MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – Early voting for the Miami-Dade County Mayoral race ends Saturday, but both candidates made one final appearance together in a debate at CBS4’s studios Friday.
In the final debate of the Miami Dade mayoral campaign, Julio Robaina said he opposes domestic partnership benefits for gays and would support repealing a county ordinance granting those rights to county employees.
“If there is a move by the county commission to repeal the ordinance and that is approved then I will look at it and study it as mayor of Miami Dade County,” Robaina said. “And if the commission by majority had approved it, I would most likely approve it.”
It was the first time Robaina made his views clear since the campaign began.
And while the question was focused on benefits for county employees, Robaina’s position raises additional questions about his willingness to repeal the county’s Human Rights Ordinance, which establishes protections for gays against discrimination on a variety of fronts, including housing and employment.
Robaina’s oppponent, Carlos Gimenez, said during the debate that he voted in favor of domestic partnership benefits when he was on the commission and if the county commission tried to repeal those rights while he was mayor he would veto it.
Asked if he believed people were gay by choice, Gimenez said, “People are just people. I’m not about discriminating against anybody. Is it a choice? It’s what people are. People are what they are.”
Asked the same question, Robaina said: “Look, I’m not here to determine people’s sexual preference.”
Earlier in the debate, both sought to paint the other as being wrong for the top job in Miami-Dade County.
“I have not been a lifetime bureaucrat; I have been an administrator in the private sector and in the public sector,” Robaina said.
And as Robaina painted Gimenez as being directly linked to former Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Alvarez, Gimenez was quick to point out the differences.
“The last three budgets Carlos Alvarez budget proposed, I opposed,” Gimenez said.
But that didn’t stop Robaina from attacking Gimenez for what he said was poor leadership from Gimenez.
“There’s been a lack of leadership from the county commission; Carlos Gimenez has shown none,” Robaina said.
But as the debate shifted to creating jobs in the county, Robaina echoed Governor Rick Scott and the Tea Party’s ideology on getting rid of regulations to bring businesses into the area.
“We’ve got to create the process so that when businesses come here, they’re able to open quickly, without the red tape, without the bureaucracy that has existed,” Robaina said. “It’s about making the process simpler so that those businesses want to come here.”
Gimenez pointed to the Miami Marlins stadium as being a key element as to why Miami-Dade County’s unemployment is high and why the county government is facing massive deficits.
“We have to expand the Miami Beach Convention Center to bring more business to it,” Gimenez said. “We would have had more money for that stadium had there not been Miami Marlins stadium deal, which Mr. Robaina supported.”
Both candidates refused to support giving money to give the Dolphins to improve their stadium in order to bring in future Super Bowls.
The candidates got into a testy exchange about Robaina’s salary cuts to rank and file workers, and fought over Carlos Gimenez’s pension from his time as a fire chief.
To hear about those issues and many others, tune into News & Views Saturday morning at 10 a.m.