Raul L. Martinez, former mayor of the city of Hialeah, seems to show up in The Miami Herald on a regular basis these days.
An attack in the form of a comment by Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer caused Raul to blow a casket and answer back in not so pretty words. This led to several articles and a column written by Herald columnist Ana Menendez titled, “GOP can’t take Cuban vote for granted forever.”
It turns out Raul had held a political fundraiser for Sen. Hillary Clinton at his house in Hialeah. Greer was critical of Mrs. Clinton and warned that she should watch the company she keeps and the people she accepts money from. The senator had just finished a week where she had turned back $850,000 in contributions garnered through political fundraiser Norman Hsu jailed for a charge of grand theft. When Greer termed Martinez an “embattled fundraiser,” the 6-foot 2-inch mayor took the bait and barked back.
It’s understandable. At one point in south Florida’s history Raul may have been the most powerful politician from this area. As a 30-year-old mayor of Hialeah, the second largest city in Miami-Dade County and fifth largest in the state, he had taken a bankrupt municipality and turned it into a thriving and bellwether Florida industrial power. Everything the mayor touched seemed to turn up roses and the media and leaders nationally recognized it. Then suddenly, in the late 1980s, a dubious indictment, orchestrated, some say, by then U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen, husband of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, turned the thriving mayor’s life upside down.
After a suspension from office, Raul beat the rap, came back and still won a reelection for mayor of the city. But he had paid a large price, and many (especially from outside Hialeah) questioned his integrity from there on in. Ileana went on to become the first Cuban ever elected to Congress.
These days there is talk that Raul, who gave up his mayor’s seat last year, is considering challenging U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart in the fall of 2008. Street pundits have Raul kicking Lincoln’s butt in the election. The reality is that this would be a heck of an electoral battle. Not an easy victory for either side. I know I’d love to see it happen.
BUT, there seems to be the smell of fear coming from the republican side. Greer’s comments were not by coincidence. Raul, who is used to being invited to radio and TV stations in Miami, has seen his time reduced on the air.
The latest blow: Raul, who had just started a gig as radio commentator on Univision’s WQBA (1140 AM), had to bow out this week. They (the station) was demanding that he sign a waiver which promised he would not seek political office.
Martinez said no.
What are these people afraid of?
Alvaro F. Fernandez