Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Aimed At Tossing Mayor Gimenez From Ballot
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Raquel Regalado in her attempt to boot her opponent, Mayor Carlos Gimenez, from the race.
The judge issued the ruling Thursday morning, dismissing Regalado's complaint saying in part,
"On Tuesday the citizens of Miami-Dade County will go to the polls to elect their Mayor. He or she will not be anointed by judicial fiat. So it is time for Plaintiff to make her "argument" to those who have the power to place her in office – the voters."
During a Wednesday evening hearing, the judge said a final decision would be made the next day on an amended complaint Regalado filed Monday after a judge denied her request saying her motion to toss Gimenez from the race was flawed.
In the lawsuit, Regalado claimed Gimenez violated a Florida statute during the qualifying period.
Regalado claimed Gimenez aided and abetted the Supervisor of Elections and violated a Florida Statute in the process. It also claims Gimenez was not properly qualified for the race.
The lawsuit further alleged Gimenez violated a Florida statute in using a campaign check instead of a cashier's check to qualify him to be in the mayoral race after the first check reportedly had an invalid date. The lawsuit argued this would be a reason to disqualify him from the race even though Florida law only requires a cashier's check if the first qualifying check has been returned. The Supervisor of Elections said no check was returned or declined by the bank.
While processing Gimenez's qualifying paperwork, the Miami-Dade County Elections Department notified Gimenez of the error of the date on the check, the lawsuit claims. Regalado's attorneys argue this was an "unlawful" move by the department and the Supervisor of Elections (SOE) since it is not under their scope of work to determine that the check was not accurate.
The judge's order sided with Gimenez saying in part,
"As it turns out Regalado's "belief" was incorrect because, as confirmed by Carolina Lopez – a Deputy Supervisor with the Elections Department – Gimenez's initial check was never sent to the bank for deposit; the reason being that it was misdated.1 Recognizing this obvious scrivener's error, the Department notified Gimenez and allowed him an opportunity to replace the check. As one might expect Gimenez accepted that 'opportunity,'" the order states. "Because Gimenez's first check was never sent to, and a fortiori never "returned by," any bank the Court – with little difficulty – concluded that Regalado had no chance of success on the merits of that claim."
Gimenez's camp called the lawsuit a "Hail Mary Pass" because Regalado is behind by 22 points according to a recent Bendixen Amandi poll.
Following the ruling, Mayor Gimenez issued a statement saying,
"This morning, a Circuit Court Judge dismissed the latest frivolous lawsuit filed by my opponent in the Miami-Dade County mayoral election. While we certainly welcome the dismissal, it is unfortunate that Ms. Regalado was trying to use the court system, instead of the ballot box, to become Miami-Dade County Mayor. Through this desperate lawsuit, Ms. Regalado was hoping to suppress the votes and disenfranchise half a million county residents who cast their votes by sending their ballots via mail and participating in Early Voting. That is not only undemocratic, it is also unbecoming of someone aspiring to become Miami-Dade's highest-ranking elected official. What Ms. Regalado was arguing would also make the process less democratic by limiting the amount of candidates that would qualify for election to any office."
Regalado also issued a statement on the matter saying,
"The Court's decision today reaffirms my unwavering commitment to ensure a truly independent and professional Elections Department and as Mayor, I will ask the voters to amend the Charter of Miami-Dade County to elect the Supervisor of Elections and remove that office from under the influence and control of the Mayor," Regalado said.
"I maintain that the residents of Miami-Dade County deserve to know about the influence that the Mayor has over the Elections Department," Regalado said. "Nevertheless, we remain focused on defending our residents and winning this election so that we can elevate the quality of life, wellbeing and personal safety of all Miami-Dade county residents."
The judge ordered the lawsuit to be dismissed with prejudice - meaning Regalado cannot re-file the lawsuit.
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