Miami-Dade Mayoral Matrix

In August 2016, Miami-Dade voters will head to the polls for the county’s next mayoral election.

Too soon to start handicapping the race? Don’t be silly.

Yes, the primary remains about 600 days away. No, we don’t yet have a single announced candidate. Sure, we still have two county budgets (er, make that three) to pass before Election Day.

But for local politicos, it’s rarely too soon to start scouting the field.

Welcome to our 2016 Mayoral Matrix — where the buzz of sourcing and speculation meet the X and Y axis of political strength and ambition. In this chart, we attempt to plot the current thinking on 20 would-be challengers to Gimenez, who has already said he plans to run for reelection.

To compile the matrix, we interviewed on background nearly 50 insiders — elected officials, political consultants, lobbyists, donors and people close to the would-be candidates themselves to get a range of theories, insight and backroom confidences. Then we mashed it together into the rough mathematics you see above.

On the horizontal axis, we plot each name by their potential to challenge Gimenez — how strong of a candidate would they be? On the vertical axis, we plot each name by their likelihood of running in 2016 — how likely are they to actually be a candidate?

Gimenez himself doesn’t have a spot on our chart. By almost all accounts, he remains the heavy favorite for 2016.

He has already won the office twice — first in an emergency election weeks after the 2011 recall of then-Mayor Carlos Alvarez, and again in 2012 for a full four-year term. The tax cut he pushed through after coming to power remains largely intact, and he’s presiding over a housing market and economy in growth mode. Polls this year show his popularity at over 50 percent, and a recall effort launched this summer quickly fizzled.

He also endured a bruising budget battle that began with his warning of steep police cuts and ended with Gimenez backing off calls for union concessions and tough spending decisions. He ticked off Republicans a week before Election Day by revealing he might leave the GOP to become an independent, then said he would vote for Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

With the possibility of Hillary Clinton’s presidential machine leading a surge of Democratic voters as Gimenez faces reelection, local party leaders see a prime opportunity to claim the mayor’s office for the first time since Alex Penelas held it during Bill Clinton’s administration.

Not every name making the rounds ended up on our chart. Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez (both with terms ending in 2017), business executive Mike Fernandez, former congressman Kendrick Meek, broadcaster Helen Aguirre Ferré — the list could grow and grow.

One element of conventional wisdom exerts significant gravity on our chart: Identity politics still weigh heavily in Miam-Dade, making it hard for a non-Hispanic to win countywide. That will be a political rule of thumb until a strong candidate proves it dated.

Is that person on the Mayoral Matrix? We’ll know in just a couple of years.

Like our Mayoral Matrix scoring? Are we missing some strong candidates, or giving too much heft to others? Leave your comments below or tweet your reactions using the Twitter hashtag #mayoralmatrix

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