Conventional wisdom has taught serious candidates that to win a countywide election for mayor, they need at least a half-million bucks and a first name like Julio or Carlos. The only time an African-American has come close to sitting in the mayor's chair was 1996, when the late Arthur Teele narrowly lost a runoff against Alex Penelas, who served as Miami-Dade's top elected official for eight years. That election put the county's great ethnic divide on full display. Teele received 82 percent of the African-American vote, but it wasn't enough to beat Penelas, who won with 62 percent of the Hispanic vote.
So where does that leave Luther "Luke" Campbell? Despite an 11-candidate field, the May 24 special election is really a contest among four contenders: Campbell and three well-known Cuban-American politicians — Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina, recently resigned county Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, and former state Rep. Marcelo Llorente. The trio has the advantage with well-financed campaigns stocked with political consultants schooled in the dark art of getting out the vote by busing in elderly voters and collecting absentee ballots. And they have the right-sounding nombres.
Already old-school journalists from the mainstream media are giving the onetime raunchiest man in hip-hop no shot. But we had our intern, University of Miami political science major Jose "Pepito" de la Gracia, compile the factors that will propel Campbell to victory:
Read the feature story "Uncle Luke Wants You!"
• Miami hipsters. Nothing gets this crowd going more than playing an ironic joke on the mainstream masses. All Luke has to promise them are cases of PBR beer, a gift certificate to Sweat Records, and free entry to the next Girl Talk concert at the Fillmore.
• University of Miami football fans. As soon as Luke throws up the U hand sign at any of the polling stations, all Hurricanes fans will cast their ballots for him. Plus his campaign colors are the Canes' orange and green.
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• Single moms. In spite of his promise to tax strippers, baby mamas support Luke because of his fine work keeping inner-city boys out of trouble with his youth baseball and football programs.
• Protest voters. Anybody who is sick and tired of seeing the same cookie-cutter Cuban-American Republican candidates run for office is gonna vote for Luke.
• A major hurricane hits Hialeah. The perfect storm ravages Julio Robaina's headquarters, obliterating all the absentee ballots his political machine is collecting from the viejitos that live in Hialeah public housing.
• Miami New Times readers. If every person who religiously reads this newspaper tells five friends to vote for Luke, he has this election in the bag. So do your job! Punch 17 on May 24!