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MIAMI (CBSMiami/NSF) – Political newcomer Daniel Perez handily won a Republican primary Tuesday for a Miami-Dade County state House seat, overcoming an opponent who had support from top-flight GOP names including former Gov. Jeb Bush.
Perez had 54.82 percent of the vote in the special primary in House District 116, to 45.18 percent for Jose Mallea.
Perez will face Gabriela Mayaudon, a Democrat and former Venezuelan legislator, in the Sept. 26 special general election.
House Republicans leaders were already lining up behind Perez, whose win was something of an upset given Mallea’s endorsements and fundraising advantage.
“Congrats Daniel Perez on your hard fought victory tonight,” tweeted Rep. Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican slated to become House speaker after the 2020 elections. “FL House Republicans stand ready to see you across the finish line. On to victory.”
Mallea raised nearly $265,000 in the race, compared to $168,000 for Perez. Mallea also had the endorsements of Bush, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, and some business groups.
Perez, for his part, won the backing of the Florida Medical Association Political Action Committee. His website touts his support for President Donald Trump — a divisive figure in Miami-Dade — and Perez accused Mallea of disloyalty to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, whose first Senate campaign Mallea managed.
Mallea’s campaign was also tough, attacking Perez for photographs featuring the candidate and his fiancee in Cuba and filing a lawsuit alleging Perez had been misleading about his residency in campaign filings.
Perez enters the general election as the favorite; former Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, a Republican, carried District 116 by almost 24 points in November.
Diaz resigned from the seat to try to succeed former Sen. Frank Artiles, a Miami Republican who resigned in April after directing a racially charged outburst at a fellow senator in a members-only club near the Capitol. Diaz won the Republican primary Tuesday in the Senate District 40 race.
Democrats said they will fight for the House seat. Rep. Kionne McGhee, a Miami Democrat in line to become the party’s House leader after the 2018 elections, issued a statement Tuesday backing Mayaudon, who was unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
“We stand with our candidate in House District 116 as we work every day towards progress for working families in the Florida House,” McGhee said. “The path to taking back the House runs through Miami-Dade County. We also stand firmly with Gabriela and Venezuelan-Americans all across Florida against the cruel deprivation of the people of Venezuela and the erosion of democratic rights there.”
The News Service of Florida’s Brandon Larrabee contributed to this report.