After mayoral candidate Jeannett Slesnick failed once again in her attempt to bring about a changing of the guard in Coral Gables — a city grappling with a high-density development boom and the feeling of frustration among its residents — another upstart politician with dreams of breaking the proverbial wheel will face off against a more experienced and better-known candidate with the backing of big real estate.
Polls will open at 7 a.m. Tuesday as residents will choose between first-time candidate Jorge Fors Jr. and former longtime commissioner Ralph Cabrera, who us looking to extend his 12-year career in Gables politics.
The city announced a runoff after none of the candidates received a majority of votes.
Cabrera, who received nearly 40 percent of the vote, and Fors, who received about 30 percent, were the top two vote-getters and will face each other Tuesday. A difference of 753 votes separated the two on Election Day.
Polls will close at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Results will be released online that evening. Mayor Raúl Valdés-Fauli, a developer-backed candidate in favor of “smart” development, held off Slesnick to retain his position.
Cabrera, the top vote-getter among commission candidates in the April 9 general election, has advertised his experience on the campaign trail, book-ending his ads with a personalized “Know How, Right Now” slogan. Despite receiving financial backing from developers working in the city, a point of contention in the commission race, Cabrera said he supports a plan of measured construction to balance resident concerns with economic realities.
The 60-year-old insurance executive raised $129,470 during his campaign.
Fors, 35, who works at a family law firm with his father, said he wanted to act as a steward for the city and an extension of its residents, promising to vote in their best interests.
He raised $122,250, some of which came from developers. In the most recent filing period, Fors reported receiving $6,500 from developers. Still, he has questioned Cabrera’s commitment to curbing development while accepting developer dollars. In the same filing period, however, Cabrera received $6,000 from developers.
Fors said he plans to deliver new ideas and bring a “fresh perspective” to government.
“I believe our residents understand the importance of moving forward on the right path, away from past failures and a history of inaction,“ he said. “I’m excited for this bright, positive future and ask the voters to return to the polls one more time so their voices may be heard loud and clear.”
He and Cabrera disagree on a number of issues including the proposed annexation of the Little Gables, High Pines and Ponce Davis neighborhoods.
Cabrera supports the annexation, which he said would benefit emergency services in the area and bring money to the city’s coffers.
Fors argues that the annexation would cost too much money in the short term and that some residents are opposed to the proposal.
On development, a key issue in the general election, Fors said he planned to curb high-density construction in the city and end developers’ “free rein.” He criticized Cabrera for accepting campaign donations from developers. Cabrera said he would stand up to developers and uphold the city’s strict zoning codes.
“I’m excited about the campaign ending in the next 5 days so I can begin to serve the residents of the City Beautiful,” Cabrera said. “I’m also very grateful for the opportunity to learn from voters what issues are important to them. As a former City Commissioner and longtime resident, I have the experience, deep knowledge of our city, and value system to be effective on day one.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Coral Gables commission candidate Jorge Fors Jr. had not received campaign donations from real estate developers. In the most recent financial reports, Fors reported receiving $6,500 from developers.