Miami-Dade County

Poll suggests Carollo leads stacked field in Miami commission race

Joe Carollo (right) waves to old acquaintances at the Miami Clerk's office as he files papers to run for a Miami commission seat in January.
Joe Carollo (right) waves to old acquaintances at the Miami Clerk's office as he files papers to run for a Miami commission seat in January.

As evidence mounts that the race to win the Miami City Commission seat representing Little Havana is bound to be a heavyweight battle involving prominent political families, a leaked poll suggests that former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo holds the upper hand, at least during the early rounds.

The poll, conducted in late January by FIU political science professor Dario Moreno, found Carollo leading a hypothetical field of six. Juxtaposed with the wife of County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, the eldest son of Mayor Tomás Regalado, former State Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, former city commissioner Joe Sanchez, and candidate Alex Dominguez, Carollo polled at 34 percent — 22 points higher than his closest competitor.

“It’s going to be pretty difficult to beat Joe because he has that base in the Cuban-American community,” said Moreno.

Moreno said the poll, which was anonymously dropped off at the Miami Herald office in a manila envelope, was unaffiliated with any campaign and was commissioned by “a bunch of businesses that wanted to see what was going on.” (Both Moreno and Carollo worked on the Carlos Gimenez reelection campaign. Former Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who supports Carollo, also acknowledged when called by a reporter that he was among that group.)

Moreno cautioned that it remains too early in the election to draw definitive conclusions, but noted that Carollo appears to have “remarkable” support among Cuban seniors in a district where one-third of the voters are above the age of 65 and two-thirds are Hispanic.

“I know I’m head and shoulders above any of these people talking about running,” said Carollo.

It’s going to be pretty difficult to beat Joe because he has that base in the Cuban-American community

pollster Dario Moreno

Currently, eight candidates are in the race. Along with Carollo, Zoraida Barreiro, Alex Dominguez, Olidia “Lee” Hernandez, Alfonso Leon, Miguel Soliman , Daniel Suarez and José Suárez have opened campaign accounts. The election is Nov. 7, and the deadline to qualify to make the ballot is in September.

Alex Diaz de la Portilla Bruce Brewer

With so much time left until the election, Moreno’s poll focused less on the existing field than on a group of well-known political names that may end up dominating the race. Diaz de la Portilla, for instance, told the Miami Herald on Thursday that he is “strongly leaning” toward launching a campaign, and Tommy Regalado filed paperwork this week to appoint a campaign treasurer.

The poll found the two men were at about 10 percent to Carollo’s 34 among likely voters, with Diaz de la Portilla carrying a roughly 50 percent name-recognition. Both men said the poll results, even if premature, include promising information should they decide to launch a campaign.

“Nothing in that poll discourages me from running,” said Diaz de la Portilla. “If you would have believed polls last year, we would be talking about President Hillary Clinton today.”

Tommy Regalado in 2013 with his father, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado. Roberto Koltun el Nuevo Herald

Some campaigns expressed similar skepticism about the results of Moreno’s poll. Regalado noted that if he runs — he says he’ll announce a decision Tuesday — it would be under the name “Tomas N. Regalado,” piggybacking off his father’s popularity. He said using the name “Tommy” likely depressed his numbers.

Likewise, a political consultant working with the campaign of Zoraida Barreiro, the wife of county commissioner Bruno Barreiro, scoffed at the poll’s results showing her with just 1 percent support.

“Every poll conducted in this race has her in double digits at least. It’s an outlier, at best,” said consultant Hector Roos. “Her name is well established in the community.”

Zoraida Barreiro and husband Bruno Barreiro Miami

Moreno has acknowledged in the past that polling in municipal districts can be especially difficult. He said the results of the poll, which queried 300 likely voters in the district, is mostly a reflection of name recognition, and stressed that much can change over the next seven months.

“That’s a long way to go,” he said. “That’s a lifetime in politics.”