A poll of 300 Hialeah residents paid for by the city's firefighters union puts former mayor Raul Martinez in the pole position for the mayoral race this November with a double-digit lead over incumbent mayor, Carlos Hernandez. But while former State Sen. Rudy Garcia has been in the number three position before, he is now double-digits behind Hernandez -- who has used the bully pulpit to promote his candidacy through a bunch of obvious campaign initiatives -- according to the poll by the same Freddy Balsera who was paid more than $200,000 for work on the county mayoral campaign of former Hialeah mayor Julio Robaina.
Balsera reportedly only charged $5,000 for the poll for the fire union, who fiercely fought Robaina's mayoral bid and is likely not going to endorse his puppet alcaldito. The union leadership, which released only a one-page summary of the poll and not the questions or the numbers themselves (and, yes, I've asked for more and will press for full disclosure) chose Balsera's firm to give the poll credibility and commissioned it because, contrary to popular belief, not all the union members are as supportive of Martinez as the leadership may seem to be. The fire union screening is next week and the poll was commissioned by the leadership to help with the decision. But Martinez certainly has a few things on his side: He supported Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez -- and the firefighters built a rapport working with him on the same side of that -- and his slate has a few fire union friendly candidates, also from Hialeah Team Gimenez, that the anti-incumbent and increasingly influential fire union leadership will likely support. That includes former councilman and housing authority director (until he was fired by Robaina) Alex Morales, who also showed "a commanding lead" in the open seat in this poll after getting high recognition ratings in the poll commissioned last month by Frank Lago, a council candidate and chief of staff to Sweetwater Mayor Manny Marono. This poll says Lago is tied or within the margin of error with incumbent Paul Hernandez, whose seat he is seeking. In fact, all the incumbents are vulnerable and Cindy Miel and Julio Martinez are also tied or within the margin with Council President Isis "Gavelgirl" Garcia-Martinez and Jose Caragol, who they are challenging, respectively. Miel is currently in the seat against Vivian Casals-Munoz with housing authority employee and son of the former chief Danny Bolanos. But Ladra is certain she will switch to rematch Gavelgirl -- and the fact that this poll pit her there instead of with Vivian shows that the fire union or Balsera may have had that inside knowledge.
The glaring omission in the summary is any mention about Bolanos against Casals-Munoz, who was cited as the least favorable incumbent in the Lago poll (which we still want to know how it was paid for). And the reason for that is because Danny Boy, who gets some negative points from past accusations when he was a police officer and his brother's bank robbery conviction, doesn't do too well in this poll. According to people who have seen the numbers, Bolanos has about a 14 percent approval rating or voter support, Ladra is not sure which -- but neither is good. And this is one place Ladra thinks the poll is flawed. And not just because Freddy didn't take Ladra into account, and my anti-incumbent bent is giving Danny his due. But, rather, mostly because we bet the 195 women and 105 men -- 86 percent of which were 56 years old or older -- were not told that Casals-Munoz may have "her fingerprints on everything" that federal investigators are looking at in the Ponzi scheme investigation and the inquiry into Robaina's allegedly questionable loans and business dealings. Even if Vivian-- whose highlights and new hairdo get a thumbs up -- is not eventually implicated officially, some of her role has already been documented. The Miami Herald lists her in an April story about shadow banking allegations against Robaina as one of the creditors who loaned $25,000 to a man that also borrowed more than $1 million from Robaina's partners, Mercy and Rolando and Robertico Blanco. And she is apparently the notary public for most of the Blancos' and Robaina's loans, as well. Ladra is not too sure, but we think that the pending resolution of that federal inquiry will come before November and change that race just a tad. One way or another.
What likely won't change between now and then is the way voters feel about the state of their government. According to the summary released, 65% of those surveyed said the financial condition of the city is either average or poor and 26% cited waste and corruption in government was the top issue followed by property taxes and crime & safety.
Being commissioned by the fire union, there were naturally questions to gauge voters moods toward city employees, who are being blamed for the financial emergency and having contract issues with the administration. "Quality city services" was rated as the fourth most important issue to voters, but the poll doesn't say fourth out of how many. Not surprisingly, 86% of those questioned said the Hialeah firefighters -- who have taken a more visible role in political matters lately after contract negotiations with the former administration basically dissolved -- are doing a a good or excellent job. They are, after all, firefighters. Hello. It's like puppies. Who doesn't love puppies? But, again, what the poll summary does not say is whether those polled were asked if the firefighters were doing a good job saving lives or a good job educating voters and exposing concerns with the current administration's policies and management. Or both.
One thing Ladra would add: They are doing a good or excellent job staying politically relevant. But if they don't show the rest of the poll, it's going to be questioned and misconstrued by their enemies, whose approval rating is not 86 percent. Not even close.