.
Gonzalez, whose lawyer is former Rep. J.C. Planas, alleges in the lawsuit that Balboa and the others illegally coordinated a campaign that included a television ad claiming Gonzalez had endorsed former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, a Democrat, and a recorded phone call saying Gonzalez was linked to absentee ballot fraud and was lying about support from Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
Gonzalez denies the charges in the ad and the robo-call.
The suit also says that Balboa has not reported raising enough money to fund a campaign that includes yard signs, mailers and T-shirts, suggesting that he is concealing his fundraising.
“BALBOA is obviously making a mockery of the financial disclosure laws by spending unreported amounts of money on his campaign without disclosing his contributions,” the suit says.
Balboa’s campaign finance disclosures to the Florida Secretary of State’s office list $2,000 in contributions, all on the same day, according to state records.
Those contributions included $500 each from G&R Strategies; Tirador; Ileana Abay, one of three officers of an inactive company called Dogestyle, Inc., for which Tirador was also an officer; and a company called R&G Solutions, Inc.
The Secretary of State’s office sent Balboa a letter dated July 30 saying that Balboa had not turned in a campaign finance disclosure due three days earlier.
Citizens for a Reality Check has been fined at least three times by the Florida Division of Elections since it was formed in 2011, most recently on July 30 for turning in a report three days late.
Neither Balboa nor Tirador immediately returned attempts to contact them Monday. Nestor Iglesias, the registered agent for Citizens for a Reality Check who is also listed as a defendant, did not return a message at the number listed for him on the most recent letter he sent to the Division of Elections.
In an email accompanying the complaint, Planas said Gonzalez would file an emergency motion on Tuesday to “freeze Balboa’s campaign” and the operations of the ECO.
“We will also be filing complaints with the Florida Elections Commission against Balboa and Citizens for their lack of transparency, violation of finance laws and the spending of unreported campaign contributions,” Planas said. “Additionally, we will be asking the Elections Commission to audit all of Citizen?s activity as we have evidence that they have been paying for all of Balboa?s campaign expenses through G&R.”