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Gloves come off, briefly, in first forum for candidates looking to replace Kendrick Meek

The rowdiest part of Wednesday's South Florida AFL-CIO forum for candidates vying to replace U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek came during the last closing statements of the night, when Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson made jabs at physician and activist Rudy Moise and at North Miami Councilman Scott Galvin.

"Dr. Moise, I was surprised to find that you've only voted four times," said Gibson, a Democrat. "Why are you going to Congress if you've only voted four times?"

Then she criticized Moise for not living in the 17th Congressional District -- which is fine as long as the candidate moves to the area after being elected (we have been duly corrected by a reader: members need not live in their districts). "In the 21st district where you actually live we need another Democrat," Gibson said, referring to the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

She was cheered -- and booed. Moise took her on in his closing statement, resulting in loud applause and chants from his supporters. "I voted for every single election since I was registered to vote," he said. "So I don't know who did the research, but she's totally wrong."

According to the Broward Supervisor of Elections office, Moise, who lives in Miramar, registered to vote as a Democrat in Broward in August 2005. He mentioned on his registration form that he had previously been registered in Miami-Dade. In Broward, Moise voted in four elections -- including the general elections in 2006 and 2008 -- and missed a few smaller elections in between, such as the 2008 primary.

The 17th district, which is heavily Democratic, stretches from Overtown to Pembroke Pines and includes parts of Miramar, but not the area of the city where Moise lives.

Moise's campaign manager said Thursday that Moise had an earlier voting record in Miami-Dade, calling Gibson's jab politics as usual. "For more than 30 years, Rudy's had his business in district 17," Anastasia Apa said. "That's really where all of his patients live."

In addition to Gibson and Moise, 10 other candidates -- only one of them a Republican -- have filed to run to replace Meek. The only white candidate seeking to represent the predominantly black district is Galvin, whom Gibson also poked during her closing.

"He's taken advantage because now we have the most black folks in a race in the country and there's a split," Gibson said. "Scott would win just because [of] the split."

Galvin didn't get a chance to respond Wednesday night, but on Thursday he shrugged off the comment.

"It wasn't worth dignifying," he said. "People don't like negative personal attacks...The electorate has matured."