The two candidates angling to be Kissimmee’s first Hispanic mayor are engaged in a mano a mano that started years ago and is getting weirder and weirder the closer we draw to the August 30 primaries.
Art Otero and José Alvarez, both Kissimmee city commissioners known for verbal disputes in and out of commission meetings, are on the August 30 ballot. The winner takes the mayor’s seat.
But Otero, known most recently for a domestic altercation in which he allegedly tried to influence the Kissimmee police investigation, is trying to disqualify Alvarez from the race – and seize the prize – in a suit rejected last week by the Ninth Circuit Court in Osceola. Otero said he will appeal, throwing the election into a dispute that potentially may be decided by the court.
Otero alleges that Alvarez should have resigned his commission seat to run for office, as Otero did, to avoid running from a “safe haven,” which is illegal in Florida. But Alvarez’s term ends in November, while Otero still had a few years left to his term. The judged ruled in Alvarez’s favor.
The hijinks do not end there. Although the mayor’s race is non partisan, Otero is a Democrat represented by two Latino lawyers well known in Oceola Republican circles: principal attorney Carlos Meléndez and former Osceola County Commissioner John Quiñones, who lost his 2014 re-election bid to Democrat Viviana Janer.
Many prominent Orlando-area Democrats are supporting Alvarez, including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, congressional candidate Val Demings, State Rep. Víctor Torres (D-48) and Janer.
An ad paid for by Alvarez with photos of his endorsees is circulating on Facebook, as if it were a “Most Wanted” poster because they had the audacity not to support Otero.
Here’s the crux of the matter: Otero is Puerto Rican and previously urged voters to “vote for the Puerto Rican.” Alvarez, meanwhile, has committed the high crime of being Cuban-American.
Many Puerto Ricans yearn for the first Hispanic mayor of a largely Puerto Rican city to be Puerto Rican. No matter who it is, no matter the temperament.
“Dyer has aspirations for the governorship,” wrote local activist Violeta Burgos on Facebook. “Is he counting on our vote when he visits Kissimmee to endorse a Cuban for mayor and it’s not even his city”?
At last week’s Political Salsa hob nob, attended by 400 people and held at the Acacia Network in Orlando, Otero took umbrage at losing 70 percent – 30 percent to Alvarez in an unscientific poll.
A Facebook war broke out, forcing Political Salsa organizer and attorney Anthony Suarez to weigh in.
“Any implication that the results aren’t accurate is defamatory…,” wrote Suarez in perfect legalese on Facebook.
Otero, possibly sniffing an electoral defeat at hand, is lashing out any way he can because hob nob polls aren’t meant to be taken seriously. They are hyper partisan fun, “accurate” only insofar as they represent voter sentiment at the event.
Most folks who attend hob nobs are political insiders themselves, and apparently they are not supporting Otero.
˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor