Meanwhile, Regalado will have to address concerns about his management abilities and the perceived lack of professionalism at City Hall. Expect a rehash of last year’s near financial meltdown, the revolving door of city administrators and Regalado’s public spat with then-Police Chief Miguel Exposito in 2011.
“There are a lot of people who have businesses in Miami or Miami-Dade County who are stunned by the incompetence of this guy,” said Joe Arriola, a businessman and former Miami city manager. Regalado “has no credibility in the business community.”
Regalado isn’t worried.
“I don’t think the people in Little Havana will vote against me because we don’t have a finance director,” said the mayor, who has gained notoriety for shrugging off criticism.
Instead, Regalado suggested, the people in Little Havana and Miami’s other neighborhoods will vote for him because he has never raised taxes, and because he kept his promise to cut his own salary.
Ever unflappable, the mayor is confident in his ability to win reelection.
“My base is still there,” he said. “The old people haven’t died.”
Suarez won’t make it easy. He raised more than $460,000 through his “electioneering communications organization” in the last quarter of 2012 — far more than the $91,000 Regalado raised in traditional campaign contributions over the same period.
The challenge for Suarez, observers say, will be making the case to replace Regalado.
“There hasn’t been a major scandal,” said Moreno, the FIU professor. “There isn’t an issue where he has really been at odds with the constituents. Francis needs to articulate a vision and show the need for change.”
Suarez will also have to overcome the mayor’s popularity. He could try to engage registered voters who don’t typically turn out for Miami’s off-year mayoral elections. In 2009, about 39,000 voters cast their ballots in the mayoral race, roughly 20 percent of the electorate.
“If Francis could expand the electorate and tap into the anti-Regalado fervor, he might have a chance,” pollster Fernand Amandi said, referencing developers who have been at odds with the Regalado administration.
Winning over seniors like Aracil and the rest of the crowd in Domino Park, however, will take some work for Suarez.
Juan Jorge Batista Batista, 79, went so far as to say Regalado ought to run for president of the United States — an impossibility because the mayor was not born in the United States.
“He’s the best of the best,” Batista said. “He has the support of the entire neighborhood.”