Redondo condo? GOP candidate wins state House race in South Florida amid questions over district residency
A well-funded Republican lawyer won a closer-than-expected election Tuesday to Florida's House in a heavily leaning GOP district in South Florida, amid questions about the lawmaker-elect’s residency.
Michael David Redondo, 38, of Miami, won with 52% of the vote in the low-turnout special election for House District 118, with all precincts counted. His challenger, Democrat Johnny Gonzalo Farias, 54, of Miami, received 46% of votes. A non-affiliated candidate received just under 3% of votes. Farias previously lost the election for the same seat last year 68% to 32%.
Redondo, a lawyer who runs his own law firm, said he signed a 12-month lease for an apartment behind a shopping center in the district in June and updated his voter registration records June 22 to reflect his new address.
That was just days after Redondo bought a two-bedroom luxury, waterfront condominium for $950,000 that is 20 miles away in House District 113, according to property records. He signed a 30-year mortgage May 30 for $727,000 that required him to live in the condo as his principal residence for at least one year, records showed.
The residency clause in the mortgage Redondo signed required that he live in the 21st-floor, corner-unit condo starting no later than July 2023, or within 60 days after he signed the mortgage. The condo features two balconies with views of Biscayne Bay and downtown Miami, a private elevator, floor-to-ceiling windows and a stainless steel kitchen. His leased apartment across town has a view of a parking lot and the back of the shopping mall.
Asked this week whether he was violating the mortgage clause by living in an apartment across town, he said, "Not that I'm aware of." The mortgage is a publicly accessible document filed with the county clerk of court – a government office that in this case is overseen by the former incumbent Republican lawmaker in District 118 who Redondo is replacing.
The mortgage provision permits Redondo to live elsewhere but only with written approval in advance from the lender, City National Bank of Florida. Redondo said he did not know whether he obtained that permission, in writing or otherwise. Such residency clauses are usually imposed by lenders offering a lower interest rate on a mortgage for a person's primary residence than would be available for an investment property.
Muddying the residency issue further, Redondo’s tax preparer submitted to the IRS his 2022 return on Aug. 7 this year – nearly two months after Redondo said he moved into the apartment in District 118. It listed Redondo’s home address as the same building in District 113 where Redondo had purchased the luxury condo in May, records showed.
Redondo said he had been renting a different condo in the same building on the 34th floor since September 2020. He said he moved in June to the apartment on Southwest 122nd Avenue near the Kendallgate Shopping Center, which includes a pet store, a cosmetics store, a sneaker outlet and a crafts store.
One day before Redondo’s tax preparer signed and dated his return listing Redondo’s home address as the condo building, Redondo separately submitted a signed and notarized candidate oath to the Florida Division of Elections listing his home address as the apartment behind the shopping center, records showed.
Asked whether he intended to live in the apartment during his entire time in the Legislature, Redondo answered, "God, no," and said he was still looking for a permanent home in District 118.
Redondo did not immediately respond to a phone message and text Tuesday night after he won the election.
In an interview Tuesday night, Farias said he wanted to examine Redondo’s residency issues more closely. He said if issues could result in the election results being challenged, he would do so. Florida law requires that a candidate be a resident of the district upon taking office.
It wasn’t clear how serious election regulators might consider Redondo’s home address issues, or whether Redondo can resolve them within weeks before he formally takes office in January.
He already updated his Florida driver’s license to reflect the address of the apartment in District 118: He was ticketed in October by Miami Beach police for failing to carry proof of insurance, but a judge dismissed the citation – which listed the apartment as Redondo’s home address – weeks later when Redondo showed he had insurance.
In 2017, former Miami state Rep. Daisy Baez, a Democrat, was forced to resign from office and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor perjury charge for lying about her address on a voter registration form. She accepted a plea deal that called for her to quit and serve one year of probation.
Baez, who lasted less than a year in office, was not living in the district for which she was running in 2016. Investigators believe Baez lied when she filled out a voter registration form changing her address to a condo in the district days before the November 2016 election. She paid a $1,000 fine, took an ethics course and served one year of probation, during which she was banned from seeking public office.
The issues with Redondo’s addresses were discovered during routine election reporting on the race and its candidates by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. It discovered the issues Monday, too close to Election Day to report fairly without influencing the outcome of the race.
Redondo said he is the son of Cuban immigrants and grew up in the district until his family moved away after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. He raised more than twice as much money in the campaign – and spent nearly twice as much – as his Democratic rival.
House District 118 is a narrow strip of suburban neighborhoods west of Miami that extends north from Homestead to Southwest 8th Street. Redondo drew exceptional support from the district’s northern precincts, while Farias was more competitive in the south.
Tuesday’s election turnout was exceptionally low, at about 7.7%, or just under 9,000 total votes among 113,269 registered voters in the district. Special elections typically draw fewer voters.
Ahead of the election, Republicans held an advantage of 83-35 in the House and 28-12 in the Senate.
Candidates were competing for the House seat vacated when Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed the incumbent, a Republican, to become the county court clerk. Then-Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin, 40, of Miami, resigned June 16. Redondo signed a document announcing his candidacy on June 15.
In addition to his new condo now worth an estimated $997,400, Redondo also owns a $796,600 condominium on Bird Road in Coconut Grove that he bought in 2013 and rents for $2,750 monthly, and a $731,700 five-bedroom duplex in Miami north of Little Havana he rents for $4,850 per month, according to tax and property records.
On his tax returns and financial records submitted to the state, Redondo estimated his net worth at $1.1 million and last year reported a gross income of $449,537.
Redondo said the biggest policy issues facing his constituents are the lack of affordable housing and rising homeowners insurance premiums. He said voters in his district reported insurance policies increasing 50% or even doubling in cost.
Redondo said he was honest with voters that it may take time for insurance costs to stabilize.
“I can tell you that we're not telling constituents that vote for Mike Redondo and next year your premiums are coming down,” he said. “That's not true. And what's going to happen is it's going to take some time to fix this issue, because it's a complicated issue. And it's one that's taken many years to get into and can take some time to get us out of.”
Redondo also said voters in District 118 pay too many turnpike tolls. The Ronald Reagan Turnpike, a toll road, runs alongside the apartment he rented and intersects to the south with the Don Shula Expressway, another toll road.
“It's almost like another version of a tax that people in my district are paying because you really don't have any other options to get out,” he said.
During the campaign, Redondo raised $261,517 – including nearly $90,000 from state Republican organizations. His campaign spent $122,319, with more than $107,000 going to Marin & Sons Inc., a Miami-based political consulting firm that worked with Redondo on voter outreach, consulting, yard signs and polling.
Farias raised $104,654 with no major help from state Democratic groups and spent $67,121. Last year, in the election he lost, Farias loaned his campaign $50,000.
In the 2022 campaign, Fernandez-Barquin raised $509,863 for the seat and spent $346,080.
This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can donate to support our students here.