If at first you don't succeed, don't waste the name recognition and run again.
That's a life lesson apparently learned and, now, applied by Frank Lago, chief of staff to Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Maroño, who just took a stab at a state rep seat and lost to cigar czar Jose Oliva (Rep. District 110). So he's taking a stab at an easier target: Hialeah City Council.
Lago, 30, confirmed to Ladra late Tuesday that he was, indeed, going to run for a council seat and would file within the next few days. He also said it was not his idea.
"I've been called by a couple of people in the community," said Lago, who knocked on thousands of doors and did well in Hialeah, where he says he has lived for six years. (He did well in Hialeah and lost the race in Miami Lakes, Oliva's home, and unincorporated Miami-Dade). He's already polled voters and says he is pleased with his name recognition among the incumbents: Only Council President Isis "Gavelgirl" Garcia-Martinez has more name game (read: watch him run against one of the others or in the open seat). That stands to reason: "I spent a lot of money in Hialeah," he said, referring to the bulk of his $100,000 state campaign effort, most of which went to absentee ballot queen Sasha Tirador, whose machine Ladra will be watching closely again.
Lago said he has always been drawn to "Tallahassee politics" and wanted to try something other than a municipality, which is his day job. "What convinced me was the residents in the area have been calling. They say there are problems. They thought that I can bring my municipal experience, especially now that there's a $13 million deficit. If it wasn't for the residents, the people who supported me in Hialeah, I wouldn't be doing this."
He hasn't aligned himself with anyone, yet, and says he wants to see more from the mayoral candidates before committing. "The three candidates have reached out to me," he said, and he was not referring to State Rep. Eddy Gonzalez (Rep. District 102), a very telling omission that bolsters rumors Gonzalez will stay in his state seat. "It is too premature to determine who I will go with," Lago said.
It's far enough along, however, to know he will likely not be slate buddy with intern mayor Carlos Hernandez, "because of what he's proposing," Lago said, referring to the $4 million revolving credit line the mini mayor wants so he can "feel better" about the general fund with the secret true balance you have to ask in writing for. "We have a deficit and we need to create new avenues of revenue," Lago said. "It's unbelievable to me that we're going to cover this gap with a credit line."
Both Martinez and Garcia confirmed that they had spoken to Lago and both said he was a quite viable candidate. "He has good name recognition" said former mayor Raul Martinez (who added that the young wannabe called him, not the other way around). "He did pretty good with the state race." Former State Sen. Rudy Garcia called him a "contender" whose name has come up with voters as he has walked and talked to voters for his own campaign. "A lot of the business folks and residents speak vividly of Frank's visit," Garcia said. Yes, he said vividly. Looks like Lago has a fan. And if he still has his sights set on a state seat, Garcia could be a good guy to have on your team.
But Ladra is going to go out on a limb here and predict, way prematurely, that Lago will end up on the slate with Martinez (and Alex Morales, whose name recognition was also high in the Lago poll). Yeah, Mr. Mayor is a high-profile Democrat and Lago is Republican to the core. But Martinez helped Lago's wife, Liz Iglesias, with her unsuccessful bid for the council in 2007. And Hialeans are crazy loyal if anything. It could be hard for Lago to run on a slate against Martinez with his wife staring him down every day over dinner.
Plus it would, theoretically, be a nice revenge thread in As Hialeah Churns, hypothetically anyway, if it were true that former Hialeah mayor and county mayoral candidate Julio Robaina (who I am sure does not want to see Martinez elected) stabbed Lago in the back by helping Oliva.