As law enforcement lags in its actions on the case of two women caught red-handed reaping absentee ballots in Hialeah last week — even after El Nuevo Herald publishes a great story where some of the voters said the boletera filled out their ballots — Ladra is left to wonder how this may affect the mayoral race.
Don’t make the mistake that it won’t, as Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and his camp are making — acting all cocky and over-confident talking about a win like it’s a basketball game. The events of the past week will make a difference. Maybe on Aug. 14. Maybe another day.
The mayor’s unholy alliance with Hialeah’s corrupt power structure has already had a negative effect — no matter how small; it’s a slippery slope here, too, Mayor — on our Golden Boy’s re-election campaign.
And we still have a little more than two weeks for the damage to deepen.
Let’s talk numbers first.
No, not the 19 ballots that were found on known boletera Daisy Cabrera and her driver, Matilde Martinez. No, not the 60 days in jail or $1,000 fine they face if they are ever charged with the misdemeanor it is to carry more than two absentee ballots. Not the 217,345 people that Gimenez claims have his campaign t-shirts in a ridiculously futile effort to distance himself from this woman who was obviously helping him with his AB drive — whether it was with his knowledge or without. I don’t think he really expects us to believe that Cabrera just happened to be at this park the Fourth of July and it was just a coincidence that she was wearing his t-shirt, same as a bunch of other people who were passing out his literature, who I guess she just happened to run into. “We give them away at senior centers,” someone with the camp told me and that might be true. But I’m willing to bet it’s not where Cabrera got hers.
No, the number I am talking about is the votes. I already know of at least two dozen people who Gimenez had secured votes from in his pocket pretty much (figuratively, not literally speaking, officers) that are now rethinking their choice. And I imagine it could be much more than that since I am talking about a very small and limited pool in my sample. Because 17 of those 24 votes come from one group: The family and friends of former Hialeah Police Chief Rolando Bolaños. And he’s heard the same thing from his circle of Hialeah critics of the Castro administration.
“A lot of people are saying they are not going to vote for him because of this,” Bolaños told Ladra over the weekend “I know Carlos Gimenez made a bad mistake. I don’t know if it’s going to cost him the election. But I think he’s going to lose Hialeah. I’ll bet you a coffee on that.”
You’re on, chief. Ladra wins matter what happens — and I always thought he was going to lose Hialeah.. Cafecito con el chief is always welcome.
But he is not the only one who is having a flip flop over the mayor’s fibbing and filandering.
Blanca Hidalgo Jove wrote on my facebook wall even before the boletera incident, just after the announcement that Gimenez had sold his soul to the devil, and said that he had just lost her vote. I also know several people in my own family who say they will vote for Helen Williams now or Denny Wood or — God forbid them — write in my name. Unless the situation changes fast and things get crystal clear, Ladra is going to advocate not voting for anybody as mayor on Aug. 14. Vote in every other contest, but leave that race blank and let’s come back to it in November, and give the cops and the State Attorney’s Office — which is not expected to make an arrest until after Aug. 14 (more on that later) — time to flesh out all the details of the AB scandal.
It could send a hell of a message to Gimenez if there are 1,000 under votes or more in his race. It would show him that people liked him better when he wasn’t aligned with Hialeah.
But even if these efforts are too little too late to make an impact on the Aug. 14 primary and fall short of forcing a runoff — which is what Ladra wants now because it seems to be in the best interest of Democracy — Mayor Gimenez has bigger problems than this election. That would be his image. Yes, the one he just tarnished.
Remember the recall?
See? Golden Boy Gimenez was an underdog in the post-recall mayoral race last year against former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina, sorta like Commission Chairman Joe Martinez is now. The mayor’s victory in that election basically hinged on one single factor. He wasn’t charismatic; still ain’t. He didn’t speak extraordinarily well; though he has improved a bit since then (did you take some media training or public speaking classes, Mayor?). He’s not engaging in conversation. Heck, he doesn’t really look you in the eye and gets that disconnected, “gone fishing” eyes-frozen-over look when you speak to him about anything he doesn’t care for. He didn’t have more money. In fact, Robaina outraised him at least 3 to 1 — and that’s not even counting the “soft money” that never makes it onto the campaign finance reports.
And the point isn’t that Robaina lost anyway, despite all that, so we all know what could happen to a frontrunner.
The point is Gimenez had one thing that Robaina didn’t have: Integrity. Or the perception of it, anyway. His honesty was his brand. Yes, the brand he just tarnished.
And the point is still about numbers. Do you still remember the recall?
Former Mayor Carlos Alvarez enjoyed very high approval ratings — high 60s or low 70s, according to one poll that I’ve been privy to — between six months and a year before the recall drive began and he was eventually ousted in a landslide election with nearly 90 percent of the vote. In low turnout, mind you, but still almost 90 percent.
The taller you stand, the harder you fall. Mayor Gimenez would do well to remember that and hope he doesn’t find himself en la misma mirilla — in the same scopes. Because even if he is elected, he could be recalled if he continues on this path. He needs to protect his brand and that means he should own up to what has happened so far, denounce it and distance himself from the people who created it — whether that turns out to be Hialeah Councilwoman Vivian Casals-Muñoz working with Gimenez and campaign strategist Al Lorenzo — who is connected to Cabrera through his work with former State Sen. Rudy Garcia‘s failed Hialeah mayoral bid last year — or whether it turns out to be his own campain manager, Jesse Manzano working with his new BFF Arnie Alonso, the chief enforcer of illegal oppression to Hialeah Mayor Carlos “Castro” Hernandez. Swift and sure justice would be cool. Honest.
Instead, he keeps sounding more and more like Robaina and Hernandez — at least to Ladra and I told him so at the debate Friday night hosted by the Miami Times in Overtown. After he and Martinez finished hardly sparring with each other in the church, I walked up to him and began to ask him about the incident. As we walked up the aisle out of the sanctuary, I asked how he could not have expected this kind of activity from the Hialeah hoodlums who are known for it.
“I asked for their support. I didn’t ask for this,” is what he told me.
“That doesn’t answer my question, mayor,” I said, and yes, I may have interrupted again because I don’t want to hear some regurgitated statement that says nothing but fills in the blank where the media needs a quote. “I know you didn’t ask for this. But didn’t you just suspect or assume that when you got the backing of the Hialeah political establishment known for this type of iffy behavior, didn’t you fear that maybe something like this would happen?”
Now, I realize that’s a hard question and almost impossible to answer — that’s why it’s a good question. Because he can’t really say “Yes.” That would further tarnish his squeaky clean, Richie Cunningham image of honesty. And he can’t really say “No.” That would make him look stupid. And maybe people would think he was lying anyway.
So he had no choice but to repeat the same line that says nothing.
“I didn’t ask for this. I asked for their support,” he repeated. And, actually, this time he looked me straight in the eye. And gritted his teeth. Golden Boy Gimenez is not happy with Ladra these days. Neither are some of his handlers.
When I asked about the incident when Ladra and Hialeah Fire Union Vice President Eric Johnson were barred from the La Carreta event where the evil endorsement was announced, they again said that they had nothing to do with it, even though the chain of events indicates that at least Manzano — who is then also lying and that doesn’t look good on the mayor — knew about it before the press conference began and could have ensured our entry.
It just wasn’t convenient to pick a fight with Castro Hernandez over that.
Ralph Garcia Toledo — who las malas lenguas call Gordo Teta after his initials and who obviously maneuvered his way into his position as the lobbyist closest to the mayor — told me that Johnson was fine with it and that I was the only one who still had an issue with the way we were treated. Really? Really? I know Slick is not fine with it, Mr G. T., because in his case it is even more egregious since it was obvious political retaliation toward an employee who has been a critic of the administration. Political retaliation Gimenez apparently tolerated and legimitized.
“You were barred! You were barred! You! You,” he shouted at me before leaving the building. And it sounded like he was okay with it, too.
I was visibly and transparently emotionally upset by the confrontation, which ended after Manzano told me that he never worked for former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart — “In fact, Congressman Diaz-Balart worked for me,” he said, oozing that sick cockiness that has now permeated the Gimenez campaign, and referring, we assume, to when he worked for the gaming investors known as Genting, for which the beloved one-time U.S. Representative has done some lobbying.
Ladra left the debate heartbroken. Not because these people she had grown to like and trust and believe in were treating her the same way that Castro Hernandez and his hoodlums treated her and seemed ready to spit on her if they could. Okay, maybe it was a little because of that.
But, no. It was mostly because I hate being wrong. Especially about a firefighter sold to me as an honest man.