Raul L. Martinez (born on March 6, 1949 in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba) is the Democratic congressional candidate for Florida's 21st congressional district and was the former mayor of Hialeah, Florida, United States. He is a Democrat and was mayor for 24 years, first elected in 1981.
Raul is the son of Leonides Martínez Calderín (Chin) who passed away in 2007. Chin Martinez was the head of the taxi drivers retirement fund in Cuba during the 1950s, and used his connections to prevent his brother's assassination, Alfredo Martínez Calderín, who then joined Raul Castro in the II Frente Oriental Frank País. Alfredo's son, Rubén Martínez Puente, is presently a general in the Cuban Army.
In 1993, Martinez won re-election by 273 votes, because of a 2 to 1 margin amongst absentee ballots. The election was thrown out by a state judge who ruled that "overzealous" and "unscrupulous" campaign workers forged so many absentee ballots as to taint the entire vote. Martinez won a special election that was called in 1994. Martinez was again re-elected mayor in 1997 and 2001 where for the second time in his career ran unopposed. He has ran and won 9 times as Mayor of Hialeah.
Mr. Martinez has received numerous gubernatorial appointments amongst them the Florida State Commission on Hispanic Affairs from 1979 to 1982, where he was elected Chairman in 1981, and on the Governor's Commission on the Statewide Prosecutor's Function from 1984 to 1985. In 1985, he was appointed by then Governor Bob Graham to the Democratic Policy Commission's Roundtable on Defense and Foreign Policy, as well as to the State Comprehensive Planning Committee.
Mr. Martinez is a past-president of the Dade County League of Cities, the Florida League of Cities and served on the Board of Directors of the National League of Cities. He is Chairman of the South Florida Employment and Training Consortium and was the founding vice-chairman of the Beacon Council, a Miami-Dade County development agency composed of public and private sector leaders. The Mayor also served on the High Speed Rail Franchise and Environmental Review Committee.
On December 13, 2005, Hialeah City Hall was renamed as the “Raul L. Martinez Government Center” in recognition to his 24 years as mayor and 4 years as a councilman.
The indictment led to Raul Martinez's suspension from office and trial. In July 1991, Martinez was convicted for six counts of conspiracy, extortion and racketeering and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Martinez appealed the decision and the appellate judges ordered a new trial in 1994, citing” flawed jury instructions and blatant jury misconduct”. The mayor's second trial ended March 26, 1996 in a hung jury. And the third trial, which began April 22, 1996, resulted in a acquittal on one count of extortion and deadlocked on five remaining counts (by a vote of 11 to 1 in favor of an acquittal).
The U.S. Attorney at that time, Kendall Coffey, (a Clinton appointee who was confirmed by a Republican U.S. Senate) ultimately dropped the remaining five charges. The Clinton Justice Department then opened a case against Mr. Lehtinen on charges of "misconduct" and potential conflicts of interest for investigating a "a potential political rival of his wife. Mr. Lehtinen resigned his position as US Attorney.
As of June 30, 2008, Martinez has raised $1,219,984 and has $1,079,068 cash on hand. He has less cash on hand than his opponent (who has has $1,755,490 cash on hand. ). According to the Raul Martinez campaign the majority of individual contributions have come from registered Republicans.
A July 7 poll conducted by a noted Democratic polster, Sergio Bendixen, showed Diaz-Balart ahead of Martinez by a four point margin, 41 to 37 percent, with 22 percent undecided. David Hill, the Diaz-Balart brothers' pollster, said Lincoln's internal polling shows the congressman with a 12-point lead over Martinez and a "double-digit advantage over his opponent in virtually every significant segment of the electorate."
On May 22, 2008, Diaz-Balart did not attend a debate hosted by the South Florida AFL-CIO with Martinez due to scheduling and venue issues.
On August 1, 2008, a leading Washington analyst, Rothenberg Political Report, reported that they see a "possible re-election trouble for Lincoln Diaz-Balart". Nonetheless, the most recent Rothenberg Political Report rated the seat as "Leans Republican." The Cook Political report and CQ Politics have also rated the district as "Leans Republican," while the Crystal Ball has rated the district as "Likely Republican"
According to the August 14, 2008 Time magazine article, Lincoln Diaz-Balart faces a competitive race. It also said that "Democratic voter registration in Miami-Dade County, as in other places, is up, and Republican registration is down".
The Mexican leftist newspaper, La Jornada, stated on August 19th, 2008 that "Lincoln Díaz Balart, ... está en grave riesgo de perder su puesto..." ("Lincoln Diaz Balart,... is in great risk to lose his position...").
On August 25, 2008, Lincoln Diaz-Balart agreed to debate Martinez, at a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce event at noon on October 8 . On August 26, 2008, Martinez challenged Diaz-Balart to an additional debate, in Colorado. .
Martinez has continued to request that Diaz-Balart debate him on television but to no avail .
According to a SurveyUSA poll sponsored by Roll Call conducted in August 2008, Martinez leads Diaz-Balart (48% to 46%) among likely voters. . According to the poll, Diaz-Balart enjoys 70% support from Cuban-Americans in the district. The poll's demographics (which were chosen by the pollster in 2008) are different from those of the district (based on the US census of 2000.) 51% of those questioned were Hispanic (34% of respondents were Cuban and 17% were non-Cuban). The percentage of Hispanics in the district is higher at 69.7%.
In February 2007, when a "caustic" press release from Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer criticized Hillary Clinton's presence at a fundraiser at the ex-mayor's home, Martinez responded by using profane language.