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ARZA FLAP CAUSES UPROAR By Victoria Langley

October 25th, 2006 by flanews

Lawmakers and leaders in the black community are outraged over a South Florida legislator’s continued use of racial slurs. House leaders have asked Hialeah Representative Ralph Arza to resign after he left a message laced with profanity and racial epithets on another lawmaker’s cell phone. So far Arza is refusing to step down, and the uproar comes at a very bad time for Republicans.

South Florida Representative Ralph Arza gave an unprecedented and what many now consider insincere apology from the House floor last spring, after being accused of using the “n-word” to refer to Miami’s black school superintendent.

“I ask for your forgiveness and understanding if I have ever offended anyone by anything I have said,” Arza said last April.

Now the same lawmakers who embraced him are calling for Arza’s ouster. The Hialeah Republican left another racial slur and string of profanities on a fellow legislator’s voice mail over the weekend. Anita Davis with the NAACP says the ugly situation sends a disturbing message to the state and the nation.

“Are we going backward?” Davis said. “Are we putting people in office who shouldn’t be there to represent us?”

House leaders are angry too, and considering everything from censure to expulsion.

“The speaker is extremely disappointed in Representative Arza’s behavior,” said House spokesman Towson Frasier. “He’s taking it very seriously.”

Ralph Arza is the first sitting legislator in Florida to be threatened with expulsion for racist remarks. The scandal comes at a time Republicans can’t afford any negative publicity.

Jeb Bush condemned the remarks. But he downplayed any potential impact on the election, now less than two weeks away.

“You can’t cast aspersions on an entire party based on the actions of one person,” Bush said.”

But in the wake of the Mark Foley scandal and other problems, this latest controversy certainly won’t help Republican candidates.

The Florida House Democratic Caucus adopted a resolution demanding Rep. Ralph Arza’s resignation during an emergency conference call today. If Arza does not resign, they called for his explusion.

Ralph Arza is up for re-election this fall, but his only opponent is a write-in candidate. If he resigns his house seat prior to the election, Republican leaders would be able to appoint his replacement, but Arza’s name will still appear on the ballot.

We formally made a public request this afternoon of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to review a copy of Arza’s cell phone message.

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