Hialeah mayoral, city council race kicks off as deadline to qualify for the ballot passes

·4 min read

The deadline to qualify as a candidate in Hialeah’s upcoming mayoral election passed Monday night, setting the stage for a battle between former Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo and Isis Garcia-Martinez, the first Hispanic woman to serve as Hialeah’s city council president.

With the Nov. 2 election still months away, the two favorites in the mayoral election have racked up more than $600,000 in contributions between the two of them. Down ballot, another 14 candidates will compete for three seats on the city council.

Bovo and Garcia-Martinez, both former members of the city council, are household names in Hialeah politics and are now vying for outgoing Mayor Carlos Hernández’s seat, though they’ll share space on the ballot with three lesser-known candidates with meager resources.

Fernando Godo, a Hialeah activist, also qualified for the November ballot. In 2019, he became prominent in the sixth-largest city in Florida for leading a failed effort to impeach Hernández, launching a petition that garnered more than 5,000 signatures accusing the mayor of “abuse of power and mismanagement.”

Also running for mayor: Juan Jose Santana and Julio Jose Martinez. Santana previously ran for mayor in 2013 and 2017. Martinez, likewise, ran for the seat in 2013, appearing on the ballot alongside Santana in the nonpartisan primary, with both losing to Hernández.

Santana and Martinez each had reported raising less than $800, and Godo as little as $100.

Bovo, a registered Republican who served as a county commissioner from 2011 to 2020, and before that as a state representative, had reported a total of $294,087 in official direct contributions by the end of June. Bovo’s political committee, A Better Hialeah, reported around $300,000 cash-on-hand to begin the month — nearly $95,000 of it coming from the political committee that supported his unsuccessful bid for county mayor in 2020.

Garcia-Martinez, who was a Hialeah councilwoman from 2007 to 2019, slightly edged Bovo out in official contributions, with a total of $295,450 raised by the end of June. That includes the $150,000 of her own money that Garcia-Martinez loaned her campaign last May.

A political committee called Keeping Citizens Informed, chaired by her campaign manager, Sasha Tirador, reported another $22,000 cash-on-hand to begin July. Some Hialeah organizations — like La Colonia Medical Center, Magic Towing & Recovery Inc. and La Estrella de Oro Joyeria — that donated to the group have also contributed to Bovo’s campaign or political committee.

Tirador took pride in Hialeah business owners’ contributions to the campaign, saying the donations “demonstrate that Isis has strong support within the city.” In the past, Garcia-Martinez has derided Bovo’s run as his “backup plan” after losing the county mayoral race.

“If you take a look at Steve Bovo’s PAC money, you will see that it’s outside interests that have contributed to him,” Tirador said Monday.

Bovo’s team, meanwhile, has largely refrained from going on the attack, telling the Herald in May that he doesn’t have “anything bad to say” about his ex-councilwoman opponent.

Asked about his approach to this new stage of the race, Bovo told the Herald Monday that “I’ve been meeting and talking with the residents of Hialeah for several months and I’m very excited about the enthusiastic support for my campaign.” In the coming months, he said he plans to stress “economic prosperity, public safety, and greater government accountability” as central to his vision for the city.

Down ballot from the more prominent mayoral contest are the races for Hialeah city council, which had drawn 14 registered candidates as of 5:30 p.m. Monday, half an hour before the qualification deadline.

Running for the city council seat for Group V are incumbent Councilman Carl Zogby, Salvador Blanco and Mayra Jimenez.

For Group VI, left open when Councilman Paul Hernandez chose not to seek reelection, Bryan Calvo, Ramiro Collazo-More, Angelica De Jesus Xenes-Pacheco, Hector Abel Selin and Eduardo Francisco Santiesteban are all on the ballot.

In Group VII, a seat being vacated by term-limited Councilwoman Katharine Cue-Fuente, six candidates made the qualification list: Milagros “Milly” Herrera, Michael A. Horgan, Abdel Jimenez, Christopher Monzon, Luis Manuel Rodriguez and Maylin Villalonga.

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