An uneasy detente between political dynasties fighting for the same city of Miami commission seat has finally given way ahead of election day, spilling decades of bad blood into voters’ mailboxes and onto their television screens.
Former Mayor Joe Carollo and Tomás N. “Tommy” Regalado, the son and namesake of Miami’s current mayor, are letting loose on each other just as absentee ballots begin to drop in Little Havana and West Brickell, where voters are choosing from seven candidates to replace outgoing Commissioner Frank Carollo — Joe’s brother.
Zoraida Barreiro, Alex Dominguez, Alfonso “Alfie” Leon, Miguel Soliman and José Suárez are also running in the race. But Carollo and Regalado seem to have eyes only for each other. Through their campaigns, they have lobbed accusations of lies, Chavista ties, defamation and political intimidation.
Things have gotten so ugly that the candidates’ parents have gotten involved.
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Carollo drew first blood — though he says his was a preemptive strike.
This month, his campaign distributed mail pieces featuring a letter to voters from his 89-year-old mother, Graciela Carollo, accusing Regalado of trying to fool voters into believing they’re voting for his father by using his given name for his campaign rather than his nickname. She warned that Regalado was planning to attack her son through a third party group backed by money from red light camera lobbyists and special interests with ties to the Venezuelan Chavista regime.
“These people will try to soil and defame him with totally false lies and deceptions!” she wrote.
Then, Carollo sent out a second round of mailers through his political committee, calling the younger Regalado a “compulsive liar” with “delusions of grandeur.” One mailer includes a crude caricature of the candidate in droopy diapers and an ill-fitting suit. The ad tells voters that Regalado is lying about being a 30-year journalist and misleading about his status as a Coast Guard auxiliary member, and claims his father pulled strings to get him un botella — a useless job — at TV Martí.
“The guy is lying about it all and it’s a pattern. It’s a compulsive pattern,” Carollo said in an interview. “Frankly, while he’s a grown man, 44 years of age, he acts and behaves like a kid. A teenager.”
The guy is lying about it all and it’s a pattern.
Regalado quickly fired back. The mayor, that is.
In his own letter to voters released by his son’s campaign, Mayor Tomás P. Regalado said Carollo is the liar. Regalado noted his own father’s history as a political prisoner in Castro’s Cuba and said the claim that his son had taken money from red light camera operators was a “total falsehood.” He countered that Carollo was city manager in Doral when the city was installing its own traffic cameras.
“I know Graciela did not write that. She is a good woman,” the mayor wrote of Carollo’s mother. “But there we see the same Joe Carollo. The one who always has spent his political life attacking all, accusing all, creating conflicts.”
Here comes a mailer saying I’m going to bomb him and yet who’s destroying who? Who came out and bombed who?
Tomas N. “Tommy” Regalado
Regalado the candidate said Wednesday in an interview that he’s trying to stay positive and focus on the issues, but noted he would respond. His campaign later released a statement evoking the “Crazy Joe” moniker adopted by the former mayor’s enemies during his tumultuous previous stints at City Hall and accusing him of “abusing power, profiting from taxpayers and using government resources to intimidate his political opponents.” They said they’d been subject to another Carollo attack, this one on television claiming communist ties.
“It’s pathetic that career politician Joe Carollo has now for a fourth time in under a week resorted to false accusations and negative attacks. It shows that Joe will say and do anything, no matter how ludicrous and false, to try and get attention,” the statement said.
The back-and-forth is just the latest chapter in a long-running rivalry that began back in the mid-’90s when Carollo and the elder Regalado forged a political alliance that quickly soured and festered. The wounds remain fresh: Last year, Carollo worked for the campaign of County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who beat Regalado’s daughter. Gimenez then filed this summer to raise money for Carollo’s political committee, Miami First.
Voters may need to brace for four more weeks of mud. Though election day is Nov. 7, a candidate must take more than 50 percent of the vote in the general election or else a runoff election is triggered on Nov. 21 between the top two candidates, leaving the possibility that Regalado and Carollo could have an extended time to go after each other.
This article has been updated to clarify that the mail pieces mentioned accused Regalado of associating with Chavistas, and did not mention Communism.