Ex-Miami Mayor and Accused Domestic Abuser "Crazy Joe" Carollo Wins Election

You know how fashion trends repeat themselves every 30 years or so? The same thing seems to be happening in politics. Cheesecake-brained, women-abusing lunatics seem to be in vogue once more. Roughly a year after Donald Trump rode into Washington on a sled pulled by Rascal scooters, 1990s Miami Mayor Joe Carollo — almost certainly the craziest person to hold office in South Florida — has returned to the Miami City Commission just in time for 2017.

Carollo won a runoff election today against Alfonso "Alfie" Leon, who worked as a city hall aide for Carollo's brother Frank. Frank Carollo holds the city's District 3 commission seat; Joe will now take over. Carollo won tonight by roughly 200 votes.

There is, however, one item possibly still standing between Carollo and his victory. Leon filed a lawsuit in Miami-Dade County yesterday alleging Carollo did not move into the district in time to qualify for the election and therefore cannot hold office. City rules say candidates must live in their chosen district at least one year before running for office; the suit alleges Carollo still lived at his longtime Coconut Grove home until either October or December 2016. Carollo announced his run in January and claims to live in a Brickell apartment.

The suit seeks to "remove Carollo from the list of qualified candidates" for the District 3 race. Leon's lawyer, former state Rep. Juan Carlos "J.C." Planas, did not return a phone call from New Times this evening.

(To make matters more complicated, Carollo has also accused Leon of living outside District 3.)

To call Carollo "Trumpian" is an insult to Carollo — it is Trump, rather, who won the 2016 presidential election by stealing the entire "Loco Joe" playbook page-for-page. Carollo rode to power in Miami politics 30 years ago by being himself: that is, a publicity-monger and a delusional paranoiac unafraid to spill the darkest and most malcontented pieces of his cerebrum into whatever microphone is nearest his mouth. Just this year, he motivated elderly Cuban voters in Little Havana by claiming city hall had somehow been infiltrated by communists. He attacked Leon for once taking a photograph with the rapper Juvenile. He claimed with zero evidence that one of his opponents was conspiring with a child molester.

He won anyway. That's the Carollo way.

The Carollo way also includes allegations of spousal abuse. Namely, he was accused of battering his now-ex-wife, Mari, whom he hit so hard in 2001 with a "hard object" that police said she had "golf-ball-sized" welts on her forehead when they arrived. One of Carollo's children called 911 and shouted "Help! My daddy is hurting my mom," but Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, a lapdog for the grifters and sleazeballs who run this town, let Carollo walk as long as he attended anger-management courses. Carollo never denied striking his wife; he just claimed it was an accident.
Carollo began his so-called public service career as a City of Miami Police officer. During that time, Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm noted in 2014 that Carollo endorsed pro-segregation presidential candidate George Wallace in 1976 and three years later placed a Ku Klux Klan cartoon in the mailbox of a black police officer in what Carollo claimed was a "prank." He was reprimanded.

In 1982, Carollo, then the city's vice mayor, was the subject of arguably the craziest series of internal political memos in Miami history. Then-Miami Police Chief Kenneth Harms warned he'd never met a politician as transparently self-interested and paranoid as Carollo: Harms accused the politician of meddling in internal police affairs, accusing other politicians of spying on him, and trying to obtain an illegal concealed-weapons permit for a visiting Moroccan businessman tied to the Saudi royal family.

"Commissioner Carollo has attempted to manipulate and pressure me into actions which would benefit him personally," Harms wrote in one memo. (Carollo said years ago that "none of this is true.")

But that's not even the half of it when it comes to Loco Joe: His entire career has been littered with double-crossings, flat-out falsehoods, and astounding fabrications. In 2000, Carl Hiaasen, the dean of Miami's political writers, dubbed Carollo the "King of Crazies" for his unhinged conduct during the infamous Elián González debacle, noting that it does not take much to "unhinge" Carollo's "wobbly brainpan":
Crazy Joe is back. So much for progress.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.