MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Incumbent Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is facing a runoff, making him the first Miami-Dade mayor in modern history not to win re-election outright in the primary.
In Tuesday’s voting, Gimenez got 48 percent of the vote to second place finisher Raquel Regaldo’s 32 percent.
Gimenez says his failure to win outright – 50 percent of the vote plus one – was the result of a crowded field.
“The dynamic was we had seven candidates. It’s difficult to get over 50% when you have seven candidates,” Gimenez told CBS4’s Gary Nelson on Wednesday.
Regalado saw it differently as she savored what she considers a victory.
“I think people want a change,” she said in an interview with CBS4 News.
Regalado sees crime – murder and mayhem – and a lack of police protection as a key issue going into the general election.
“We just had another child that died and we continue to have this level of violence in our community,” Regalado said.
In campaign spots, Gimenez has boasted of adding cops.
But the police force has nearly 400 fewer officers now than it did when Gimenez took office. That is according to figures released by the department in a July spreadsheet. The police union says the deficit now is actually more than 500 officers.
The mayor says he’s had to play catch up after inheriting a huge budget deficit.
“We have added police officers in the last two years to the Miami-Dade Police Department. We’ve added 160 on the streets,” Gimenez said. The mayor said “the community” has to do more to help reduce crime, by becoming involved and helping police. He added that Chicago, with approximately the same population as Miami-Dade, had 85 murders in July. Miami-Dade had nine.
Gimenez makes much of lowering taxes, a 12 percent decrease in his first year in office alone, amounting to $1.2 billion in savings to taxpayers. Regalado counters that the mayor has raised lots of charges, Metrorail and transit bus fares, park fees, garbage service, and water and sewer rates.
Gimenez addressed only the water and sewer rate increases Wednesday, saying those charges are separate from taxes and that a crumbling, long-neglected utility system is in desperate need of a major overhaul.
Gimenez said his experience as mayor, a former Miami city manager and Miami fire chief sets him apart from Regalado. He and Regalado both say they want to debate.
“You’re going to see the difference between the two candidates, somebody who has done things and actually has accomplishments,” Gimenez said referring to himself. He has been derisive of what he’s characterized as Regalado’s lack of experience.
Regalado, with six years on the school board, says she has plenty of experience improving the educational system, and has successfully fought against expensive projects that she calls government boondoggles.
Carlos Gimenez’s message is that everything is wonderful and we should keep the status quo, and the voters of Miami-Dade County reject the status quo,” Regalado said.
The mayoral race is non-partisan. Gimenez and Regalado are both Republicans, but the November ballot has issues on it, including medical marijuana, campaign finance reform – and Hillary – that one Regalado advisor said might drive more female and youthful voters to the polls who could favor the woman, Regalado.