Long before he established himself as a tenacious member of the Miami-Dade legislative delegation in Tallahassee, 45-year-old state Rep. Rafael "Ralph" Arza (R-Hialeah) was the king of Doral. In 1996, after losing a bid for the county school board, he was appointed to the Doral Community Council by former county Commissioner Miriam Alonso (now facing felony charges related to laundering political contributions).
Arza served as the council's powerful chairman until 2000, when he gave up the seat to run for the legislature from District 102, which includes most of Hialeah, parts of Miami Lakes, and a small portion of Broward County. He won easily. Last year he ran unopposed for his third term. Despite the lack of an opponent, Arza collected $200,000 in campaign contributions, $40,000 of that from real-estate investors and developers.
In his four years as a representative, Arza has become a player in the state House, especially regarding education issues. (For two decades he's been a history teacher at Miami Senior High School.) He is chairman of the legislature's PreK-12 committee, is vice chairman of the House Education Council, and sits on the Education Appropriations Committee. In 2001 Frank Bolaños, a close associate, was appointed to the Miami-Dade School Board by Governor Bush. Arza takes credit for engineering the appointment, much as he helped his brother-in-law, Agustin Barrera, win election to the school board in 2002.
According to his most recent financial-disclosure statement, filed in July 2004, Arza earned some $70,000 from his labors as a teacher and legislator. He supplemented that with consulting work: $10,000 from the Miami law firm Akerman Senterfitt; $10,500 from the City of Miami; and $33,500 from the Arza Consulting Group, a company owned by his wife Eris. Arza's Hialeah home address is listed as the office. In November 2004, Arza incorporated Mountain Moving Strategies, which also lists his home address as its headquarters. Arza would not comment on Arza Consulting Group or Mountain Moving Strategies.