MIAMI – (CBS4) – Voters in Miami-Dade county may have a little more than a month to decide which mayoral candidate will best represent them and politicians are lining up to drop their names in the hat.
The latest political figures considering a run for the vacated mayoral seat are Alex Penelas, the former county mayor, and Raul Martinez, the former mayor of Hialeah.
Both are well-recognized names in Miami-Dade county politics and a poll conducted last week, shows Penelas would be a favorite. Among 400 polled voters, 37 percent chose Penelas, 17 percent chose Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina and 6 percent favored County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez.
On Wednesday, CBS4’s Jim DeFede spoke with Penelas by phone to talk to him about his possible return to the political arena.
Penelas, now 49, said he would consider running, but not for a full term.
“I’m mulling it over,” Penelas told DeFede. The “odds are minimal. I’m not tempted by polls. Just because a poll says I’m ahead now doesn’t mean anything.”
If he returned to politics, Penelas said he would work on restructuring county government including favoring charter amendments and restructuring.
As for the work involved in becoming an elected official, which often includes attending numerous events and fundraisers, Penelas said, “That part of my life is over.”
Penelas said if he ran, he would only serve until 2012. He said he has no interest in running beyond that. He added that he would consider it hypocritical because he favors term limits.
Others also vying for the mayoral seat include former state legislator Marcelo Llorente, former county transit chief Roosevelt Bradley and 2 Live Crew rap artist Luther Campbell.
Billionaire Norman Braman who spearheaded the recall effort that led to the ouster of Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natasha Seijas had said he would remain neutral about the outcome of the mayor’s race. But said he had to back track when Penelas’ name resurfaced as a potential contender.
“Alex Penelas is as responsible for the mess in this community as Carlos Alvarez,’’ Braman told CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald. “I think it would be a catastrophe for the community for Alex Penelas to be returned to the office of mayor.’’
Braman blames Penelas for pushing the half-penny sales tax that was billed as a way to expand public transit. Instead, he said, the extra tax did not live up to its billing. He also said Penelas increased the county’s debt by pushing the bond issue known as Building Better Communities.
“When I hear these names like Penelas resurfacing, that’s more of the past and the past has not been good for this community. We have to look ahead,” Braman told the newspaper.
But the mere mention of his name, is already scaring away other politicians including Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi who told the Herald, “I might not run if Alex does.”
Voters will head to the polls on May 24th.
(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report)