The Hialeah election primary ended Tuesday in a thud heard 'round the City of Progress and met with what can only be called shock and/or total disbelief by the hundreds of supporters and volunteers (not to mention the paid political consultants) that waited for results at the campaign offices of both former State Sen. Rudy Garcia and former Mayor Raul Martinez, where many undry eyes watched su alcaldito Carlos Hernandez hang on to a formidable lead.
The shocker wasn't that "The Ghost" Garcia, who only started acting like he was in the race a little while ago and is the best recent living example of you reap what you sow (read: Invisible candidate gets invisible votes). Well, not to anyone but Garcia and some in his camp who thought out loud that he might take the title in the first round. The shocker was not that a run-off would pit Martinez against Hernandez, who would not have done as well if the lies about the interest payments from his loan to the convicted Ponzi schemer and the huge increase in water connection fees had not become public six days after the absentee ballots dropped (read: were mailed to voters) or "The Ghost" Garcia would have started acting like he was in the race a little sooner. It was that Martinez was not in pole position.
A wall of people watched in horror as the TV screen in the shopping strip space Martinez shares with his Back to the Future slate rolled the results over and over and over on a constantly refreshing loop and two of those slatemates were immediately eliminated. Former Councilwoman Cindy Miel thanked supporters as she conceded defeat to Council President Isis "Gavelgirl" Garcia-Martinez, who won with a six-point lead, or 53 to 47 percent. Ladra thinks Miel and former Mayor Julio Martinez -- who lost with a huge 21-point lead, 54 percent of the vote going to Councilman Jose "Pottymouth" Caragol -- put the least sweat equity of the slate mates and could have worked harder. Am I disappointed? Sure. And concerned for anyone in Hialeah who dares walk up to the podium at the council meetings and ask a question Gavelgirl doesn't like. But at the same time, and I hate to admit this, there is some satisfaction at the job security of four more years of exposing Gavelgirl's graft and vulgar griteria tactics. And, I love to admit, it makes Ladra's tail wag like mad to think of her up on the dais with Martinez as mayor. In fact, that image among voters might boost the Dark Prince's numbers in the run-off.
Both Miel and Julio Martinez had seen the writing on the wall as soon as the absentee ballot count showed wide margins (when Ladra was still pretty much in denial). "It doesn't hurt me to win or lose. I've been in sports all my life," said Julio Martinez, who also called the contest "a bad election," but tried to keep the group up-beat about Martinez and the others. "All of you can still help change the destiny of this city... and tomorrow, we continue with the fight," Julio Martinez said. Ladra sure hopes he means that literally and not figuratively, and will stick around as one of the hundreds of bodies the surviving Back to the Future slate needs to turn the numbers around in two weeks. He should stick to getting support, however, from the 8,996 people who voted from him. We don't want him having the wrong effect and turning people against his former slate mates.
Those survivors of the Election Day massacre are former Councilman and fired (by former Mayor Julio Robaina) Hialeah Housing Authority Director Alex "The Professor" Morales, former cop turned HHA employee Danny Bolaños -- who almost lost Tuesday night as Councilwoman Vivian Casals-Muñoz got thisclose to a 50 percent plus one showing to his 27 percent (Ladra expects her to request a recount, but more on that later) -- and former State Rep wannabe Frank "Sinatra" Lago, who had the smallest margin of the slate with only a 3-point lag (38 to 35 percent) behind Councilman Pablito "Huh?" Hernandez (who had to be held back by his dad when he wanted to fight Uncle Sam at one of the precincts, but more on that later, too). And Lago would have done a whole lot better if Daring Daisy Castellanos had not taken almost 28 percent of the vote. And Ladra wasn't so much in denial with Lago being able to make up for the absentee ballot count in Election Day votes as naive about anyone being able to make up for the AB machinery owned by su alcaldito's campaign manager, AB Queen Sasha Tirador. How else can anyone explain how relative nobody and former HHA commissioner Lourdes Lozano was able to gain a 6-point lead (53 to 47 percent) over Morales, the globally-accepted front runner? Lourdes who?
Even Raul Martinez mentioned that race as a clear example that AB manipulation (read: fraud) was alive and well and kicking some fondillo in Hialeah. "The absentee ballot system has grave problems and goes against democracy," Martinez said in Spanish as he addressed a crowd of more than 100 people outside his retail-space office. "And until the authorities do something, the AB votes are going to help candidates who are from mediocre to bad."
Al Lorenzo, the campaign manager for Garcia (and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez in his win over former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina) said he expected the ABs to go the way they did and that their camp had only generated between 600 and 700 absentee ballot requests from supporters. But he was absolutely dumbfounded by the early voting -- his specialty -- and Election Day results. "I've never seen anything like it in my life," said Lorenzo, who stopped by the JFK during early voting daily or almost daily. "I was there and I saw it myself. People would come tell Rudy 'I voted for you,' or 'I'm going to vote for you.' I've never experienced anything like this and I can't explain it." He said the campaign had trouble raising funds in the later weeks. "A lot of people who had a stake in Hialeah, didn't support Rudy," Lorenzo said. He said if he could do it all again, he would pay more attention to the ABs. "I would start earlier. I would get people together."
The Martinez camp also realized that their game plan with the ABs had faltered and that they had better start earlier to follow up on all the absentee voters -- with phone calls and visits when required -- and not concentrate on the ones the campaign generated that would vote for them in an effort to stop those from being stolen by another team. Even before the final results were in, they were intelligently reaching out to former State Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla -- who is back in South Florida after an extended vacation, allegedly in Europe -- because, as AB King, he is a proven Tirador antidote and has already said he would help Martinez any way he could. Hey, DLP #1, I promise to behave if you do. And just like in the county mayoral race, Ladra expects (read: hopes and crosses her fingers) the ABs to have much less relevance and less dramatic margins across the board in the runoffs for mayor and three council seats.
Then the sound heard throughout Hialeah on Nov. 15 might be a little clearer and less ominous.