One incumbent Hialeah Council member is heading back to City Hall while another must cede her seat to a challenger following the city’s General Election Tuesday.
With all 45 precincts reporting at 8:08 p.m., Council President Monica Perez had more than 63% of the vote to deflect a challenge from Elias Montes de Oca for the Group 4 seat.
Meanwhile Angelica Pacheco unseated incumbent Council member Vivian Casáls-Muñoz 52-48% in Group 1.
In both races, the incumbents held major funding advantages.
Fewer than 8,400 Hialeah voters cast ballots in the city’s election by Tuesday.
Hialeah Council members serve in an at large capacity, meaning they represent the entire city of more than 220,000 residents and not just a portion of it.
Two sitting members — Group 2 Councilperson Jesus Tundidor and Group 3 Councilperson Jacqueline Garcia-Roves, the panel’s Vice President — coasted into re-election earlier this year after no one filed to run against them.
Council Group 1
The race for Council Group 1 featured Perez, an incumbent, against Montes de Oca, a first-time candidate with an ambitious platform and not-so-pristine past.
Perez, 41, is an elementary school teacher who won her seat in 2019 with more than 58% of the vote.
Her campaign website provided no new policy proposals but gave an overview of her priorities, which included improving youth services, neighborhood safety, programming for individuals with special needs, community planning and government transparency.
She raised nearly $84,000 through her campaign account to win re-election, with most of the funds coming from hundreds of businesses and residents from South Florida, many of which listed addresses outside of Hialeah. A sizable portion of her gains came from real estate companies and professionals.
Hialeah Republican Rep. Alex Rizo, a fellow education professional, gave Perez $500. Sweetwater Mayor Jose “Pepe” Diaz, the immediate past Chair of the Miami-Dade County Commission, donated $1,000.
Perez also received $1,000 apiece from Jorge and Julio Del Rey, the co-owners of Executive Fantasy Hotels, a chain of erotically themed motels that rent rooms at three-hour rates.
Montes de Oca, a 24-year-old assistant legal paraprofessional, raised about $12,000 through his campaign account. That included about $2,000 worth of self-loans.
The remainder came almost exclusively through three-figure donations from Hialeah businesses and residents.
His policy priorities included lowering property taxes and utility costs, investing in affordable housing and traffic improvements, promoting low-density residential development and refurbishing Hialeah’s underground water and wastewater lines. He also listed flood-mitigation projects, expanded services for elderly pedestrians, improvements to the city’s recycling provisions and making the city more hospitable to pedestrians and bicyclists as high on his to-do list.
Montes de Oca brought some baggage into the race. In 2018, he was the subject of a police complaint alleging he forged a check from a restaurant he worked for, adding $1,000 to the check’s value before depositing it into his bank account.
He was not arrested or charged, and the matter was dropped after he repaid the money, according to the Miami Herald.
The explanation Montes de Oca gave police was that he’d been paid money through a check from the restaurant by a “sugar daddy” in exchange for sending pornographic images of himself and engaging in explicit conversations.
He has at least 16 other files with the Hialeah Police Department, the Herald revealed, including one case alleging fraud and several for driving-related offenses, the most recent of which occurred this July for an expired vehicle tag.
Council Group 4
One year after 58% of Hialeah voters chose incumbent Casáls-Muñoz to remain in office, she again faced Pacheco, the person she defeated last year.
This time, she lost.
For Pacheco, 36, Tuesday was the culmination of her third run at Hialeah office. She also ran in 2021, when she received the most votes of several candidates running in the city’s Primary but lost in a runoff against Council member Bryan Calvo.
She raised close to $12,500 this year through her campaign account, with donations coming from a variety of mostly Hialeah-based businesses, a handful of residents, $990 from her husband and an $850 self-loan.
Casáls-Muñoz and Pacheco also have some baggage. While serving as a City Council member in 2015, Casáls-Muñoz faced an accusation that she “sold her vote” by switching her position at the last minute to support a zoning change allowing the construction of a residential complex.
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust found no probable cause she was guilty of any impropriety.
She was accused years earlier of fraud, as detailed by Political Cortadito, which also reported on Pacheco’s arrest in April 2004 on three charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one count of criminal damage and assault.
The person pressing charges against Pacheco, then named Angelica Caballero, was her mother. Pacheco told the Herald last month that the altercation was actually with her stepfather, who she said had locked her mother inside their home.
She pleaded nolo contendere and received six months of probation.
In 2011, Pacheco again drew police attention for alleged child abuse. Pacheco said she’d only spanked her son, but an arrest report Political Cortadito obtained shows she was actually accused of striking the 5-year-old with a belt, leaving welts that a teacher later saw and reported.
The case was ultimately dismissed.
Casáls-Muñoz, 55, was first elected to the City Council in 2006. After years out of office, her peers appointed her in February 2022 to finish the term left vacant by Oscar De La Rosa, who resigned to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest after his stepfather, former Miami-Dade Commission Chair Esteban “Steve” Bovo, won the mayoralty.
Casáls-Muñoz runs a real estate title company in private life. She’s also one of several directors of the privately run Hialeah Hospital. Tundidor is another.
Prior to her appointment last year, she sought the seat representing House District 111. She dropped her candidacy for the local opportunity.
This year, she raised more than $103,000 to remain on the Council. Hialeah businesses and professionals, a large share of them from the real estate and construction industry, accounted for much of that sum.
But she also enjoyed ample financial support from fellow GOP politicians. Through Oct. 20, she received $1,000 contributions from the political committees of Diaz, Miami Sen. Alexis Calatayud, Miami Rep. Juan Porras and Miami-Dade Commissioners Juan Carlos “J.C.” Bermudez, Kevin Marino Cabrera and René García.
Editor’s note: This report has been updated to correctly name the owners of Executive Fantasy Hotels.