Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz draws challenger backed by pet advocates
|By Douglas Hanks, The Miami Herald|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The cable spot, funded by Pets' Trust Miami organizers, urged viewers to run against Diaz and other commissioners who didn't support higher property taxes last year to fund animal services. "We need you," the announcer said. "Call now."
On the eve of the
She brings zero name recognition and virtually no money to the race against Diaz, a veteran leader in West
Thanks to close support from
Figueira won the public support of billionaire
The latest finance reports show Diaz raised
On the issues, Figueira describes herself as more willing than Diaz to increase county property taxes to improve services. She said she backed the eight commissioners who voted for a higher library tax in July. Diaz was one of five commissioners to vote against it.
Figueira, 68, also said she supports a tax increase for more animal services, the driving issue behind the
In an interview, Figueira initially said she would support tax increases only if voters first backed them at the ballot box. Asked to reconcile that position with her support of higher library taxes, Figueira backed off and said she would make an exception given the central role education plays in the community.
"We are doing a disservice and injustice to a community by not providing library services to everyone," she said.
She would still require a ballot item for higher taxes to avoid planned layoffs in the county police department.
Diaz, 53, declined an interview request for this article. In response to a written question about what he has accomplished during his current term, Diaz cited county ordinances tied to child safety and sexual predators, as well as securing federal help on flood insurance and transportation funding.
Diaz, first elected to the
Though she is waging what could be the shortest candidacy in this year's commission race -- no challenger filed to run later than Figueira -- the newcomer claims she has already been introduced to the darker side of politics. Figueira points to a
"It was very intimidating," Figueira said of the meeting at
Figueira said the meeting concerned Manrique's own bruising experience as a failed candidate for the
She said her spotty voting history came up during the meeting, along with court records involving relatives tied to her late husband's estate. "They're were trying to persuade me not to run," Figueira said.
Both Mathos and Manrique denied trying to intimidate Figueira. They also said they did not talk to Diaz about the meeting ahead of time, a statement Diaz confirmed.
"Marjorie was an outstanding employee," said Mathos, who retired in 2003 and now lives in
Manrique, who owns a company that gave
"Politics is a dirty sport --that's the only message we were trying to pass to her," he said. "Nobody ever told her not to run."
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