A Merciful Court of Public Opinion

If you think being under federal indictment might have hurt Humberto Hernandez, you don't know the fine folks of District 3

Hernandez, obviously, opted for the advantages of running. In response to the notion that he might have declined to seek office while under indictment, he declares flatly: "If I had not won an election last year, I probably would not be indicted today." The indictment is a fabrication of political enemies, he charges. When he lost a city commission race in 1995, he says, federal agents allegedly allied with Mayor Joe Carollo halted the investigation and resumed it only after he was elected to the commission in 1996.

Although District 3 was carefully tailored to suit Hernandez's political needs, his support unraveled around the edges. Alonso won majorities in six precincts -- one in the northwest corner of the district and the rest in the Roads-Brickell area on the southeastern fringe. Her largest margin of victory -- 19 votes -- came in Precinct 569, where the tally was 32 to 13.

One of those Precinct 569 residents who rejected Hernandez is well-known local historian Arva Moore Parks. "I believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty," Parks says, "but any leader who has that kind of cloud over him, any leader that I would respect, would step down until that cloud is removed."

Parks says she was "horrified" when she learned that her new commissioner had staged a traffic-jamming demonstration in Little Havana to protest his foiled attempt to swear himself in at city hall the day after his election. "When a public official takes to the streets, that's scary," she says. "I don't think it would have gone over too well on my street."

Certain to be displeased with how his neighbors voted is someone else who lives in Precinct 569, just down the street from Parks: Humberto Hernandez.

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