Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the Miami Herald on April 16, 1998.
Two young men who grew up in West Miami, played in the city parks as boys and are planning on raising their own families in their hometown were elected Tuesday as city officials — one for the first time, the other for his second term.
Enrique Gonzalez, 30, and Marco Rubio, 26, won the two open commission seats in a landslide. They received 745 and 744 votes, respectively, out of 1,055 votes cast.
“I’m ecstatic!” Gonzalez said after his victory was announced. “I want to thank the residents for opening their doors to me and receiving me with such warmth and kindness.”
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Rubio, who worked on Bob Dole’s presidential campaign in 1996, was also very happy.
“I’m so glad I was able to connect with voters and city I love so much, “ said Rubio, who has never before held a public office.
Gonzalez and Rubio listed their priorities.
“I’ll start working on a program to improve community policing and on getting more grant money,” Rubio said.
Added Gonzalez: “The first thing I want to do is stabilize the budget and address the deficit we have with our sewer system.”
Gonzalez beat out Rubio by a single vote, making him the city’s new vice mayor, replacing Carlos-Diaz Padron. Diaz-Padron will continuing serving the city as a commissioner until his term expires in 2000.
Losing candidates Tania Rozio, 52, and Cesar Carasa, 39, bowed out gracefully. Both vowed to continue taking an active part in community issues on a volunteer basis.
“I will run again next election, “ said Carasa, who received 267 votes.
Said Rozio, who finished last with 224 votes: “I will continue working for my city. I have been here 32 years and I will continue to work hard for my hometown, no matter what.”
The turnout surprised city officials. Just under 37 percent of the city’s 2,866 registered voters cast ballots.
“We’ve had a huge turn out, considering that the mayor ran unopposed and she was not on the ballot like she was supposed to be, “ City Clerk Felix Diaz said.
Third-time West Miami Mayor Rebeca Sosa was declared winner in February, when no one filed to oppose her.
The commission campaigns also were subdued.
“For me, whoever wins of the four candidates will be good for the city because they are all good,” said Luis Rodriguez, 71, a West Miami resident since 1971. “As for who I voted for, all I will say is this — one is already a commissioner and one has never been one.”
Carlos Hondal, 38, a banker at Ocean Bank in Miami, echoed the sentiments.
“All the candidates looked pretty sincere in their endeavors,” said Hondal, who for 10 years has lived with his family at the corner of Southwest 64th Avenue and 21st Street. “They all came by our house and left pamphlets. They all seem to be able to do a good job. It was hard for me to decided which two to pick.”