The three largest cities of Miami-Dade County are now in full campaign mode as Miami, Miami Beach, and Hialeah will hold history-making elections this November. All three will have the chance to either keep the same mayor or change their local leader. But as Francis Suarez recently dropped out the mayoral race following a series of controversies and as Miami Beach is just beginning to feel the rise of the anti-Establishment candidate Steve Berke, all eyes are now centered on one City Council race in Hialeah that could change the history of South Florida.
The Group VI of the Hialeah council is up for grabs in November and since the death of former police officer and anti-corruption activist Ricky Garcia last month, the election is now a face to face between two young candidates: 25-year-old incumbent Paul B. Hernandez and 19-year-old newcomer Marcos Miralles.
Paul "Pablito" Hernandez is a Republican councilman from the most moderate branch of the GOP, representing the Establishment and the "Mitt Romney clan". Miralles is a young Libertarian Party member that has managed to draw some support from the conservative faction of the Miami GOP. This difference, combined with the traditional drama that accompanies Hialeah elections, is the perfect recipe for a controversial race.
And two months before Election Day, criticisms are already flying around. Marcos Miralles accuses his opponent of extreme corruption. In a campaign press release yesterday, Miralles accuses Councilman Hernandez of being bought off by "special interest groups that want to end the school choice movement in Florida."
This is probably a reference to the $2,500 donation that the charter school empire Academica, LLC has given to Pablito Hernandez. Academica has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to state lawmakers in the past to influence legislation in favor of charter schools. Libertarian groups, while in support of school choice, tend to criticize Academica for its corporatist influence: the magnate uses its power and influence to end up as the largest owner of charter schools in the state, holding almost a monopoly over the market.
Paul B. Hernandez never refuted the Libertarian's claims. However, the councilman accused Miralles of being an "anarchist with dangerous ideas" during an interview with El Nuevo Herald.
"While sad, it is not surprising that Pablito thinks of me as a dangerous anarchist. To him, the very idea of a responsible and honest government is as crazy as anarchy," replied Marcos to the largest Spanish-speaking newspaper of South Florida.
Meanwhile, a new website has recently caught the attention of local voters. PaulBHernandez.com was set up on August 26 with the stated goal of "exposing the scandals and power abuses by Councilman Hernandez. The website in particular lists the donors that have contributed to Pablito's re-election campaign. Academica, LLC and controversial local power-broker Herman Echevarria seem to be his top two contributors, with $2,500 each. Most of the other $30,000 comes from construction companies, real estate groups, lobbying firms, and local businesses with special privileges granted by the City Council.
According to Marcos Miralles's campaign, the candidate has nothing to do with the website, which probably comes from a local supporter.