DORAL (CBS4) – Carlos Gimenez has moved from a seat on the Miami commission to the Miami-Dade Mayor’s office, after beating former Hialeah mayor Julio Robaina in a bruising race for the county’s top job. Robaina conceded the race shortly before 9:30 Tuesday night.
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With 100 percent of the vote counted, Gimenez won the support of 51 percent of the voters with a total of 101,865 votes. That was a lead of about 4,600 votes. The win apparently is enough to prevent an automatic recount, but the final numbers are still subject to the official election canvass.
“I don’t think many people gave us a chance,” said Gimenez, flanked by friends and family as he addressed supporters at his victory party. Thanking his family, he said, “When we get together, we’re pretty hard to stop.”
Robaina, who finished first in the 11 person mayoral election, couldn’t stop him. Until two weeks ago he was considered the front runner in the runoff against Gimenez, who finished second in the mayoral election. However, a poll conducted for CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald showed growing support for Gimenez.
As the votes were counted Tuesday, 67,000 absentee voters gave Robaina a slight edge. But when the early voting totals from 20 locations across the county were added, the balance shifted in favor of Gimenez. While there were slight movements up and down, Gimenez kept a two point lead as the results of people who voted at the polls Tuesday were added.
As the vote count hit 85 percent, Robaina apparently decided there was no chance of pulling ahead.
“I just called Commissioner Gimenez,” Robaina said. “I congratulated him on his win.”
As supporters shouted their dismay, Robaina admitted there was no chance of winning.
“We fell a little short, so I congratulated him and his family.”
After conceding, Robaina walked off the stage with his family. He disappeared behind a door. Moments later he was seen with his wife at the back of the building, pulling away in his car. He did not speak to supporters or reporters.
At the Gimenez headquarters, the crowd waiting to hear from the new mayor roared when they learned of Robaina’s decision.
“What we have to do now,” Gimenez said, “I want to be the mayor of all of Miami-Dade county. This was a tight race. We need to unify. We need to change the direction of Miami-Dade county.
“We’re going to restore confidence and faith in the government of Miami-Dade county.”
The two men have been battling since the first Mayoral election last month placed Robaina first and Gimenez among the 11 people who wanted the Mayor’s seat.
A bruising campaign highlighted by swipes at the alleged use of insulting robo-calls by Giminez, and reports of an FBI investigation of Robaina, left voters wondering where to turn.
A poll conducted two weeks before the election for CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald gave Gimenez the likely win, after voters who had supported other candidates in the general election said they had switched allegiance to Gimenez in far greater numbers than had switched to Robaina.
Robaina publicly discounted that poll, saying Giminez should consider reporting it as a campaign contribution.
Giminez joked about some of the criticism leveled against him during the campaign, noting he might need to haul out his American Express card to pay for the unexpectedly large crowd at the party.
“Since I have four pensions, you know, I can do that,” he joked. “Don’t tell my wife I have four pensions.”
Gimenez said he will start immediately talking with people in the community and inside county government to help make his vision of the county clear. He has just over a year to communicate it; he was elected to fill the term of recalled mayor Carlos Alvarez, and if he wants to stay in office he must face the voters again in November 2012.