A highly contentious campaign for Miami city commission pitting political dynasties against each other is headed for overtime after Tuesday’s election failed to produce a winner and the results separating the second- and third-place finishers were so narrow that an automatic machine recount was expected.
Meanwhile, a second race for city commission saw a 73-year-old public school teacher fight his way into one of Miami’s most important elected offices on his seventh try in 22 years.
In the battle to replace District 3 Commissioner Frank Carollo seat, the term-limited commissioner’s older brother, former Mayor Joe Carollo, waited Tuesday night to learn who he’d face in a Nov. 21 runoff election. Miami law requires that a candidate win more than 50 percent of the vote to take office and with seven candidates in the race Carollo, 62, snared a little more than 30 percent of the vote.
But his runoff opponent wasn’t clear.
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Alfonso “Alfie” Leon, an attorney and former city commission aide to Frank Carollo, was in second place unofficially with 20.28 percent of the vote, according to results reported Tuesday night by the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections. Zoraida Barreiro, wife of County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, was just 17 votes behind with 20 percent of the vote. Tomas N. “Tommy” Regalado, the son of the outgoing mayor, came in fourth with fewer than 1,000 votes.
County law requires an automatic machine recount if there’s less than half a percentage point between top-ranked candidates. An elections department spokesman couldn’t say when that recount would happen since Miami’s canvassing board was still in action, but J.C. Planas, an elections law attorney hired Tuesday night to represent Leon, said it will probably be Thursday or Friday.
“We expect to still make it to the runoff against Carollo,” Planas said.
If so, he should brace himself. Carollo ran an aggressive general election campaign and said Tuesday he’s confident he’ll win regardless of his opponent.
“The vast majority of voters who have lived in Miami for a while know of my record and they’re going to vote for me because of that record,” Carollo said outside Robert King High senior towers, where Barreiro was camped out all day along with Tomas N. “Tommy” Regalado, the son of the outgoing mayor. “They remember my years as mayor, that we did what we promised we were going to do. We’re going to finish strong.”
Regalado, who engaged in a bitter campaign with Carollo over the last month, came in fourth with fewer than 1,000 votes, unofficially. Barreiro did not answer her cell phone Tuesday night.
In District 4, voters sent Manolo Reyes, the 73-year-old Westland Hialeah Senior High government teacher, into Miami’s District 4 commission seat. He won roughly 56 percent out of some 7,400 votes. The next biggest vote getter, urban planning consultant Ralph Rosado, netted 36 percent of the vote with all but two precincts reporting.
Reyes, who first ran for city commission in 1985, was on his seventh campaign for city commission. On his last shot, a race in 2009 against now mayor-elect Francis Suarez, he lost by fewer than 300 votes.
“What I told everybody is, if I win, to pray for me so the Lord can guide me to do good for my community. I’m running to serve,” Reyes, who is Catholic, said Tuesday afternoon outside Smathers Plaza, an affordable housing complex and voting precinct south of Southwest Eighth Street.
Manolo, si se puede!” one voter said to Reyes while driving up to the complex. “Por Manolo! Por Manolo! Por Manolo!” said Maria Borden, another voter.
Reyes, who long ago worked as a budget analyst for the city, said he will push the city to analyze its spending to reduce waste. which he called “an endemic trait of all governments and bureaucracies.” He campaigned on a pledge to improve public safety, address sanitation and fix busted streets and sidewalks, all major small-time, meat-and-potatoes issues in Miami’s westernmost district covering Flagami, Coral Way and Shenandoah.
“I’m going to propose we analyze all the processes and all departments so we can start saving money and using those funds to pay for police protection, keep taxes low and all those things that should be done.”