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Juan C. Zapata's former opponent endorses him in Miami-Dade commission race

Former state Rep. Juan C. Zapata, who will be in a November runoff for an open Miami-Dade county commission seat, drew the support this week of one of his first-round election opponents.

Political rookie Javier Muñoz endorsed Zapata after coming in third place in the race between himself, Zapata and Manny Machado, a Miami-Dade police detective on leave while he runs for office.

The endorsement matters because Muñoz, a first-time candidate running a small campaign with friends and family and not political operatives, did better than anyone expected, garnering 15 percent of the vote (and playing the spoiler for someone like Zapata, who had hoped to win the election outright). Zapata got 48 percent of the vote; Machado got 37 percent.

Muñoz said he and Zapata were friendly throughout the campaign for District 11, a swath of West Miami-Dade that for the last 12 years has been represented by Commission Chairman Joe Martinez, who lost his bid for county mayor. Muñoz said he and Zapata see eye-to-eye on money issues, including "bringing a new perspective to the commission, and increasing transparency, and really shaking up the commission."

"He really ran a very clean campaign -- we spoke about the issues," said Muñoz, who plans to join the Zapata team and actively campaign for his former opponent. "There was never any form of intimidation."

Zapata said he sees a bright future in politics for Muñoz. The two congratulated each other via text message after last Tuesday's election results, Zapata said, and met last week and on Monday to discuss their partnership going forward.

"He did a good job with very little resources," Zapata said. "I respected what he did and what he stood for...He was there in the trenches."

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