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Brief tenure propels Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez into runoff as favorite

Six months ago, Carlos Hernandez was a little-known city council president, toiling in the shadow of Hialeah’s influential strong mayor.

Now he is the favorite to clinch a four-year mayoral term himself, after handily securing first place Tuesday in the city’s four-way mayoral contest.

By campaigning on a series of populist measures and running an effective absentee-ballot operation, Hernandez — who was outraised by far more experienced rivals — bested the field in a clear, six-point victory. He will be anticipated to win a Nov. 15 runoff against charismatic former Mayor Raul Martinez, a man who famously never lost an election during a near quarter-century in power but now looks vulnerable.

Hernandez, a former police officer, came into the spotlight in May, when he took over after Mayor Julio Robaina stepped down. Hernandez knew he had little time to make a name for himself before the November election, in which he had long intended to contend for the job.

He proposed a flurry of high-profile measures — each one announced while TV cameras rolled — that allowed him to take aim at his opponents while unveiling major policies.

He took credit for reopening public parks that had been shuttered for the summer. He held the property-tax rate steady. He pushed a measure to rid the city of unpopular red-light cameras and another, more controversial ordinance to allow seniors — who make up the bulk of Hialeah’s reliable Cuban-American voters — to rent out efficiencies.

Perhaps most shrewdly of all, he voluntarily reduced his salary and benefits package from $271,000 to $190,000 — and placed a question on the ballot permanently cutting the mayor’s salary and requiring voters to approve any future changes to compensation.

That move sat well with folks outraged by soaring public salaries and pensions in a limping economy. The referendum, which passed with strong support from 61 percent of voters, drew people to the polls — and they likely supported Hernandez. More here.

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