In Hialeah, zombies lurk behind the absentee ballots.
That is the caustic pre-recorded telephone message delivered this week to alert Hialeah voters about a boletera, or absentee-ballot bundler, who had gone around promoting the campaigns of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez and state Rep. Eddy González, R-Hialeah.
The satirical attack shows how opponents of Giménez and González have taken advantage of the absentee-ballot scandal that erupted two weeks ago in Hialeah. Authorities have accused Deisy Pentón de Cabrera, 56, of forging the signature on an absentee ballot and collecting other people’s ballots. The candidates deny that she worked for their campaigns.
“In this election, Miami is living in times of zombies. Be careful, day or night you might receive an unexpected visitor,” a man’s voice intones in Spanish with musical drums in the background.
In the message, after hearing a knock on the door, an old woman asks who is it, and a sinister woman’s voice responds: “I am the boletera of Carlos Giménez and Eddy González, and I am here to get your ballot.”
Then a man adds: “In this election, beware of the boletera of Carlos Giménez and Eddy González and be careful with your ballot.”
The message was paid for by Citizens for a Reality Check, an electoral communications organization (ECO) being used to attack certain campaigns. Sasha Tirador, a political strategist who also manages the campaigns of Giménez’s and González’s opponents, has been paid by the ECO.
Tirador said the message would run for a week on Spanish-language radio stations and be delivered by telephone to thousands of Hialeah voters.
Members of Giménez’s campaign criticized the campaign of Joe Martínez, his main challenger, for running such advertising after he had initially said that he thought Giménez was not linked to Cabrera. Tirador is running Martínez’s campaign.
“It is surprising that our opponent will resort to that type of tactics when for more than two weeks he has been denying these attacks in the media,” according to a press release from Giménez’s campaign. “Miami-Dade residents want their mayor to be a serious and upright leader like Carlos Giménez and not someone who changes opinions every 24 hours just to obtain political benefits.”
An attorney representing González in a lawsuit against Tirador and the ECO said he was not surprised by the message.
“Nothing that Sasha Tirador does surprises me,” said Juan Carlos Planas.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in a Miami court, alleges that another ad financed by Citizens for a Reality Check, which says González is under investigation in the absentee-ballot case, is false.
Planas said Tuesday that the new ad is also false.
“In Eddy González’s records there is no evidence of payments made to Mrs. Cabrera,” Planas said.
The zombie ad is not the only controversial ad. Monday night, a recorded telephone message favoring Martínez was left in the personal voicemail boxes of county employees, including some firefighters and police officers, whose telephone numbers, by law, must be kept private.
Rowan Taylor, head of the firefighters’ union, said he did not know how the numbers of his members got out, especially because the union supports Giménez.
“We’re going to be sending Martínez’s campaign a letter saying we’re exempt, how did you get the numbers?” Taylor said.
Martínez said Tuesday that his campaign had obtained the phone numbers through a public request submitted to the county.
“It was a straightforward public records request for county employee contact information, and that’s what the county provided,” he said. “I apologize to anybody I may have offended.”
Later, he also accused Giménez’s campaign of delivering recorded messages to county employees. Jesse Manzano-Plaza, head of Giménez’s campaign, denied the accusation.
“Like any campaign, we target our demographics by age group, voting history, etc.,” he said. “There is bound to be some overlap with county employees.”
Miami Herald Staff Writer Charles Rabin contributed to this report.