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Judge schedules November hearing for Miami-Dade mayor, property appraiser election contests

The final hearing in a pair of lawsuits challenging the election results of last month's Miami-Dade mayor and property appraiser contests has been pushed back to November.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Rosa I. Rodriguez postponed the hearing, originally scheduled for Monday, to Nov. 5 -- the day before Election Day -- after allowing a lawyer who represents two of the plaintiffs to withdraw from the case, citing an undisclosed conflict of interest.

Attorney Stephen Cody had filed a motion to withdraw from the case on Tuesday. Judge Rodriguez held a hearing on the matter Thursday. Cody was not required to publicly explain his conflict, though he met with the judge behind closed doors, without defense attorneys present. The judge granted his request.

The plaintiffs, Commission Chairman Joe Martinez and Property Appraiser Pedro J. Garcia, will have until Oct. 10 to hire a new attorney (or attorneys). Their cases were filed separately but are so similar that the court has agreed to hear them together.

Martinez and Garcia, citing a pair of absentee-ballot fraud investigations in Hialeah, are asking the court throw out absentee ballots from the Aug. 14 primary election. Were the absentee vote to be discarded, Martinez would go to a runoff against incumbent Mayor Carlos Gimenez, and Garcia would defeat his successful challenger, state Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

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