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SWEETWATER (CBSMiami) — Sweetwater Mayor Jose Diaz arrived to cheering supporters at a news conference Thursday as he battles to stay on the ballot in the May 12th election.
“We are enthusiastic. We know that we are on the right side and this has been a wrong decision,” Diaz said. He was referring to Circuit Judge Barbara Areces’ decision Monday that Diaz is not qualified to run.
Diaz was not elected mayor. He was elevated to the post from president of the city commission, after former Mayor Manny Maroño was arrested – and later plead guilty – to corruption charges.
Orlando Lopez, a commissioner, and also a candidate for mayor, filed suit challenging Diaz’s right to run.
“He failed to resign his lower position as commissioner,” Lopez told CBS4’s Gary Nelson Thursday.
Lopez says Diaz violated the resign to run law, by not resigning from his unexpired city commission term. Diaz says that argument is nonsense. The reason being that Catalino Rodriguez was appointed to fill Diaz’s commission seat when Diaz was named mayor. Diaz argues he can’t resign a seat he no longer holds and says Lopez’s suit was an act of political desperation.
“He’s seen that the only way he’s going to win this election is by removing me from the ballot,” Diaz said Thursday. “That’s not going to happen.”
Diaz has appealed the circuit judge’s ruling. Lopez says he believes Diaz deliberately didn’t resign his commission seat, to cover his political bets. He thinks Diaz wanted to maintain the ability to fall back into the commission seat, should he lose the mayoral election.
Lopez is confident he will win the appeal. So is Diaz.
“The fundamental part of our American system of democracy is that voters should always have the right to vote for the candidate of their choice,” said Juan Planas, Diaz’s attorney.
The Third District Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the mayoral melee next Tuesday, just two weeks before election day.