In the end, it just wasn’t that interesting to most people.
Just 15.58 percent of Miami Dade voters turned out for the special election to replace Mayor Carlos Alvarez, who was fired by voters in an overwhelming vote on March 15th.
Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina got a majority of votes – 33.7 percent – not enough to win outright. That will trigger a runoff between Robaina and county commissioner Carlos Gimenez, who got 28.8 percent. The two Cuban-American Republicans ran on very similar platforms, particularly after Robaina switched his position on the Miami Marlins’ stadium (he was for it as mayor, but switched to being against it during the campaign.)
Campbell, who raised just over $12,000 during the campaign and spent less than $7,000, finished fourth in the race with just over 20,000 votes and 11.1%. Former State. Rep. Raphael Llorente, who sued to try and stop the county elections department from cancelling early voting on Sunday to comply with a newly passed Florida election law, came in fourth, garnering just 7,000 more votes than Campbell after spending more than $428,000.
Robaina and Gimenez raised $1.2 million and $450,000, respectively. Each goes into the runoff with some money in the bank, but very different amounts. Robaina spent $907,000 of his total haul, while Gimenez laid out $380,000 in his quest to become mayor.
Absentee ballots proved crucial to the outcome. Robaina got more absentee votes (27,618) than he did on election day (24,882). Gimenez got just over 19,000 absentee votes and just under 24,000 votes on election day.
In other ballot items, former state representative Esteban Bovo easily won the seat to replace Natacha Seijas, who was ousted from the county commission in the same recall election that took down Alvarez. Bovo faced several unknowns.
Voters rejected a charter amendment that would have imposed 12 year term limits on county commissioners and increased their salaries from $6,000 (the level the salaries have been at since 1957) to just over $92,000 a year. The idea was to professionalize the commission, but opponents found the provision that allowed current commissioners to start the term limit clock at the next election — and get the salaries — to be self-serving.
In the end, five of the six proposed charter amendments went down to defeat (including one that would have rescinded the strong mayor provision voters enacted five years ago) with just one — preventing elected officials from lobbying for two years after leaving office — hanging on to barely win the required majority. That measure passed 50.05% to 49.95%.
Democrats, who fielded no high profile political candidates (Campbell has never run for office) for the non-partisan race, will have a second shot at seating a mayor from the party that typically wins the county in statewide elections. The winner of the run-off will have to run again for a full term in November 2012.
The runoff is June 28.
UPDATE: The Christian Family Coalition, which has favored Robaina, is out with an email blast Tuesday night:
MIAMI-On Tuesday night, Carlos Gimenez and Julio Robaina appeared to be headed to a run-off for mayor of Miami-Dade County, with 81.66% of the precincts reporting, Julio Robaina is leading the pack of eleven (11) candidates with 33.84% of the votes followed closely by Carlos Gimenez with 28.72%.
“While this race will be decided on June 28th, what has already been decided is that the Christian, pro-life, pro-family vote will be the single, most important voting bloc in the upcoming election. We will distribute over 100,000 voter guides in 400 churches in Miami-Dade County and our collective voices will speak volumes”, stated Anthony Verdugo, Founder and Executive Director, Christian Family Coalition.
For Democrats, the CFC could be a kind of blessing. Should Robaina win, his association with them could add a partisan tinge to the election that will take place alongside the presidential race in November 2012 — when President Barack Obama and U.S. Senator Bill Nelson are expected to win the county (as Democrats typically do in statewide races.) If the more partisan of the two candidates (Robaina was endorsed by former Governor Jeb Bush) it could spur increased Democratic interest in the race — provided a strong Democratic candidate steps forward to run.