The Latin Builders Association invited Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and his Democratic challenger, Raul Martinez to its monthly luncheon Friday, but Diaz-Balart was a no-show.
Martinez, nevertheless, managed to keep lunch lively. Introduced by Cuban American National Foundation chairman Jorge Mas Santos as a politician who "isn't going to stand for the status quo," the former Hialeah mayor promised to bring a fighting spirit to Washington DC.
"Am I very colorful? Absolutely," Martinez said. "Am I fighter? Absolutely. Have I made mistakes? Of course I have. But when you look at what I did in 24 years in the city...
"Had I not been bold about being mayor," he said, "Hialeah would still be a cow pasture."
Martinez and his campaign criticized Diaz-Balart for not showing up at the event, noting one of the two seats on stage went empty.
"I got into this race in January, wanting to debate, talk about the issues," Martinez said. "But that hasn't happened."
LBA president Ovi Vento said the Republican incumbent's campaign "never responded to our invitation. We would have loved to have had a debate."
Diaz-Balart's campaign said the event "was not his schedule."