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On Election Night, a tale of two parties

When the Miami-Dade elections department posted the first results of the county mayoral contest -- absentee ballots -- Julio Robaina was ahead. And yet there was the beginning of a celebration at the party for his opponent, Carlos Gimenez.

The reason: Robaina was expected to hold a lead with absentees. But his margin was so slim -- 50.44 percent to 49.56 percent -- that anticipation ran high among Gimenez supporters.

The second batch of results, for early voting, only lifted their spirits further: Gimenez held a lead of 51.71 percent to 48.29 percent. Music started playing at the ballroom at the DoubleTree Miami Mart Hotel near the Dolphin Expressway. People began pouring in.

Meanwhile, at Robaina headquarters for the evening -- Park Square in Doral -- a small but nervous crowd about about two-dozen people noshed on cilantro chicken, pasta Alfredo, mini churrascos, Italian meatballs and other goodies (no food at Gimenez camp). Robaina aides said they still expected the race to be close and, like Gimenez's folks, but up the ongoing results on a big screen.

--LAURA ISENSEE AND PATRICIA MAZZEI

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