Miami-Dade County mayoral candidate Carlos Gimenez talking about the taxpayer-built Florida Marlins stadium in Little Havana, Miami International Airport and the Port of Miami
Days before Miami-Dade's mayoral election, nobody cares who Kendrick Meek supports and the Herald's Patricia Mazzei ignores Julio Robaina's snub of N.E. Miami-Dade, especially the affluent, well-informed and habitual voters in Aventura.
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Saying he wants to spend the last week of the campaign meeting voters, Miami-Dade mayoral hopeful Carlos Gimenez has pulled out of debates scheduled this week against rival Julio Robaina.Political debate season is apparently over for Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Carlos Gimenez.After the former county commissioner was a no-show at a face-off Monday, his campaign canceled Gimenez’s appearances in a series of events scheduled this week against opponent Julio Robaina.The surprise move came after Gimenez pulled ahead of Robaina in the race for the June 28 runoff election, according to a poll conducted last week for The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald by Bendixen & Amandi International.As front runner, Gimenez appears to be adopting the political mindset that more debates may not help him — and may perhaps only give him more chances to make a costly mistake days before the election. While candidates often engage in posturing before agreeing to debates, it is unusual for them to cancel once they have agreed to take part.Gimenez said the new strategy is intended to put him directly before voters.“I’ve done 26 debates. Julio Robaina has missed more than half of them,” Gimenez said. “I may do one or two more. But the people are voting, you know. We need to get out on the street.”The change of plans gave Robaina an opportunity to pounce on Monday, charging Gimenez with being afraid to face voters. “It’s shameful and disrespectful that we would not both be here today,” Robaina told several dozen county employees assembled at downtown Miami’s main library Monday afternoon as part of a debate arranged by the Hispanic Association of Public Administrators.For dramatic effect, Robaina pulled out a red empty chair to represent Gimenez, who had backed out of the event a few hours earlier — shortly before Robaina unveiled a six-page county economic development plan.Gimenez’s campaign also canceled a Wednesday debate organized by Miami Dade College and Miami’s Downtown Development Authority, and a Tuesday forum hosted by the Cuban-American Association of Civil Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Miami-Dade County Architects and Engineering Society.“We are very upset,” said Carlos Gil, president of the Cuban-American civil engineers. Gil said his organization found out about the change of plans only after it called Gimenez to confirm details about whether the candidate would also be joining the groups for lunch.“It was a total disrespect to the entire engineering community,” said Gil, adding that the organizations paid several thousand dollars to put the forum together. The forum, expected to draw about a hundred people, will still take place, he added, but only with Robaina.The Wednesday debate has been scrapped completely, said Kelly Penton, a spokeswoman for the Downtown Development Authority.“The DDA, as the lead agency for advocacy for the downtown area, thought it would be important to put together an event where the last two candidates would talk about what their plans are for the future of downtown,” she said.One scheduled Spanish-language face-off, on América TeVe, may also move forward with only Robaina. The fate of another planned debate in Spanish, hosted by radio station WQBA-AM (1140) and the Latin Builders Association, is unclear.Robaina spokeswoman Ana Carbonell said Gimenez’s absence from events will demonstrate “a profound lack of leadership.”“If Mr. Gimenez is not willing to be accountable to the voters now as a candidate, how will be he accountable as mayor, and endure the multiple pressures that come with the job?” she said. “Gimenez has been claiming to be transparent, now he shows that means invisible.”Gimenez’s campaign argued the opposite, justifying the about-face on the debates as a strategic effort to get Gimenez to early-voting sites to shake hands.“We can’t afford to take our foot off the gas,” spokesman Tomas Martinelli said. “And if it means missing some debates, then so be it. I think people throughout this whole campaign have seen the differences between both candidates and are ready to make up their minds.”Gimenez spent much of Monday visiting the Coral Gables Library early-voting site and calling donors in a final push before the campaign’s fundraising deadline. He noted that he appeared with Robaina in three televised debates over the weekend.“I can’t continue to do this pace,” Gimenez said, adding that some early voters are still undecided and he could try to persuade Robaina voters to change their minds. “I can probably change some over.”Gimenez still plans to attend a taping later this week for WFOR-CBS 4’s Saturday morning show News & Views with Eliot Rodriguez, but that appearance is not currently on Robaina’s schedule.“We’re going to continue to work on our campaign,” Gimenez said.
The Miami Herald recommendsDEMOCRATIC PRIMARYAt one time, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, 43, seemed to have the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate sewed up. That changed suddenly with the emergence of candidate Jeff Greene, 55, turning this race into a real contest dominated by the political slugfest between an eight-year congressional incumbent and a populist outsider with unlimited funds to promote his candidacy.That's a plus for voters. Democracy works best when they have choices. A third notable candidate is former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre, 75, whose vast experience in government outshines both Rep. Meek and Mr. Greene, who has never held public office. Mr. Ferre is a serious candidate, but his under-funded campaign has failed to catch fire with voters.The irony in the increasingly bitter race between Rep. Meek and Mr. Greene is that they generally share the same views on major policy issues. Both emphatically support the Obama administration's healthcare reform, and both believe Bush-era tax cuts should be allowed to expire to bring in more revenue and balance the budget. They both support the trade embargo against Cuba.The campaign has thus far been dominated by personal attacks. Mr. Greene made a fortune by betting against the housing bubble, which has made him vulnerable to accusations that he profited from the misery of others. That seems unfair. He was able to take advantage of the foolishness on Wall Street. Where's the shame in that?The charge that he is a carpetbagger has more substance, and his boast of being a proven job creator in the private sector is, as a Miami Herald headline declared on July 15, ``hard to determine.''Mr. Greene's candidacy cannot be discarded, but there is little to indicate he had any interest in politics up to now. That raises questions about his commitment to public service.Mr. Meek's involvement with indicted developer Dennis Stackhouse, amply covered in this newspaper, is troubling, but generally a lapse in an otherwise honorable record of public service.He has been a diligent representative, using his position on the Ways and Means Committee to fund community projects. He has also been a leading voice for Haitian Americans and was one of the first elected U.S. officials to set foot in Haiti following this year's devastating earthquake.One significant difference between Rep. Meek and Mr. Greene involves their approach to ``earmarks,'' special-purpose appropriations for local districts. Mr. Meek boasts of a long list of appropriations -- including $600,000 for the Overtown Youth Center and $500,000 for a cancer screening program. Mr. Greene, on the other hand, recently pledged to end earmarks ``once and for all.''Our choice in this race is for Mr. Meek, largely on the basis of his experience as a former state police trooper, state legislator and member of Congress.In the race for the U.S. Senate, Democratic primary, The Miami Herald recommends KENDRICK MEEK.-----See also: