Hialeah

Hialeah council incumbent loses, two races headed for runoff

Voters cast ballots in the Hialeah municipal election shortly after the polls opened Tuesday morning.
Voters cast ballots in the Hialeah municipal election shortly after the polls opened Tuesday morning. Miami Herald

Hialeah voters agreed with their mayor Tuesday night and elected one of the candidates he strongly supported, but two of the city’s races are headed to a runoff.

This same group also just unseated the city council races’ only incumbent: Lourdes Lozano in Group 1, who has been a council member since 2011 and was running for her third term. She had 41.67% or 4,948 votes.

Mónica Pérez, an elementary school teacher with no prior political experience, ran a largely grassroots effort to the win. She said she ran to be an independent voice for residents. Pérez won the Group 1 seat with 58.33% or 6,927 votes.

“It’s a reflection of the voice of the people,” Pérez said. “I did my campaign on $15,000 and a lot of hard work and sweat. It’s a reflection of people who are tired of the same old, same old.”

Pérez said she wanted to create more citywide special needs programs, prevent overdevelopment and fix the water quality.

Lozano could not be reached for comment.

Carlos Hernández, the city’s Cuban-born mayor, wasn’t on the ballot, but he strongly supported a slate of candidates: Lozano; Luis González, a former city council member; Jackie García-Roves; and Oscar De la Rosa, the stepson of Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban Bovo.

Candidates backed by Hernández were the front-runners in campaign contributions, most of which came from real estate companies, developers and attorneys. There were also notable donations from former Miami Lakes councilman Cesar Mestre and Sunny Isles Beach Mayor George “Bud” Scholl.

The races for two seats in Group 2 and Group 3 are headed to a runoff on Nov. 19. No candidate received more than 50% of the vote. Both of these seats had at least four candidates.

In Group 2, González, who was a council member from 2005 to 2017, and Jesus Tundidor, the former vice chair of the city’s planning and zoning board, will face off again in a runoff election.

Tundidor, the only candidate not supported by the mayor with significant campaign dollars, finished first in the race slightly ahead of González. Tundidor finished with 31.97% or 4,015 votes. González had 28.08% or 3,526 votes.

The other Group 2 candidates were Salvador Blanco, Fernando Godo and Angelica Pacheco.

In September, González accused Tundidor of financing his campaign with money from human trafficking and prostitution. He also accused Pacheco of having links to Castroism, political ideas that were championed by Fidel Castro. She denied it. González could not be reached for comment.

“We still came out on top in the first round,” Tundidor said. “That’s a testament to the willingness of the people of Hialeah.”

In Group 3, mayor-backed Jaqueline Garcia-Roves and community activist Milagros “Milly” Herrera are headed to a runoff. Garcia-Roves finished with 42.05% or 4,975 votes. Herrera was second with 22.86% or 2,704 votes.

Garcia-Roves could not be reached for comment.

“It’s in God’s hands, and I’m going to do my best,” Herrera said about the upcoming runoff.

The other Group 3 candidates were Ricardo Rodriguez Blanco and Eduardo A. Macaya.

Herrera, who has worked for a scuba diving travel company for nearly two decades, was arrested in October on charges of trespassing and resisting arrest when she was distributing her fliers in front of a senior apartment complex owned by the city of Hialeah, across from City Hall.

She and other candidates not endorsed by the mayor said the city had been inconsistent when dealing with solicitation and the placement of signs on the properties.

This was not the only arrest to shadow the municipal election. After the John F. Kennedy Library on West 49th Street closed for early voting Saturday, a man was arrested in front of his home across the street. This was related to a dispute with Hialeah police, where officers said his car was a campaign car that was parked within 150 feet of the polling location. He was hosting an election party for Pacheco on the lawn of his home.

Candidates alleged that police actions against them were politically motivated.

In Group 4, attorney De la Rosa defeated teacher Michael Anthony Horgan. De la Rosa previously interned with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former state senator René Garcia. De la Rosa finished with 59.03% or 7,054 votes. Horgan had 40.97% or 4,895 votes.

“I’m a little disappointed that I lost, but as long as everything was fair and square I’m perfectly fine with it,” Horgan said. “I wish for the very best for everybody involved, especially Oscar De la Rosa.”

De la Rosa is working for Felix Lasarte, a well-known lobbyist who has defended controversial cases of zoning before the Hialeah Council. However, De la Rosa said that he does not interfere in lobbying and is dedicated exclusively to land issues.

He said he wants to create more housing for the elderly and the working class, keep parks open on the weekends and work better with the city’s firefighters in negotiation pensions and benefits.

“I’m extremely humbled that the residents, the neighbors, the small business owners all came out to elect a 27-year-old attorney,” De la Rosa said.

Almost two-thirds of Hialeah residents were born in Cuba, and the country they fled remains a major factor in their elections. The majority of the candidates were born in Cuba or are the children of Cubans who settled in Hialeah after fleeing the Castro regime.

Among other issues most often raised by candidates: improving parks and holding more children’s programs in them, adding more police and firefighters, fixing problems with permitting and slowing down the amount of development that has been approved.

And although municipal offices are officially nonpartisan, Hialeah’s city council is filled by the votes of people whose politics are often still rooted in Cuba. In a county where Democrats form the largest group of voters, Hialeah’s biggest voter group consists of Republicans, and most of the candidates were, too.

Some of the candidates shared photos of themselves at President Donald Trump’s rallies or plastered the president’s campaign logo on their own materials. Others put the party’s conservative politics at the forefront of their local campaigns.

Residents struck down five amendments that would have changed the city’s charter. This included one that would have given their mayor the authority to declare a state of emergency after a hurricane or other disaster, then spend an unlimited amount of city funds on cleanup without approval from the City Council for up to three months.

ELECTION RESULTS

Group 1

Lourdes Lozano: 41.67%, 4,948 votes

Mónica Pérez: 58.33%, 6,927 votes

Group 2

Salvador Blanco: 8.92%, 1,120 votes

Fernando Godo: 15.84%, 1,989 votes

Luis González: 28.08%, 3,526 votes

Angelica Pacheco: 15.20%, 1,909 votes

Jesus Tundidor: 31.97%, 4,015 votes

Group 3

Ricardo Rodriguez Blanco: 17.24%, 2,040 votes

Jaqueline Garcia-Roves: 42.05%, 4,975 votes

Milagros “Milly” Herrera: 22.86%, 2,704 votes

Eduardo A. Macaya: 17.84%, 2,111 votes

Group 4

Oscar De la Rosa: 59.03%, 7,054 votes

Michael Anthony Horgan: 40.97%, 4,895 votes

Referendums

1. Charter Changes to Article IV of the Hialeah Charter entitled “Administrative”

YES: 26.12%, 3,005 votes

NO: 73.88%, 8,498 votes

2. Charter Changes to Article III of the Hialeah Charter entitled “Legislative”

YES: 29.84%, 3,389 votes

NO: 70.16%, 7,968 votes

3. Charter Changes authorizing Mayor to declare an emergency and temporary suspension of spending limits

YES: 33.67%, 3,848 votes

NO: 66.33%, 7,580 votes

4. Charter Changes to Article I entitled “Corporate Existence, Form of Government, Boundary and Power”

YES: 32.53%, 3,651 votes

NO: 67.47%, 7,573 votes

5. Charter Changes to Article V of the Hialeah Charter entitled “Elections”

YES: 44.26%, 5,012 votes

NO: 55.74%, 6,311 votes

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