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.
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)
Ferré basically needs to hang on to a significant percentage of the Cuban-American vote. He's doing very well among Anglo voters. He's doing very well among what I call Latin-American voters, non-Cuban Hispanic voters. But they're a minority in the City of Miami. The Cuban-American vote dominates. So for Maurice to be able to do well in the first round -- and for that matter to win in a runoff -- he has to appeal to a significant percentage of the Cuban-American vote, and that is his challenge. He needs to get twenty percent to get into the runoff.
His other big challenge is turnout. He needs Anglo and African-American voters to participate. But to win the runoff he'd better get at least 40 percent [of Cuban Americans], and that's tough when you're running against a Cuban candidate, although I don't think it would be very tough against Carollo.
Carollo I think is a lost cause. I don't know that he has much chance to win this election, although in the past he's proven people wrong who have written his obituary. He basically has no support among Anglos. Zero. He's got marginal support among blacks, about ten percent. And he's getting a lot less of the Cuban-American vote than he has in the past. He is doing a lot better among Cuban-American men than among Cuban-American women. You figure out why. I did not ask questions about his personal life, and I refuse to do so.
This is a municipal race in which personalities are much more important than ideologies, although obviously Carollo has tried to appeal to what you call the hard-liners. I think there are a lot of hard-liners who just don't like Carollo and don't like the way that he's run the city and don't like the image he portrays for the city.
For Carollo to win, he needs very low turnout among non-Cubans, similar to the election back in 1996, when [Mayor] Steve Clark died. That year it was 70 to 75 percent Cuban American. He needs that to have a chance to win. He needs basically for African Americans and Anglos to stay home and leave this election to Cuban Americans. If he gets that, then he's got a shot.
Diaz has gone from five percent back in June to fifteen percent. What Diaz needs to do is to convert the Carrie Meek endorsement into black votes and convert his support from SAVE Dade into Anglo votes. If he does those two things, he might just edge Carollo out and make it into the second round. He's not showing much of that yet. He's basically showing nothing among blacks, but you just have to think the endorsement from Carrie Meek has to mean something. Diaz is doing okay among Anglos. He's showing up. He's got some level of support. Right now he's at around ten among Anglos and at zero among blacks. He needs to get close to twenty percent in [both] the black and Anglo communities."
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Ric Katz, president of Communikatz
To win in the non-Latin white district, people need to think that you, the candidate, are not part of the past. That you're honest. That you're not corrupt. And beyond the good-government clean candidate, that you are going to be able to move the city forward in a positive direction. Get us out of the rut. The message is that you are capable of doing that.
It goes back to the high school report-card thing: "Plays well with others." In the English-speaking sector, people are paying attention to how well will this person get along with other members of the city commission, because this is not really a strong-mayor government at all. The commission has a lot of authority here. And for the mayor to do important things, he is going to have to have a good relationship with this commission. People in the Anglo or English-speaking white corridor are basically saying it's time for the city to move on. We're tired of being stuck in neutral. I think Carollo had that community once upon a time. I think he's lost it for this election. Now you've got to concentrate on what your base is, and his base is in low-income, older Cuban voters.
The political thought going into this election was that Carollo had about twenty percent of the overall vote, primarily from low-income Cuban Americans. If it hadn't been for Elian, I think Carollo would have had a lock on that portion of the vote. Not that Carollo did anything wrong with Elian or the Grammys, but two guys came along who also had made deep inroads in the community [Diaz and Garcia-Pedrosa]. I'm not sure Garcia-Pedrosa was able to capitalize, but Diaz did. That's the battleground right now. And also the African-American vote is the battleground.