Julio Robaina Throws Election-Night Party, Feeds the Masses With 250 Pounds of Cheese

Say what you will about former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina's questionable dealings with everyone he's ever had dealings with, but don't accuse the guy of leaving anyone hungry Tuesday night.

The Miami-Dade mayoral candidate took first place in the election last night and so will head to a runoff with Carlos Gimenez. His election-night shindig at the Hialeah Park Racetrack had the works -- balloons, music, some pink flamingos (flamingoes? flamingi?) and enough food to feed 2,000 people.

The party started slow, with about 80 senior citizens sitting in plastic chairs, but people began showing up around 7:45 p.m., and acting Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez gave the scene a boost when he arrived and spent about half an hour hugging old women, who thought he was just lovely.

No one ever seemed to know exactly how the election was going -- there were four televisions set up, presumably for the purpose of watching returns, but no one could figure out how to change the channel, so we got to watch Spanish soap operas and "The Biggest Loser" instead.

Newly elected county commissioner Esteban Bovo, who glided to victory with nearly 74 percent of the vote, took the microphone at about 9:30 to declare victory and thank his supporters. Well, he spoke mostly in Spanish, a language this reporter does not understand, but that really seemed like what he was doing. There were a lot of we-did-it-with your-help hand motions, and when he spoke in English, he said mostly nothing with a smattering of unemployment being unacceptable and property taxes being bad.

The performance of the evening must go to caterer Susan Bleemer, who donated all of the event's food and laid out quite a spread: 48 pans of chicken and rice, 12 pans of meatballs, 3,000 Cuban pastries and 250 pounds of cheese, plus ham, fruit, little sandwich things and enough mozzarella sticks to feed Napoleon's army. One wonders what kind of political favors can be bought with a heap of free food.

Robaina spoke at about 9:40 p.m. after former congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart gave him an introduction that appeared to draw vocal inspiration from equal parts Michael Buffer and Al Sharpton. Robaina wasn't quite as charged up as Bovo, but he was remarkably upbeat for someone whom two-thirds of Miami had just voted against.

Maybe we'll all get to do this again after the run-off. Here's hoping there's pasta salad again.

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