MIAMI (WSVN) - A day after former Republican state Sen. Frank Artiles was arrested for allegedly violating election laws in a 2020 state Senate race, Florida Democrats called for a special election to fill the seat in question and for the candidate who won in November’s election to step down.
7News cameras captured Artiles as he arrived at his Palmetto Bay home after bonding out of jail, Thursday night.
On Friday, Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz and many of his colleagues expressed their concerns about the integrity of the election.
“It is clear, very clear by those of us here today that this election can’t stand. This election is tainted,” said Diaz.
They are also concerned about the integrity of the 2021 state legislative session already underway.
“What we have in the Senate today in Senator Garcia is someone who is the Barry Bonds of the Florida Senate,” said former state Sen. Javier Fernandez. “She has an asterisk next to her name, and I repeat the call of my friend and Chairman Diaz in her resigning her seat.”
Republican candidate Ileana Garcia won her seat in South Florida’s 37th District by just 32 votes.
Investigators said Artiles ensured that victory by planting a shadow candidate to confuse voters.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said that isn’t illegal, but the way Artiles went about it was.
“What is a crime is making illegal campaign contributions to get a candidate to run,” she said.
Last November, voters saw three candidates on the ballot: Garcia, Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez and no-party candidate Alex Rodriguez.
Authorities said Artiles paid Alex Rodriguez more than $44,000 to take part in the plot.
“I applaud the efforts of our state attorney with this recent investigation,” said Fernandez. “This investigation should be expanded. It’s my strong belief that, if they continue to look into his past activities, they will find his involvement in other races.”
The Democrats want Garcia, who, authorities said, was not involved in the plot, to resign at the end of the session and for a special election to be held for the seat.
“We want to see whether or not there is going to be a thorough investigation, not just Senate District 37, but any implications of what’s been going on with elections here in Florida,” said state Sen. Perry Thurston.
Florida Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer said it will take a bipartisan effort to right what they said is wrong.
“We can fix this problem right now, but we need Republicans to join with us and show that they are serious about stamping out election fraud,” he said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis could remove Garcia and order a special election to fill that seat, but that is not expected to happen.
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