Today, Banana Republican begins a weekly series assessing candidates running for various municipal elected offices this year. 

Peel the Vote '09: Luis Morse for Miami Commish

Let's turn our attention to the District 3 city commission race in Miami, where we have seven contenders vying to replace Joe Sanchez, who is running for mayor. The district includes the affluent Roads neighborhood and the predominantly blue-collar Cuban stronghold of Little Havana. 

Here we have Luis Morse, who so far has raised about $17,300 in campaign contributions and loaned himself $2,500, according to his most recent campaign treasurer's report.

Vitals: Born in Havana, Cuba, in 1940, Morse is a Bay of Pigs veteran who earned a civil engineering degree at the University of Florida. At UF, he was an Alpha Phi Omega and a member of the school's fencing club. In his spare time, Morse enjoys scuba diving.

Qualifications: He served as a member of the Florida legislature from 1984 to 1998. During his days as a legislator, he was chairman of the Cuban-American caucus in 1989 and 1990, as well as chairman of the Miami-Dade delegation in 1997. He left the House of Representatives to become deputy secretary and later secretary of elderly affairs.

Influence meter: In Little Havana, having fought in the Bay of Pigs might be all the credibility Morse needs to ride to victory. The Brigade 2506 dude holds sway with some powerful people too. His campaign report shows that Miguel de Grandy and Lucia Dougherty -- perhaps the two most influential government lawyers in Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami, respectively -- each gave Morse the $500 maximum. Dougherty's law firm, Greenberg Traurig, also gave him $500. Oh, and some guy named Jeb Bush, who apparently was Florida's governor, kicked in $100 to the Elect Morse effort.

Baggage: In 1995, Morse proposed using Miami tourism taxes to pay for ad campaigns denouncing tourism in Cuba. The following year, Morse voted to keep a long-standing legislative perk provided by special interest lobbyists: pricey free meals. In 1997, he voted for a bill that erased tougher building code rules that Miami-Dade County enacted to reduce shoddy home construction exposed after Hurricane Andrew.

Next week: Frank Carrollo, brother of the former mayor we all want to forget. 

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