An incumbent mayor and a political newcomer who campaigned with him emerged victorious after Tuesday’s election in Miami Beach, while two more candidates head to a runoff in 14 days.
A fourth commission race appeared to be decided Tuesday by a slim margin of 77 votes.
Mayor Philip Levine handily defeated challenger David Wieder, a trial lawyer and chairman of the Historic Preservation Board, by garnering more than 60 percent of the vote.
First-time candidate Ricky Arriola, son of former Miami City Manager Joe Arriola, won a commission seat. Information technology consultant John Elizabeth Alemán captured 77 more votes than her opponent Mark Samuelian, a private financial investor. The margin came in just above the threshold that would trigger an automatic recount, with only provisional ballots left to be considered by the city’s canvassing board.
Both appeared on the campaign trail with Levine and shared a political consultant with the mayor — well-known lobbyist David Custin.
One seat remains undecided. Miami Dade College Professor Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and music business professional Elizabeth “Betsy” Perez will compete in a runoff Nov. 17.
Levine celebrated at a loud party in a Sunset Harbour restaurant packed with supporters. Speaking outside, he listed public transit at the top of his priorities for his second term.
“I want to push forward with a train system, an actual trolley system,” he said. “We believe Miami Beach deserves its own public transportation system.”
Wieder said he was happier about seeing a proposed zoning change for Ocean Terrace, a North Beach historic district, defeated. After a long day at the polls, Wieder remained critical of the mayor.
“The mayor is someone who needs to be watched,” he said.
The 53-year-old millionaire mayor spent about $896,000 on his campaign this year, nearly half the $2 million he spent in 2013 when he was first elected. Levine’s total, mostly coming from his own pocket, trumped the $34,900 Wieder spent.
Some voters who spoke to the Miami Herald said they were pleased with Levine’s first term and happy to give him a second.
Even after taking heat for his involvement in Relentless for Progress, the much-criticized political action committee that asked for contributions from city vendors, developers and lobbyists, Levine found favor with a large majority of voters.
“Other than the PAC, he’s on the right track,” said Lee Zimmerman, a contractor in Lakeview.
Miami Beach voters cast ballots to replace three term-limited commissioners — Deede Weithorn, Ed Tobin and Jonah Wolfson.
Rosen Gonzalez and Perez have two more weeks of campaigning left as they head to a runoff. The two political newbies survived a crowded field of six vying for a city commission seat.
Both Rosen Gonzalez and Perez appeared confident Tuesday night.
“We’re going to keep working hard,” Rosen Gonzalez said Tuesday night.
“My focus is victory,” Perez said. “I want to get in it to win it.”
Scott Diffenderfer, a member of the city’s transportation committee, came in third place.
“I’m very disappointed and a little surprised,” he said. “I hope I can spark passion in the other candidates.”
Ricky Arriola, known for his time on the board of the Adrienne Arsht Center, bested Mark Weithorn after a campaign that grew more contentious as Election Day approached.
The 47-year-old CEO of outsourcing firm Inktel Holdings beat out Weithorn, 58, who owns website development company Showcase Websites. Weithorn is married to term-limited Commissioner Deede Weithorn.
The men clashed more than once along the campaign trail. Early on, Weithorn criticized Arriola for running while his firm has a contract with the city. Inktel has a $200,000 contract with the city to handle the building department’s customer service calls. Arriola asked Beach administrators to speed up the process to find a new vendor, but the city won’t start looking until December. Arriola’s contract will expire in April.
As election season wound down, Weithorn sponsored a TV spot that displayed Arriola’s Social Security number on a 2009 arrest report stemming from a incident with a security guard — a charge that was later dropped. Arriola sued Weithorn in civil court over the matter, but Miami-Dade’s ethics commission on Monday dismissed the complaint.
Both could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.
With just 77 more votes, Alemán claimed victory at a family event Tuesday evening. She acknowledged it was a hard-fought race.
“It was worth it,” she said. “It was so close. I hope it cements in.”
Mark Samuelian, 51-year-old residential-rental business owner and a private financial investor, told a group of supporters at a private home he was proud of the way his campaign was run. He did not officially concede defeat and will wait to see officials results. The only outstanding votes are provisional ballots, which will be reviewed later this week by the city’s canvassing board.
“I wish there were 77 votes going the other way,” he said.
David S. Wieder
Commissioner Group IV
Kristen Rosen Gonzalez (runoff)
Betsy Perez (runoff)
Commissioner Group V
Commissioner Group VI
John Elizabeth Alemán
Yes or No
Amending Charter Section 1.03(b)(4) to Provide for Alienability of Miami Beach Redevelopment Agency ("Agency") Property
Yes or No
1.0 Maximum FAR Increase for Residential and Hotel Uses in the Ocean Terrace Overlay District