Voters in the city of Miami are just days away from choosing a new mayor, two new commissioners and whether to spend $400 million on affordable housing and sea-rise projects in a consequential election that will decide the fate not only of the Magic City but also its political dynasties.
More than 13,000 have already voted early or by mail. But no one will know for sure before Tuesday night whether the city will once again have a Suarez as mayor and a Regalado or Carollo as commissioner — a scenario that would give 2017 a distinctly 1997 flavor.
Miami is likely to wake up Wednesday morning with Francis Suarez as its next mayor-elect. The eight-year commissioner, Carlton Fields attorney and son of former Mayor Xavier Suarez is the heavy favorite to win the race to replace outgoing Mayor Tomás Regalado. The opposition is limited to unfunded candidates Williams Armbrister, Christian Canache, and Cynthia Mason Jaquith — a Socialist Worker’s Party member who believes Miami ought to look to Cuba for guidance on governance.
You read that correctly.
Beyond the mayor’s race, though, the ballot is quite unsettled.
Three candidates — Denise Galvez Turros, Manuel “Manolo” Reyes and Ralph Rosado — are hoping voters will pick them to replace Suarez in the commission seat representing Miami’s southwestern communities. Reyes, a high school government teacher and seven-time candidate, is hoping to finally break through at age 73, while urban planner Rosado is pushing to come from behind. Galvez, a public relations guru and co-founder of Latinas for Trump, wants to play spoiler, although late-breaking news of old arrests might dampen those hopes.
But the District 4 race has gone under the radar when compared to the dynastic battle to replace term-limited Commissioner Frank Carollo, whose older brother, Joe, has declared war against Tomas N. “Tommy” Regalado, the eldest son of the outgoing mayor. Carollo, a former mayor himself, has launched bomb after bomb against the Regalado family, who have in turn accused him of spreading paranoia and lies in order to get elected.
With seven candidates in the race — including Alex Dominguez, Alfie Leon, Miguel Soliman and Jose Suarez — and a requirement that someone win a majority of votes in an election to get elected to city office, it’s likely Tuesday’s election will have an encore on Nov. 21 between the two top-grossing candidates.
Politicos with access to polling in the race say Carollo is ahead of the pack going into Tuesday and likely to make a runoff election. Jumbled behind him and jockeying for second are Regalado, Leon and Zoraida Barreiro, wife of County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, who has kept her head down as the two other big family names in the race lob shots at each other.
Whoever sneaks into the runoff likely won’t need many votes to make it. As of late Thursday morning, just 3,100 ballots had been cast in District 3 — results that put turnout on a dismal track consistent with an off-year, local election. District 4 voters had cast nearly 3,600 votes.
In the meantime, Mayor Regalado is stumping not only in support of his son, but also for his $400 million Miami Forever general obligation bond, which would leverage a new property tax to pay for affordable housing, flood pumps, storm drains, parks, and other public projects.
The bonds would be staggered in a way that homeowners’ tax rates related to capital improvements debt wouldn’t be increased as a result (a promise that is part of the legal ballot language). But Miami’s unions, who support Carollo, have come out against the bond, calling it a tax increase and warning that the city —which could soon owe its pension fund more than $200 million — is about to learn how much it owes its employees in back-pay and benefits after recession-era cuts were overturned this year by the Florida Supreme Court.
Beyond that, voters have four more ballot questions to decide:
▪ Whether to allow city commissioners to approve a 32-year lease extension for Monty’s Raw Bar and marina in Coconut Grove with increased payments in order to help finance improvements to the Dinner Key retail complex.
▪ Two charter amendments intended to ensure the independence of employees working for Miami’s auditor general by making them direct employees of the auditor instead of civil service employees overseen by Miami’s administration.
▪ A charter amendment to allow a candidate selected in a special election to fill a vacancy on the commission or in the mayor’s office fill out the remainder of the term, and to allow an elected city official removed from office over allegations of misdeeds to be immediately returned if absolved.