By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Outside the city, though, Martinez has not yet proved himself as thoroughly. His staunch ally Roberto Casas, forced by term limits to retire from the state Senate last year, challenged Miami-Dade County Commissioner Natacha Seijas, a former Hialeah council member and Penelas partisan. Casas, despite his eighteen years of service in the legislature, immense local popularity, and campaigning by Martinez, lost decisively. Former Hialeah council president and Martinez loyalist Alex Morales similarly lost a bid for the Senate seat vacated by Casas. The winner, backed by Penelas, was former state Rep. Rudy Garcia.
But this year there's none of that suspense. Some observers think Hialeah has been so quiet because everyone is concentrating on next year's State House, Senate, and gubernatorial races. That never stopped Hialeah's scrappy dissidents before, however, leading to the conclusion there's simply an opponent shortage. "It's really tough to find qualified candidates in the city of Hialeah to run and who can attract the people with money," opines an activist who has worked against Martinez in past elections. Others figure it's just not worth the effort and expense to fight a well-fortified city hall. Florida International University political science professor Dario Moreno has an interesting theory: He told the Herald that Martinez's enemies might have passed on this election as a ploy to prevent the mayor from mobilizing his workers and raising money. "A campaign allows him to keep his political machine tuned," reasons Moreno, who has been a consultant to Penelas and did polling work for Rudy Garcia. "So in a sense by not running anyone against him, you keep that machine inactive and hope it atrophies."
Martinez, the veteran populist who brags about never having conducted a poll, has no use for such speculation. "Moreno's an asshole," he snaps. "He took money from the other side. When was the last time he was in Hialeah? The last four years have been great for the city; we've moved forward, we've built roads, brought in new business, we're bettering the parks and maintaining the millage [property tax] rate. People are seeing the benefit of that. I don't need a machine."