MIAMI (CBS4) – A steady stream of voters cast ballots at select polling stations Monday as early voting got underway for Miami-Dade's May 24th Special Election to choose a new Mayor, two Commissioners and decide on several proposed county charter amendments.
Both the mayor's position and the District 13 commission seat were left vacant after a March 15 recall election in which 88 percent of those who voted said then Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natcha Seijas should be removed from office. Commissioner Carlos Gimenez's District 7 seat out up for grabs when he resigned to run for the open Mayor's seat.
"These are very important elections," said Miami-Dade County Elections Supervisor Lester Solas. "Local government is the closest government to the people. It affects your everyday life, so it's important that people understand the issues."
And it turns out voters are heeding that message.
"There is budgets, there is unions, there is a lot of issues to be resolved," said voter Claudia Donadio.
Polls will be open at 7a at a select number of polling locations for early voting.
Click Here to see a list of polling locations.
Those vying for the Mayor's job include:
- County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez
- Gabrielle Redfern
- Former state Rep. Marcelo Llorente
- Former county transit director Roosevelt Bradley
- Economist Dr. Farid A Khavari
- Fireman turned community activist Jeffrey Lampert
- Businessman Jose 'Pepe' Cancio
- Former 2 Live Crew front man Luther Campbell
- Former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina
- Eddie Lewis
- Wilbur B. Bell
Robaina resigned his position as mayor of Hialeah to run for the mayor's office.
Waiting in line Monday to cast her ballot, Donadio said she know who she's going to vote for to be the next mayor.
"He's one of the best, he's qualified to do the job because everyone else will be worrying about the election in 2012, he wants to clean house," Donadio.
"I'm surprised there are so many," said Barbara Hujber after looking at the names on ballot. "There is not that much written on them."
Ana Casa said while there may be almost a dozen candidates on the ballot, the one thing she is looking for the most is the person who will offer the most change.
"A fresh honest change that will bring work and not this disarray of things that are going on of taxes," said Casas, "Luxury cars, this is not the time."
In addition to the mayoral election, there are also to commission seats up for grabs.
In commission district 7, vacated by Gimenez, the candidates are:
- Former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez
- Former State Representatine Julio Robaina
In district 13, the candidates are:
- Carlos Amaro,
- Esteban Bovo,
- Tania Castellanos
- Alan Rigerman
There is also a special election to replace Bovo, who resigned his House district 110 position to run for the District 13 seat.
- Frank Lago
- Jose Oliva
- Rafael Perez
When it comes to the charter amendments, voters will have to decide if their commissioners should be paid more than a token salary.
Charter Amendment 1 would give commissions a salary of more than $92 thousand, currently they receive a token salary of $6 thousand a year. The measure would also forbid commissioners from having any outside employment, and would establish a term limit of 12 years in office.
Charter Amendment Number 2 would bar county commissioners from lobbying the county for two years after leaving office.
Charter Amendment 3, would establish that a charter review task force would meet every four years. The task force would suggest future revisions to the charter.
If two-thirds of the task force agrees on an item, then it would automatically be placed on the next ballot for voters to either approve or reject.
Charter Amendment 4 would enshrine the office of the Inspector General in the charter, making it harder for future commissions to do away with the watchdog agency.
Charter Amendment 5 would do away with the county's strong mayor form of government. Commissioners are hoping to take advantage of the anger and frustration voters felt at former Mayor Carlos Alvarez and do away with his administrative power. Critics argue this is nothing but a naked power grab by county commissioners.
The final charter proposal would do away with the requirement that the folks gathering signatures for petitions and referendums provide sworn affidavits with every petition.
Check out the CBSMIAMI.com Election Guide for more on the candidates and the amendments.
"These are very important elections," said Lester Solas, Supervisor of Miami-Dade's Elections Department. "Local government is the closest government to the people, it affects your
everyday life, so it's important that people understand the issues."
Solas added that its difficult to say just how many people will go to the polls in this special election.
"It's difficult to tell but usually on special elections you're looking at anywhere from 15 to 20 percent but it's still too early to tell," said Solas.
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