Ousted Miami-Dade property appraiser drops lawsuit challenging election results

Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Pedro J. Garcia, who filed suit after losing the Aug. 14 primary, dropped his complaint Thursday, saying he did not have enough time to prove the election results were tainted by absentee-ballot fraud.

¡°We couldn¡¯t find enough people, the necessary witnesses, in the extremely limited timeframe,¡± Garcia lamented. ¡°These are not investigations one can do in 15 days, in 20 days.¡±

Garcia lost to state Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who received 51 percent of the vote compared to Garcia¡¯s 49 percent. Had a court thrown out the absentee ballots cast in the race, Garcia would have won because he received a majority of the vote during early voting and on Election Day.

¡°Though I disagreed with Mr. Garcia¡¯s conclusions, I respected his right to pursue the case to his contentment,¡± Lopez-Cantera said in a statement Thursday. ¡°I look forward to our mutual cooperation in an efficient and productive transition.¡± to ensure that the citizens of Miami-Dade County receive the greatest possible service from the office of the Property Appraiser now and in the future.¡±

Garcia did not sound inclined to help Lopez-Cantera ease into the job.

¡°I don¡¯t think so,¡± Garcia said. ¡°I got here by myself and learned by myself.¡±

Five defeated candidates had sued separately over the Miami-Dade primary results. The election took place shortly after two Hialeah ballot brokers were arrested and accused of voter fraud.

One by one, the candidates have dropped their cases; Garcia remained the lone holdout. A hearing in his lawsuit had been scheduled for Friday. Garcia said he and his lawyer decided late Wednesday to stop pursuing the matter. The final paperwork, he said, should be filed by Thursday night or Friday morning.

¡°What I¡¯m going to fight for is to solve the absentee-ballot problem,¡± Garcia said, vowing to campaign for state lawmakers to restore previous restrictions requiring voters to provide a reason for voting by mail.

Commission Chairman Joe Martinez, who sued to try to get a runoff against Mayor Carlos Gimenez¡Ì, dropped his case two weeks ago. A legislative candidate, Paul Crespo, and a judicial candidate, Alex Jimenez¡Ì Labora, had dismissed their similar cases earlier. State Rep. John Patrick Julien dropped his case, filed in Tallahassee, on Wednesday.

Garcia and Martinez had hired the same lawyer, Stephen¡Ì Cody, to represent them in their cases, which were initially scheduled to be heard together. But Cody withdrew after citing an undisclosed conflict of interest.

Martinez never hired new representation, choosing to end his challenge instead. Garcia did find a new attorney, Peter A. Gonzalez, who last week submitted charts to the court as evidence that if 2,490 of the 80,019 absentee ballots cast in the race were thrown out, Garcia would win by one vote.

But Gonzalez, who acknowledged in court documents that his investigation was incomplete, did not present any examples of potential voter fraud, and he did not list any witnesses for the scheduled hearing.

Garcia said he spoke to some voters ¡ª particularly older ones ¡ª ¡°who don¡¯t have the slightest notion of whether they voted.¡±

¡°These are not people I could subpoena,¡± he added. ¡°I don¡¯t have the heart to do that.¡±

Garcia, whom voters chose as the county¡¯s first elected property appraiser four years ago, will complete his term in early January, when Lopez-Cantera will be sworn in.

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