MIAMI (CBS4) A new poll conducted by CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald and released Sunday shows former Miami-Dade commissioner Carlos Gimenez with a commanding lead in the race to become Miami-Dade's next mayor, drawing a sharp blast from the man who beat him in the primary election, former Hialeah mayor Julio Robaina.
The poll, conducted by Bendixen and Amandi International of people who said they would vote in the election, showed 50 percent would likely pick one time underdog Gimenez. Only 39 percent said they would vote for Robaina, who has been the front runner since the March 15th recall of Carlos Alvarez. However, 11 percent of the voters said they had yet to make up their minds.
During an event on Sunday, Robaina seemed unfazed by the numbers.
"The residents of the community, the voters of this community are going to make their choice. I'm extremely happy with the early voter turn out and how we are doing with them, the people who have voted by mail, we are doing well, that's what the poll shows," said Robaina.
In previous polls done by the firm for The Herald, pre-election polling results for the mayoral recall and the special mayoral election were accurate predictors of election results.
The poll shows an apparent shift in voter opinion of the candidates. Robaina was the top vote-getter in the May 24th special election, with 34 percent, and Gimenez finished second with 29 percent. However, the remaining votes were split among 9 other candidates, and the big question in the runoff election is who would get those votes.
The poll seems to show Gimenez winning that fight.
Marcelo Llorente finished third in the special election, and he later endorsed Giminez. According to the poll, 51 percent of Llorente's supporters have moved into the Gimenez camp, while just 29 percent said they'd likely vote for Robaina.
Luther Campbell, who finished 4th and wavered on who to endorse before choosing Robaina in a controversial decision tainted by allegations of fraud, has also seen a substantial numbers of his supporters moved to Gimenez, according to the poll. 50 percent said they would vote for the former commissioner, while just 28 percent said they would go with Robaina.
Voters who said they had or would vote by absentee ballot also gave the edge to Gimenez, 53-47 percent, important because in both the mayoral recall and the special election, the choices by absentee voters mirrored the overall electorate.
"I want to be the mayor of this community, I want to unite this community, you know because Miami-Dade County is a great place and we really need to come together," said Gimenez.
It is not surprising that the Robaina campaign, locked in a bitter campaign with Giminez, reacted by attacking the poll and the newspaper.
"The intent of the paper to dissuade voter participation by already attempting to declare its candidate the winner is unfortunate but not surprising given the publication's unbalanced and questionable coverage of the race to date," Robaina said in a statement released Sunday. "It would be appropriate for the Gimenez campaign to report as in-kind contributions the free publicity and the cost of the poll on its behalf, but the value of both exceed campaign contribution limits."
Robaina made no such offer when previous polls showed him as the front-runner in the race for mayor.
Robaina, who stepped down as Hialeah's mayor to run for the county's mayor position, has been better bankrolled and flashier than Gimenez in his campaign. During campaign speeches, he has touted his record as Hialeah's mayor and espoused change in county politics if he is elected.
Those polled, however, questioned Robaina's integrity and business dealings.
Robaina also raised some eyebrows when he reportedly made a deal with former rap star and mayor candidate Luther Campbell to get his endorsement.
"I have been very clear from the get go that my administration is going to be inclusive and have representation from all aspects of the county," said Robaina.
The poll was conducted last week by Miami based Bendixen & Amandi International.
"Carlos Gimenez is poised to be the next mayor of Miami-Dade County,'' the firm's managing partner Fernand Amandi told the paper. "Robaina has not been able to break out of his base of support among older Hispanics and that's why he's not going to win."
According to the poll Gimenez, a former county commissioner, has garnered support from various groups of voters including Hispanics under the age of 65, African Americans and non-Hispanic whites.
According to the polling numbers, Robaina received the most support from the northwest section of the county while Gimenenz has strong support east of I-95 and south of Flagler Street.
Amandi concludes that while older Hispanics are a powerful core group, Robaina's failure to widen his appeal will lead to his loss in the June 28th election.
(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner <a href="http://www.herald.com/">The Miami Herald</a> contributed material for this report)
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