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North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre Wins 2nd Term

NORTH MIAMI (CBS4)- North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre is back for another term after he narrowly avoided a run-off to clinch Tuesday's election, a win that capped off a tumultuous campaign season in the Northeast Miami-Dade city.

Pierre garnered 52 percent of the votes beating out attorney Carol Keys and former councilman Jacques Despinosse.

With tears in his eyes, Pierre embraced his wife in the council chambers of City Hall as results were announced — and made an indirect reference to his critics, including Keys and Despinosse, who had taken him to task for what they described as a series of scandals and misdeeds.

"God said, 'No, we're going to continue with the progress,'" said Pierre, as supporters erupted in cheers and dancing in the chambers. "It's a victory for the people."

Pierre's administration has been marked with a string of controversies including the March arrest of his campaign manager, the purchase of dozens of police-style badges for his staff — which only numbers three — and criticism over his handling of money raised to benefit earthquake victims in Haiti but which took months to be delivered to the Red Cross.

Both opponents sent out a flurry of mailers painting Pierre as dishonest in the days leading before the election. Pierre, who is Haitian, countered with a heavy presence on Creole-language radio stations.

"All the talking they did, we didn't do any negative campaigning," said Pierre, who won his second two-year term Tuesday. "As long as you don't run a negative campaign you can win."

Keys said she will continue in her role as a vocal citizen activist.

"I did my best and fought a good, competitive and clean campaign. We were very competitive, very close," said Keys, who received 44 percent of the vote. "I'm still here in North Miami and I'm not going away."

Despinosse, a former councilman and immigration consultant who unsuccessfully tried to tap into the city's sizeable Haitian base, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald. He received only 5 percent of the vote.

Pierre's nephew and campaign manager, Ricardo Brutus, was arrested in March and charged with allegedly accepting bribes from a North Miami businessman — who was cooperating with law enforcement — for influencing the council agenda.

Prosecutors have described the investigation as ongoing. Pierre has denied any involvement and said he is disappointed in his nephew's actions, saying he preferred to focus his campaign on positive accomplishments such as community bike rides.

His supporters agreed.

"How can you measure the man on two years alone? He needs another two years to finish what he's started," said Alta Eugene, who cast his ballot for Pierre at the First Church of North Miami.

But other voters said they were fed up with Pierre, the Herald said.

"When you hear Andre Pierre's name, you hear corruption," said Villard Moise, who voted for Despinosse. "There are too many scandals. I don't feel secure with him."

North Miami's politics proved more contentious than usual this election season, which was peppered with the usual complaints of missing and vandalized signs as well as more high-profile dramas. A man professing to be a Keys supporter was caught on camera screaming a racial epithet and other obscenities at Pierre's wife as she pursued him in her car. (The video quickly went viral among North Miami residents.)

And just days before the election, North Miami police confirmed they had reopened a three-year-old case involving allegations of abuse against Councilman Scott Galvin. The allegations were found in the suicide note of a 26-year-old North Miami man. Galvin had strongly denied the allegations, and said the re-opening of the case on the eve of his reelection bid was politically motivated.

Galvin defeated opponent Edwin Hiram Quiñones by a overwhelmingly wide margin, receiving 85 percent of the vote.

Incumbent Marie Steril also held on to her seat with 72 percent of the vote, defeating challengers Beverly Hilton and Jean Boyer.

The four-way city clerk race will head to a May 31 runoff between Michael Etienne and Joy Levy because no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote.

For more stories related to Andre Pierre click here.

(©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 The Miami Herald contributed material for this report)

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