Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Florida 21: South Florida Race Heats Up in Denver

By Nathan L. Gonzales

Both parties’ candidates in Florida’s 21st district are in Denver this week, but don’t expect them to cross paths.

“He won’t debate me in Miami, so I’ll debate him here,” former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez (D) said on the convention floor Monday night. His opponent, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R), is in town as part of the Republicans’ “Truth Squad.”

Unlike some of his fellow Congressional candidates, Martinez was more than happy to take a break from the campaign trail to attend the week’s festivities.

“It’s very important to be here, to be known and to make connections,” Martinez said in an interview in the Pepsi Center, as the convention band blared just feet away.

The former mayor is a delegate, but he’s also hoping to leverage his time in Denver into campaign momentum this fall. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) introduced Martinez, along with a handful of other candidates, from the floor of the convention Tuesday afternoon.

Martinez expects Diaz-Balart to attend the Republican convention next week in Minnesota, but he does not plan to make it a campaign issue. “He’s a Republican. He should be there,” Martinez said.

Check Roll Call and on Thursday for results from a new survey on the race conducted exclusively for the newspaper. Democrats believe three GOP-leaning districts in the Miami area, including the 21st, are vulnerable because of an increasing number of non-Cuban Hispanic voters.

This item first appeared on on August 26, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.