Julio Robaina and Carlos Gimenez waited until Election Day to cast their ballots in the race for Miami-Dade mayor.
Before a gaggle of news reporters, Gimenez and his wife, Lourdes, cast their ballots Tuesday morning at their precinct just outside Coral Gables. The couple, holding hands, arrived at the precinct at the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department, where no one else was waiting to vote.
Gimenez voted after shaking hands and chatting with all the poll workers. He almost forgot his "I Voted Today"! sticker and had to double back to get it and put it on his light blue, long-sleeved shirt.
"It's great waking up this morning and exercising our right to vote -- a right that in our native land doesn't exist, really," said Gimenez, who was born in Havana, Cuba.
Gimenez said he wants to be mayor because he is confident he can do the job."I think I can fix it," he said. "I know what needs to get done. I have managerial experience."
About an hour later, Robaina hopped out of a black SUV to vote at Hialeah Fire Station No. 5. He was surrounded by his wife, Raiza, and five sons, aged 16 to 3.
While Robaina voted, his supporters waved orange signs and traded insults with Gimenez supporters who also gathered on the street corner outside the station.
"From city of progress, to city of poverty," called out one detractor, who said he is a city employee. "Thanks, Mr. Robaina, for destroying my city." A Hialeah police officer shook hands with Gimenez supporters before driving off.
After voting, Robaina told reporters he was feeling optimistic and would be campaigning until the polls close at 7 p.m.
"The job really starts tomorrow. We're ready to roll up our sleeves," he said.
While voter turnout on election day was light, Robaina said he's counting on early and absentee votes to carry him to county office. He called himself the "ethical candidate" and took a jab at Gimenez for cancelling appearances at forums and debates.
Robaina supporter Teresa Betancourt, 83, called Robaina an "honorable man," and said he wouldn't think twice about answering a resident's call for help -- even if it came at midnight.
"Hialeah should thank him for what it is now," she said.
--CHRISTINA VEIGA AND PATRICIA MAZZEI