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Early voting starts Oct. 21 for Homestead mayor

 

Special to the Miami Herald

Homestead voters on Tuesday chose not to re-elect their former Mayor Steve Bateman, who was arrested on conflict-of-interest charges and suspended from office a month before the election.

Instead, voters were split between a former councilman and an innkeeper for their next mayor.

Jeff Porter and Mark Bell will advance to the general election on Nov. 5.

Also advancing are incumbent Jimmie Williams III who is defending his seat representing Homestead’s Southwest district against challenger Norman Hodge Jr.

Tuesday marked the end of Homestead’s primary election. Now, the four candidates in the race to claim the two open seats will once again face voters’ verdict at the general election in November.

“We’ll spend the next 20 plus days printing out more of the same information, trying to get our information out there in front of the voters,” said Porter, who won 37 percent of the vote in the primary election.

Porter, 54, is the owner of World Wide Supply Solutions, an agricultural products and technology company in Homestead. He served as a Homestead vice mayor from 1997 to 1999 and as a councilman from 1999 to 2007.

Bell earned nearly 34 percent of the vote.

“My issue has always been with Mr. Bell’s lack of qualifications,” Porter said Tuesday night, shortly after election results were released. “I just don’t think that anyone who has never been in the building (City Hall) can become the mayor. You have to start and move from the bottom up.”

The 57-year-old Bell, owner of The Hotel Redland in downtown Homestead, also had his claims against Porter.

“He served on the council for 10 years, and they took us on the brink of bankruptcy,” Bell said. “That was the time Mr. Porter was in office. And I don’t want to go back to that. I want to move forward. We have to.”

To move the city forward the two candidates have a similar agenda: Increase public safety and decrease the electricity bills for residents who are supplied by Homestead’s power plant instead of FPL.

Porter also said he wants to move forward with the City Hall project on Washington Avenue in downtown Homestead, on land the city already owns.

“It has been decided to do, then it has been undecided, it’s been undecided and then undecided," he said. "We are a 100-year-old city, and we should have a place. We shouldn’t be at a storefront."

The city’s offices are currently housed at a shopping plaza at 650 NE 22nd Terr.

At debates and other public appearances, Bell has also emphasized that he will push to tackle the city’s building moratorium caused by water sewer pump station connections that are functioning at maximum capacity.

“It’s hard to attract new businesses if we can’t fix our infrastructure,” he said.

Representing the city’s southwest district was a coveted job as five candidates ran for the council seat. In the end, Williams earned 44 percent and Hodge earned 20 percent of the vote, moving them forward to the general election.

The 34-year-old Williams is the pastor and chief executive officer at St. James A.M.E. Church in Gladeview.

He and his challenger also have a similar agenda: Develop the southwest district.

While Williams said he will also look into ways of lowering residents’ utility costs, his challenger, 41-year-old Hodge, said he wants to provide incentives for bigger companies to open offices in Homestead offering high-paid jobs and benefits to residents.

Hodge, a self-employed account manager and business developer, served as a Homestead councilman from 2003 to 2007.

Voters overwhelmingly chose to keep incumbent Elvis Maldonado, 40, to his seat representing the Waterstone district. He won 56 percent of the vote. Stephen Shelley ran unopposed to keep his seat representing the Northwest district in the city.

Shelley and Hodge are also in the race for the vice mayor’s seat.

Early voting for the Homestead general election will run from Oct. 21 to Nov. 3. The closest early voting site is Florida City’s City Hall, 404 W. Palm Dr.

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