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Bovo ‘honored’ to score Trump endorsement in Hialeah’s mayoral race

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Hialeah mayoral candidate Esteban “Steve” Bovo was endorsed by former President Donald Trump on Thursday, with Trump saying he has “no doubt that Steve will stand up to the far-left agenda that looks to change America.”

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“Hialeah is a shining example of America’s entrepreneurial spirit,” Trump wrote in his endorsement. “Bovo gets that small businesses, not government, are the job creators. He will fight to get government out of the way.”

In deeply conservative Hialeah, the second-largest city in Miami-Dade County, Trump weighing in on a municipal race could sway voters undecided between Bovo and his toughest opponent, Isis Garcia-Martinez, both of whom are Cuban Republicans and are well-known on Hialeah’s political scene.

Trump’s endorsement of a mayoral candidate, amid a string of other endorsements in local elections around the country, is the latest sign that Trump is willing to weigh in on races and candidates at all levels to prove his influence on the GOP ahead of an expected run for president in 2024.

Bovo told the Miami Herald he spoke on the phone with Trump for a few minutes on Thursday, and that Trump offered his “whole-hearted, full endorsement.”

“I’m honored that he endorsed my campaign,” Bovo said. “It only forces me to work even harder to make sure we finish this thing on a strong note.”

But Garcia-Martinez, a former Hialeah councilwoman, painted the endorsement as a sign of weakness from Bovo, a former county commissioner, state representative and Hialeah councilman.

“Bovo has been in elected office for more than 20 years and he cannot stand on his own because he has no record to stand on other than living off the backs of taxpayers,” Garcia-Martinez said in a statement. “This is why he has to seek endorsements from people who do not live or vote in the City of Hialeah.”

Asked Thursday about Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of fraud during the 2020 presidential election, Bovo told the Herald he believes there was “widespread fraud,” but that it is “very difficult to prove.”

The “ocean of absentee ballots” in the election — which was largely a result of COVID concerns — “makes it extremely difficult to have a full and transparent accountability,” Bovo said.

Asked if Joe Biden was legitimately elected as president, Bovo said: “Joe Biden went through an election process and he is right now the president of the United States.”

After the election, courts around the country rejected claims of voter fraud by Trump.

Bovo and Garcia-Martinez are both seeking a non-partisan mayor’s seat to replace Carlos Hernandez, who is departing due to term limits after a decade as Hialeah mayor. Hialeah’s primary election is set for Nov. 2 for mayor and three city council seats.

In addition to Bovo and Garcia-Martinez, three others are running for mayor: Julio Martinez, a Hialeah mayor in the early 1990s who leads the Hialeah Republican Club; two-time mayoral candidate Juan Santana; and right-wing activist Fernando Godo.

Trump’s endorsement, which came in a statement Thursday evening from his Save America PAC, adds to a string of Bovo endorsements from high-profile Florida Republicans in the past few days, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Gov. Ron DeSantis. DeSantis encouraged Bovo to run for Hialeah mayor in February, before Bovo had announced his candidacy.

The announcement Thursday also comes a day after Diaz-Balart, who represents Hialeah, tweeted he met with Trump to discuss “economic, domestic and foreign policies.”

This is not the first time Trump has played a prominent role in a race in which Bovo is a candidate. In 2020, during Bovo’s bid for Miami-Dade county mayor, his campaign sent out mailers with a photo of him greeting Trump on the tarmac last year during a visit to South Florida.

His then-opponent Daniella Levine Cava, a Democrat and now the county mayor, used the same photo in a mailer attacking “Bovo and his friend Donald Trump.”

Bovo said he believes the endorsement will pay dividends in Hialeah, where two-thirds of voters supported Trump last November.

“I think he’s aware of how well he did in Hialeah,” Bovo said.

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