South Florida Sun-Sentinel
By Madeline Baró Diaz
Posted November 2 2006
Miami · When Frank J. Gonzalez ran unsuccessfully for Congress two years ago, attempting to unseat U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, he ran as a Libertarian but tried to emphasize what he had in common with Democrats.
This year, he's running as a Democrat for the 21st Congressional District, which stretches from southwest Broward to south Miami-Dade and includes parts of Pembroke Pines and Miramar.
Gonzalez, 34, a mortgage broker and limousine driver, said his views have not changed. He still wants government out of people's lives -- he opposes the Bush administration's anti-drug policy, wants to abolish the federal income tax and opposes restrictions on gun ownership. The son of Cuban immigrants, he also opposes the U.S. embargo on Cuba and restrictions on travel to the island.
Diaz-Balart, 52, a Republican who has had little trouble retaining his seat since he was first elected in 1992, said Gonzalez' party change has not changed the "fringe nature of his candidacy."
"He is still for legalization of drugs and very extreme measures like that," Diaz-Balart said.
But Gonzalez describes his views as that of a "Jeffersonian Democrat, a Libertarian Democrat," views he thinks should attract Democrats and Republicans.
"I'm courting very actively the tax fighters and the pro-gun activists," he said. "They are as important to me as the Democrats who want to end the occupation of Iraq and defend civil liberties and restore free trade with all countries."
Gonzalez said he wants to decriminalize marijuana and advocates a compassionate drug policy.
"In no way am I advocating usage," he said. "I am advocating leaving pot smokers alone.''
Diaz-Balart touts his work in securing funds for Broward's transportation needs, such as alleviating congestion on Interstate 75.
On other issues, Diaz-Balart, who was born in Cuba, is a staunch backer of the Cuban embargo. He said he supports the war in Iraq and immigration reform measures that include border security, a guest worker program and an "equitable" resolution to the status of undocumented immigrants. While taking the challenge seriously, Diaz-Balart said he is not focusing on his opponent. In his next term he hopes to remain vice-chairman of the House rules committee, a position he says has allowed him to help his constituents.
"It's our constitutional duty to face the voters, our neighbors, every two years," Diaz-Balart said. "It's up to the voters whether they think we should be given another opportunity."
Madeline Baró Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 305-810-5007.