Either Argue or Cut Debate

Fiedler quickly retreated to the podium while a police officer ran up on-stage and began whispering feverishly in King's ear. But again King bellowed that he was not leaving, and the policeman eventually withdrew as well. Talking into his two-way radio, the officer kept repeating, "We have an incident. We have an incident."

The entire affair made for wonderful theater, which seemed particularly appropriate given that the debate was being sponsored by Miami's arts community through the Dade Cultural Alliance. As they sipped glasses of white wine and nibbled on cheese and fresh melon, no one seemed to mind the delay. Many had certainly sat through more tedious productions at the nearby Coconut Grove Playhouse.

Before Fiedler could finish his introductions, however, King was back commanding center stage, anticipating the arrival of police reinforcements. "Are you going to allow them to evict me because I'm not a big shot?" he asked fellow candidates Ferre, Teele, Penelas, and Suarez, who smiled but said nothing. "The candidates should be treated equally." As King's indignation rose, so did his voice. "I don't want to be treated like a second-class candidate," he cried. "I'm just as white as you all!"

King's initiative emboldened the other fringe candidates in the room, as they also stood in protest. Besides the four front-runners for the mayor's job, seven other candidates will have their names on the September 3 ballot.

"I find this to be not a very democratic process," offered the normally timid Dori DeFalco, whose campaign centers on the belief that attorneys should be barred from holding elected office.

"Very un-American," agreed Gonzalez-Goenaga.
"All right," said Fiedler, trying to move the proceedings along. As a compromise, the moderator suggested that each of the second-tier candidates make a brief opening statement. King used this opportunity to continue his rant about the process and to express his disgust that the so-called major candidates would allow him to be treated this way. "I really thought Mayor Suarez loved me," King said, "because he has been in my bedroom on two occasions. He brought me a gift -- a book, The Little Prince -- because he said that is the way he sees me. He even autographed it." Suarez nodded in agreement. King then turned to Teele. "Now, Brother Teele has said he is interested in fair treatment," King began. "Well, he would not be running for mayor if it wasn't for a few people like me." Shifting his gaze to Penelas, King offered, "He's my darling. He's the best-looking one up here."

Sensing trouble, Fiedler cut King off, summoning socialist candidate Rachele Fruit to the podium. "I'm the only worker running for mayor," she declared. The problem with Dade County, she posited, is that not enough attention is being paid to the needs of working-class families, and "farmers and peasants" whose lives are being crippled "due to the capitalist economic crisis." As mayor she promised to push for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Haiti, Bosnia, and the Middle East. And, she noted, she is opposed to the U.S. embargo of Cuba. "And I think the most important thing," she said, wrapping up, "is for the workers of the world to unite."

Striking her anti-attorney themes, DeFalco said what county government desperately needs are "new voices." DeFalco's principal problem is that, even with a microphone, her voice barely rises above a whisper, and most of the people in the auditorium were unable to hear her. Gonzalez-Goenaga was next. With a sense of drama, he carried a book containing the complete works of William Shakespeare up to the lectern and, standing the volume upright for everyone to see, explained how he alone understands the needs of the arts community, since he is the only candidate who has acted in a Shakespearian play with fellow Puerto Rican native Raul Julia.

With the fringe candidates temporarily satisfied, the main debate proceeded. Primarily, the cultural alliance wanted to hear the candidates' plans for establishing a dedicated source of money in the county for arts funding. Teele, Ferre, and Penelas all agreed that such funding was necessary. Suarez sidestepped any commitment.

At the end of the debate, Fiedler allowed the other candidates to make closing remarks. By this time King had noticed that the back wall of the auditorium was now lined with police officers, and shifted his final plea to the electorate accordingly. "I don't have a closing statement," King said. "I'm just wondering whether I'm going to be arrested." And the appreciative audience burst into laughter. "No, I'm serious," he repeated, and noted that he has been arrested before and doesn't find it the least bit amusing, which only made the audience laugh harder. Turning toward Fiedler, he pleaded, "I just have these anxieties. Will you assure me I'm not going to be arrested?" Fiedler nodded yes, and while the other candidates took turns at the podium, King quietly made his way out of the auditorium a free man.

Like jackals, the men and women who are running for county and circuit court judge seats follow the mayoral contenders around, hoping to pick up votes. During one forum nearly 30 prospective judges showed up for a chance to say their names into a microphone and hand out brochures at the door.

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