Bruno Barreiro has been in this position before, targeted for ouster from his Miami-Dade commission seat. Two years ago, a group of activists fell just short of collecting enough petition signatures to try to recall him.
This time around, Barreiro is one of four incumbent commissioners facing reelection and hes in the sights of Norman Braman. The Miami auto magnate helped persuade state Rep. Luis Garcia to challenge Barreiro for District 5, which spans across neighborhoods along the Miami River, the Roads, Little Havana and the southern and eastern portions of Miami Beach.
Barreiro, in county office for 14 years, is counting on his widespread name recognition and his familys deep Little Havana roots they have long managed clinics and now own a home care agency on Southwest Eighth Street to translate into victory in the Aug. 14 election.
We havent made a buck and left town, moved to the suburbs, Barreiro said of his family. And when activists launched their recall petition drive, he added, You know who fought them? The seniors out there.
In the Florida House, Garcia, a Democrat, represented many of the same neighborhoods as Barreiro. But he originally filed to run for U.S. Congress in southwest Miami-Dade against Rep. David Rivera.
Garcias plans changed after he had a public falling out with Democratic Party officials. That prompted Braman, who had previously approached Garcia to run for the commission, to step up his recruitment. And Garcia agreed to shift races.
Im running to do all the things they havent been able to do in 14 years, he recently told The Miami Heralds editorial board of Barreiro and other longtime commissioners. And his dispute with his own party, he said, shows nobody controls me.
Two other candidates are also seeking the seat: neuropsychologist Calixto Garcia (no relation), and retiree Carlos E. Muñoz Fontanills, who worked as a veterinarian in Cuba and in human resources for county government in New Jersey. They have raised few campaign dollars, but Calixto Garcia, 56, says that is not an indication of his election chances.
The area, its deteriorating, he said. The two people that were responsible for this were Bruno and Luis, Luis at the state level and Bruno at the county level.... Everybody complains and no one takes a step forward. I thought Id do something.
Muñoz Fontanills, a 76-year-old who speaks little English and ran for U.S. Congress in New Jersey in 1996, says he opposes property-tax rate increases at all costs even if it means laying off police officers and if elected plans to legislate in Spanish
If someone doesnt understand me, they can find an interpreter, he said in Spanish.
If none of the candidates wins a majority of the vote in the primary, the nonpartisan race would go to a runoff in the Nov. 6 general election.
The incumbent Barreiro has raised more in campaign contributions than any of his rivals, including more than twice as much as Luis Garcia, his main challenger. Barreiro also has the support of an electioneering communications organization, Transparency in Government.
Barreiro, 46, who was born in Clearwater to Cuban parents and raised in Miami, said he grew up around politics. His father campaigned for candidates; young Bruno said he volunteered for U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinens first state legislative race. His older half-brother, Gus Barreiro, was a state representative and will also be on the upcoming primary ballot in a bid to return to the Florida House.