Election day nears for Miami-Dade Mayoral candidates

(WSVN) - Miami-Dade County residents can cast their vote for county mayor starting Monday, with early voting, and the candidates are making their final pitch.

Incumbent Mayor Carlos Gimenez almost avoided the runoff race, securing 48 percent of the vote in the August primary, just shy of the 50 percent needed to win. Challenger Raquel Regalado received 32 percent of the vote, enough to force what has become a heated race leading up to early voting and Election Day, Nov. 8.

Gimenez and Regalado have both attacked each other throughout the campaign, saying that the other is too critical.

“My opponent criticizes everything that I do, and it shows really a lack of understanding of how things work,” Gimenez told 7News.

Regalado, the daughter of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and a two-term school board member, told 7News that Gimenez should take responsibility for what she says are mistakes he has made.

“I think it’s about time, that instead of attacking me, he should take responsibilities for his failures,” Regalado said.

Regalado believes that, despite her 16-point deficit in the August primary, voters will vote out their current mayor come November.

“It’s a different universe. Completely different universe of voters that are coming out to vote in November,” Regalado said, “and I think that since August, a lot of people who once voted for Carlos Gimenez are starting to regret that choice.”

But Gimenez, a former Miami City Manager and County Commissioner, said the county is better off than when he took office in 2011. He points to his promise to cut property taxes and says he’s focused on job creation.

We want entrepreneurship, we want startups. We’re number two in startups in the nation,” Gimenez said, “and to continue to diversify the economy, continue to attract businesses from around the world.”

Regalado, though, doesn’t think the mayor has done enough to lift people out of the recession.

“We’re going to put together an economic model that deals with workforce training that has affordable workforce housing and that deals with the lack of affordable child care in Miami-Dade County,” Regalado said. “As a single parent, I know that one of the issues that our mothers have here is your inability to have affordable child care.”

The two have also taken differing stances on police and public safety.

Gimenez touts his push to equip police officers with body cameras. He also pushed back on Regalado’s criticism of the size of the Miami-Dade Police Department.

“We have a very good police department. We are adequately staffed. We are well staffed,” Gimenez said.

“We are going to put more police officers on the street,” Regalado said. “We’re going to re-establish the units that he decimated.”

The county’s massive bureaucracy, with a $7 billion government, requires experience, Gimenez said.

“I’ve basically put our budget back on track. We have a good, sustainable budget now, that we can move forward,” Gimenez said.

Zika has also taken its place in the race. Gimenez said the county responded promptly to the virus’s spread.

“Once we saw that it was a threat, you know, I immediately told my mosquito control people, ‘Hey, forget about the budget, treat this as a hurricane,'” Gimenez said.

Regalado, meanwhile, sided with protesters who criticized the county’s controversial aerial spraying of a chemical that kills mosquitoes.

The virus is just one issue that the next Miami-Dade County Mayor will need to tackle during their term through 2020. Either the incumbent will have another four years, or the county will have its first female mayor.

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