Miami GOP House Candidate David Rivera Accused of Domestic Violence

07/14/2010 01:46 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Amid ethics complaints, calls to resign as Miami GOP chair and controversy, FL-25 US House candidate David Rivera is battling another charge: repeated acts of domestic violence. Marili Cancio, one of Rivera's GOP primary opponents and the mainstream Republican in the primary, says voters should be concerned with her rival's alleged domestic violence rap sheet. Cancio recently sent a message to her supporters on Facebook taunting the GOP front-runner, "'Repeat Violence' against a woman. Go ahead and raise money, you will need it."

Cancio is citing a 1994 case (seen above) in which a man, David M. Rivera (the same name as the candidate), was charged with repeated acts of violence against a South Florida woman, Jenia Dorticós. A summary of the case is found on the Miami Dade County Clerk of Courts public records website. However, no further details or court documents could be retrieved as Miami Dade County transitioned to paperless filings in 2008 and discarded records related to this case. 

In an interview last week, Cancio, a Miami attorney, said Rivera's domestic violence charges would guarantee a Democratic victory in November, saying "David does not hold a candle to Joe Garcia for the general election. If Rivera wins the primary we'll be giving the seat away." Cancio also had tough words for Rivera. "If the allegations are true, David Rivera shouldn't be running for any kind of office...he's the ultimate coward" she said in a phone interview.

While it may be unclear as to whether candidate David M. Rivera and the David M. Rivera listed as a repeat domestic violence offender in the Miami Dade Clerk of Courts website are the same person, sources familiar with the case, who asked not to be named out of fear of retribution, told us that Rivera and Dorticos do in fact know each other and dated in the 1990's. Public records also show that Rivera lived in Miami the year of the incident. He has consistently been referred to as "David M. Rivera" in other public records listings on the Clerk of Courts website for home purchases.

Rivera could not be reached for comment, however, a spokeswoman for his campaign, Leslie Vega, denied the allegations. In a recent interview with AmericaTeVe, a Miami-based Spanish language television station, Rivera attributed the public record listing to a computer malfunction. "Nowadays you can put a name into a computer and accusations come out," said the Republican state legislator, suggesting the same thing could happen to Paul Crespo, another Republican primary candidate, or Democrat Joe Garcia.

Political observers say that while Rivera may make it out of the Republican primary due to his high name recognition and overflowing campaign coffers, the domestic violence charges would deal a fatal blow to his campaign in the general election. "This district is a giant suburb that's been trending Democratic and where women are the decisive vote," said Michael Hernandez, a pollster at Penn Schoen Berland who has studied the race.

Hernandez added, "David Rivera's a single guy, and his Republican primary opponent says police records indicate that he is as repeat domestic violence offender. When you contrast that with Joe Garcia, who is campaigning on education and jobs, has a nice family and is a centrist in his politics, voters have a very stark contrast."

In recent weeks, the controversial Republican candidate came under fire for another relationship. The Miami Herald reported that Rivera, a hard-line proponent of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, maintains a close friendship with Ariel Pereda, a Miami businessman who advises American companies on how to trade with the island. Rivera denied the relationship. However, several of his Republican Florida House colleagues dismissed his denial as "silly," and Mary Ellen Miller, Rivera's immediate predecessor at the Miami Dade Republican Party, described the two men as "good friends" to the Miami Herald. Cancio's campaign also released a video of Rivera telling a Miami radio station he had not seen Pereda since 2006 contrasted with a video of the two men together at his campaign launch in February.

Rivera was also recently criticized when his campaign sent all of Florida International University's faculty and staff a fundraising solicitation. The letter cited funding that Rivera, as chairman of the Florida legislature's budget committee, appropriated to the school, prompting university Provost Douglas Wartzok to condemn the effort as inappropriate and Garcia's campaign to label it as "a shakedown." Rivera's campaign dismissed the controversy as "an internal FIU matter" to the Miami Herald.