Miami-Dade County

Carlos Gimenez holds 22-point lead in Miami-Dade mayoral race

Tension was evident as neither mayoral candidate acknowledged the other and stood behind the podiums during a Univision debate last week.
Tension was evident as neither mayoral candidate acknowledged the other and stood behind the podiums during a Univision debate last week. Univision

Incumbent Carlos Gimenez heads into the final stretch of the Miami-Dade mayoral race with a 22-point lead over challenger Raquel Regalado, according to a new poll showing the school board member trailing with every major voter group.

Gimenez was the mayoral pick for 55 percent of the participants in a survey of 600 Miami-Dade voters. Regalado took 33 percent in the survey, with 12 percent of the participants still undecided in a race that ends Nov. 8. The margin of error for the poll is 4 points.


The Bendixen Amandi survey conducted for WLRN and Univision shows Gimenez leading in every category, with large advantages among black and non-Hispanic white voters and a narrow edge among Hispanic voters. The results suggest Regalado has not made gains since the seven-candidate mayoral primary Aug. 30, when she finished with 32 percent of the vote to Gimenez’s 48 percent.

“Right now, Carlos Gimenez looks poised to comfortably win reelection,” said Fernand Amandi, a partner at the Coconut Grove polling firm.

Regalado, 42, is counting on outpacing Gimenez, 62, among Cuban voters, a powerful voting bloc in Miami-Dade and one that’s been a bulwark of support in past races for her family. Regalado, a longtime host on Spanish-language radio and television who first won her school board seat in 2010, is the daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado.

But the survey of likely voters conducted Oct. 15-17 shows Regalado falling short in the fight for Hispanic voters. Among Hispanics, Gimenez is the choice of 48 percent of Hispanic voters, compared to 41 percent for Regalado.


Narrow the lens to just Cuban-American voters — those born in Cuba and those with a Cuban-born parent — and the spread is basically the same for the two Cuban-American Republicans: 48 percent for the incumbent and 42 percent for the challenger.

Gimenez leads Regalado with men 50 percent to 37 percent and with women 58 percent to 30 percent, despite his challenger running to be the first female mayor in Miami-Dade history. The closest contest comes among Spanish-speaking voters, with both candidates in a dead heat that has Gimenez at 46 percent support and Regalado at 45 percent.

Gimenez, in office since 2011, has dwarfed Regalado in spending, with more than $4 million raised for the primary compared to about $1 million for Regalado. “I still don’t think she has done a good enough job getting herself known,” said Sean Foreman, a political science professor at Barry University.

County voters head into the general election most concerned about the economy and youth gun violence, according to the Univision and WLRN survey. Both topics tied for first when participants were asked to name the most important issue facing Miami-Dade. But the details behind the numbers show a sharp divide among ethnic groups.

Jobs and the economy led the issues poll for Hispanic and non-Hispanic white voters, landing as the top pick for roughly 20 percent of those participants. Youth gun violence scored lower: 16 percent for Hispanics and 10 percent for non-Hispanic whites. But when limited to black participants, youth gun violence easily took the top spot with 35 percent of respondents saying it’s the top issue facing Miami-Dade. No other issue scored even half that much with black voters.


The poll shows a key Regalado attack line might not have the punch she had hoped. With Miami-Dade home to the nation’s only designated zones of local Zika transmission and the subject of federal travel warnings, Regalado excoriated Gimenez over not boosting the county’s mosquito-control budgets before the virus hit Miami-Dade last summer.

Only 2 percent of participants picked Zika as the most important issue facing the county. And when asked to critique the county’s handling of Zika, 73 percent described themselves as satisfied with the response.

Even so, residents remain worried about the virus. Roughly 80 percent described themselves as concerned about “the presence of Zika” in Miami-Dade and 62 percent said they’re concerned about catching it themselves.