Mayor Philip Stoddard saved his seat on the dais with a victory Tuesday in South Miami’s general election.
Stoddard slipped by former Mayor Horace Feliu and first-time candidate Claudia Hauri, with just 22.14 percent of voters coming out to vote, the lowest turnout since 2000.
The Florida International University biology professor will begin his fourth two-year term as mayor.
“Everybody said I had the election in the bag, so a lot of people didn’t show up,” Stoddard said. “In fact, I would say a third of supporters, probably more, didn’t show up to vote. Because they just figured, ‘Hey, Phil’s doing a good job and everything is fine. He is going to win. So I don’t need to go out.’ Mine was the only race on the ballot, so I think that sort of lowered people’s interest, as well. People felt, for the most part, happy with the city. That’s why (Josh) Liebman and (Bob) Welsh didn’t draw opponents. That, I think, explains the low turnout. The city is stable. The staff is doing an excellent job taking care of the city’s finances. People are happy.”
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The two unopposed commissioners ran against each other for vice mayor. Welsh, the Group III commissioner, topped Liebman, the Group II commissioner. Commissioner Walter Harris previously held that title.
“The turnout was much lower than anyone anticipated,” Liebman said.
More than 53 percent of voters also turned down a charter amendment, which would have changed the month of the general election from February to March.
“Most people I don’t think even knew about it,” Liebman said. “I think people felt, if we are going to move it, we might as well move it to November. Why move it one month? The commission didn’t want to campaign during the holidays. I think it’s also self-preservation not to move it to November.”
Liebman said that more candidates and more contentious elections would have meant more voters.
“Although it maybe frowned upon to raise larger amounts of money in South Miami, there is no question that we need to spend money on an election and make people more aware,” Liebman said.
Stoddard won 52.68 percent of the vote over Feliu and Hauri. He edged Feliu by 194 votes. In 2014, Stoddard won 62.35 percent of the vote, and the election by 707 votes. He won 57.1 percent of the vote in 2012 and 58 percent in 2010. Just 1,514 of 6,839 registered voters cast ballots. Voter turnout was down almost 18 percent since 2004 and the lowest since 2000 when just 16.73 percent of registered voters cast ballots.
“My first official act was to request a streetlight for an elderly resident whose streetlight was taken out by a private owner,” Stoddard said.
“The second thing I began working on was Madison Square … getting that back on the books,” he said. “So I was down at the county Thursday talking to the economic prosperity committee of the county commission about CRAs and about what our CRA is trying to do and how we can work together on that. The other order of business is working with the new owners of the Shops at Sunset Place … to take the city’s most economically valuable property and revitalize it.”
For complete election results, visit the Miami-Dade County Elections website.