For nearly 25 years, Raul Martinez ruled the city of Hialeah with a grin and a book's worth of pithy quotes. He was a charming Democrat in a solidly Republican city, a big thinker in a small town. He ushered in affordable housing and improved Hialeah's infrastructure, all while campaigning successfully for eight straight elections. He even pulled off a courtroom miracle. After prosecutors nailed him for corruption, el gigante had the ruling overturned by an appeals court. When he retired from office in 2006, it was hard to believe he'd be content with eating early-bird dinners and living the rest of his life on a golf course. Sure enough, in early 2008, he announced he was going to take on another Cuban-American icon: U.S. Congressman and Republican Lincoln Diaz-Balart. The contest is expected to be the talker of the year, and Raul seems up to the task. After all, he's got cojones, whether he's talking about why the district needs a Democrat or about his controversial history. "I would debate any fucking Republican about my past," Raul told the Miami Herald. "We'll have a debate mano a mano if they want to take me on. I'm going to take them on."