The next two weeks will be crucial for a handful of candidates with unsettled races. Voters spoke with their ballots in Miami, Miami Beach and Hialeah on Tuesday. They decided several referendum questions, but left a lot of races undecided.
Therefore, the runoffs are on Nov. 19.
Here’s what the election results revealed: Voters, a sorry 35,886 out of the 240,122 eligible, were in no mood to hand over power, money or perks to a city, a mayor or a commission.
In Hialeah, voters rejected an amendment that would have given their mayor the authority to declare a state of emergency after a disaster and would have allowed the city to spend an infinite amount of funds on cleanup without approval from the City Council for up to three months. No, said rightly wary voters.
In Miami Beach, voters said No to giving the mayor and commissioners a raise, although they have not received one since 1966. The increase would’ve increased the salaries for those positions by 650 percent. They also said No to increasing the mayor’s term from two to four years. The Editorial Board supported these items. Clearly, voters didn’t see the benefits we did or have the trust in their elected officials to pay them fairly for this now 24/7 job.
But Beach voters couldn’t pick outright the winners in three commission races. It was a clear sign of the divide between establishment candidates, aligned with Mayor Dan Gelber, and those with a more independent streak. It’s a sign, too, that city residents themselves are standing on opposite sides of the divide.
In Group V, incumbent Ricky Arriola, our choice, was pushed into a runoff by promising political newcomer Raquel Pacheco.
In Group IV, Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, overcame several ethics investigations to become the top vote-getter in her race. She’s trying to win back a seat she gave up to make her, ultimately, unsuccessful bid for Congress last year. There is no doubt she has a loyal following on the Beach. Rosen Gonzalez received 1,400 more votes than her closest challenger, either Michael Barrineau, whom we recommended, or Steven Meiner. They are separated by one vote.
In Group VI, former state legislator David Richardson was also forced into a runoff with our pick Adrian Gonzalez, owner of David’s Cafe. About 1,000 votes separate the candidates.
In Miami, Ken Russell, the District 2 incumbent whom we picked despite reservations, won reelection with about 59 percent of the vote. The race in District 1 will go to a runoff, pitting former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and auto-parts retailer Miguel Angel Gabela. It’s heartening that district residents sent Russell a needed message, rejecting his hand-picked candidate, Eleazar Melendez, whom the commissioner gave $150,000 in campaign funds: “You won’t choose our commissioner. We will!”
In Hialeah, voters unseated a two-term incumbent, replacing her with a political novice. No candidate in the races for seats in Group 2 and Group 3 received more than 50 percent of the votes and will go to the runoff.
As always, the Editorial Board is concerned about the abysmal turnout, which says too many people are not engaged, or are not being engaged, in this quintessential act of democracy. We don’t expect turnout to improve in the runoffs. Still, in the next two weeks, remaining candidates must figure out how to hold on to their supporters, woo voters who picked someone else and make sure they show up at the polls.
Best of luck.