City of Miami Voters: Yes To Name Recognition And Cash! No to Messages!

The handful of City of Miami voters who bothered to roll by the polls yesterday sent an age-old but always cringe-inducing message: Cash and name recognition wins elections.

​Actual plans for the city? Meh. Not so important.

In the four contested races in the city, voters went nuts over well-funded Tomas Regalado for mayor (71.67 percent) and incumbent Michelle Spence Jones in District 5 (82.75 percent), and gave a nod in District 3 to Frank Carollo (52.29 percent). They sent District 4's Francis Suarez and Manolo Reyes to a runoff.

So what do these guys have in common? What grand, overarching vision for the City of Miami's future can we divine from these results?

First, take the mayor's race. Tomas Regalado's message to voters basically boiled down to one word: NO. Regalado didn't really run on his merits as much as he ran as far away as possible from outgoing mayor Manny Diaz. Regalado was the change candidate and his opponent, Joe Sanchez, could never escape his typecast as Diaz's Mini-Me.

It didn't hurt his chances that Regalado raised almost a third more cash than Sanchez, and dominated the older, Cuban-American demographic (who were likely none too upset about his past support for terrorist Eduardo Arocena).

But the other races make it clear that voters overall were less about change than about familiar names and plenty of advertising.

How else to explain Spence-Jones' dominating beat-down, even after a first term spent defending herself from one salacious scandal after another, of an opponent the Herald enthusiastically endorsed?

Or the landslide of support that rolled in for Frank Carollo, an accountant whose major qualification seems to be his relation to "Loco" Joe Carollo, one of the worst mayors the city has ever seen? (Though we have to give him props for his role in the scuzziest past affair among all the candidates). 

Or even the near-win by Francis Suarez (who picked up 44 percent of the vote but needs to win a runoff), who also seemed to have little going for him beyond his dad, former mayor Xavier Suarez? 

Only about 20 percent of registered voters weighed in on Tuesday. In fact, absentee ballots and early votes might end up surpassing election day ballots for the first time ever.

Those who did cast their voice in this race seemed to have only one real agenda: Voting against Manny Diaz. Every other race boiled down to billboards and familiar surnames. 

Visions for the future be damned.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink