The first time Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and his chief reelection rival, County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez, faced off, it was a sleepy affair, held over breakfast after a late-night Miami Heat playoff game. The two men agreed on most everything.
A month and a half after that first forum, and in the throes of campaigning for the Aug. 14 election, Martinez and Gimenez tried to crystallize their attacks against each other at an hour-long debate Friday hosted by the Latin American Business Association.
They were egged on by a boisterous, dressed-for-happy-hour crowd of more than 100 people gathered at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, who generally sat on opposite sides of the room: one for Gimenez and one for Martinez. The Martinez side tended to be louder, though the association does not plan to endorse a candidate in the race.
Martinez, the challenger who has raised far less campaign money than the incumbent mayor, was quick on the draw after Gimenez gave his stump speech centered on reforming county government and cutting spending and taxes.