CORAL GABLES (CBS4)- Candidates vying for the spot as Miami-Dade’s next mayor participated in the county’s mayoral debate Wednesday.

Candidates participated in the debate taking place at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables at 11 a.m. also attend a VIP reception followed by a question and answer session. It was their first official debate.

Senior political reporter and Miami Herald columnist Michael Putney moderated the event. It was a cordial affair with little disagreement on the issues.

All of the candidates vowed to lower taxes, they all complained that Jackson Memorial Hospital’s new CEO, Carlos Migoya’s $590,000 salary was too high, and they all opposed a charter change that would set term limits for county commissioners to twelve years. The candidates all said they think the term limits should be just eight years.

According to CBS4 news reporter Jim DeFede, another thing they all agreed on: The County has been terribly mismanaged.

“I have been the voice of opposition to many of the things that led Carlos Alvarez to be recalled,” former County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez noted. “Unfortunately he did not listen to my advice.”

Wednesday’s debate was sponsored by the Latin American Business Association, and included six of the eleven candidates.

In addition to Gimenez, the panel included Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina, former state representative Marcelo Llorente, former County Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Cancio, former transit director Roosevelt Bradley and erstwhile 2 Live Crew front man Luther Campbell.

A few weeks into the campaign and certain storylines are beginning to emerge. Bradley and Cancio are trying to present themselves as legitimate contenders despite the perception they have little chance at winning office. As a result, they struggle to get noticed.

The three candidates believed to be the most viable to win the election – Robaina, Gimenez and Llorente – are all jockeying for position. Given his financial resources, his political base in Hialeah, as well as early polling, Robaina is seen as the frontrunner. He promises to do for Miami Dade County what he has done for Hialeah. He argued he has been able to handle the city’s budget crisis without raising taxes.

But it is doubtful with such a large field Robaina will be able to get more than 50 percent of the vote on May 24. So the question is: Who will finish second and then face him in a runoff a month later.

Both Gimenez and Llorente believe that they can beat Robaina in a head-to-head match-up. They are hoping that recent questions about Robaina’s business dealings as well as an ongoing federal investigation into his finances, will sour voters on Robaina and give them an opportunity to beat him.

Llorente is mounting a campaign as a fresh-faced outsider who can lead this county into the future. But the problem for Llorente is he may be a little too fresh-faced. He is only 34 years old and outside of an uneventful – some might argue uninspired – stint in the Florida legislature, Llorente hasn’t really accomplished very much.

Asked if he was really ready to take on the $7.5 billion beast that is County Hall, Llorente was once again forced to say Wednesday: “I am absolutely ready and qualified to take on this job.”

Gimenez presents himself as the knowledgeable administrator. A former City of Miami fire chief and city manager, Gimenez offers the wonkish appeal of a man who intimately understands how government works. Gimenez’s greatest difficulty is his ability to connect with voters. He can come across as arrogant. His speaking style is authoritative but lacks warmth or personality.

The wild card is Campbell. Given his name recognition and the angry mood of voters, Campbell could become a threat to finish second and enter the runoff. Voters may turn to him as a protest – or simply for the novelty of saying, “I voted for Uncle Luke.”

Campbell continues to stress that his campaign is for real. During Wednesday’s forum, Campbell was asked, given the raunchy nature of some of his song lyrics, if his candidacy should really be taken seriously.

“My music was my music, it was a form of art and people who know my music inside and out know it was a form of comedy,” Campbell said. “That was the reason why I was able to win at the Supreme Court protecting the First Amendment, the right for all people to express themselves. This community is not a joke to me. I love this community.”

The only sparks in the two hour event was when Robaina was asked about a recent report on CBS4 News that he has allowed gambling machines to proliferate through his city.

Robaina tried to defend himself, saying, “If they are used improperly for gambling purposes, not only is the machine taken but the owner is subject to losing their business tax receipt license.”

But Gimenez saw an opening to attack Robaina, noting: “The fact is when you slap a permit on a machine, you give it an aura of legitimacy. Those machines are illegal and [Robaina’s actions are] making it tougher to remove those machines.”

The special election will be held on May 24th.

Both the mayor’s position and District 13 commission seat were left vacant after a March 15 recall election in which 88 percent of those who voted said then Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas should be removed from office.

The winner of the election would serve out the remainder of Alvarez’s term, which ends in November 2012.

Jim DeFede

Comments (23)
  1. Patrick says:

    Gimenez is the best candidate by far!!! No nonsense guy, with honesty and integrity. Fought the Union contracts, the Marlins Stadium, and the budget increases at the County. While at the City, he left it in the best condition in its history, with the LOWEST Taxes in 50 YEARS, and leaving $142 Million in reserves.

    1. Jim Shorts says:

      In the early 2000’s everybody was winning.

      Property vales were increasing like crazy and more tax money was coming in then ever before, the fact that some wasn’t spent is all you are saying.

      Gimenez has been in office ever since, he owns this mess. He is part of the machine designed to sell the taxpayer down the road.

      Let him go over and prove himself straightening out the mess in Hialeah while The PONZE is on vacation at summer camp.

  2. Lizette says:

    Miami Dade needs someone with a clean record that will look for our best interest. Pepe Cancio has been an example of integrity in our community. We do not need any more politicians that owe favors to everyone…

    1. GAIN AND AGAIN says:

      Cancio is TOOOOO old……

      Who lio ROB-A-IN-A has not RESIGNED AS MAYOR OF HIALEAH, NOR does he PLAN TO DO THAT, HIS PONZINESS…. IS A REAL crook

      VOTE FOR: FARID A. KHAVARI, the ECONOMIST, with NO HIDDEN AGENDA….

      1. tad sharpe says:

        Mr Khavari speaks of solar powered busses, he’s A JOKE!

      2. Odious Debt says:

        Tad Not Sharp enough – said solar buses are a joke, really.
        Now that you know you are wrong, think about much easier it is to get a transit system in budget when rising fuel cost are not an issue, in fact no reoccurring fuel costs.

        Solar-powered mass transportation? It’s no longer a dream! Tindo, a solar-powered electric bus, was introduced just last week in the city of Adelaide in Australia. The best part? It’s free to ride the supercute, supersolar Tindo

        Hydrogen and electric hybrid buses are already in service in London and bus fleets across the world, but this month, the Adelaide City Council took the future of public transport a step further by introducing the world’s first solar-powered electric bus to their city streets.

        Called Tindo – the Kaurna Aboriginal word for sun – the bus is the first in the world to be recharged using 100% solar energy, generated by a unique solar photovoltaic (PV) system installed on the roof of the new Adelaide Central Bus Station.

        Adelaide Lord Mayor, Michael Harbison, says the bus will be used every day as a free service for the people of Adelaide through the City Council’s free Adelaide Connector Bus service.

        “Tindo is at the cutting edge of sustainable solar energy technology – using the power of the sun to drive a commuter transport vehicle which operates with zero tailpipe emissions, and is also fully carbon neutral,” he says.

        “Not only is Tindo the world’s first fully solar-powered electric bus, but we believe it’s also the first time such an environmentally sustainable vehicle has been incorporated into a free community bus service.”

        The solar panels at the Adelaide Central Bus Station will generate almost 70,000 kilowatt hours of zero carbon emissions electricity each year, making it currently the largest grid-connected system in Adelaide.

        The bus is made by New Zealand company Designline, who also provide hybrid electric buses for New York’s bus fleet, and as the solar electric bus doesn’t have a combustion engine, it is also the quietest bus in Adelaide’s fleet.

        ****************************************************************************

      3. Odious Debt says:

        Now let’s do the school buses and county vehicles, government buildings
        and all of the homes and businesses.

        Is this crazy or possible? This not only possible but cheaper than what is being done today.

        When you take the energy cost out of services and products the cost of these go down too.

        Next lower the interest cost in services and products and the costs of these drop again.

        Next eliminate property taxes from the equation and costs drop again.

        The hardest hurdle to tackle is status quo.

        Tad, now consider this. We manufacture all of these components in the county and along with conversions and installations and you have a massive amount of jobs for every trade and profession and money in everyones pocket, this in turn creates more commerce which creates more jobs.

        And you think Khavari is a Joke, what we are doing now is the sad joke.

        But thanks for bring the topic up. Have any more?

    2. Jr says:

      Agreed. No one should be in this race that has any skeletons in their closet.

      1. tad sharpe says:

        FPL has lobbyists to MAKE SURE you do NOT affect their bottom dollar, its a ENERGY MAFIA that will make sure YOU DO NOT HAVE COST EFFECTIVE SOLAR ENERGY. if you don’t think so, GO FIND RALPH MOODY.

      2. Answers to the Pain says:

        Mr Negative again.

        Tad, The sun will shine tomorrow for no extra cost.

        Cost effective solar equipment is a reality, manufacturing it locally is a possibility,

        So now we just have to do something about the big bad lobbyist. The first thing we can do is stop electing lobbyist funded politicians. Next we need to outlaw politicians from being paid bribe money. .

        When solar is mentioned here it is make the topic simple, but many applications will be useful from cooling towers to Thermodynamics .

        Yes we are constantly told that solar is not cost effective but that is just as wrong as saying that solar buses are a joke.

        I can not unwind all of the propaganda here.

        Just hire lobbyist as solar salesmen.

        The real bottom line is we had better be able to supply the energy needs for our own homes as individuals and get off of this monopoly pocket picking ride.

        The folks in Japan are wishing that someone had lead them down a different path.

        It would be wise to also give thought to how much cost is added to products and services because of interest, energy and property taxes.

        By effectively reducing those locally Miami Dade products become the most cost effective in the country, including the cost of alternative energy equipment.

        Thanks for opening the door for another enlightening discussion.

        Have any more?

  3. rausky says:

    I will certainly not vote for Robaina. He’s a crrok and has no respect for working people;especially government employees. Gimenez I don’t trust at all, as he’s on the County Commission who cut county emplyees salaries five percent! Luke I respect, but I don’t agree with his stance on legalizing marijuana. Cancio is a Republican. I despise Republicans and all they stand for! Up to now I really don’t see any candidate worth voting for.
    I’am also tired of how the politicians create BIG ECONOMIC MESSES,and then want to force the working and middle class to clean up THEIR MESSES!! I totally agree in TERM LIMITS for all elected officials to eight years. If you can’t do something right in eight yeras, the OUT YOU GO!!!!!

  4. Jeffrey Lampert says:

    Not all the cadidates were invited. This election is controled by the special interest groups and the media. What a sham. I have not accepted any money to run my campaign. I have morals and ethics. Sham on the people trying to control this election. Jeffrey Lampert, candidate for Miami-Dade County Mayor.

    1. GAIN AND AGAIN says:

      TRUE, Jeffrey

      It was RIGGED

      DO NOT VOTE FOR THOSE THAT WERE INVITED….

      MIAMI-DADE is a SHAME ,

      an EMBARRASSMENT TO TAX-PAYERS intelligence….

      NO ETHICS &/or MORALS!!!!!

  5. Recallmaster says:

    If you guys hate crook Governor Scott, you will really hate Robaina. Stay away from Robaina. Vote for anyone but him.

  6. NDA says:

    Elect the most transparent one, I say. We need less cabinet posts, less inside deals, and no more quid pro quo.
    NDA

  7. Just?? says:

    .No one deserve my Vote..then Who Cares?? Good Luck!!

  8. Jr says:

    Cancio is 71, impressive to want to run and say up front only for 18 months, coincidentaly his # is 18, propose to cut his mayor salary by 1/2 to lead by example to bring the budget and the county under control. Energy, honesty, integrity, corage, business experience, nice natural leader that employess adore and respect is all you find under his name. Study all the candidates and go vote.

    Gimenez seems to be all good except someone with a personality that it is hard to unify the county to get anything done.

  9. GAIN AND AGAIN says:

    TRUE

    KHAVARI FOR MAYOR OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY………

  10. Answers to your pain says:

    Gain and again, I have made three postings of substance and all three have been taken down. CBS, does not want people to wake up or have choices.

    It is simple, go see for yourself before they take this posting down too.

  11. Answers to your pain says:

    “Our mess in Miami-Dade County is primarily an economic mess and we have elected candidates who didn’t have a clue about economics! So it should be no surprise that we are in this mess,”

    “I do not see another candidate that is running for mayor who has a clue about the economy they want to run. Look at the following examples to see just how ridiculous this has become.”

    Florida requires testing and licensing for everything. Ride a moped over 49cc requires a motorcycle licenses, Wire an electric switch requires an electricians licenses, install a window requires a contractors licenses, cut hair requires a licenses, applying polish to toenails requires a licenses, however if you can get enough special interest money you can be the Mayor of a $ 7.5 Billion budget that affects the lives of 2.4 million people – No licenses is required – No testing is required – No Experience is required – No Knowledge is required and any past corruption or financial failures are accepted.

    Khavari suggests that the county is like a corporation and the voter is the stockholder. If the stockholder is really expecting favorable results, they should hire someone to lead the corporation that has the appropriate experience and training. He also says that the candidates credentials should be required and that testing would be appropriate.

    “For the Miami-Dade resident who wants a vibrant economy with 150,000 new good paying private sector jobs, with a stable housing market, an end put to foreclosures; reduce rising energy and food costs, with a local government that can eliminate property taxes, there is no other candidate but myself “, said Khavari as he encourages everyone to read about his economic plan on his website,

  12. GAIN AND AGEIN says:

    My vote, as well as my family’s is for FARID A. KHAVARI….

    We need SOMEONE whom is aware of ECONOMICS, not their OWN POCKETS:

    We got Rick Scott ,the GOP, Tea-Baggers, etc…..etc….

    Cubans & Cuban-Related DO NOT CARE, neither do any other HISPANICS = GREEDY, LIARS, IDIOTS, left their countries to ROB, STEAL, DEFACE GOVERNMENT, but did not fight for their own COUNTRIES!!!!

    Yes, I am CUBAN-BORN, but KNOW THE DIFERENCE….

    I WOULD NEVER VOTE FOR ANY HISPANIC-RELATED person, IN USA, and I have been a CITIZEN since 1958.

    INFORMATION IS FREE….

    DO THE RESEARCH….

  13. Answers to your pain says:

    QUOTE FROM ARTICLE: Jami Reyes, a spokeswoman for the LABA, said the group “made a judgment call” not to include all 11 candidates. An issue for debate organizers is whether to invite all the candidates and risk having little time for the perceived frontrunners to discuss issues.

    RESPONSE: Google Search – Khavari For Mayor and you will see why Dr. Khavari was not invited to debate these worn out empty suites. His website is full of answers. He has posted the answered questionnaires presented to him, he has posted transcripts of interviews and a list of articles covering serious topics. The rest of these clowns only have empty promises and lots of special interest money.

    Let me give you a run down neighbor. I am going to give a brief version based on some highlights.

    Dr. Khavari’s plan includes creating a Citizens Owned Bank that will generate locally available credit so that 2% mortgages will be available to stabilize the local real estate market, low interest energy loans so that everyone can side step the rising energy costs and convert to sustainable energy systems, such as solar. This will lower your energy costs for the first few years and then when the equipment is paid for your energy is nearly free.

    Then he has created a demand for sustainable equipment and its installation, creating manufacturing, delivery, tradesmen jobs of all sorts, accounting jobs, sales jobs, ect… There are over a million buildings to convert.

    Vehicles and transit can be converted as well as government buildings.

    Businesses will be able to convert also allowing them big savings on energy and on interest, too.

    Even though the interest is low, there will still be a lot of profits. These profits are recirculated within the community and not pulled from the local economy and sent to wall street.

    Recirculating allows for more economic boosts and grows to the point that property taxes are completely eliminated.

    Everyone has jobs, they are paying a lot less on interest, a lot less on energy and nothing on property taxes. This amounts to big savings for businesses as well, which creates more jobs and reduces the cost of products and services.

    Tell me again what those empty suites were going to talks about.

    My friends, if you were ever going to wake up and quit being played, now would be a great time.

    Check out his website, you can order your ballot from there and then get busy getting others to do the same. Miami Dade can be the shining star of the nation and that is you.

    You got the country’s attention when you slammed the recall, now they are watching to see what you are going to make of it or if you are just going to throw it away.

    My friend this country is headed for some real hard times, lets start watching out for ourselves.

  14. tad sharpe says:

    I see no mention of the sole FEMALE candidate, Ms Gabrielle Redfern, her credentials ARE LONG. ITS TIME FOR A NEW GUB’MENT in the USA that is NOT THE GOOD OL’ BOYS clique! check our president out, he’s a DIFFERENT breed than every other president before him…. he has a vocabulary and RARELY SAYS anything embarassing, unlike the comedian before him.