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Miami-Dade Voters Hit The Polls In A Special Election

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MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – Just months after overwhelmingly voting to remove former Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez from office; Miami-Dade voters began hitting the polls at 7:00 a.m. to make their selection for the next county mayor, two commission seats and charter amendment changes.

Alvarez was removed from office by voters after spearheading a county budget that saw some property owners’ taxes increase by upwards of 14 percent. Alvarez also drew criticism for his part in helping to get the new Marlins stadium built at taxpayers’ expense.

The race for Miami-Dade County Mayor includes: former mayor of Hialeah Julio Robaina; former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez; former state representative Marcelo Llorente; former 2 Live Crew frontman Luther Campbell, among others.

The race has broken down to a fight over who will hold the line against raising taxes the least. If that sound familiar, it’s almost exactly how the 2010 Congressional mid-term election played out. No candidate wants to put himself into the position to say he might raise taxes.

But on the other hand, no candidate wants to box themselves in so far on the tax question that they can’t turn to a revenue increase should the Miami-Dade economy continue to struggle with declining property values and record unemployment.

Polls have the race down to essentially Julio Robaina versus Carlos Gimenez. But, with Miami-Dade County voters an unpredictable electorate, anything is possible and all of the candidates have a shot.

Also on the ballot are multiple charter amendments.

One would answer the question of whether or not to make County Commission positions essentially full-time jobs. County commissioners currently receive a token salary of $6,000 a year, but if this question were to pass that salary would jump to more than $92,000.

The measure would also forbid commissioners from having any outside employment, and would establish a term limit of 12 years in office.

Charter Amendment Number 2 would bar county commissioners from lobbying the county for two years after leaving office. Charter Amendment 3, would establish that a charter review task force would meet every four years. The task force would suggest future revisions to the charter.

Charter Amendment 4 would enshrine the office of the Inspector General in the charter, making it harder for future commissions to do away with the watchdog agency. Charter Amendment 5 would do away with the county’s strong mayor form of government.

Amendment 5 has been labeled as a power grab by commissioners who are hoping to take advantage of the voter anger towards former Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez. It would essentially shift power in the county from the Mayor’s office to the County Commission.

Billionaire Norman Braman has been leading the charge, first in ousting Alvarez, and now in trying to get the charter amendments passed.

The special election ballot will also include the race for the vacant commission seats in district 7 and 13. District 7’s seat was left vacant when Carlos Gimenez decided to run for county mayor. District 13 saw its seat open up when voters recalled Natacha Seijas, ousting her from office.

The district 7 race is between former state representative Julio Robaina (no relation to the mayoral candidate) and former Miami mayor Xavier L. Suarez.

The winner of district 7 race may not be known for more than a week.

On Monday Miami-Dade circuit court Judge William Thomas ruled that the results would be temporarily suppressed after Ricardo Corona, an attorney and Spanish television personality, filed a lawsuit challenging the time period would-be candidates had to declare their intent to enter their name in the special election.

There will be another hearing on Corona’s suit next week at which time the results of the district 7 race may be revealed.

Click Here for more on Corona’s suit.

In district 13, Carlos Amaro, Esteban Bovo, Tania Castellanos, and Alan Rigerman are all seeking to fill the empty seat.

Polls will stay open through 7 p.m. Tuesday evening.

Once the polls close, come back to CBSMiami.com and CBS4 for the latest election results in real-time.

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