Esteban “Steve” Bovo wins Hialeah Mayor’s race

Esteban Steve Bovo
Bovo won with more than double the number of votes as his closest competitor.

Esteban Steve Bovo emerged victorious from Tuesday’s election to become the new Mayor of Hialeah, marking a new chapter for Miami-Dade County’s second-most populous city.

Bovo captured 59% of the vote as of 9:35 p.m. with all precincts reporting. Of 21,872 votes cast, 12,908 were in his favor. His closest competitor, former Hialeah Council member Isis Garcia-Martinez, received 21.5% of the vote.

Former Hialeah Mayor Julio Martínez nabbed just 1.9% of the vote, outpacing Hialeah resident Juan Santana but falling far behind third-place candidate Fernando Godo, whom more than 16.5% of city voters supported on the ballot.

The five-way race to replace term-limited Mayor Carlos Hernández included several notable names, though Bovo and Garcia-Martinez had positioned themselves as the presumptive front-runners in the lead-up to Election Day.

Bovo is a well-known figure locally, having begun his career as a Hialeah Council member before being elected to the Florida House, a post he held less than three years before earning a seat on the County Commission. Ahead of reaching term limits there last year, he ran for Miami-Dade Mayor but lost to Daniella Levine Cava in a runoff.

Early last month, an endorsement from former President Donald Trump provided him further political capital. Trump’s nod is a powerful commodity in Hialeah, where Trump’s share of the vote ranged from 70% to 78% at precincts across the city last year.

Garcia-Martinez made history as the first Hispanic woman to serve as president of the Hialeah Council, of which she was a member from 1991 to 1995 and from 2007 to 2019. Her community involvement has had countywide impact, too; former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas appointed Garcia-Martinez to the county Health Task Force.

Garcia-Martinez took swipes at Bovo, characterizing his candidacy as a “backup plan” to his primary goal of being elected Miami-Dade Mayor. Hialeah, she said, deserves “a Mayor who thinks of them first and not because he is out of options and needs a job.”

Bovo, conversely, declined to return fire.

Godo, a city activist, led an effort in 2019 to impeach Hernández for “abuse of power and mismanagement.” The effort failed, but Godo succeeded in gathering more than 5,000 signatures, making him something of a known figure in the city.

He’s also an author of sorts. Amazon sells several books he has written, including one whose title translates from Spanish into “The Vagina of Crazy Time,” and an e-book series titled “Revista 1%.” A description accompanying the first book in the series translates to, “Against the socialism of the Democratic Party of the United States against socialist indoctrination in schools.”

Santana has turned into a perennial contender for Hialeah Mayor. This election marked his third consecutive swing at the office. During his first bid in 2013, he was harassed by a former Hialeah cop who later claimed he did so because Hernández paid him.

Martínez, who was Mayor in the early ’90s, called for a return to the city’s past in the lead-up to Election Day. Hialeah, he said, needs “to be put back to where (I) met it 30 years ago,” pointing to the city’s fewer police and fire personnel today as evidence it’s “in sad shape now.”

In 2013, Martínez unsuccessfully vied for a seat on the City Council. Six years later, he announced the launch of a 24-hour television station in Miami Lakes specializing in local politics and sports. Eight months later, the deal fell apart.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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