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Robaina Wins Uncle Luke Endorsement

MIAMI ( – It seems Luther Campbell has gone from being as nasty as he wants to be to being as fickle as he wants to be.

One day after he was scheduled to endorse Carlos Gimenez in the race for Dade County mayor, Campbell endorsed Julio Robaina. But even that endorsement came with its own issues as Campbell arrived 90 minutes late for the 12:30 p.m. press conference.

After waiting an hour for Campbell to show up, Robaina took to the podium and announced Campbell's endorsement anyway. At the same time, annoyed members of Robaina's staff handed out a signed statement from Campbell pledging his support to Robaina.

"Today we announce that Mr. Luther Campbell has endorsed our campaign," Robaina said.

The spectacle of a candidate announcing a profile endorsement with the person making the endorsement being present is one of the more bizarre scenes Miami politics has seen in years.

Asked if he was slighted by Campbell's absence, Robaina said: "This does not disrespect me in any way shape or form. This is part of the campaign."

When the press conference ended, Robaina left the podium and got into his SUV and drove off. But as soon as he pulled away, Campbell arrived – 90 minutes late – prompting Robaina to race back as news crews set up again for the press conference redux.

"I like to make people sweat," Campbell said, when asked why he was so late.

But CBS4's Jim DeFede, who was at the press conference, reported that in fact Campbell privately told him he was driving around the neighborhood, seeking advice from various people about who to endorse. Those conversations included phone calls to both Robaina and Gimenez.

Earlier that morning, Campbell called CBS4's Jim DeFede and told him he was still "on the fence" about who to support.

"Let me tell you something, it's been really, really tight," Campbell said at the press conference. "Both guys are good guys."

Campbell finished fourth in last months primary election,  with eleven percent of the vote. Whether Campbell's endorsement will sway any of the 20,000 people who voted for him to support Robaina remains to be seen.

Gimenez issued a statement saying he was disappointed in Campbell's change of heart.

"Mr. Campbell and I had a frank discussion and agreed we were on the same page as to creating jobs and making community redevelopment agencies accountable to the communities they serve. However, I was not willing to do certain things that Mr. Campbell was asking.

"As I have stated before, I will not compromise my principles in order to win an election.  It is clear that my opponent – who has demonstrated he will say and do anything to become Mayor of Miami-Dade County – made Mr. Campbell an offer he couldn't refuse."

A spokesman for Gimenez would not say what "things" Campbell requested. He did say that Campbell did not ask for money.

Campbell's endorsement seems odd given some of Campbell's past statement about Robaina. In a candidate forum last month, Campbell accused Robaina of trying to sabotage the black community by paying other black candidates to get in the race.

"He can buy off everybody up here but me," Campbell said at the forum sponsored by the NAACP.

When asked how he could support Robaina after accusing him of undermining the black community, the microphone on the podium picked up Robaina feeding Campbell an answer

"Things happen in campaigns," Robaina whispered to Campbell.

It was a theme Campbell promptly repeated.

"Well the thing is that's the campaign," Campbell said. "In the campaign there is going to be some things said."

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