After two months of intense campaigning by many and with a packed crowd in the Majestic Room at the Miami Springs Country Club, City Clerk Erika Gonzalez-Santamaria ended the suspense of the 2015 Miami Springs Municipal Election early Tuesday evening when she anounced all the winners.
And the results brought an old familiar face back to the council, a brand new face in a stunning upset, and in the much-anticipated mayor’s race that drew all kinds of opinions around town and talk that a change could be in the air from challenger Fred Suco, incumbent Zavier Garcia had no problem hanging on to his seat for two more years.
Garcia’s 1,609 votes, or 56 percent of the vote, was easily enough to defeat Suco, who garnered 1,268 votes or 44 percent. Garcia, who served on the city council from 2005 to 2009, will now enter his third two-year term as mayor after winning the seat in 2011.
“There might have been a perception that I was being pushed, but in my opinion the people spoke today,” Garcia said. “I want to thank the residents of Miami Springs for believing in me and standing up for the way I am leading this community in the right direction and I’m looking forward to working with my new council members and old council members.”
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After holding the Group I seat for eight years from 2005 to 2013 before having to surrender it due to term limits, Bob Best won his old seat back when he knocked off incumbent Michael Windrem 1,511 votes (54.3 percent) to 1,272 (45.7 pecent), but the big shocker of the evening came in Group III.
That’s where three-term incumbent George Lob was expected to cruise to a fourth and final term, challenged only by political newcomer Roslyn Buckner, who had never run for any kind of office.
But it was Buckner left with a stunned look on her face when Santamaria blurted out the results, which were razor close as she edged Lob by a mere 88 votes — 1,435 to 1,347 or 51.58 percent to 48.42.
“I must admit I’m stunned but absolutely ecstatic at the same time,” Buckner said. “I had no idea if I could pull this off but it’s happened. I want to thank all of the voters that came today and showed their confidence me. I really appreciate it and will not let them down.”
“I always said that I would be happy to serve the people of Miami Springs as long as they wanted me up there and today they chose to go in a different direction,” Lob said. “I am what I am and nothing different. I’m proud of what I accomplished in my six years up on the dais and proud of what we accomplished as a council. I’ll continue to be active in the community and I’m not going anywhere.”
The Group IV race featured the same two candidates, incumbent Jaime Petralanda and challenger Constantino Hernandez, as two years ago and the results were the same as Petralanda won comfortably, 1,658 (59.6 percent) to 1,124 or 40.4 percent for Hernandez.
With long-time mayor (2003-11) Billy Bain re-running for his Group II seat against an opponent, Martin ,Marquez who chose to not show at any of the local political functions around town or speak with the media, it was not expected to be close and it was not as Bain reeled in 1,783 votes to 1,001 for Marquez or 64 percent to 36 percent.
“I have always and always will continue to do my job and represent the majority of the people,” Bain said. “I think the people know that whatever I say up there is going to be the truth. Sometimes the truth isn’t as good as some people want to hear, but I try to make sure that I support what’s right for this city.”
Based on some of his own unofficial canvassing he had done around town, Suco entered the election Tuesday confident that he would unseat his opponent. He not only was visibly disappointed but vowed to fight back after questioning the validity of the qualifying signatures Garcia turned in.
“I’m very surprised,” Suco said. “Especially with the polling and everything else that I had done. But there’s still the question of, were his signatures valid? And that will be appealed this week. The commission on ethics ruled that he got the signatures illegally and even though the (Miami Springs) City Clerk did not rule in my favor, now I will have to take it to the Circuit Court, which I intend on doing later this week.”
When told that Suco would appeal his case to the Circuit Court, Garcia fired back at Suco with both barrels.
“I know that the departments that have been approached have already said there is nothing to look at,” Garcia said. “His (Suco’s) only option is to go to the courts and if that’s what he wants to do, that’s fine. It doesn’t surprise me at all because that’s the type of person he’s shown that he is. I read his Gazette article and that he doesn’t quit, he doesn’t back down but that’s OK, that just shows the residents of Miami Springs that their vote means nothing to him. So if it does, he would do the right thing and concede this election, which I have yet to hear from him.”
While there were plenty of winners and losers on Tuesday, the real winner collectively might have been the voters of Miami Springs.
That’s because they showed up in droves. At 6:30 p.m., more than 100 people had formed a line all the way to the front door of the Miami Springs Country Club and when the final numbers came out, a record 2,902 ballots, or 34.6 percent of the voters, had shown up to let their opinions be known.
The number is the highest turnout since at least 1999 as that’s as long as Miami-Dade County Elections Department has kept online records. It shattered the previous record high for Springs, which came four years ago in 2011 when 2,547 or 32.3 percent of the voters came out.
“I think it’s really nice that this many people came out to vote,” Bain said. “I thought it was a tremendous turnout and it means a lot to and gives credibility to the candidates that won. I’ll miss George, he’s a good man that did a lot of good things and Michael as well, but the people spoke and that’s what this process is all about and we all have to respect that.”
“I think the residents didn’t really like the dirty campaigning and they wanted to come out and support the candidate who runs a clean campaign and takes the high road as opposed to a candidate who decides to sling mud,” Garcia said when asked about the strong turnout. “We need to understand that this is a small town and community that we live in and it isn’t right for anyone to sling mud in an election.”
The new-look council will be officially sworn in before the next regularly scheduled meeting, next Monday, April 13.