Hang on a minute… I write a Herald column and a blog … okay, not gonna take it personal. Here’s Luke’s defense of his mayoral endorsement.
In his latest New Times column, Luther Campbell strongly denies taking any money for his endorsement, something the Carlos Gimenez campaign has not openly charged, but which they’re happy to allow to hang in the air. He also denies he traded his endorsement of Julio Robaina for a job for his friend Pierre Rutledge, currently the operations director for Miami-Dade Schools. And he fires a few choice shots at the elite Miami media (including my Miami Herald op-ed page editor) and the “no-name” political bloggers who’ve been dogging him out over the Robaina nod, saying he wasn’t about to endorse Gimenez over Robaina just “because Miami Herald editor Myriam Marquez or Michael Putney or plain old conventional wisdom expected” it.
Campbell also goes into detail about his decision-making process, addressing an issue that has become the subject of a complaint to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office against the Robaina campaign:
… My endorsement was never contingent on Gimenez or Robaina giving Pierre Rutledge a job. I made my decision based on several factors. Being a political novice, I figured I’d ask both guys how they would feel about a Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama situation, where I could have input in their administrations and I could suggest — not strong-arm — hiring good, squeaky-clean people who will do the right thing for Miami-Dade’s deprived communities, economic development, youth programs, and the arts. Robaina was cool with doing that, while Gimenez wavered.
The former county commissioner also wavered on his position about Miami’s community redevelopment agencies. When we initially met, he was adamant about eliminating the CRAs and putting the millions of dollars that both generate annually back into the county general fund. That was a problem with me. A strong mayor needs to tell the CRA to get its act together before abolishing it. If the county has no say, the mayor needs to demand a seat at the table, provide more county oversight, and prepare a blueprint for creating jobs in the most blighted neighborhoods in Miami. When I told him so, Gimenez backed off his stance, but he didn’t seem genuine about it.
As part of my research, I went to the West Grove, where African-American community activists told me Gimenez was largely absent during his seven-year tenure as county commissioner. When people are telling me he has never been to the Goombay Festival and has never created an economic development plan for one of Miami’s oldest African-American neighborhoods, that tells me Gimenez is not for all of Miami.
Furthermore, during this campaign, Gimenez has not spent a quarter to court the African- American vote. He has not spent a dime on any minority-owned media outlets or taken the time to visit black neighborhoods. His strategy has largely been focused on getting elitist, wealthy Republicans and know-it-all Anglo Democrats.
This was a long, hard informed decision for me. I spent a lot of time talking to people I trust, folks who I know are not going to bullshit me. Yet everyone wants to paint a For Sale sign over my head. I’m making it clear that under no circumstances was my endorsement for sale.
Robaina never offered me a quarter. I fought for constitutional rights all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And now all of sudden I am going to sell out the voters to get a friend a job? C’mon, man. I endorsed Robaina in exchange for the promise of thousands of jobs for Miami-Dade residents, not for just one individual.
I believe Robaina — even though he is hated by New Times, the Miami Herald, CBS4, WPLG, and every no-name political blogger in town — has the best shot at putting people to work. If that is criminal, throw my ass in jail.
Luke also makes a pretty choice accusation against a Gimenez backer, Jimmy Williams, who he says offered him a $40,000 “appearance fee” for a not-yet-opened restaurant, on June 7th, the same day he met with Gimenez to discuss a possible endorsement. Campbell says Williams then signed off on the “endorsement” press conference without Luke’s permission, and tried to get him to clear a press release with things he never said written on it. Read it all here.
While I don’t know whether some of Luke’s barbs were directed at TRR, I stand by my criticism of Luke making any endorsement at all in the race, for the reasons I stated previously.
To restate, I endorsed Luke and think he did a tremendous service to Miami-Dade voters by running for mayor. I commend him for winning so many votes with so few financial resources, basically on his name recognition and passion alone. Luke is a rare voice willing to criticize not just the Hispanic leadership in the county, but the black leadership too (he has taken on the four black county commissioners, who apparently are supporting their fellow commissioner Gimenez) in his Miami New Times column, and I continue to believe he would have been more powerful off the field, rather than on one or the other Republican candidate’s team. And I hate to see Luke simply blend in with all the other black “leaders.”
By the way, I agree with Luke that Gimenez comes across as bloodless, and thoroughly disinterested in the county’s multi-ethnic black populace, I think in some ways, Robaina’s attentions are worse. He’s hawking himself like a used car to black pastors and elected officials, and giving the appearance of grimy political pandering. As a Rick Scott/Jeb Bush Republican, I find it hard to believe that Robaina will fulfill his promises to the urban core any more than Gimenez will take a walk through Liberty City if he becomes mayor.
I find Robaina’s promise to not touch county employee salaries and benefits below $80,000 wholly in-credible. And I worry that he will indeed bring Hialeah police brass to the county force, which if you’ve been paying attention to what happened in South Beach over Memorial Day weekend, will not be a popular decision among black county residents.
Overall, I seriously lament the lack of quality candidates for what should be a plum mayoralty — a big, important county should have a dynamic, outstanding mayor. No such person stepped forward this cycle. And worse, no such Democrat. It may seem overly partisan, but I simply don’t believe that spending-slashing, government-reducing Republicans will do much for a county with as much poverty as Miami-Dade has. The Republican ideology of cutting both taxes and government is a poor fit for a majority Democratic, broadly lower middle class county like Miami-Dade. If I was Luke, I’d have let the Republicans fight this one out, prepare to use my vote-driven bully pulpit to harangue whoever won when they did wrong, and start making phone calls to query strong candidates for 2012. And if I absolutely, positively felt like I had to endorse, I’d pick the guy who voted for Alex Sink over the one who pulled the lever for Tricky Ricky.
But that’s just me. And in fairness, I didn’t win 20,000 votes in an election.
Meanwhile, there’s another update from Team Gimenez, which is getting the endorsement of some prominent women, including a former mayoral candidate and a Democratic former congressional candidate (Annette Tadeo) and a Democratic former state house candidate with the Democracy for America stamp of approval (Millie Hererra). From the in-box:
Tomorrow morning at a breakfast hosted by Miami-Dade County’s most influential women, former candidate and only woman in the Mayor’s race, Gabrielle Redfern, will endorse the candidacy of Carlos Gimenez. Gimenez will discuss with women leaders issues of importance to the county. The breakfast will be held at Casa Larios at 5859 SW 73rd Street in South Miami.
“I am glad to accept the endorsement of Gabrielle Redfern,” said Gimenez. “Gabrielle has a history of standing up for what she believes in, and I look forward to her ideas in rooting out government waste, fraud and corruption. Gabrielle and I share common sense solutions to reaching a government that we can afford, all while improving the quality of life for all our citizens.”
“In Carlos Gimenez, I see a dedicated public servant who cares deeply about everyone in every part of our County,” said Redfern. “During the primary season, when we did manage to differ, Carlos was eager to listen to my side. As an activist, I believe Carlos can forge a more open, inclusive government out of the ashes we have been left with and begin to cure ills in transit, economic and urban development and our public health system. Carlos is a man of his righteous word, not just any word, and he is the only candidate I trust to lead Miami-Dade County today.”
Hosting the event will be Palmetto Bay Mayor Shelley Stancyzk and Councilwoman Joan Lindsay, Cutler Bay Councilwoman Peggy Bell, Coral Gables Commissioner Maria Anderson, Millie Herrera, Barbara Walters, Wendy Sejour, Representative Ana Rivas-Logan, Annette Tadeo, Blance Galvez, Kathy Shea, and Gisella Llorens among others.