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Florida House GOP leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera to run for Miami-Dade property appraiser

State Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera will challenge Miami-Dade Property Pedro Garcia this fall, setting up a high-profile contest for the countywide position. (Story here.)

Lopez-Cantera, the outgoing House Republican leader from Miami, will announce his intentions Thursday.

Lopez-Cantera, 38, had been considering jumping in the race for weeks. He said he didn't think about seeking the job until Garcia was thrust into the spotlight last fall when he told the city of Miami it might have to pay property taxes on its parking garages at the new Marlins ballpark.

The city had assumed it would be exempt from any taxes. But Garcia, citing state law, warned city officials they might be on the hook, since the deal between the city, county and Marlins specifically protected the ballclub from paying any future taxes.

Critics said Garcia had the power to exempt the city from any taxes. Garcia countered that he wanted to help the city, but doing so could result in a lawsuit against his office.

In the end, he didn't have to make the call. During the legislative session in Tallahassee, Lopez-Cantera, the Miami-Dade delegation chairman, pulled strings behind the scenes to exempt Miami from having to pay any taxes by tweaking state law. A House staff analysis had suggested the change could be unconstitutional, though Lopez-Cantera disagreed.

"I didn't go into this session or legislative term thinking about running for property appraiser," Lopez-Cantera said. "But it became clear to me that the decisions made by this office will be very important in the future."

Last month, wealthy auto magnate and civic activist Norman Braman, who led last year's recall against County Mayor Carlos Alvarez, said he would back Lopez-Cantera in a potential property appraiser's race.

A third candidate, Ernesto Castellanos, has also filed to run in the contest, though he has raised less than $2,000. Garcia has raised $55,395.

Garcia has been a fixture on Spanish-language radio, portraying himself as a professional charged with making difficult decisions and helping property owners — particularly the elderly — lower their tax assessments.