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Little-known Miami-Dade commission candidate wants to 'legislate in Spanish'

Carlos E. Muñoz Fontanills, one of three candidates challenging Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro on the Aug. 14 ballot, wants voters to know that, if he gets elected, he plans to speak from the county dais in Spanish.

And it's not the first time he's run in part on that platform.

In 1996, as Carlos E. Muñoz, a Republican, he ran against Democrat Bob Menendez of New Jersey for U.S. Congress. The Cuban-American Menendez, of course, is now a well-known U.S. senator.

Despite living in New Jersey for more than 30 years after leaving Cuba, where he was a veterinarian, Muñoz Fontanills said, in Spanish, "I don't speak very good English." (His written English, he says, is decent.)  

A 1996 story from The (New Jersey) Record highlighted Muñoz Fontanills' emphasis on Spanish in his race against Menendez:

But what attracted the most attention was Munoz's nonchalance over his limited English proficiency. With a translator by his side, the 59-year-old Cuban immigrant conducted media interviews and a television debate in Spanish. Munoz attributed his lack of English skills to a hearing problem, and insisted the only words a congressman needs to know are "yes" and "no."

The 76-year-old Muñoz Fontanills, who moved to Miami-Dade in 2003, is one of two little-known candidates (the other one is Calixto Garcia) challenging Barreiro, whose main challenger is state Rep. Luis Garcia. The district spans from Little Havana to Miami Beach.

Muñoz Fontanills, who said he worked in human resources for Hudson County in New Jersey, describes himself as an "extreme conservative" against any sort of tax increase, even if it means police layoffs, for example. He said he is involved in a variety of Cuban exile groups and said he's running for county commission to fight corruption. 

In Miami-Dade, he notes, official documents such as ballots are printed in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole. 

"If someone doesn't understand me," he said, "they can find an interpreter."