Fine points aside, Martinez notes that Perez sued the city following his arrest at a brawl in an Eckerd drugstore involving him, his son, and individuals who allegedly insulted his wife. Perez believed Hialeah police violated his constitutional rights (not to mention his pride) and he wanted the city to be punished. In the end, though, it was Perez who got stung. He lost the case and was forced to cover the city's legal fees: $87,000. When he balked, the city, at the mayor's direction, filed liens against Perez's income properties. "It's a great injustice," Perez complains.
Another member of the anti-Martinez cabal is Vicente Rodriguez, president of the Hialeah Chamber of Commerce, who helped persuade Cindy Miel to take the political plunge. "Vicente is always complaining that he can't make any money while I'm mayor," Martinez says with barely disguised sarcasm.
Political neophytes Political neophyte Cindy Miel(at top), Vanessa Bravo (above left), and Adriana Narvaez are about to be pulverized by Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez
Rodriguez counters that the mayor awards contracts only to companies and individuals aligned with his political agenda. "In Hialeah," he grumbles, "competitive bidding doesn't exist."
"If these guys are using the young ladies for their own personal vendettas, shame on them," Martinez continues. "Perez in particular has always wanted to be the guy behind the throne. If the girls are smart, they won't allow these people to use them."
The candidates themselves are not pleased to hear the buzz that they're simply pawns on a political chessboard. Adriana Narvaez, for one, insists she owes no one any favors. "And I certainly don't expect to owe anyone favors if I'm elected," she adds emphatically.
But what about the prospects of being flattened by the Raul Martinez juggernaut? "I don't waste my time with that stuff," Vanessa Bravo says bravely. "My goal is to work hard and continue developing my grassroots efforts."
First-grade teacher Miel, speaking from Treasure Island Elementary during a rowdy recess, sums it up: "I certainly don't have anything against the mayor, but I don't think one person has the power to influence 72,000 voters in Hialeah."