State Senator Allegedly Paid Man With Same Last Name As His Opponent To Run In Election, Confuse Voters

(Screenshot/CBS Miami/YouTube)

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Former Republican Florida state senator Frank Artiles was arrested Thursday for allegedly hiring a sham candidate with the same last name as the Democratic incumbent to manipulate a political race.

Investigators allege that Artiles paid $44,708.03 to Alexis “Alex” Pedro Rodriguez to run in the Miami-Dade’s 37th Senate district race during the November 2020 election. The plan was intended to siphon votes from Democrat José Javier Rodríguez, according to the Miami Herald.

José Rodríguez lost the election to Miami Republican Ileana Garcia by a margin of 32 votes. The “ghost” candidate Alexis Rodriguez, who ran as an independent, earned 6,000 votes.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said Artiles contacted Alexis Rodriguez through Facebook messenger in May 2020, when Rodriguez made it clear that he was experiencing “dire financial difficulties,” according to NBC 6 South Florida.

Artiles helped Alexis Rodriguez to falsify qualifying paperwork using his old driver’s license which indicated Rodriguez’s old Palmetto Bay address, Fernandez Rundle said.

“Running a ghost candidate like Alex Pedro Rodriguez is not a crime in Florida,” Fernandez Rundle said Thursday at a press conference. “These things are not crimes. Is it an attack on our democracy, is it a dirty political trick? Absolutely.”

Artiles and Alexis Rodriguez have been charged with three counts of election manipulation. All three are third-degree felonies.