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S. Fla. Voters In 4 Cities Head To Polls Tuesday

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campaign 2012 new2 S. Fla. Voters In 4 Cities Head To Polls Tuesday

MIAMI (CBSMiami) –Voters in four South Florida cities are going to the polls Tuesday.

“We have to be represented correctly in this district,” said Hector Silen who cast his ballot Tuesday morning.  “That’s why we have to vote and be responsible.”

In Miami Beach, there’s a general election for a new mayor – and it may be the most unusual mayoral contest in recent memory. Comedian Steve Berke is challenging incumbent Matti Herrera Bower and newcomers Dave Crystal and Laura Rivero Levey in the mayoral race.

Berke’s unusual campaign antics have garnered him much attention to the chagrin of his competitors. Bower is less than amused about Berke’s “whack a mayor” video game on his website.

“I don’t care if he whacks me in the head. I don’t want him to whack our residents in the head by not knowing what he’s doing,” Bower said. Bower has been under attack over out of control pensions and urban beach weekend. She believes she’s the most qualified to handle these troubled times. “I have the experience. I don’t think government is a joke,” she said.

On Berke’s website viewers also find videos of him taking shots in-between campaign promises. At the end of the video he looks into the camera and delivers the punch line: “So if you don’t want your taxes as high as my blood-alcohol level right now, come join our party.” He then goes on to explain he’s not the Democrat and Republican party. He’s the “after party.”

“The comedy was done to educate voters on the problems and the issues facing Miami Beach. Without the comedy we may not be getting this sort of attention,” Berke explained. He certainly has captivated voters beyond Miami Beach. National media are now covering his run for office. “I’m not a politician. I’m not somebody who is going to lie to you. They want to see whether an honest guy can win this election,” Berke said.

Dave Crystal doesn’t find the antics funny. He said he’s a financial advisor who can fix the city’s finances. “If we don’t elect someone who is fiscally responsible and honest and decent, and a man of integrity we are going to be in a very dire situation very shortly.” Crystal said. The fourth candidate, Laura Levey, didn’t return calls for this story. Typically the mayoral candidate for Miami Beach is settled with low voter turnout. With roughly less than 4,000 votes it appears this election will be determined Tuesday at the polls.

A runoff election in Miami Beach, if necessary, will take place on November 15th.

In the City of Miami’s general election, there are two key commission races. Voters will decide whether incumbent commissioners Wifredo “Willy” Gort and Marc Sarnoff deserve new terms in office.

Gort and Shawn Selleck are vying for the District 1 seat. Selleck is a former community development consultant who has campaigned full-time, saying the city’s Flagami and Allapattah neighborhoods need a more hands-on commissioner.

Selleck has been far outraised by the well-known Gort, a longtime commissioner and current commission chairman who returned to represent District 1 in 2009 after a nine-year absence. Gort, an investment banker, is campaigning as a steady hand during tough times.

The race for the District 2 seat has become much more heated.  Sarnoff,  who is up for his second full term, faces a crowded field of four challengers:  Williams Armbrister Sr., Kate Callahan, Donna Milo and Michelle Niemeyer.

With his deep campaign pockets, Sarnoff has said he expects to win. But if he falls short of receiving a majority of the vote, he will face a runoff on Nov. 15th, when three of his four opponents have signaled they may join forces to defeat him, even after attacking each other during the current campaign.

Milo is a builder who has served on Miami’s planning and zoning board and is endorsed by the fire union. She ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year. Callahan is a healthcare consultant and former nurse who served on the Grove Council and on Miami-Dade County’s Public Health Trust and Armbrister is a retired Florida Power & Light employee and third-generation Grove resident with no previous political experience. Niemeyer is an attorney and Coconut Grove Village Council Chairwoman.

In Hialeah, there’s a big race for mayor and it’s expected to be the most watched Election Day contest as three political heavyweights battle to rule the second-largest city in Miami-Dade County.

Candidates include political newcomer George Castro, former state Senator Rudy Garcia, Mayor Carlos Hernandez and former Mayor Raul Martinez.

Garcia, a lawmaker since he was 21, and Martinez, who was first elected to the council at age 28 and held the mayor’s office for nearly a quarter-century, are both lifelong Hialeah politics mainstays who have outraised Hernandez. Yet Hernandez, a former city police officer, also holds his own: As has long been tradition in Hialeah, Hernandez and Martinez are backing council candidates running in powerful slates. If early and absentee voting are any indication, turnout Tuesday will be high. More absentee ballots have been sent and received in the Hialeah races than in the recent county mayor’s race.

The ballot also features five citywide council races.

The runoff election in Hialeah, if necessary, will also take place on November 15th.

In the Homestead mayoral race, Steven Bateman is running against Steve Losner while Jon Burgess is running against Judy Waldman for Vice-Mayor. There’s also a Council Seat up for grabs. Alejandro Andrickson and Patricia Fairclough-McCormick are both running for Council Seat 6.

COMPLETE ELECTION INFORMATION IN CBS4’S SPECIAL ELECTION SECTION

For additional information, including a sample ballot and polling place list, visit the Miami-Dade Elections Department website at www.miamidade.gov/elections or call 3-1-1.

(©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.)

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