Miami Herald Endorses Mark Weithorn Despite His Financial Baggage

The Miami Herald editorial board sure knows how to back sketchy candidates. Last week, it recommended that voters go with Mark Weithorn in the race to replace Richard Steinberg, the Miami Beach state house rep who resigned in February after getting busted for sending inappropriate text messages to a married federal prosecutor. Weithorn, the husband of Miami Beach Commissioner Deede Weithorn, is the kind of candidate all too easily destroyed by public court records.

To wit: Voters around the Beach recently received in their mailboxes glossy yellow flyers stamped with Weithorn's mug and the headline "DEADBEAT." The cards' flip side highlights how the Florida Department of Revenue slapped Weithorn with six liens for not paying $4,054 in business sales taxes, and the $88,649 he owes Banco Popular for an unpaid Small Business Administration loan.

The county clerk's database confirms those debts, as well as $164,090 that Weithorn's digital printing company has owed Xerox since 2008 and $13,500 he has owed former business partner Glenn Schmidt since 2009. The copier manufacturer and Schmidt both won lawsuits, but Weithorn hasn't coughed up the dough yet.

Weithorn declined to comment about the debts. But in an email blast to Miami Beach voters, he decried the attack as the work of a "clandestine organization" controlled by political consultant Keith Donner, who's working for Weithorn's opponent Adam Kravitz, founder of the Jewish dating site JDate.

In the email, Weithorn blames the debts on a sour economy. "The pain and uncertainty truly have given me the complete understanding for the trials and tribulations this community has endured," he writes.

Donner emphatically confirms that his Citizen Action Inc. made and distributed the flyer. "It is all backed by the public record," he says.

He also slams Weithorn for failing to list his tax liens and the final judgments on his financial disclosure statement, in which candidates are required to publicly disclose their net worth, income, and liabilities. Weithorn's omissions violated state election law, Donner claims, so he should be removed from the August 14 primary ballot.

None of these issues troubled the Herald's editorial board members, apparently. A week after the ad was mailed, they gave him the thumbs-up.

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.