Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández is seeking reelection amid a climate of confrontation that is already being felt during early voting and in a battle against an old opponent and an indignant neighbor.
On Tuesday, Hernandez will face Juan Santana, a 34-year-old political activist who tried to dethrone him in the last elections, and Tania García, a 61-year-old Cuban woman who, indignant at the “abuses” against the communities, is determined to not continue “four more years of the destruction of Hialeah.”
It has not been easy for the current mayor — a retired policeman who was on the Hialeah council from 2005 to 2011 — to get his name on the ballot. A lawsuit filed in May sought to bar his from running, claiming that he had already met the limit of two terms because he was appointed mayor in 2011 when the former mayor, Julio Robaina, resigned to run for mayor of Miami-Dade County.
Although a judge ruled in Hernández’s favor, that has not smoothed the friction among the politically powerful in the city. A video posted on social media shows former Mayor Raúl Martínez in a verbal confrontation with Hernández and policeman Carl Zogby (also a candidate for the Hialeah council) outside an early-voting center.
In a telephone interview with el Nuevo Herald, Hernández stressed that his work so far “is seen in the streets of the city” and speaks for itself about his ability to be re-elected as mayor.
Among his goals, he said, are maintaining good police service, continuing with construction of an industrial area that will house four large companies in 1.6 million square feet and bring jobs to Hialeah, and completing the redevelopment of the southeast area, which will be changed from industrial land use a mix of business, residential and other uses.
One of his opponents is Santana, a former mayoral candidate was said he harassed by Glenn Rice, a former Hialeah police officer. on behalf of Hernández. “They even harass his elderly grandmother,” he says on his Facebook campaign page.
Santana — who shows up at campaign events with a “Make Hialeah Great Again” hat — says if he is elected mayor, homeowners over 65 will not pay taxes in Hialeah; the city will offer free WiFi throughout the area, and it will use solar and wind energy.
The candidate also made promises to local business owners: “If you are a first time business owner in Hialeah you do not have to pay the tax to the city for the first year in business with the city,” he said on Facebook.
The third mayoral candidate is Tania García, a real estate agent who has been a Hialeah entrepreneur since the 1980s and who promises to become the “voice of all residents” and maintain an “open door” policy with the residents and business owners.
Garcia told El Nuevo Herald that if she wins, she wants to make an in-depth study of the city budget, improve the police department, fire department and 911 emergency, parks, libraries and other services, and stop the privatization of services including garbage and water.
“I want Hialeah to return to its best time, clean streets, children playing in the parks, when the workers of the city were the residents themselves,” she said. She doesn’t support policies implemented by Hernández that, she said, has the neighbors “living with fear. … The mayor is ending our city and we have to stop that.”
García ran for a council seat in 2015, motivated by the council’s approval of the controversial Villa de las Palmas project, a complex of 14 buildings and 240 apartments, which she called a betrayal. García was defeated by Vivian Casáls-Muñoz, who has been onthe council since 2006.
Follow Johanna A. Álvarez on Twitter: @jalvarez8.