Florida’s 21st Congressional District

As promised, here’s the first of three posts about congressional politics in South Florida. A lot of noise is being made about the 25th Congressional District and there is talk of a “movement to draft Raul Martinez” to run against incumbent, Lincoln Diaz-Balart. I put that in quotes because I think these movements are usually fabricated by the candidates themselves.
In any case the district has been represented by Diaz-Balart, a Republican, since 1993. In November of 1992, Diaz-Balart ran unopposed.
In the mid-term elections of 1994 when the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives Lincoln Diaz-Balart received all the votes except 2 writes-ins, 1 each for “Tobias” and Laura Garza.
In 1996, Diaz-Balart again ran unopposed although a person named Seth Galinsky managed to get 4 write-in votes.
In the 1998 mid-terms, Diaz-Balart faced his first Democrat opponent in Patrick Cusack who obtained 25.2% of the vote. Diaz-Balart obtained the balance of 74.8% and the big losers were the write ins. No votes.
In 2000, Diaz-Balart had no opposition but the write-ins came back with a fury with a gentleman named George Maurer receiving 25 out of the 132,000 votes cast.
2002 was the first election after Florida’s redistricting but Diaz-Balart ran unopposed.
This is the map of the 21st as it is currently configured.
As you can see from the map, the district begins in the south part of the county and also contains a big portion of Hialeah (more on that later) and extends into Broward County.
In 2004, LDB ran against Democrat Frank J. Gonzalez and won with 72.8% of the vote. Interestingly LDB obtained 63.5% of the vote in Broward county. In Dade county, Diaz-Balart won even more impressively with 74.9% of the vote.
Which brings us to 2006. In that mid-term election, Diaz-Balart once again ran against Frank J. Gonzalez. This time Gonzalez did considerably better and Diaz-Balart obtained 59.5% of the vote. The news was that LDB lost Broward County where he only garnered 43.3% of the vote while he still won Miami-Dade comfortably with 63.3%. While the margin of victory for LDB shrank dramatically it was still a relatively large 19 percentage points. It should also be noted that this was a mid-term election with an increasingly unpopular Republican president in the White House and an election in which the Democrats recaptured the house. Yet to within 19 points is the closest the Dems could get in the 21st congressional district.
Now it looks like the Democrats are banking on the former and long time mayor of Hialeah, Raul Martinez to give Lincoln Diaz-Balart a run for his money. He’s got quite a challenge ahead of him to close that 19% differential. But if Martinez can win Hialeah, and carry Broward as Gonzalez did in 2006 he can probably win. Martinez was a very popular and effective mayor for Hialeah but he also has a closet full of baggage that includes corruption charges that he was convicted of but later had dismissed after two hung juries in re-trials. Not only that, political party affiliation plays a relatively small role in local politics. That is obvious because otherwise Martinez would not have been elected in one of the most Republican cities in the country. The question is whether voter loyalties in Hialeah will stay with the man or with the party and its platform. This will be put to the test next November.
My theory is that Martinez would keep it closer than Gonzalez did in 2006 but would lose anyway. I think the voters in Hialeah are sophisticated enough to distinguish between voting for a Democrat mayor where party affiliation is much less relevant and where issues tend to be much less ideologically driven and voting in a congressional election.
Besides the corruption cloud that lingers over Martinez and that is sure to be fodder during the campaign, there’s also the problem that at the top of that ballot will probably be a Democratic Presidential ticket featuring Mrs. Hillary Clinton. If I am correct and Hillary is a non-starter for many Cuban voters, I find it hard to believe that many of those voters will turn around and vote for a Democrat colleague of hers and against a candidate they have voted for before and who has carried the banner for the traditional hard-line exile community for years.
Not only that, I’m hearing that to be competitive Martinez will have to raise about $4 million. That’s an enormous sum of money for an congressional seat and it’s unlikely that the Democratic party will sink a lot of money into the district. Usually vulnerable seats are targeted and unless they have some data that puts the election much closer than 2006, this seat doesn’t qualify as vulnerable.
One other thing to consider is that Martinez has never lost an election. While that sounds like a strength, I wonder if Martinez really wants to go out a loser. If he stays out, I believe it will be for this reason.
Stay tuned for two more posts, one about the 18th district and one about the 25th district.

7 thoughts on “Florida’s 21st Congressional District”

  1. Lincoln y su hermano se estan cagando as we speak. They KNOW Raul and Garcia will most certainly win, it’s about time!

  2. Henry,
    I agree with you that voters are sophisticated enough to tell the difference between a NON-PARTISAN mayoral position and a most definitely partisan congressional post. Martinez has his work cut out for him.
    OTOH, it’s about time Lincoln faced a real challenge in an election. I think he’s been kind of drifting the past few years. Nothing like a little hard-nosed competition to bring out the best in someone. Let’s see how Lincoln responds.

  3. Espirituano:
    You think Garcia will beat Diaz-Balart?
    Maybe you should visit your local Botanica. Your donkey boy is going to NEED ALOT OF HELP!
    Perhaps un bañito con Siete Potencias!

  4. Raul Martinez has always had my support and that of Marx Lesnick, Marifea Perez-Unstable, Alfredito Duran, Lisandro Perez, Armengol, Menoyo, and all the other dialogueros who want the U.S. to end their blockade of Cuba. That’s why we will give all our money and support to Raul Martinez.

  5. Robert,
    Too many Republicans have been “drifting” the last few years. Let’s see if they will grow a set and face up the the Democrats.

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