By the Numbers

Experts ponder the possibilities for winning or losing the Miami mayor's race

Exactly how does one become mayor of Miami these days? To find out New Times recently polled some well-known political junkies. The consensus seems to be that unless your name is Maurice Ferré, Joe Carollo, or Manny Diaz, you may as well forget about claiming that bay-view office on Dinner Key. But that's the easy part. The rest of the calculus for winning the first round depends on a sharp analysis of the city's various voting blocs, two of which will exercise unusual power on November 6. Here's what the three front-runners must do to advance to the November 13 runoff.

First step: Map out the electorate, which consists of 134,000 registered voters. Using information from Miami-Dade County voter-registration rolls, pollster Hugh Cochran, president of Campaign Data, Inc., paints the following picture (the Diaz campaign has paid Cochran for his services): Hispanics 53 percent; non-Hispanic whites 19 percent; non-Hispanic blacks 23.5 percent; others 4.5 percent.

The portrait changes, however, when considering who actually votes. Florida International University professor Dario Moreno, who is collaborating with Cochran, has a way of calculating that: He simply discards any registered voter who hasn't exercised this constitutional right in the past three elections. Those who are left he calls "quality" voters, those who are most likely to cast ballots. When they are factored into Cochran's figures, Hispanic (and hence Cuban) voters have even more clout: Hispanics 67 percent (90 percent of whom are Cuban Americans); non-Hispanic whites 15 percent; non-Hispanic blacks 16 percent; others 2 percent.

Mark Poutenis

In other words whoever grabs the lion's share of the Hispanic (read: Cuban) vote, wins. "I believe that if a candidate gets 60 percent of the Cuban vote he will win the mayor's race," declares veteran local political strategist Armando Gutierrez, citing his reliable rule of thumb.

That axiom may apply to a two-candidate runoff but not to the first round, where the Cuban vote will be sliced into pieces. Among the major mayoral candidates on the November 6 ballot, six are Cuban American. "The vote is going to be split," Gutierrez adds, stating the obvious. "There are too many Cubans running." That means the black and Anglo blocs will have a rare opportunity to strut their electoral stuff. On the other hand, pollsters also note that over the past decade, these two groups have tended to stay away from the polls.

This balkanized state of affairs means different things for different candidates. Here's how the analysts see it.

Dario Moreno, FIU professor of political science

I think Manny and Joe have real solid bases now in the Cuban community. Ferré's base is non-Cuban Hispanics and probably Cuban Democrats. Carollo's base right now tends to be Cubans over 65, more male. Manny's tends to be Cubans under 65.

Carollo has almost negligible support in the Anglo community. Since the firing of [former City Manager Donald] Warshaw, he has just disappeared in the Anglo community. He's as close to zero as you can get. Warshaw, Elian, the firing of the chief of police, the crisis that occurred at the end of the Elian affair -- non-Latin whites did not appreciate the way he handled it. It's an area he could try to make some inroads in, but I think it would be futile for him. Right now they're favoring Ferré.

Manny has made some inroads because of the endorsement he's gotten from SAVE Dade and some of the northeast homeowners associations. But still Ferré is the front-runner in that community. So if he's to make the runoff, Manny will have to improve in the Anglo community.

I think the key vote on November 6 is going to be the African-American vote. It kind of belongs to Ferré right now. But the African-American vote is really up for grabs. There are a lot of hard feelings with Ferré that still remain over the 1984 firing of [black City Manager] Howard Gary. If you look at the polls that have been published, Ferré doesn't do that well among African-Americans. Manny Diaz, for example, is being supported by [U.S. Rep.] Carrie Meek.

Carollo is not going to get a majority of the black votes. I don't think any of them will. But he's going to be able to steal some black votes he otherwise would not have gotten because he took a very active role [in supporting the Civilian Investigative Panel], and he pushed some of the investigations [into alleged police misconduct against blacks]. I think he needs to get about eighteen to twenty percent of the black vote if he doesn't increase his Cuban vote.

Manny's challenge is to match Carollo in the Cuban community. If he does that and he can get 20 to 25 percent of the Anglo vote and at least 10 to 15 percent of the black vote, that gets him into the runoff. Manny can build a coalition between Cubans, Anglos, and a little bit of the blacks. That's Manny's way to go. And going with these organizations like SAVE Dade and some of the northeast homeowners associations and the Brickell homeowners association, which each have a couple of hundred votes. That's how he does it.

Sergio Bendixen, president of Bendixen & Associates, is conducting polls for Radio Unica (WNMA-AM 1210)

Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help
Miami Concert Tickets