Your Riptide Guide to Today's Elections (With Help From Mickey Rourke)

Hey, it's your favorite morning of the year! The one where you stumble out of bed to realize you spent the night next to a stranger dressed like Muammar Gaddafi (too soon?), scrape the caked zombie makeup off your face and stumble to work through a grade-five hangover. But then on the way, you get to vote! Yay, America!

Miami may have cruelly scheduled Election Day right after Halloween, but don't worry: Riptide's got your guide to today's three biggest races. Who will get to ignore Miami Beach's police problem next? Can anyone topple Marc Sarnoff? And what the hell's going on in Hialeah?

To help us predict the day's biggest upsets, we've recruited the Magic City's own king of comebacks, a guy who went from washed up South Beach bum to star of the Wrestler, Iron Man 2 and Passion Play. (Um, actually forget that last one.)

Miami Beach Mayor

The Players: Incumbent Matti Herrera Bower, a two-term, grandmotherly figure with all the energy and zeal of present-day Bea Arthur (who, yes, is dead); Steve Berke, a Yale-educated comedian who might just be running for office as part of an elaborate reality show; Dave Crystal, a standardized testing tutor; and Laura Rivero Levey, a PR consultant.

What's At Stake: Voters get to pick the next inert body to sit idly by the sea while Dade's worst police force drunkenly runs over tourists with ATVs, takes millions in possibly bogus overtime and shoots at minorities during Urban Beach Weekend. (No, but seriously: Miami Beach has a very strong city manager system, so the mayor is sort of an ornamental doorknob that votes.)

Hottest Issue: Urban Beach Weekend. Challengers Berke and Crystal have hammered Bower over the Memorial Day weekend hip hop fest after this year's edition ended with a messy Washington Avenue police shootout.

Chances for an Upset Special: Three-and-a-half Mickeys

The real question in South Beach is whether Berke can turn boatloads of press -- from New Times profiles to New York Times write-ups -- into actual votes.

Combined with Crystal, who's raised $22,000 and run a feisty campaign, and widespread antipathy toward Bower's handling of the Miami Beach PD's horrific year (even the Miami Herald only endorsed her "by default"), the two challengers might just force a runoff in an election likely to have abysmal turnout.

Miami Commission District Two

The Players: Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, the smug, gun-totin' incumbent who's so good at his job that we've called for his recall and usually print a photo of him wearing a giant Pinocchio nose; Kate Callahan, a longtime member of the Public Health Trust; Michelle Niemeyer, a lawyer and chair of the Cocoanut Grove Village Council; Williams Armbrister, a Grove activist; and Donna Milo, an activist and a transgendered Republican (!!!).

What's at Stake: The chance to vote out one of the Magic City's more odious politicos, a guy who lied about his own grandpa to burnish his family history and flip-flopped on letting billboard companies have the run of town after taking thousands of bucks from them.

Hottest Issue: Gambling. Sarnoff is ready to open the door for Genting to build a downtown mega-resort; most of his opposition wants to put the brakes on the project.

Chances for an Upset: Two and a half Mickeys

Sarnoff has alienated a ton of voters, but sweet Mickey Rooney does he have a lot of cash. He's raised more than $500,000 as of his last reports; Callahan, his closest competitor, has about one-fifth that amount in the bank. Her best hope is that the number of candidates and the post-Halloween hangover-suppressed turnout equal a runoff.

Hialeah Mayor

The Players: Carlos Hernandez, the incumbent who took over when Julio Robaina left to run for County Mayor and who, like Robaina, is embarrassingly wrapped up in a massive local Ponzi scheme; Raul Martinez, a loooonnngtime former mayor who once beat federal corruption charges; and Rudy Garcia, a former state senator.

What's at Stake: Iron-fisted control of Miami's beating political heart, a bare-knuckle land of polling station fisticuffs and a springboard to higher office.

Hot Issue: City finances. Everyone agrees that Robaina tore up Hialeah's books (mostly because everyone hates Julio these days). The question is whether Hernandez has done enough to stem the bleeding by fighting the unions.

Chances for an Upset: Three Mickeys

Hernandez looks to have a tough fight today to hang onto the mayor's office; he's getting hammered over the $180,000 in loans he made to convicted Ponzi-schemer Luis Felipe Perez (the mayor says he was a victim), and it's never a good sign for your campaign when you go on a screaming rampage against a blogger because she's wearing one of your shirts.

The question is whether Garcia -- who earned a nod from the Herald and has a fairly squeaky background -- can get enough traction against an incumbent and a machine like Martinez.

The Results: Stay tuned to Riptide -- we'll blog the poll results when they come in tonight.

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