By Chuck Strouse
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By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
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Present at Teele's victory party were county commissioners Dennis Moss and Miguel Diaz de la Portilla. "He's going to be a strong city commissioner," Moss smiled. "That's just part of his character." Teele noted that Moss was the only politician in the county willing to host a fundraiser for him. Teele raised approximately $100,000, with most of it coming in the final two weeks thanks to the support of labor unions. Rutledge raised slightly more than half that amount.
"I'm glad to have Art back. It's been no fun by myself," said Diaz de la Portilla, referring to his role as an outspoken critic of Penelas.
Indeed, given the events of the past two weeks, no one is a bigger loser than the county mayor. Penelas backed Herman Echeverria over Raul Martinez in the Hialeah mayor's race. Martinez won. Penelas endorsed David Pearlson over Neisen Kasdin in the Miami Beach mayor's race. Kasdin won. Although he made no formal endorsements in the Miami races, Penelas and his supporters were clearly pulling for Rutledge over Teele, as well as for incumbent Mayor Joe Carollo over the highly volatile and unpredictable Xavier Suarez. Both Teele and Suarez are back in office.
It's fair to say the Penelas honeymoon is over.
Teele appears to relish the fact that he easily won this race in spite of the endorsements given to Rutledge. "We didn't have all of the luminaries with us," he laughingly told his supporters, "and that is a burden we are free of."
In addition to Carey and Range, Rutledge was also heavily backed by Congresswoman Carrie Meek and her son, State Rep. Kendrick Meek. Their support of Rutledge over Teele may have more to do with the future than the present: Teele had already declared that he has no interest in running for a second term on the Miami City Commission, which would leave him looking for a new opportunity in the next three to four years. Meek is expected to serve perhaps one more term in Congress before retiring, and she has been laying the groundwork for her son to run in her place. Teele, a Republican, could threaten that transition. "I'm not interested, right now, in Congress," Teele says. "But I am interested in rebuilding Overtown."
And he's not going to be shy about how he conducts business. An hour after his November 4 victory party wound down at a restaurant on NW Seventh Avenue, and with his supporters' chants of "Art Teele's back!" still ringing in his head, the enigmatic Teele sat in the lounge of the 1800 Club, sipping a tall vodka-cranberry juice cocktail, relishing his electoral rebirth.
"After I lost the mayor's race, I thought to myself that I did my time and now I've got to move on to other things," he said. A lawyer, Teele concentrated on trying to develop business opportunities in Latin America. He also spent a substantial amount of time in Washington, D.C. "For eleven months I worked at not paying close attention to any of the issues going on in the county," he said. "I did not read a county commission agenda in a year. I did not watch a county commission meeting until the budget hearings this fall. I got out of everybody's way. But now I'm back, and this is the best job I could possibly have. This is where I can get immediate results. I don't have to have the big picture. I don't want to have the big picture."
Smiling broadly, he added, "You don't know how good it feels not to owe a single person.