Today's election slate might not be the most jam-packed or exciting, but the results will have reverberations in some of Miami-Dade's most important cities for years to come. Though, local elections (especially in these parts) are plagued by notoriously low turnout, that does mean that, hey, we could be in for some surprises tonight.
Two seats each are up for election on the legislative bodies of Miami-Dade's two most populous cities, Miami and Hialeah. The most notable of which is Miami's District 2 seat, where Teresa Sarnoff (wife of the term-limited and often controversial incumbent Marc Sarnoff) is the fundraising leader amongst a bevy of reform minded outsiders.
Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine is up for reelection, but outspent his only challenger by a ratio of 30-to-1. Perhaps the real question is whether he'll solidify his power through the three city commission races. Candidates are not-quite-openly believed to be running on loosely affiliated pro-Levine or anti-Levine slates. Homestead voters meanwhile will pick a new Vice Mayor and decide if an incumbent councilor will return to the dais.
Polls close at 7 p.m., and we'll be updating results as they come in through the race. We'll keep those results up top while a liveblog of breaking news and analysis (and maybe some .GIFs) will be kept below.
Oh, by the way, you can also follow me for more on Twitter @Munzenrieder.
Commissioner District 1: Wifredo 'Willy' Gort (incumbent)
Commissioner District 2: Runoff: Ken Russell vs (likely) Teresa Sarnoff
Mayor: Philip Levine (incumbent)
Commissioner Group IV: Runoff: Kristen Rosen Gonzalez vs (likely) Betsy Perez.
Commissioner Group V: Ricky Arriola
Commissioner Group VI: John Elizabeth Aleman (likely)
Ocean Terrace Referendum: No
Council Member Group II: Jose Caragol (incumbent)
Council Member Group III: Vivian Casals-Munoz (incumbent)
Vice Mayor: Patricia Fairclough
Council Member Seat 2: Jon A. Burgess (incumbent)
10:20: Activists who fought the plan to build a 70-unit luxury condo tower in North Beach are celebrating their win at the polls. "We are so grateful to our neighbors throughout Miami Beach for voting to support responsible development that respects our architectural heritage and the diversity that makes our community unique and special," says Katie Comer, a North Shore Historic District activist.
Adds Bill Vitale, from the group Save Ocean Terrace, "Tonight the local community has shown that we care more about our neighbors than big money. We're so proud of the local voters for turning out to support this cause."
9:37 - An important reminder to make: Runoff Elections in Miami and Miami Beach will be held on Tuesday November, 17th in both Miami and Miami Beach. Which means Miamians in District 2, and everyone in Miami Beach should mark it on the calendar.
9:08 - We've got a couple "likely"s up there, which means the results are actually pretty, pretty likely, but there's still 16 precincts across the county that haven't reported. Absentee ballots returned on election day and provisional ballots haven't been tabulated either. That means there's still small chances some of these things could change, but at this point you're probably looking at the results.
8:49 - In Miami's District 2 we're waiting on six more precincts to report, but those do not appear to be the most populous precincts. Here's how the race is shaking out at the moment:
It's pretty certain it will be a Russell vs Sarnoff election, and assuming Solares voters will likely line up behind Russell, you have to figure that the insurgent candidate is the favorite. He's the scion of a family that made its money in yo-yoing, and then started his own business wholesaling standup paddle boards. One of his key campaign platforms is the adoption of water taxis.
8:42 - The Herald is projecting John Elizabeth Aleman defeats Mark Samuelian for Miami beach City Commission Group VI, which is probably how it will shake out, but the vote total right now is:
Provisional ballots and absentee ballots returned on election day are still out. In truth that's probably not a lot of ballots, but could enough come in where it at least triggers an automatic recount? It's possible.
ELECTION RESULTS: Miami Herald projects John Elizabeth Alemán narrowly defeats Mark Samuelian for Miami Beach City Commission Group 6 seat.— Miami Herald (@MiamiHerald) November 4, 2015
8:36 - With 135 of 151 precincts reporting, voter turnout across all four cities is at 13.88 percent. Not surprising, but not happy news to report either.
8:29 - It appears Miami Beachers really, really do like their multi-millionaire mayor Philip Levine (in fact, some of the biggest gripes I've heard about him seem to come from non-Miami Beachers who just frequent the city). Not only did he cruise to reelection, but his unofficial slate of supported candidates did quite well tonight. Ricky Arriola is headed to the commission. John Elizabeth Aleman is probably headed there as well. Though coming in at second place his ally Betsy Perez (at ~25%) will head to a runoff against Kristen Rosen Gonzalez (at ~28%).
8:23 - In City of Miami District 1, Commissioner Wifredo 'Willy' Gort is sitting at 55 percent with 16 of 27 precincts in. His opponent is Miguel Angel Gabela, a former member of the Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board. It won't be a stunning vote of confidence in the incumbent, but it appears he's headed back to the dias.
8:18 - Big money developers lose in Miami Beach's Ocean Terrace Referendum, with 55.5 percent of voters casting a "no" vote. Developer Sandor Scher spent about $700,000 to try and get approval to build a luxury condo high-rise in the neighborhood, but Miami Beach history repeats itself and voters there love their historic preservation.
8:16 - Here's the group VI situation in Miami Beach. Levine ally Aleman leads with 76 percent. It's likely, with just a few ballots left to be counted, she'll win, but we can't say for sure. Could become an automatic recount situation, and these tallies, while reported by the county elections department, aren't officially certified.
8:13 - in Miami Beach Commission Group IV Kristen Rosen Gonzalez (28.21 percent) appears to be headed to a runoff against Betsy Perez (25.5 percent). Miami Herald endorsee isn't too far off in third place with 24.02 percent, but he'd need a miracle in day-off absentee and provisional ballots to make the runoff.
8:05 - Homestead elects Councilwoman Patricia Fairclough as Vice Mayor (under the city's charter, members of the council can also run for Vice Mayor), giving the city a young African-American female Vice Mayor. Councilman Jon A. Burgess also re-elected.
8:02 - Vivian Casals-Munoz wins reelection to Hialeah council. Fellow incumbent José F. Caragol will likely join her, but hold on just a second before we make that official.
7:58 - In Miami's District 2, 21 of 30 precincts are in. Ken Russell increases lead to 41.98, meaning he'll likely head in to the runoff as the favorite. Miami politicians must win 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff. Teresa Sarnoff is just over 23 percent, but its still possible she could miss a runoff completely. Grace Solares is just behind her at close to 22 percent.
7:56 - John Elizabeth Aleman leads Mark Samuelian by just 126 votes in Commission Group VI. Squeeeeaaaaaakkkkkk.
7:52 - Levine ally Ricky Arriola also wins the Group V commission spot. He beats Mark Weithorn, whose wife Deede currently holds the seat.
7:49 - 23 out of 24 precincts are reporting in Miami Beach, leaving one percent, provisional ballots and absentee ballots turned in on election day uncounted, but we can make our first unsurprising call of the night: Philip Levine wins his second term as Miami Beach Mayor with 65 percent (so far) of the vote.
7:44 - With just pre-election day absentee ballots and early voting in, voter turnout across all elections is at 9.53 percent. Only one percent had turnout higher than 20 percent so far, and that's in a Coconut Grove-area percent which would have only voted in the Miami Commission District 2 race.
7:35 - Other take aways:
Phillip Levine remains cruising (still just under 70%), but his preferred commission candidates aren't sure things. Levine-preferred Ricky Arriola has a comfortable lead against Mark Weithorn (whose term limited wife Deede currently hold the Group V seat), but Group IV is still a tight race with Kristen Rosen Gonzalez currently leading with about ~28 percent, but Scott Diffenderfer and Betsy Perez aren't too far behind. Seems like a guaranteed runoff situation.
Meanwhile in Miami's District 1, incumbent Wifredo 'Willy' Gort isn't exactly cruising, but is leading at 55%.
Hialeah incumbents remain comfortable.
7:33 - Meanwhile, Miami Beach commission seat group VI is shaping up to be your squeaker of the night.
Aleman (who in case you didn't get the memo is a female) is believed to be a member of the Levine-affiliated slate.
7:30 - Early voting now in.
Ken Russell extends lead to 40 percent in Miami's District 2 against Teresa Sarnoff. Russell would need to reach 50 percent to clench the seat outright. It's shaping up to be a Russell v. Sarnoff run-off, but consider this: Grace Solares, the other non-Sarnoff candidate, is doing well at 23 points herself. Seems like Miami might have Sarnoff fatigue.
7:21 - Other highlights from Absentee results:
- Mayor Philip Levine looks comfortable in Miami Beach with over 70% of absentees.
- Miami Beach Group IV shaping up to be a tight 3-way race between Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, Scott Diffenderfer and Betsy Perez. Gonzalez at ~31%. The other two ~24%
- Ricky Arriola meanwhile leading Mark Weithorn for another Miami Beach commission seat by 20%.
Other seat a close race, with John Elizabeth Aleman leading Mark Samuelian by about 6 points.
- Incumbents look comfortable in Hialeah
- Vote to decide future of North Beach super close, with "No" getting 52 percent so far.
7:18 - Here we go! Tallies for absentee ballots turned in prior to election day were just released, and here's the biggest (sort of) surprise. Ken Russell is leading Teresa Sarnoff (and her $1 million campaign chest) in Miami's District 2. Maybe all those Twitter followers meant something.
7:15 - Still waiting on results, but in the meantime here's the number of Twitter followers the three main candidates in Miami's District 2 race have:
@KenRussellMiami - 227
@VoteSarnoff - 68
@GraceSolares - 36
Clearly people were super interested in this race!
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7:00 - And polls are closed, folks! Early and absentee voting results should be coming in sooner than later.
6:22 - By the way, if you're not familiar with the Ocean Terrace referendum in Miami Beach, read last week's New Times cover story. Basically, developers/development vs neighborhood character.
6:10 - Polls will close at 7:00 and we'll actually have important things to say after that, but can we just point that we have four different Miami-Dade Cities with four different distinct ways of labeling what is, in practicality, the same job. Do you think there was ever heated debate about whether to go with "council" or "commission" or whether to identify each using arabic or roman numerals?