A former Florida state senator was arrested this week for allegedly violating election laws in a 2020 state senate race.
According to The Associated Press, GOP member Frank Artiles is accused of orchestrating a scheme to siphon votes from the Democratic incumbent José Javier Rodriguez, who ultimately lost the District 37 race by 32 votes to Republican challenger, Ileana Garcia. Authorities say Artiles had financed an independent candidate named Alex Rodriguez, giving him more than $44,000 to enter the race and potentially cause voter confusion by having two Rodriguez candidates on the same ballot.
Alex Rodriguez, who was also charged in the alleged scheme, never actively campaigned and has since admitted to being a shadow candidate. He and Artiles are facing three identical charges: making or receiving campaign contributions over or in excess of limits, conspiracy to make or receive two or more campaign contributions over or in excess of limits, and False swearing in connection with voting or elections—all of which are felonies.
“Rodriguez would run as an independent with the same last name as the incumbent candidate (Jose Javier Rodriguez) in an attempt to confuse voters and siphon votes from the incumbent,” a Miami Police Department investigator’s affidavit read.
Though Sen. Garcia is not implicated, many are demanding her to step down so that a special election can take place.
“Her victory is clearly tainted and will forever cast a cloud on her service in the Senate, not to mention the entire Florida Senate,” Manny Diaz, the Florida Democratic Party Chairman, said at a Friday press conference. “In the interest of fairness and the sanctity of our Democratic electoral process, we call on Sen. Garcia to resign immediately and that a fair special election be held as soon as possible.”
Artiles, who was released on bond Thursday afternoon, resigned from the Senate in 2017 after using racial slurs against Black Democratic senators.