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A voter's guide to Miami-Dade's nasty primaries

This is the election of ringers, dirty tricks and vicious mailers — with a touch of voter fraud.

“Nasty is the new normal,” said Dan Gelber, a former Democratic lawmaker from Miami Beach. “Every election seems like it’s worse than the one before. This year, we have so many races, that it seems particularly awful.”

From congressional to legislative to county races, candidates and shadowy political committees have dredged up divorce records, filed court complaints, propped up ringers to run against rivals, hurled charges of corruption or questioned opponents’ sexuality, national origin or addiction to pornography.

The specter of the so-called “Causeway Cannibal” was even invoked in one Spanish language radio spot. It stopped just short of accusing the county’s mayor and a state representative of complicity in a widening fraud scandal centering on Hialeah’s absentee-ballot brokers, known as “boleteros.”

“I am the boletera of Carlos Giménez and Eddy González, and I am here to get your ballot,” a sinister woman says in the radio spot after knocking on the door of an old lady. No evidence yet shows Giménez or González knew anything of the alleged crimes .

The ad was produced by the political committee called “Citizens for a Reality Check,” which Gonzalez’s lawyer unsuccessfully sued. The force behind the committee, consultant Sasha Tirador, got her employee Maykal Balboa to run against the incumbent, who plans to file elections complaints against her and Balboa.

Voters seem to be responding to it all by … voting. More than 123,000 early and absentee ballots have been cast so far. But turnout for primaries is historically low. In 2008, about 191,000 Miami-Dade voters — just 16 percent of all registered voters — cast ballots.

Much of the hardball politics will likely subside after the Tuesday primaries, which pit Democrats against Democrats and Republicans against Republicans before the parties’ nominees face each other in the general election.

Because candidates in primaries generally agree on policy, they’re all but forced to get personal and question the background of their opponents.

But the powder keg of this mean-season primary had even more explosive ingredients.

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