Manolo Reyes is 73 years old, the loser of six political campaigns over three decades and, according to recent polls, the frontrunner to replace Francis Suarez on the Miami City Commission.
A Mason-Dixon poll conducted in late June for Miami’s firefighters union found Reyes, a Westland Hialeah Senior High government and economics teacher, held a substantial lead over the field heading into a November special election triggered by Suarez’s run for mayor.
The results are consistent with two other polls conducted this summer, according to a source with knowledge of Miami’s political campaigns.
Reyes, whose first bid for city office came in 1985 at the age of 41, is running against Denise Galvez Turros and Ralph Rosado on what is now his seventh campaign. Rosado, 45, has significantly more money and has been actively on the campaign trail for more than a year.
But according to the firefighters’ poll, Reyes is by far the best known, with only half of those polled knowing Rosado. More significantly: Nearly half the 400 likely voters polled said they’d have voted for Reyes were the election held that day, compared to 19 percent for Rosado. To make up that gap, the poll suggested, Rosado would need to win nearly all the district’s undecided voters.
“I’m relentless,” said Reyes, who decades ago worked for the city as a budget analyst. “There are a lot of people, when I knock on doors, they say ‘I recognize you. We want to win this time, Manolo.’ There’s a lot of hope.”
Reyes, who has the support of outgoing Mayor Tomás Regalado, says he’s confident that this is the year he’ll break through in the district, which stretches from Silver Bluff to Flagami and borders Coral Gables. He came close in his most recent race when, back in 2009, Reyes lost to Suarez in a run-off election by less than 300 votes despite carrying the endorsement of the city’s police and firefighters.
This week, Miami’s firefighters union endorsed him again.
But the election is nearly three months away, and Rosado called the results of the Mason-Dixon poll “encouraging.” He believes the results show he still has room to gain support with voters and that he has the ammunition and message to make up any gap.
As of this month, his campaign had $236,000 left to spend compared to $67,000 for Reyes.
“We’ve been doing our own internal tracking since January, so it doesn’t surprise me that Mr. Reyes started with higher name recognition. He’s been running for public office since my childhood,” said Rosado, an urban planner who was raised in Little Havana. “The Mason-Dixon poll was actually quite encouraging. Within just a few months, we’d moved up 20 points. Our tracking shows that when people meet me or learn about my service to our senior citizens, our families, and our quality of life, their choice becomes that much clearer.”
Turros took 1 percent of the vote in the poll. The election is scheduled for Nov. 7.