South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard held on to his seat in Tuesday’s election despite last minute robocalls to voters accusing him of an inappropriate sexual encounter with a former commissioner.
Stoddard, who has championed solar energy and repeatedly challenged Florida Power & Light, garnered 57 percent of the votes over former mayor Horace Feliu.
Tuesday’s election only drew 2,175 voters out of 7,585 registered to vote.
It’s not the first time Stoddard beat Feliu for the seat. The two have gone head to head several times since Stoddard first defeated Feliu, an adjunct algebra and biology professor at Fortis College and the president of SterilQuip, a biomedical engineering company, in 2010. In 2016, Stoddard won by 200 votes.
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Stoddard, who teaches biology at Florida International University, spearheaded a solar energy ordinance last year that requires every new home built in the city to feature solar panels. South Miami was the first city in the state to pass such an ordinance.
Late last week, a recorded call went out — funded by dark money — that included an account by former South Miami Commissioner Valerie Newman detailing an unwanted kiss at her home in 2010 or 2011.
In the call. she called the mayor a “creep” and called for his resignation, a resident told the Herald. Stoddard denied the accusation, calling it “absurd.”
Also decided by voters Tuesday:
▪ In group 1, Luis J. Gil, an IT project manager at Baptist Health South Florida, beat out four challengers to take the seat of incumbent Gabriel Edmond, who was not seeking a second term. Gil received 29 percent of the votes over Velma Palmer, a former South Miami commissioner and vice mayor; Gary Robinson, a realtor who was banned from a Coral Gables Publix last month for alleged shoplifting; Sandra DiMare-Vivar, a business owner; and Donald D. Jackson, a graduate student at the University of Miami and a community activist.
▪ In group 4, incumbent Walter Harris, who was elected to the commission in 2010 and served as vice mayor for two years, barely beat his challengers Mark Lago, who works for a mortgage lender, and William Lapane, who worked as a caregiver until last year. Harris, with 49 percent of the votes, had only two percent more than Lago.