Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the Miami Herald on January 12, 2000.
Turning the tables on the results of the Dec. 14 primary, West Miami Commissioner Marco Rubio on Tuesday night won the GOP nomination in House District 111 runoff, defeating former Channel 51 reporter Angel Zayon.
In a diverse district made up of southeastern Hialeah, Miami Springs, Virginia Gardens, Miami International Airport, Allapattah and parts of Miami and Coral Gables, Rubio and Zayon were neck and neck to the end.
The 28-year-old Rubio won 51.2 percent of the vote, while Zayon, 31, secured 48.8 percent, a difference of 64 votes. Voter turnout was 13 percent, even smaller than the primary total.
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Rubio will now face Democrat Anastasia Garcia in a Jan. 25 general election.
“I’m very happy,” said Rubio, following his victory speech Tuesday night at the Fraternal Order of Police, 710 SW 12th Ave. “We worked very hard in this campaign. I congratulate Mr. Zayon, I hope he pursues his future in politics. His campaigning deserved the votes he got.”
Rubio gained the majority in Coral Gables, 66.7 percent, and south Hialeah, 51.9 percent — despite Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez’s endorsement of his opponent. Zayon ran first in north Little Havana, 53.3 percent, and Miami Springs, 57.0 percent.
Zayon — supported by brothers Alex and Renier Diaz de la Portilla, who ran their own successful races in Senate District 34 and the GOP primary in House District 115 — succeeded in running his election his way.
“I am satisfied that I ran a clean race, something that has not been done in a long time,” Zayon said. “It was clean, 100 percent.
“I congratulate Marco Rubio, he secured the majority of the vote. I appreciate those who voted for me, they were confident with my experience. I invite Mr. Rubio to support the ideas of the community and not those independent interest. I’ll be the back.”
Rubio, who was supported by two of his primary election opponents, said voters were attracted by his platform, which stressed early childhood education in schools, more affordable housing for the elderly and reducing crime. He said his 10 years of political experience also made a difference.
“Voters realized that qualifications and issues matter, perhaps now more than ever. I had a very powerful political machine against me, but at the end that wasn’t enough.”
Indeed, voters seemed to be drawn by Rubio’s political activism. “Rubio’s the only one with any experience,” said Jorge Calil, 26, of Miami Springs. “I did my homework on each candidate’s platform, experience and political track record, and since one of them didn’t have any of the three, I voted for the other.”
Zayon also received praises.
“He’s a very decent person. I was a fan of his since he was a reporter, and even then he was fair and reported intelligently. He has helped the community plenty,” said Hermina Suarez, 64, of Virginia Gardens.
Rubio’s next test will be Garcia, who ran against former House District 111 Rep. Carlos Valdes in November 1998. She secured 40 percent of the vote.
Republican Primary House District 101 results
24 of 24 precincts: 100%
Marco Rubio: (1,415) 51%
Angel Zayon: (1,351) 49%