MIAMI (CBS4) – They both come from a long history in local politics, yet both claim the outsiders, reformers mantel as they run for the Miami-Dade commission seat once held by Carlos Gimenez.
In fact, former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez and former state representative Julio Robaina often sound alike on the campaign trail, working the crowd and working voter angle to their political advantage.
“Right now it’s about reforming government that’s out of control and laughs at the citizens of Miami-Dade County,” said Robaina.
“It’s just not working, the county is not working,” said Suarez.
To hear their concerns and why their running for the District 7 seat, which Gimenez resigned so he could run for mayor, Suarez and Robaina sound alike.
“We’ve got to figure out how to streamline the county. (We have) Sixty-four departments for six basic municipal services, I think the state has like 25 with ten times the budget,” said Suarez.
“I want to look at an array of things. Everything from salary structures to the way that the government functions, the growth of government from 24 departments to over 60,” said Robaina.
The 49-year old Robaina, who is also a former Mayor of South Miami, and Suarez, 61, point to the recall of former county Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas as a watershed moment in local politics; one they add that current commissioners ignore at their peril.
“It was a political tsunami. It sent a message that business as usual has to stop,” said Suarez.
“The citizens have spoken loud and clear with the recall, they wanted real charter reform. They wanted term limits. They don’t want to pay salaries. They wanted retroactivity so that certain commissioners are not there for another decade,” said Robaina.
Since the two candidates sound so much alike, many voters have wondered just what sets them apart.
Suarez says it’s his experience as Miami’s Mayor and his shaking up of the political status quo when he was in office.
“I’m very attentive to detail. I’ve been blamed a little bit for being too involved in the affairs of the staff of the city. But I intend to do that in the county, I’ll raise the red flag when it needs to be raised,” said Suarez.
Robaina says that his history, and the fact that Suarez’s son already sits on Miami’s City Commission, is what sets him apart as the outsider who will vote with the people in mind, not the politics.
“What I tell people is to look at my background, what I’ve voted for, consumer protection, I’ve gone against the grain, I have even gone against even my party at times,” said Robaina.
Unlike other political campaigns of recent note these two candidates speak highly of each other and they actually seem to like each other.
If that translates into reform it might be an even bigger turning point in local politics than the recent recall election that prompted their candidacy in the first place.