Julio Robaina has taken the stage at Doral's Park Square and conceded the Miami-Dade mayor's race to Carlos Gimenez. "We fell a little bit short," Robaina said.
--LAURA ISENSEE AND PATRICIA MAZZEI
The raw truth about
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
From Public Policy Polling, which typically surveys for Democrats and liberal groups:
Already the least popular governor in the country when PPP last polled Florida in March, Rick Scott has slid even further in the public’s eyes. Then 32% approved and 55% disapproved. Now, 33% approve and 59% disapprove. His entire decline has been with independents....
Voters also say they would vote for ex-[Republican/]governor Charlie Crist to return to office as a Democrat, 56-34 over Scott. Independents would favor Crist, 62-30. Voters are pretty warm to the idea of Crist running as a Democrat, with 43% saying he should join that party to 26% saying he should not. Democrats are most supportive of it, 46-18.
“If Charlie Crist has a future in electoral politics it’s probably as a Democrat,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “And while he would trounce Rick Scott the reality is that so would a ham sandwich as the Governor continues to become more and more unpopular.”
Today's Gallup poll is, in some ways, a tale of two pols: Michelle Bachman and Jon Huntsman. Both are Republican candidates for president. But the former is on fire, and the latter looks like he'll soon be underwater. (Note: Mitt Romney still looks like the frontrunner).
The takeaway paragraphs:
Bachmann finds herself in a relatively positive position among Republicans as she begins her formal campaign. Her name recognition is up to 69% for the two-week period of June 13-26, having climbed from 52% in late February/early March. This places her fifth among the most well-known Republicans Gallup measures, behind Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul, but well ahead of Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, and several other competitors. Bachmann's Positive Intensity Score of 24 ties with Herman Cain's as the highest such score of any candidate, and is her highest to date. Bachmann's ability to maintain her relatively high Positive Intensity Score as she has become better known distinguishes her from several of her competitors...
Although former Utah Gov. and former Ambassador to China Huntsman received considerable news coverage last week with the formal announcement of his candidacy, his image among Republicans is getting worse, not better. His name recognition for the June 13-26 period is 39%, up from 20% earlier this year, but is the second lowest of any candidate Gallup tracks. More significantly, Huntsman's Positive Intensity Score is down to 2 from 5 a week ago. Earlier this year it had been as high as 15. Only 5% of Republicans who recognize Huntsman have a strongly favorable opinion of him, while 3% say they have a strongly unfavorable opinion.
With Gov. Rick Scott set to make a decision on SunRail this week, DOT secretary Ananth Prasad is hosting workshops with Central Florida governments to review the project. Prasad started before dawn in Daytona Beach, then headed to Sanford and Maitland. He'll spend the afternoon in Orlando, with Orange County Commissioners and in Kissimmee.
His presentation covers how federal, state and local governments will share the costs of the $1.28 billion, 61-mile project. One of Prasad's key points: After year seven of operation, local governments will have to cover costs of running the line that connects Orlando to surrounding counties. If there is no local funding source, operating money will come out of the region's state transportation dollars.
"Other priorities and needs in your region could be affected," he told a crowd of more than 70 people crammed into the small Maitland City Council chambers.
The federal government will pay for half of the projects construction. The state will pay 25 percent, and local taxpayers will cover the remaining 25 percent. State costs include $432 million to CSX Corp., a Jacksonville--based freight train operator, to use the company's tracks for passenger rail and make improvements to CSX tracks in other parts of the state.
Prasad also outlined commitments to SunRail from private businesses, such as Florida Hospital and Walt Disnery World, which have said they will support transit oriented development around rail stations and other SunRail supportive projects.
"We intend to require the private businesses and local communities to honor their commitments. We just can't afford to do otherwise," Prasad said.
In Maitland, supporters of the project outnumbered opponents. One opponent, Kenneth
In Orlando, where a banner hanging over City Hall reads "SunRail Will Move Central Florida Forward," about two dozen tea party activists rallied in the City Hall lobby, wearing shirts that read "Derail SunRail." The project represents an "unexpected and exceedingly huge risk," Tampa tea party organizer Sharon Calvert told the crowd.
The rally got rowdy when one SunRail supporter William Turnbull yelled questions about how SunRail opponents expected to get around when gas prices skyrocket.
"We're going to fire Obama! That's what we're going to do!" hollered back Stan Piatek. That prompted chants of "Obama! Obama!" from Turnbull.
"If we keep listening to the tea party we're going to have a disaster in this country," Turnbull said later.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer opened the workshop with the Orlando City Council.
"We believe we have created a very responsible plan," Dyer said, adding that surveys show most area residents support the project. The opponents, he said, are a vocal minority. He noted that many people derided the interstate highway system as a boondoggle.
"It was the biggest boon for the middle class," he said.
Gov. Rick Scott told the Buzz this morning that he attended the Koch brothers retreat near Vail, Colo., saying he was asked to speak about his initiatives and covered education, taxes, Medicaid reform, drug testing welfare recipients, public employee pension changes and jobs.
"It was very interesting," Scott said. "They wanted basically to know what am I doing in Florida.
There have been questions whether Scott attended the private weekend gathering of conservative-minded leaders but the governor's office has refused to say. "I told anybody who asked me," said Scott, who hosted a breakfast gathering at a bio tech conference in Washington, D.C.
He said he found the sessions useful. "In this job, you've got to constantly listen to what other people are thinking. Part of what you do in business is you say, 'Gosh, they are doing something, well, I'm going to see if I can do it better.' The same with this ... OK, what are people doing that is working in their states?"
At least two other Republican governors attended: Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Rick Perry of Texas.
A health care executive before entering politics, Scott was asked about Mitt Romney's health care plan in Massachusetts. "I wouldn't have done it," Scott said, explaining his objections to more government involvement in health care.
But he said "every state is a laboratory. If you like that -- I don't believe in it -- move to Massachusetts. Then you have that plan. If you don't like it, you can pick another state."
Gov. Scott's low approval rating continues to gain attention outside Florida. This morning the New York Times featured him. But Scott presented a stoic face. "This isn't a popularity contest," he said. "This is a contest to make our state the No. 1 place to do business, and that's what I'm going to do."
Posted by Alex Leary
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
Satirical conservative TV personality Stephen Colbert last night gave a "tip of the hat" to Gov. Rick Scott for posting a pre-written letter-to-the-editor in praise of himself. (We first reported it here.)
Colbert follows Scott's lead and offers his own letter. Click here for the video and jump to the 1:48 mark for the Scott segment.
The intense, condensed campaign to elect a new Miami-Dade County mayor for a short sprint of a term ended Monday, and both Julio Robaina and Carlos Gimenez spent the final hours of the contest crisscrossing Greater Miami to make a last pitch to voters.
Following a live appearance Monday on Telemiami, a Spanish-language television station, Gimenez stood in front of Allen’s Drugs at a busy Bird Road intersection to wave at drivers. Quite a few honked back — including a small truck whose horn blared the sound of a whinnying horse and the Tarzan yell. Another motorist leaned out of her car and hollered in Spanish at the former county commissioner, “That’s the mayor — that’s the man!”
Robaina, campaigning down to the wire, made stops that included pressing the flesh with residents on Miami Beach and Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. At Domino Park along Calle Ocho, with TV cameras looking on, Robaina extended his hand to elderly Cuban men in baseball caps who hunched over domino games in the midday heat. Robaina said he felt confident, but predicted the horserace with Gimenez would be a dead heat, saying get-out-the-vote efforts will be key. “It’s going to be very close. That’s why every vote counts.’’
Tuesday night’s results will end a period of political upheaval triggered by the March recall of Carlos Alvarez as county mayor and the subsequent campaign to pick a replacement. But the winner of the race will be quickly thrust into a tumultuous, politically charged environment. Full story here.
Michele Bachmann’s formal announcement of her candidacy for president was met with this response from Florida tea partiers: Amen.
The Minnesota Republican congresswoman, who officially launched her campaign in Iowa, has been a staunch tea-party standard bearer since the birth of the movement two years ago and now it all appears to be paying off.
Bachmann is tied with national Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses and she’s running in second place in Florida, according to new polls that show her well ahead of Republicans Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman.
“None of the guys are really exciting. I’m excited now,” said Apryl Marie Fogel, a tea party organizer from Melbourne and Republican consultant. “She has charm, but she’s also tough,” Fogel said. “And she’s going after the grassroots of the party.”
In her speech Monday in Waterloo, Iowa – her childhood hometown – Bachmann harkened back to the ideals that launched the original Boston tea party.
“I want my candidacy for the presidency of the United States to stand for a moment when we the people stand once again for the independence from a government that has gotten too big and spends too much and has taken away too much of our liberties,” Bachmann said.