In Miami-Dade judicial jousts, it isn’t about a Hispanic name anymore

Renier Diaz de la Portilla loses second judicial bid, fourth race in a row

Whew! We can all breathe easier now that we know Renier Diaz de la Portilla will not be a judge. Even for a day.

Despite some very vicious and misleading (and possibly illegal) attacks against incumbent Miami-Dade County Judge Fred Seraphin — which he should still have to answer for — Baby DLP only got 43.5% of the vote. Big brother, Miami Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla, will now disappear into a fancy hotel room for several days to decompress (read: smoke, drink and sulk) and wonder how it may affect his own re-election next year.

This is Renier Diaz de la Portilla’s fourth rejection by voters after losing a state House race (to Manny Diaz, Jr., 2012), another judicial race (to Veronica Diaz, 2016), and a county commission race (to Eileen Higgins, 2020). Will there be a fifth attempt to get on the public trough, since he can’t keep a job? Why, yes.

Read related: Candidate Renier Diaz de la Portilla doesn’t meet judicial canon standards

Fredo himself told Ladra via text on Tuesday that he would run for judge again.

“Like Regan, like Bush, like Biden, I am a public servant,” he wrote shortly after 9 p.m. “And your smut blog will not deter me. Don’t you get that?

“I will announce shortly, with real journalists. You’ll be the last to know.”

But DLP was not the only Hispanic judicial candidate that may have been slightly surprised at their defeat Tuesday. He is not the only Hispanic who challenged a non-Hispanic incumbent judge. This is an old Miami-Dade political practice and the Hispanic candidate almost always had an advantage countywide. After Tuesday, this is no longer a given.

Circuit Court Judge Lody Jean, who by all accounts is very good at her job and very respected, beat Tessa “Teresa” Tylman Cervera, who added her husband’s Latino name to hers specifically for the ballot. Tylman denied it, but public documents show that she only recently made the change and the race basically became about that.

Read related: 14 Miami-Dade judicial candidates qualify for county, circuit court races

Brenda Guerrero didn’t have to change her name to lose to incumbent Circuit Court Judge Robert Watson, who got 53% to her 47%.

Two Hispanics who did beat non-Hispanic incumbents did it with very close numbers. Lissette de la Rosa and Ariel Rodriguez won their bids, respectively, to unseat judges Jeffrey Koloff and Mark Blumstein with 51% of the vote to their 49%. And Oscar Rodriguez-Fonts held onto the bench by less, with 50.35% of the vote against former judge Jason Bloch‘s 49.65%.

Only Alina Garcia Priovolos won comfortably against incumbent Judge Scott Janowitz, with 60% of the vote to his 40%.

Are voters more sophisticated these days? Smarter?

In judicial races, voters often rely on friends and relatives who work as attorneys to point out the best candidates and organizations like the Cuban American Bar Association provide qualification ratings and endorsements. Diaz de la Portilla got very low ratings and Seraphin’s were very high.

Read related: Renier Diaz de la Portilla uses brother’s PAC to attack with lie in judicial race

JC Planas, a former state rep who is now a prolific election attorney, said that the huge amount of negative campaigning by the Diaz de la Portilla campaign — which mailed out the same attack mailers several times — may have also backfired.

“Character matters,” said Planas, who has filed a bar complaint against Renier Diaz de la Portilla and ethics complaints against both him and his brother Alex, whose PAC was used to smear Judge Seraphin with lies.

They may as well take away Renier’s license. Because Ladra doesn’t know how he’s going to work as an attorney in front of any judge now.

Would you hire him? Exactly.