Angel Fernández and José Peixoto share the same goal: winning the 26th congressional district seat. Neither belong to traditional parties.
But amid a controversial campaign between Republican U.S. Rep. David Rivera and Democrat Joe Garcia, the two leading contenders, Peixoto and Fernandez each believe they represent an alternative for voters.
District 26 runs from Kendall to Key West. Two recent polls, one Republican and one Democrat, found Garcia leading Rivera by between 9 and 10 percentage points. Peixoto and Fernandez barely register a blip in those polls.
"Sure, Rivera and Garcia are better known. Why not give people a choice?" said Fernandez, of Cutler Bay. "But I bet if you took a poll, you will find that both have very high negatives. Neither are really well liked."
Born in Miami, Fernández is the son of Cuban immigrant parents. He graduated from Hialeah Miami Lakes High School in 1981. He worked for several years for an air conditioning repair company. He later obtained a real estate appraiser license. Married and the father of two school-age children, Fernandez has $20,000 in campaign funds, with most from his own pocket, he said.
Fernandez, who describes himself as a conservative with an independent streak, wants to see the $16 billion federal debt reduced and calls for a “consistent” immigration policy. He also supports a health program that offers alternatives and an energy policy that opens more doors to private competition.
"I’m running because I want to solve problems," Fernandez told El Nuevo Herald. "I don’t want to blame another because he didn’t do something. I like listening to people and, from there, make a decision. "
Peixoto was born in Brazil and came to the United States 27 years ago looking for more opportunities. He lives in the Keys and works as a private contractor in property maintenance. He is married and has three children.
Peixoto has collected $10,000 in contributions, with $6,500 from his savings account. He supports health reform and education. He also favors a policy of tax cuts in order to generate more confidence and jobs, while supporting a cut in government spending
"I do not belong to any group or party affiliation," said Peixoto. "And I think I have more knowledge of the issues affecting our community."