Former Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman won’t be returning to his old office anytime soon.
Bateman came in third in a four-way mayoral primary Tuesday, meaning he won’t be going on to the Nov. 5 general election.
Instead, voters will choose between former Councilman Jeff Porter and innkeeper Mark Bell, husband of Miami-Dade County Commissioner and former Homestead Mayor Lynda Bell.
In Miami Lakes, meanwhile, voters returned former Mayor Wayne Slaton to office after a five -year hiatus.
Slaton, the city’s first mayor, defeated dentist David Bennett, Edison High School teacher Luis Espinosa, former Town Councilman Nelson Hernandez and real estate broker Edwin Romero.
Tuesday’s elections were unusual in that both called on voters to replace a mayor removed from office by Gov. Rick Scott in the wake of criminal charges.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office filed conflict-of-interest charges against Bateman in August for allegedly using his public office to secure a $125-an-hour consulting job for a company with business in front of the City Council. In Miami Lakes, federal prosecutors charged Mayor Michael Pizzi in August with conspiring to commit extortion.
Turnout was light in both cities: 11 percent of registered voters cast ballots in Homestead, and 20 percent in Miami Lakes.
The mayoral races in the two cities are different, however, in that Homestead’s was a regularly scheduled election, while Miami Lakes’ was a special election. That means the Homestead winner gets a full term regardless of what happens to Bateman, but the Lakes winner gets only the balance of Pizzi’s term, which he could lose if Pizzi is acquitted.
Also on Tuesday, there were elections for the city council in both cities:
In the Homestead mayoral race, many voters said they wanted a change from Bateman.
"I didn’t agree with a lot of his decisions when he was mayor," said Kevin Sullivan, a 74-year-old Homestead resident. "He tended to be very aggressive during the meetings, and a bully. If he didn’t like something somebody was saying, he would immediately go off."
That’s why Sullivan cast his ballot for Bell.
“He is focused. I just think he is going to be in it for the citizens and not for his friends like Bateman was,” said Sullivan.
Miami Lakes voters offered similar sentiments.
"Once that cloud of suspicion is around you it’s hard to trust again," said Alex Crespi, 32, an orthodontist who voted at Miami Lakes United Methodist Church.
"And if you can’t trust your elected official, it’s hard to make any difference in the community.”
Crespi knew Pizzi personally and said he is hoping the new mayor will have more integrity.
Resident Robert Brody agreed.
"I want the mayor to do what’s right by his constituents and to serve the public’s best interest,” said Brody, “not his own.”