As soon as Luther Campbell made his endorsement of Julio Robaina for mayor official, I received text messages from a couple of Carlos Gimenez supporters asserting Uncle Luke had surely been bought off -- the same accusation our columnist hurled at the former Hialeah mayor during the NAACP debate last month. Campbell accused Robaina of buying off two of black candidates to dilute the African- American vote.
I don't believe he sold out, but endorsing Robaina is definitely a hit to Campbell's credibility. I told him so during a phone conversation as he kept the throng of mainstream media reporters waiting for his arrival for more than an hour for a 12:30 p.m. press conference. But I understand why Luke endorsed Robaina, even though I want to throw up.
I've written my fair share of critical pieces on Robaina, questioning his integrity and his ethics.
But I'm not the one who ran for mayor against him. Luke did, so he was in a position to cut a deal that, he hopes, will translate into something positive for Miami-Dade's African American community.
"I could have stayed on the sidelines," Campbell said, "not endorse either guy, but then nothing happens in the African American community for a year-and-a-half. If I can get one of these guys to implement some of my ideas to improve the community, isn't that a step in the right direction?"
One thing Campbell asked both candidates for: If they were willing to put someone he trusts to oversee economic development in Miami-Dade's African American communities; a senior adviser who only answers to the mayor. Campbell suggested Pierre Rutledge, a longtime black activist who is the operations director for the Miami-Dade County School Board and former Miami city commission candidate.
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"Robaina was on board," Campbell says. "Gimenez wavered." Campbell also says Gimenez wants to abolish Miami's community redevelopment agency and use the tax money it generates for the county's general fund. "The CRA needs to be fixed not eliminated," Campbell added, noting that was a deal breaker. "Gimenez wouldn't budge on that issue."
But does that mean he can trust Robaina? "If he does fuck the Black community over," Campbell says, "you know I'll be the first one to put him on blast."