Miami Beach

One vote separated two Beach commission candidates. After recount, Meiner wins by 2

After two candidates in the Miami Beach City Commission election were separated by a single vote on Election Night, a manual recount ordered on Thursday night finally put some daylight between them.

Two votes’ worth.

Steven Meiner, a candidate for an open Group IV seat, was down by one vote to Michael Barrineau after polls closed Tuesday night. Then Meiner took a one-vote lead when updated results came out Wednesday night. But by 9:30 p.m. Thursday, after more than 10,000 ballots were fed into counting machines and nearly 400 questionable over-and-undervote ballots were reviewed by hand, Meiner walked away from the Miami-Dade County Elections Department a winner.

The final margin was just two votes.

Now the real race begins.

Meiner has earned a place in the Nov. 19 runoff election against former Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, who received the most votes in the general election. All three commission races are headed to a runoff. In Group V, David Richardson and Adrian Gonzalez will meet up. Richardson received 48% of the vote to Gonzalez’s 38%.

In Group VI, incumbent Commissioner Ricky Arriola will compete against Raquel Pacheco. Arriola received 45% of the vote to Pacheco’s 24%.

Runoff elections are required because no candidate received a simple majority of votes. In Group IV, a manual recount was called because less than one-quarter of 1% separated Meiner and Barrineau after Election Day.

The Miami Beach Canvassing Board announced who won the recount just before 10 p.m. Thursday. Meiner held up two fingers and pumped his fist, then clasped his hands in prayer.

“I was keeping a count in my head, and I noticed there were no more papers in the bucket,” he said. “I knew I had won by two.”

Meiner received 2,327 votes to Barrineau’s 2,325. He received about 24% of the vote. Rosen Gonzalez, the top fundraiser in the race, received about 3,705 votes, or 38% of the vote.

For Meiner, who ran a low-key race without the help of a paid campaign consultant and with far less money than his opponents, Thursday’s recount victory showed that his message resonated with voters. He refused to accept money from political committees and did not bash other candidates in the race.

“I’m proud of the campaign we ran,” Meiner said before the recount Thursday. “I raised a fraction of the money my opponents did.”

Meiner raised about $30,596 to Barrineau’s $76,830.

Joined by friends and family members who aided him in his campaign, Meiner celebrated as chants of “Steven” filled a room inside the county’s election department.

“It was tense,” he said. “It was an experience I never quite experienced before.”

Barrineau congratulated Meiner and publicly endorsed his candidacy in the runoff.

“Steve Meiner’s a good man, he’s a family man. He’s a person of integrity,” Barrineau said. “He’s the kind of person we need in public service in Miami Beach.”

Meanwhile, Rosen Gonzalez spent her Thursday campaigning in North Beach, not knowing who her opponent would be.

“Either way it doesn’t matter,” she said. “I have compassion for them both. Barrineau did run a nasty campaign though, and if he loses, I do wonder if this is just his karma.”

With the runoff race set, the county elections department will send out vote-by-mail ballots this weekend.

Registered voters in Miami Beach hoping to participate in any of the three runoff elections for the City Commission have until 5 p.m. on Nov. 9 to request an absentee ballot from the county’s election department.

Early voting for the runoff elections will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16, and Sunday, Nov. 17.

Voters can cast early ballots at two early-voting sites. The locations are Miami Beach City Hall, 1700 Convention Center Dr., and North Shore Branch Library, 7501 Collins Ave.

Registered voters who wait until Election Day to vote must go to one of the city’s designated precincts to cast ballots in the runoff races.

Martin Vassolo covers the politics and government of Miami Beach for the Miami Herald. He began working for the Herald in January 2018 after attending the University of Florida, where he served as the editor-in-chief of The Independent Florida Alligator. Previously, he was a general assignment reporter on the Herald’s metro desk and a political reporting intern.