Saturday, June 11, 2011

Gimenez House in Hialeah 'hood

Maybe Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Carlos Gimenez digs Hialeah, after all.

The former county commissioner has taken some disproportionate flack for a robocall that disses the City of Progress, which he says his campaign has nothing to do with (more on that later). But he sure spends a lot of time there. Saturday's caravan through the streets of Hialeah was not the first visit. He'd been to Maruch and Chico's restaurants before the robocall controversy. And likely it won't be the last visit, either. A little bird told Ladra that Gimenez will be waving at Hialeah drivers like he did Saturday from the corner of West 16th Ave and 49th Street -- la esquina que todo el mundo camina -- for the next two weekends. Let's hope he stays for more than five minutes (we were told by one of the many Hialeah firefighters there that he was late for another event or appointment).

Because Hialeah is worth the time. Voters here were more motivated May 24 than in any other part of Miami-Dade, with a 24 percent turnout compared to 16 countywide. Some precincts reported turnout as high as 35 percent. What's not to like? Well, maybe the disproportionate numbers of increasingly questionable absentee ballots that have been a staple of every victory won by former Hialeah mayor Julio Robaina, (more on that later) who got up to 70 and 75 percent of the vote last month in many city precincts. Hialeah -- and maybe absentee votes -- are what got him that 5 point spread victory in the primary.

So, it's only natural that Gimenez --whose numbers can only go up while Robaina's numbers can only go down, as reportedly evidenced by two internal polls, one on each side, that allegedly have the former commissioner leading -- would spend some time in Hialeah. He's recently had breakfast with his family at the two aforementioned political watering holes. This time, he started with breakfast at Maruch with his brood. And about 30 friends. Sporting an I {heart} Hialeah sticker upon his nerdwear (what's with the shirt and tie on a Saturday?) and talking to a busload of Gimenez shirt-wearing volunteers, the former commissioner acknowledged that they were in enemy territory. "Some people out there are not going to like us being here," he told them. "That's okay. We can't worry about that."

Also along for the ride this time: Former State Rep. (REP, District 116) and future candidate for something or other Marcelo Llorente and his campaign operatives Alex Ferro and JC Planas. Llorente, who placed third on May 24 and endorsed Gimenez right away, rode with Gimenez and his family ahead of the air-conditioned bus in the back of a large military-style truck. On board, too (the truck and the campaign): former Hialeah Police Chief Rolando Bolaños -- whose sharp and illustrated criticism of Robaina's adminstration is well documented on his facebook page -- his son, Danny Bolaños, a Hialeah Housing Authority employee and former and current council candidate (more on that later) and some Hialeah firefighters, who also drove trucks of their own in the early afternoon caravan of more than a dozen vehicles. Only Raul Martinez, the former mayor and current Hialeah mayoral candidate who has already given his support to Gimenez (or anybody but Robaina, really) was MIA. He would have been the cherry on top.

With these political heavyweights behind him, Llorente's 10-12 percent showing in some Hialeah precincts last month and the technical and moral support of the increasingly influential firefighters union -- not to mention the hits Julito is taking in the media about his business dealings and possible fiscal shortfalls at the city (read: missing money), many of which are being researched and leaked by members of the increasingly influential firefighters union -- Ladra thinks Gimenez is making a good investment of his limited time by spending some in his enemy's home turf, nicking away at it one vote at a time. (Plus, the chutzpah makes him sexy. Which is what Carlos needs more than anything else).

Let's see if Robaina carries the same or even similar weight in his Jockeys and shows up Thursday morning to a mayoral debate in Palmetto Bay, a Gimenez stronghold. I dare you, Julito. You can take your "we" committee for backup.

@everyone else: Ladra will start taking bets now.

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