MIAMI — Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) remains convinced that he will win reelection despite ongoing investigations into alleged donations he received or gave to others in hopes of advancing his political career.
The freshman Republican admits that he faces a tougher contest this year — not because of the allegations against him, but because the political winds that swept him into office two years have shifted and Democratic voter turnout is expected to be higher because of the presidential election.
2chambers spoke with Rivera Saturday afternoon at La Capital de Los Jugos, a new Cuban restaurant in his district opened by supporters. Rivera made the stop after earlier in the day helping to release a 200-pound sea turtle back into the Florida Straits.
Our interview, edited for length and clarity, appears below:
2chambers: I’ve seen your statements on the alleged investigations into your campaign activities. I know last weekend you said you hadn’t heard anything yet from federal investigators, have you heard anything since?
2chambers: What have you done in the past that would compel investigators to look into you?
Rivera: You really need to ask them, because no federal agency has ever said I’m under federal investigation for anything. You need to call the DEA, or the IRS, or the FBI or the CIA or the KGB or the ABC or the XYZ or the LMNOP. Ask them. They might be able to say something. But so far, none of them have said anything.
2chambers: And the issue with a payment from a race track is over, because the statute of limitations has passed, correct?
Rivera: Well, there was nothing with that anyway. This was a fishing expedition that became a wild goose chase. And it became a partisan-motivated witch hunt. Because all of the allegations were dismissed and unfounded.
2chambers: Would you be farther ahead in the polls if none of this had occurred?
Rivera: You have to remember, this is not 2010. In 2010, you had a wave rejecting the failed economic policies of the first two years of the Obama administration. You had a huge tea party movement. You don’t hear the words “tea party” very much in this election. So it’s a different dynamic.
When you have a non-presidential year like 2010, your challenging in turning out your vote is heightened. In a presidential election, everybody turns out. So it’s a different dynamic no matter what is in the news. You’re going to have a tighter race simply because a turnout model is much different from 2010.
I would say, if you had told me two years ago when I first got elected – I was elected in November. By Thanksgiving, the wave of Miami Herald attack pieces had begun. Starting at Thanksgiving, going through my inaugural, going through the last year and a half, literally nonstop through my first term, the Miami Herald trying to write articles about fishing expeditions and politically-motivated state investigations. So if you told me that after all of that, what they’ve tried to achieve in terms of my reelection, we’re in a very good spot.
2chambers: Do you know Justin Lamar Sternad, who you allegedly paid to run against Joe Garcia in the Democratic primary?
Rivera: I’ve never met him in my life.
2chambers: Never? And have any of your staffers?
Rivera: No, never.
2chambers: If you are reelected and it turns out that you are indeed under investigation, what will you do? Would you resign or stay on the job?
Rivera: When I got elected in 2010, the first articles that came out were about supposed investigations. I completely ignored those media reports and focused on my job. It won’t be any different.
2chambers: Is it true that the Romney campaign asked you not to campaign with them here? Or that you weren’t invited?
Rivera: I’ve never had a conversation about it.
2chambers: Why shouldn’t Joe Garcia be elected to Congress?
Rivera: For the same reason he hasn’t been elected the last three times. He’s been running for office for 20 years, he’s a career candidate. He first ran in 1992 for the county commission. He was rejected by the voters then. Then he ran for Congress, he was rejected by the voters. Then he ran for Congress again and guess what? He was rejected by the voters.
And the reason that he’s rejected by the voters is because he’s never, ever contributed anything to this community. He’s never promoted job creation or economic development. I think most people see him just as a career candidate looking for a job, rather than somebody looking to serve the public. So he should be rejected in this particular election, because he supports the failed economic policies of Obama and Pelosi, in terms of tax increases and increased regulations. He doesn’t support an agenda of fiscal responsibility, of fighting the national debt, of trying to move the economy forward.
So for different reasons he’s been rejected in the past, and in 2012 that’s why he should be rejected.
2chambers: Congress remains terribly unpopular and according to the records, this was the most unproductive session in modern history. If a voter asks you about that, how do you justify or defend it?
2chambers: You mean the 32 bills passed by House Republican?
Rivera: Yes, we’ve passed bills having to do with job creation and the economy. You say Congress – Congress is a bicameral legislature, of course – but if you talk to people about the record of achievement in the House, versus the record of failure in the Senate, those poll numbers will be more contributed to the dysfunctional Senate than the House. We’ve actually passed legislation that sits languishing in the U.S. Senate.
When I talk to people about the difference in Congress, between a dysfunctional, failing Senate and the House of Representatives that has actually produced results.
2chambers: How is Mitt Romney going to win Florida?
Rivera: I think he’s already well on his way to winning Florida. I would not be surprised if by next Saturday Obama pulls out or starts pulling out resources. If the trend keeps going the way it is, it seems they’ve set up their firewall in Ohio, and maybe in Wisconsin and Iowa.
If that indeed is their firewall, and they see Romney here keeping pace, he could win Florida by five or six or seven points.
2chambers: How is your colleague Connie Mack going to win the U.S. Senate race in Florida?
Rivera: A lot of Connie Mack and some of my race is going to depend on the top of the ticket – Obama and Romney. But the better Romney does, the better Connie will do. I remember when I worked on his dad’s campaign in 1988 and Bush won Florida by double digits, that’s why Connie Mack Sr. was able to get in to the Senate. If Romney starts getting up there in those six, seven, eight percentage points, that helps Connie a lot.