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GOP Florida Ex-Senator Frank Artiles Allegedly Paid Candidate to Run in Scheme to Confuse Voters

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Former Frank Artiles, a former Florida state senator, has been arrested for allegedly paying a man $44,708.03 to run as a state Senate “spoiler” candidate. The candidate was hired to confuse voters and siphon votes from the Democratic incumbent in the 2020 race, legal authorities said.

Artiles turned himself into a Miami-Dade County jail on Thursday to face felony campaign finance charges, The Miami Herald reported. Prosecutors allege that he paid nearly $45,000 to Alexis “Alex” Pedro Rodriguez to run in Miami-Dade’s 37th Senate district race during the November 2020 election.

Rodriguez ran as a no-party candidate who shared a last name with the incumbent, Democrat José Javier Rodríguez. As such, Alexis Rodriguez’s candidacy existed purely to confuse voters about which Rodriguez was their preferred candidate, effectively attracting votes away from the incumbent, prosecutors alleged.

José Rodríguez ended up losing the election to Miami Republican Ileana Garcia by just 32 votes. Alexis Rodriguez received over 6,000 votes. Garcia’s victory helped establish a Republican majority in the state Senate.

Former Florida state senator Frank Artiles has been arrested for allegedly paying a “spoiler candidate” to run in the 2020 Florida Senate election. The candidate was intended to confuse voters, authorities said, because he shared a last name with the incumbent who was also running for re-election. In this photo, a man shows his “I Voted” sticker after casting his ballot at the Indian Creek Fire Station 4 in Miami, Florida on November 3, 2020.
Chandan Khanna / AFP/Getty

Other details about Alexis Rodriguez’s candidacy also raised investigators’ suspicions. He was an auto parts dealer who had never run for office before. He neither campaigned nor did media interviews before the election. He was a registered Republican until two days before he filed to run for office. He listed his personal address as a house in Palmetto Bay even though he lived in a rented house in Boca Raton, a dwelling located in the state’s 22nd Senate district.

Alexis Rodriguez’s landlord told the Herald that he seemed to be financially struggling. He often paid his rent late, usually with cash and once with a bounced check. His financial situation raised questions about how he could’ve afforded the $1,187.88 cost to appear on the ballot.

He also received no political contributions, reported no bank savings and had $15,000 in credit card debt, according to campaign finance records.

Facebook messages from mid-May 2020 show Artiles offering money to run, encouraging him to change his party affiliation and instructing him to use his Palmetto Bay address. Artiles also reportedly provided Alexis Rodriguez with the money to appear on the ballot, the election forms required to run as well as the attorney who notarized the forms upon completion.

“Artiles explained that Rodriguez would not be involved in any part of the campaign, nor would he have to participate in any decision making,” the arrest warrant stated.

Authorities have also arrested Alexis Rodriguez in connection with the felony.

Alexis Rodriguez’s attorney, William Barzee, said in a statement, “Frank Artiles and his co-conspirators knew they couldn’t beat José Javier Rodriguez in a fair election so they rigged it.”

“Artiles cynically targeted and used a vulnerable ‘friend’ with a great name to run in the race in order to confuse voters and steal the election,” Barzee continued.

The Liberty Buzz contacted the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office for comment.

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