A long, grinding election season in Miami has finally come down to its last day as voters in the city’s third district head to the polls Tuesday to decide who will represent them on the City Commission.
Former mayor Joe Carollo and attorney Alfonso “Alfie” Leon are on the ballot after emerging from the Nov. 7 general election as the top two vote-getters. Carollo earned 30 percent of the vote, and Leon surprised many by earning 20 percent in the predominately Hispanic district, which represents Little Havana, Shenandoah, The Roads and West Brickell. (Click here for a district map.)
The two men spent the better part of a year campaigning amid a crowded field of seven candidates. Now, they’re in the homestretch of a race to 50 percent, with the winner of the majority of the votes in Tuesday’s elections taking the seat being vacated by outgoing commissioner Frank Carollo — the younger brother of the former mayor.
Whoever wins will secure a four-year term as one of five votes on the City Commission, which sets policy, awards contracts and passes legislation. The job comes with a $104,000 annual compensation package.
“The office doesn’t make the person. The person makes the office,” Joe Carollo, 62, said Sunday on “NBC 6 Impact.” “I am sure that with the experience and knowledge I have I can make that difference and make a lot of things happen positively that the citizens of Miami need.”
The campaign heading into the general election was feisty and expensive, and the runoff has been no different. Carollo’s campaign reported spending about $100,000 on mailers and television and radio spots between Nov. 7 and Nov. 16, the date the most recent campaign treasurer’s reports were due at City Hall. Leon, who was declared Carollo’s opponent in the runoff by an automatic elections department recount, reported spending about $65,000 on communications.
“We just elected a young mayor and people see [new Mayor] Francis Suarez, see his leadership, and say we can trust a young professional who will always work hard for us,” Leon, 32, said during his appearance on “Impact.” “I think it’s time to have new, young leadership who will take your issues on.”
About 6,000 of the district’s 30,000 voters turned out two weeks ago in the general election. But municipal runoff elections held in an off-year typically see depressed voter turnout, and this race has seen its fair share of attacks, which also tend to tamp down the vote.
Both men dismiss the allegations against them as baseless, and have accused the other of spreading misinformation. Heading into the weekend, the Carollo campaign was able to successfully knock one ad from a political committee supporting Leon off AmericaTevé.
Data tracking the number of ballots cast ahead of election day suggest turnout will indeed be significantly lower in this round than on election day. Ahead of Nov. 7, nearly 4,200 people — two out of three voters — voted early or by mail. Figures compiled by the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections suggest about half that number will be cast ahead of Tuesday’s runoff.