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Florida Democrats call for election redo after former state senator allegedly tampered with race

Florida Democrats are demanding a special election take place for a state Senate seat after a Republican was accused of tampering with last year’s contest that could have thrown the race to the GOP.

The Democrats are calling on state Sen. Ileana Garcia (R) to resign and for officials to set up a special election after former Republican state Sen. Frank Artiles was arrested on Thursday for allegedly planting a shadow candidate to defeat Democratic incumbent José Javier Rodriguez in state Senate District 37.

“Her victory is clearly tainted and will forever cast a cloud on her service in the Senate, not to mention the entire Florida Senate. 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,” Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz said at a press conference Friday. 

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“This election in Senate District 37 was manipulated and it was decided by 32 votes. So it is clear that the manipulation had an impact on the outcome of the election,” added state Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer. “The best way to make sure this doesn’t occur again is to redo the election in SD 37 and ensure that we have a fair election and pass laws that protect the integrity of our elections.”

The statements come a day after Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle rolled out the charges against Artiles, who resigned from the Florida state senate in 2017 after using a racial slur in a conversation with Black colleagues.

Artiles allegedly paid Alex Rodriguez $44,000 to run in the election, which also featured the incumbent state senator and Garcia. Investigators allege that Artiles put Alex Rodriguez in the race in the hopes that voters would be confused by his identical last name with José Javier Rodriguez and he would siphon votes away from the Democratic candidate.

The controversy comes as both parties still grapple with the ramifications of the 2020 presidential election, which former President TrumpDonald TrumpVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Arizona Republicans to brush off DOJ concern about election audit FEC drops investigation into Trump hush money payments MORE and other Republicans allege was marred with fraud despite presenting no evidence to back up their claims.