Coral Gables

First-time candidate Jorge Fors Jr. defeats Cabrera in Coral Gables commission race

Jorge Fors Jr., who won Tuesday’s city commission seat in Coral Gables
Jorge Fors Jr., who won Tuesday’s city commission seat in Coral Gables Handout

Two weeks after Election Day, Coral Gables has filled its final open commission seat.

In the runoff for the Group IV commission seat, first-time candidate Jorge Fors Jr. defeated former longtime commissioner and insurance executive Ralph Cabrera.

Fors, who received 51.4 percent of the vote, edged Cabrera by 173 votes.

A difference of 753 votes separated the two men during the April 9 election. Cabrera defeated Fors in that contest by about 10 percentage points. But neither candidate received a majority of votes, initiating the two-candidate runoff election Tuesday.

Former assistant city manager Carmen Olazabal, who garnered 2,196 votes in the general election in the Group IV race, supported Fors in the runoff, as did former Mayor Jim Cason, who twice defeated Cabrera in previous mayoral elections.

Development in the City Beautiful loomed large as a key issue in the mayoral and commission races, as Coral Gables residents reckon with a high-density construction boom that has exacerbated traffic in the downtown area. At the same time, mayoral candidate Jeannett Slesnick, who ran her campaign on stopping “mega development,” lost to the incumbent Raúl Valdés-Fauli earlier this month.

During the campaign, Fors criticized Cabrera for receiving campaign contributions from developers, while Fors himself received $6,500 from development interests in the most recent filing period. As a newcomer to the city government, he pegged his candidacy on the injection of new blood in the political system, while Cabrera argued he had the experience to move quickly into the post.

Fors will serve a four-year term. He joins the recently re-elected Mayor Valdés-Fauli, Vice Mayor Vince Lago and Commissioners Patricia Keon and Michael Mena. Outgoing Commissioner Frank Quesada, who vacated the Group IV seat, did not run for re-election.

The 35-year-old works at the FORS Attorneys at Law family law firm in Coral Gables with his father, Jorge Fors. The firm specializes in business and commercial litigation. He is the former president of the Coral Gables Bar Association.

During his campaign, Fors said he would support efforts to curb major development projects in Coral Gables, while opposing tax increases and the annexation of neighboring communities Little Gables, High Pines and Ponce Davis.

Cabrera, 60, who served on the city commission for 12 years before unsuccessfully running for mayor against Cason in 2013, touted his political experience and record of public service during the campaign. He was endorsed by Commissioner Keon, Vice Mayor Lago and the Miami Herald Editorial Board.

Cabrera ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2015, losing again to Cason, although the margins were much slimmer than 2013.

Neither candidate could be reached immediately for comment Tuesday evening.