Tony “Phony” Vega, the gun dealer with the secret deal two years ago — in which he ran under Hialeah Mayor Carlos Castro Hernandez’s slate in exchange for a “fast tracking” of his gun range permit — has cast his hat back in the ring.
This time, he is challenging Council Vice President Luis Gonzalez, who is rumored to be on the outs with Hernandez. Last year, Vega went up against Councilwoman Vivian “I’ll Notarize That” Casals-Munoz, who is seen largely as the only one on the dais that Castro doesn’t have in his pocket.
Vega told Ladra more than two weeks ago, when the malas lenguas first started to wag, that he was absolutely not running this year. “Business is good. I’m building up my business,” he said, referring to his Miami Guns and Code Red Firearms companies. “Maybe next time.”
But, then again, maybe this time. Apparently, he changed his mind. But he wouldn’t say why.
“I have no comment for you Elaine. I will never have a comment for you,” he said.
Hope that’s part of his platform.
Ladra was unable to reach Gonzalez early Thursday because he was probably at the viewing for Councilman Jose Caragol’s son — who died after a long battle with cancer — when I called him for reaction.
But Gonzalez may not have much to worry about. Despite rumors of his late-night beveraging, Gonzalez has been raising his profile in the last two years, slowly but steadily. He just stepped down as president of the Miami-Dade League of Cities and was able to stay out of the fray in last year’s Hialeah absentee ballot scandal, which did touch his colleague La Vivian and maybe hurt her chances of taking on Castro this year. And he was one of three Hialeah councilmembers at the swearing in of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez (La Vivian and Councilman Paul “Pablitiquito” Hernandez were the other two and Castro was conspicuously missing in action).
And Vega is not much of a candidate. He has that secretive thing and the permit quid pro quo — which I know is being investigated by authorities because I’ve spoken directly with them. And he was not able to gain much support despite Castro’s powerful help (while I heard there were slate cards together, I never saw them, but did see Castro’s people giving out both his and Vega’s palm cards).
Vega landed in third place after the Nov. 1, 2011 first round, with 24 percent. That was behind La Vivian’s 49 percent and former cop and Hialeah Housing Authority employee Danny Bolanos, who had 27 percent.
While I expect the mayor to help Vega again, Ladra expects Vega to lose again.
Which is why I do not care that he will never have a comment for me.
That, and the fact that I still have copies of the comments he made on facebook messages with Hialeah Fire Union VP Eric Johnson, the ones in which he admits to the deal with the devil.
“Yo Bud. I met with the Hernandez camp. They are gasping for support and offering sweet deals,” Vega wrote in July, 2011, to the 10-year veteran of the department. “My range is getting fast tracked as a result.”
Then, in September, he wrote: “Carlos people were feeling me out but I have no deal with them. I think seat 1 would be the easy choice.” Later the same day, which was one day before the qualifying deadline, he said he was switching
“Yo Big Dog, I’m going to try to unseat Vivian group 3. I can do this. Don’t get ruffled by my alliances. Tony Vega is still the same. I gotta get in there to be able to help,” he wrote.
“Ok, Eric. Here is the deal with me. I went to school with Robert Blanco, it just so happens that he is in the heart of the storm in Hialeah,” wrote Tony Phony. “He is a big fundraiser for the political machine here. He’s raising money for Carlos and soon for me as well. I am keeping an arm’s length from everybody for obvious reasons but I need the political machine to get elected.”
This is the same “political machine” he had been blasting months earlier on a webppost by someone he says now was “posing” as the owner of Miami Guns.
“Folks it’s a really bad empty feeling when your elected officials turn their noses at you. I have spent the last 2 days at city hall and the reception has been very mild. Luckily I made a few donations during election season and those guys were more receptive.”
Back then, he planned to move out of the City of Progress: “I plan on moving a mile or two up and be free of the political septic pool we call Hialeah,” he wrote.
Guess he decided to dive in, instead.
Careful, the water is cold.