3 Latino Candidates Face Off In Doral, Fla., Mayor's Race

Nov 4, 2016
Originally published on November 4, 2016 6:31 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Politicians and the media talk a lot about the Latino vote. So what happens in a city that is mostly Latino with multiple Latino candidates running for mayor?

SANDRA RUIZ: Well, I have a lot of support from the Dominicans.

JUAN CARLOS BERMUDEZ: It was an honor to get his endorsement on behalf of the Venezuelan community.

ALFREDO ORTEGA: I'm Venezuelan-American supporting a Cuban-American for mayor of Doral.

SHAPIRO: This scene is playing out in Doral, Fla. Three Latino candidates are vying to be the next mayor. Adrian Florido of NPR's Code Switch team was curious about the role identity is playing in that election, so he went to visit.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: This city of 56,000 outside of Miami turned this idea of the Latino vote upside down. Doral is 80 percent Latino, but it's a diverse group - Cubans, Colombians, Dominicans, Mexicans and a lot of Venezuelans. Let's meet the three people who want to be their mayor. The first is Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz. She's a Mexican-American from California. She moved to Florida in the '80s and says at first felt lost among so many Cubans.

RUIZ: I didn't know what black beans were or (speaking Spanish). I myself had a culture shock initially.

FLORIDO: Her opponent, Juan Carlos Bermudez, is Cuban. He's actually been mayor before, and he describes Doral like this.

BERMUDEZ: The most diverse city in the most diverse county in the most diverse state of the most diverse country in the history of mankind.

FLORIDO: They are both trying to unseat the current mayor, Luigi Boria. He is from Venezuela. And though he didn't respond to requests for an interview, he often talks about his immigration story, like he did in a speech this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LUIGI BORIA: This October marks almost 28 years since my family and I moved to this great city of Doral.

FLORIDO: And like in any American city, this race for mayor is focusing on local issues - traffic, growth, the budget. But if you look closer, you also notice how the candidates are using identity to get an edge over their opponents. Here's one example. Doral has a large and growing Venezuelan community. Recently, a group of Venezuelans held a campaign event for the mayor, touting him as the only Venezuelan in the race. Not to be outdone, JC Bermudez, the Cuban candidate, has this ad featuring a Venezuelan political exile.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: It's an appeal to the many Venezuelans living in exile in Doral. And Sandra Ruiz highlights her endorsement from the publisher of the local Venezuelan newspaper. There's another way this is playing out. And believe it or not, it has to do with Donald Trump. He has a golf resort in Doral, and last year, the city council gave him a key to the city. And then he launched his campaign for president with this assessment of Mexican immigrants.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists and some, I assume, are good people.

FLORIDO: Sandra Ruiz, the Mexican-American candidate, wanted Trump's key back and brought a resolution to the city council. But the mayor voted against it. Now Ruiz is using that against him. By the way, when I visited Ruiz's office, Trump's motorcade happened to drive past.

So do voters in Doral make choices based on identity? A few people I spoke with told me identity does matter to them, but most of the voters I spoke with in Doral sounded more like Alfredo Ortega.

ORTEGA: It doesn't matter where the candidate is from. And, you know, that's my case. That's how I'm Venezuelan-American supporting a Cuban-American for, you know, mayor of Doral.

FLORIDO: Voters will have their say on Tuesday. If none of the three mayoral candidates wins 50 percent of the vote, the top two will compete in a runoff. Adrian Florido, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.