Soon, Homestead residents will head to the polls for the second time this season.
In this election round, voters will choose between a former councilman and a hotel owner for mayor, and between an incumbent and a challenger for City Council Seat Four representing the city’s Southwest district.
In addition, Councilman Stephen Shelley, who ran unopposed to keep his seat representing the Northwest district, and Norman Hodge Jr., who is the challenger running for seat four, are also running against each other for the vice mayor’s seat.
Early voting starts Monday. Election Day is Nov. 5.
Some of the issues in Homestead that continually come up during candidates’ media interviews, public addresses and in their campaign literature are: improving public safety, decreasing electric bills for residents who receive power from Homestead’s power plant, moving forward with a stagnant City Hall project, addressing a building moratorium, and creating high-paying jobs.
Jeff Porter, 54, and Mark Bell, 57, are both vying for the mayor’s seat.
Porter, who earned 37 percent of the vote during the primary election that ended Oct. 1, served as a city councilman from 1999 to 2007 and as vice mayor from 1997 to 1999.
At the forefront of his agenda is moving forward with building a Homestead City Hall on land the city owns on Washington Avenue in downtown Homestead. Other items he has campaigned on include improving city infrastructure, including the creation of new entrance and exit ramps to Florida’s Turnpike at Campbell Drive. and Kingman Road.
On the campaign trail he has maintained that his opponent, Bell, does not have enough political experience to become Homestead’s mayor.
“I just don’t think that anyone who has never been in the building [City Hall] can become the mayor,” Porter told the Miami Herald. “You have to start and move from the bottom up.”
Bell sees it differently.
Porter “served on the council for 10 years and they took us on the brink of bankruptcy,” said Bell, who earned nearly 34 percent of the vote at the primary election.
While the two candidates have their differences, they place the same two items are at the forefront of their agenda: Improve public safety and decrease electric costs for Homestead residents who are supplied by Homestead’s power plant.
Bell has also said that he will work to address a building moratorium in Homestead caused by water and sewer pump stations functioning at maximum capacity.
During a recent interview with the Miami Herald, Bell also took the opportunity to refute a common claim made against him by political bloggers: If elected as mayor, he will function as a “political puppet” to his wife, who is former Homestead mayor and current Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell.
“I believe it’s a positive,” said Bell, referring to the fact that he is married to Lynda Bell. “Whoever is mayor has to deal with the county commission. Believe me, I want to have a good relationship with the county commissioner. My wife gets nothing from the city of Homestead. But the city of Homestead gets a lot from the county.”
According to the latest financial forms, Bell has raised $62,815 from campaign contributors, and Porter has raised $24,205.
Not on the ballot in the upcoming election: Former Mayor Steve Bateman who earned 21 percent of the vote at the primary election and the Rev. Joseph Sewell, who got 8 percent of the vote. About a month before the election, Bateman made headlines when he was arrested on conflict-of-interested charges for holding an undisclosed $125-an-hour consulting job with a nonprofit healthcare outfit with business in front of the city. Gov. Rick Scott suspended him from office. Bateman has pleaded not guilty and awaits trial.
Incumbent Jimmie Williams III, 34, is defending his seat against challenger Norman Hodge Jr., 41.
Both have experience in Homestead politics, and, for the most part, both place the same city issues on their campaign agenda.
Williams, 34, was elected to the council in 2009, and Hodge, 41, served as councilman from 2003 to 2007.
The two have campaigned on public safety and on developing the Southwest district, the city’s poorest and least developed area.
Williams, who received nearly 44 percent of the vote during the primary election, has also vowed to work to lower the electricity costs for residents supplied by Homestead power plant.
Hodge, who trailed behind Williams with 20 percent of the vote during the primary, said is elected, he also has another plan for Homestead: “To get larger companies, not so much service-type jobs, to open offices in the city. I think now is the time to harness some of the high-income jobs.”
In total, five candidates ran in the primary election to represent seat four.
The latest campaign contribution information shows that Williams has raised $15,443, and Hodge has raised $2,980.
Stephen Shelley, who ran unopposed in the primary and was automatically re-elected to seat one, is facing Hodge for the vice mayor’s seat.
Shelley has campaigned on keeping taxes and fees flat and on developing a downtown master plan to revitalize Homestead’s downtown.
Most recently, Shelley proposed a free trolley service that will run from Homestead to the two national parks surrounding the city to the east and to the west.
Both he and Hodge have a similar issue on their campaign agenda: improving public safety.
While Councilman Williams’ name will appear on the general elections ballot under the vice mayor category, he has said he is not seeking the post. Williams did not inform City Clerk Elizabeth Sewell on time for his name to be removed from the vice mayor’s category.