A campaign flier implies the Coral Gables mayor is a big spender — and big drinker. Another candidate says he is preparing a lawsuit alleging his opponent filed improper campaign records. And in another race, a candidate suggests his opponent may not have lived in the City Beautiful long enough to run for office.
Such is the increasingly heated tone of the Coral Gables elections, featuring 10 candidates running for the mayor’s and two open commission seats. Voters will decide on Tuesday whether incumbent Mayor Jim Cason, elected to his first term two years ago, will be re-elected or unseated by longtime Commissioner Ralph Cabrera.
“There’s too much hatred in this election,” said Roxcy Bolton, 86, a civic leader who has lived in the Gables since the 1960s.
Bolton and others take issue with a flier portraying Cason as a big spender who has raised city fees. A photo on the back of the flier shows Cason with a grin holding what appears to be a bottle of red wine.
The ad, paid for by Citizen Action, Inc., a political action committee chaired by Keith Donner, Cabrera’s campaign consultant, altered an image that featured Cason, Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce President Mark Trowbridge and Michel Gourinchas, mayor of the Cognac region of France. The photo was taken in February during a ceremony in which Cason presented Gourinchas with the key to the city as the trio launched a partnership with The Alliance Francaise to promote cultural programs in the Gables. Gourinchas presented Cason with bottle No. 0001 in a 10,000-numbered edition called ‘Coral Gables.’ The series will be sold to raise money for Alliance Francaise.
Trowbridge and Gourinchas were cropped out of the flier, leaving Cason alone, clutching a bottle of booze.
Cason blew up the flier to poster size and displayed it on easels at Coral Gables Congregational Church last month during a mayor’s forum.
“They take it out for sleazy political reasons, that’s outrageous,” Cason complained.
Cabrera denied he had anything to do with the flier.
“It wasn’t my campaign,” he said. “My campaign consultant works for other people; I didn’t spend a dime on that project.”
Asked if he should pull the flier, Cabrera responded: “It wasn’t shown to me. I didn’t see the damned thing. It’s hard to say, ‘Should I have pulled it.’ I think it’s truthful — the ad — what it says.”
Said Cason, a retired U.S. diplomat and former head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana: “He’s a liar.”
The mayor’s race differs from the Group 2 and Group 3 races because there aren’t any incumbents to unseat. Cabrera and Maria Anderson, each elected in 2001, were term-limited.
“The reason I entered this race was because it was for an open seat and I knew I’d be running as ‘Marlin Ebbert’ and that’s all I had to do,” said Marlin Ebbert, who is competing against Ross Hancock and Vince Lago for Cabrera’s Group 2 seat.
Allegations of misconduct have been cropping up in these two races in the campaign’s final days.
Hancock alleges that Lago entered the race illegally because Lago has not lived in the home that he listed as his residence, 5200 San Amaro Dr., on his campaign documents.