Meet David M. Rivera. In 1994, a woman named Jenia Dorticos filed a petition for a domestic-violence restraining order against him in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.
Now, meet David Mauricio Rivera. He’s a Republican candidate for Congress in Florida’s 25th district — one that the National Republican Congressional Committee singled out as a “Young Gun.” Since 2002, he’s been a member of Florida House of Representatives, working his way up to his current position in which he oversees the state budget for education, transportation, housing and economic development.
Rivera has worked closely with GOP Senate nominee Marco Rubio. They are so close, in fact, that Rivera refers to himself as a “disciple” of Rubio, and the two owned a Tallahassee house together until last month, when it went into foreclosure (a fact Rivera initially denied).
And so begins the story of another strange election controversy in the Sunshine State, revealed in an joint investigation by the Miami Herald and a local television station.
So are David M. and David Mauricio one-in-the-same? No, says the candidate, he doesn’t even know Dorticos, and a statement from from the woman obtained by Riveras’ lawyers agrees.
“It’s Miami,” NRCC spokeswoman Joanna Burgos told TPMMuckraker. “There are lots of David M. Riveras.”
But a Miami woman told the Herald that about 10 years ago, Rivera and Dorticos came to her home as a couple to attend a dinner party. And Dorticos’ mother also once worked on one of Rivera’s political campaigns, records show. Doriticos’ mother, the popular Cuban TV personality Hilda Rabilero, showed up in a Facebook picture with Rivera (along with an actor from Scarface) that was removed from the candidate’s page. Rabilero said the politician doesn’t know her daughter, though she also denies that Dorticos filed any request for a restraining order.
Because court files like the one in this case are destroyed after five years in Florida, only an electronic record of the petition with no additional identifying information remains. In a statement, David Mauricio Rivera said that to suggest he was the individual in the case “is a blatant and shameful lie.”
But a longtime Republican activist in the area told TPMMuckraker that it was well known that a consultant working for Rivera’s 2002 opponent Ray Gonzalez had someone go into courthouse and look at the original court document to confirm other identifying information.
According to the Miami Herald, Dorticos would not identify the David M. Rivera she named in her 1994 complaint, but said she did not know the politician.
But to counter the attacks against Rivera in 2002, the campaign released it’s own ad for Rivera featuring a photo of Dorticos. She could not explain how they obtained the photo, but said she may have been contacted by the campaign at the time. The fliers also featured a quote from Dorticos.
The intrigue doesn’t stop there. Back in 2002, David Mauricio Rivera, as you can imagine, was plenty upset when his opponent in the race for what is now his Florida House seat printed negative campaign leaflets that called him a proponent of domestic violence and placed his face next to that of a battered woman. “Reject Domestic Violence — Reject David Rivera,” read the ad.
Maybe that’s why on Sept. 6, 2002, a car driven by David Mauricio Rivera ran into a Liberty Mailing Services truck carrying those fliers, forcing it off the road just before the post office closed. See the accident report here.
Watch the local television report on the controversy is below.
Late update: In a statement from the campaign passed along by the NRCC, David Mauricio Rivera again denied being the David M. Rivera in the domestic violence case:
“When I ran for the Florida state house in 2002, a last minute campaign mailer was sent falsely accusing me of domestic violence. The mailer cited a 1994 case involving another individual also named David Rivera. In my 2010 campaign for Congress, some of my opponents have tried to use these same false allegations from 2002 to libel, slander and defame my character. While I find it offensive to even dignify these false allegations with any response at all, let me be clear: The 1994 case has absolutely nothing to do with me. I am not the David Rivera in that case and to suggest otherwise is a blatant and shameful lie. Campaigns should be based on issues, not false personal attacks.” - David Rivera
The full statement from the victim’s mother, in which she slams Rivera’s opponent in FL-25, Democrat Joe Garcia. She did not mention Rivera’s opponents for the GOP nomination, who have also raised the issue (Paul Crespo on a website and Marili Cancio, in a television interview earlier this month, according to the Miami Herald). Here’s her statement:
“My name is Hilda Rabilero. For the past several months someone running for Congress in Miami, named Joe Garcia, has been victimizing and violating my daughter’s privacy over and over again in his campaign. Joe Garcia has been using my daughter Jenia by spreading lies and false accusations regarding domestic violence. He has spread these lies just to try and win an election. Joe Garcia should be ashamed of himself. My daughter and I demand that Joe Garcia stop slandering and abusing my daughter’s reputation and stop his shameless lies about her. My daughter and our entire family expect an immediate apology from Garcia. The next time Joe Garcia wants to denigrate a woman’s reputation just for his selfish political purposes, he’d better leave my daughter and my family out of his repulsive tactics.”
Later update: “I just wanted to make sure it’s clear, David is fighting off false allegations,” said spokeswoman Sarah Bascom. “The Miami Herald was chasing this for weeks, and couldn’t find anything.” The discrepancy between the the victim and her mother over whether there was any request for a restraining order is “not something for us to comment on, that would be a question to ask the mother,” Bascom said.
Bascom chalked the issue up to politics, which “knows no party affiliation” she said. The GOP primary is Tuesday.
“Democrats as well as Republicans are trying to muddy it up because they don’t want to run against David,” who Bascom described as a strong conservative.
Ed. Note: This post has been edited from the original.