Yesterday, County Commissioner Natacha Seijas crushed a recall against her. A pathetic 11 percent of the 76,000 registered voters in her district turned out to cast ballots. Seijas won by a 2-to-1 margin. She relied on a $430,730 campaign war chest, a legion of union workers manning the polls, and thousands of absentee ballots to retain her seat.
In the final days leading up to the vote, Seijas spent most of the money to pay for ads on Spanish language radio. She also shelled out thousands of dollars renting fleets of buses to transport voters to the precincts. She even laid out $155 to buy breakfast for her viejito voting bloc at Yiyi's Cafeteria on Palm Ave. Nothing buys a vote like a good cortadito and scrambled eggs.
At the Billiard Club in Miami Lakes, reality set in quickly for the Committee for Positive Change, the political action committee that initiated the recall petition. "Obviously everyone was disappointed," says recall leader Pat Wade. "We worked damn hard. But we also recognized that we were outspent, outmanned and outgunned."
Not even a last minute pitch by popular Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez urging people to oust Seijas was enough to help the rebels. Through a spokeswoman, Alvarez declined comment.
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The recall committee can take solace in knowing they fought a grassroots campaign that only garnered $46,000 to fight Seijas's machine. "None of us were paid to stand out there and get votes," Wade says.. "However, it's a disturbing feeling to know you were simply beat because you did not have enough money."
The county commission recently approved measures that make it almost impossible for citizens to mount successful petition drives. So don't expect to see another commissioner recalled for a long, long time.
The war is also far from finished. There is still this business of a criminal investigation initiated by Seijas that the recall PAC forged signatures and lied to voters to get the 3,443 John Hancocks that brought about the special election. "I expect her to push it," Wade says. "She has in the past, so why would she stop now?"