Raquel Regalado appears ready to enter the race to unseat Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Last week she revealed an alliance with billionaire Norman Braman in a court fight against the Gimenez-backed SkyRise Miami observation tower. Now the school board member is brandishing an internal poll she says gives her confidence she can unseat Gimenez in 2016.
Braman paid for the poll, conducted in late January by Coconut Grove firm Bendixen & Amandi. In reviewing selected bits of numbers with The Miami Herald, the daughter of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, sounds like a candidate in waiting.
“I think I have a good chance,” Raquel Regalado said. “They’re not bad numbers. I think I have a very good chance.”
The poll summary puts Gimenez ahead with 30 percent of the vote, to Regalado’s 24 percent. County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, the only other candidate to say he’s seriously considering a mayoral run, took 15 percent. That left 31 percent undecided.
Regalado did not share any of the poll’s raw data, and provided only 36 pages of a presentation prepared by Bendixen & Amandi that is at least 64 pages long.
But the poll excerpts, and Regalado’s take on them, offer a look at how the 40-year-old sees a path to victory for an incumbent mayor who has fared well in public polls and is expected to raise upwards of $5 million for his reelection campaign.
Last summer, in a poll commissioned by Herald, Bendixen & Amandi produced encouraging results for Gimenez. He had a 53 percent approval rating, with 30 percent scoring his performance as mayor “mediocre” or “poor.” That was in the midst of a bruising budget battle that ultimately ended with almost none of the cuts Gimenez had initially proposed.
The mayor’s first fund-raising report may come out as early as Tuesday, and his camp is predicting a number well above $300,000. The hope is to send an early signal to would-be challengers and their financial backers that Gimenez is going to be too well-funded to beat. The Gimenez camp was talking about conducting a poll, but that was scratched as premature, according to a source close to the mayor.
The Bendixen & Amandi poll of 600 people was limited to those likely to vote in the August 2016 primary – an election could decide the mayoral race. If a candidate can win 50 percent of the vote outright, the election is over. If not, the top two vote getters head for a run-off on Election Day in November.
Gimenez and Regalado are both Republicans, and Suarez is an independent. County offices are non-partisan, and the August primary is open to all candidates.
The poll shows Regalado with 34 percent of the Hispanic vote, compared to 26 percent for Gimenez and 18 percent for Suarez. But Gimenez dominates in the other ethnic categories, taking 30 percent of the black vote (Regalado gets 10 percent and Suarez 12 percent) and 43 percent of the “white anglo” vote (compared to 8 percent for Regalado and 10 percent for Suarez.)
Regalado, a Spanish-language radio host, sees the numbers reflecting the core of her strategy: run up the score among Hispanic voters, then chip away at Gimenez’s decent showing with black voters and his popularity with anglo voters. It’s the same strategy Gimenez’s last two opponents – then-Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina in 2011 and then-County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez in 2012—failed to execute.
But Regalado is counting on five years in office providing enough chinks in the Gimenez armor to give her an opening.
In the ethnic breakdown, the black vote is the most up for grabs, with 48 percent undecided. That voting bloc also a top priority for Gimenez’s political team. He’s taken high-profile roles in promoting a jobs program targeting black neighborhoods and announcing the relaunch of the Liberty Square housing complex in the heart of one of Miami’s most crime-ridden black neighborhoods.
The poll was conducted between Jan. 26 and Jan. 29. The ethnic mix was 58 percent Hispanic, and 20 percent each for white-anglo and black respondents.
Regalado said the poll did not ask voters about two of her vulnerabilities: the lack of management experience, and losing her home to foreclosure in 2014, which she blamed on mounting therapy expenses for a daughter with autism.
When the poll asked Gimenez supporters why they liked him, 54 percent cited a good job done as mayor. Supporters of Regalado cited her work on the school board, and the desire for “fresh ideas.”
“The poll is consistent with the concerns that I’ve heard from Miami-Dade County residents and the desire for a change in leadership,” Regalado said in a statement Friday morning.