In Hialeah, FL, Election Day is less than a month away and people are starting to pay attention. On November 5th, the citizens, most of whom have Cuban roots, will choose whether to keep the same politicians or elect a new mayor and two new councilmen. Signs are visible all over the fifth largest city of Florida, ads are all over the local TV and newspapers, and scandals are coming out weekly.
There are three candidates running for Mayor. However most of the media has been focusing on another Hialeah race that promises to be much closer than the mayoral seat, which is probably poised to remain in the hands of incumbent Carlos Hernandez for another four years. Instead, the focus has been shifting on the election for the Group VI Council Seat, which opposes incumbent Paul B. Hernandez to young challenger Marcos Miralles.
Paul "Pablito" Hernandez has been accused of several scandals in the past few weeks. At first, there was the investigation made by an anonymous group that launched the website www.PaulBHernadez.com, where it is unveiled that the incumbent's campaign contributions all come from corporations benefiting from contracts with the City of Hialeah. The Babcock Park controversy, where several activist groups attacked the councilman for wanting to renew a contract with an over-charging and inefficient company to teach baseball lessons, did not help his image.
Last week, his opponent, 19-year-old candidate Marcos Miralles, revealed a new charge against the Councilman. It turns out the City approved a $52,000 purchase of bleachers that ended up unused for an event organized by the Mayor. Councilman Pablito Hernandez had previously stated that those bleachers were donated to the City, but an anonymous public employee sent a receipt to Miralles showing otherwise.
These are many reasons why Pablito would be hiding under his shell. Since the opening of his campaign office a couple of weeks ago, he has been almost a no-show in the City. And now, according to Marcos Miralles's campaign, the incumbent has refused to debate more than once.
The first debate proposal was done by MundoFox, a national TV station with a local branch known as WGEN-TV. Reporter Veronica Paysse asked both candidates to gather for a debate, but Pablito refused the offer.
The second time around, the question was asked by a CNN Latino reporter who asked whether a debate is scheduled. "I won't debate him until my opponent apologizes to the City Clerk for his comments about corruption in the city," he said in a shaky Spanish.
"My team has been trying to organize a debate for quite some time. I want a debate. I want to give the people of Hialeah the opportunity to compare both my opponent and I. But every time we ask, we feel like we are talking to a wall. I don't want to end up going to Election Day with only negative material as a tool for comparison," says the young Miralles.