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| Columns |

Coral Gables Election Day Arrives

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Today, voters in Coral Gables will either give Don Slesnick a third term or elect a new mayor. Two city commission seats are also up for grabs in a city election that has seen all the candidates raise close to one million dollars combined.

And unlike previous election seasons, this cycle has seen some real excitement with the police union admitting it bankrolled a hit piece against commission candidate Brad Rosenblatt and the Cuban government attacking mayoral contender James Cason.

The political hits comes as the City Beautiful's city employee pension fund is $197 million in the red, the Biltmore Hotel owes the city $5 million in back rent and unpaid fees, and property tax rates have gone up as home values have gone down.

The mudslinging began with a mailer stamped with a mugshot of Rosenblatt under a headline that read: "Another DEADBEAT Candidate, Out for a Paying Job." The propaganda detailed Rosenblatt's bankruptcy in July 2002 and a grand theft charge he pleaded no contest to. He received probation but was not convicted. The head of the Coral Gables Fraternal Order of Police acknowledged the union paid for the hit piece.

In the mayor's race, Cason has been beaten up by the state-run Communist newspaper Granma and an unknown political hack. This past March, the Cuban government's press agency accused the former state department official of malfeasance when he was head of the U.S. Interest Section in Havana in the earlier part of the decade.

Then last week, voters received a flier accusing Cason of being a cartbagger, noting he has only lived in Coral Gables for two years and didn't vote in the previous city election. If that wasn't enough, the flier also chided Cason for hiring Jorge de Cardenas, who was among three officials arrested in a city of Miami scandal in the late 1990s.

De Cardenas was convicted in 1997 of obstruction of justice, and served a year in prison and three months in an immigration detention facility. Since then, de Cardenas has worked on a number of campaigns, including those of former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez and former Coral Gables Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli.

His opponents Slesnick and attorney Tom Korge both denied any wrongdoing.

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