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Ferré, Diaz In Miami Runoff

Ferré, Diaz Both Have Political Assets For A Runoff Campaign

Ferré, Diaz In Miami Runoff


November 7, 2001
Copyright © 2001
THE MIAMI HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Miami voters Tuesday ousted incumbent Mayor Joe Carollo and sent former Mayor Maurice Ferré and lawyer Manny Diaz into a runoff next week.

It is only the second time in the last 30 years that an incumbent mayor has lost a race in Miami. Ironically, Ferré was the last incumbent mayor to lose, when Xavier Suarez pushed him out of office in 1985.

Ferré ended with 31 percent of the vote, Diaz with 24 percent and Carollo with 23 percent. Because none of the 10 candidates received 50 percent of the vote election, Ferré and Diaz must meet again in the runoff.

That leaves a setup for Tuesday between the oldest of veterans and the freshest of newcomers.


The most stunning twist was the recent boost in support for Diaz, 47, who has never held or run for political office.

From relative obscurity, the Miami lawyer bolted past well-known political veterans in the past three months, including former Suarez, former Miami City Manager José García-Pedrosa and Miami Commissioner Wifredo ``Willy'' Gort.

``As you will see next week, more and more people are going to come on board my campaign because what we want is to build a new Miami,'' he said. ``What people will see is a coming together of many sectors of the city behind my candidacy.''

Voters seemed to respond to Diaz's promise of change.

At the polls, supporters said they voted for him mostly because they were seeking a fresh face.

``I just like the way he came across,'' said Bob Longstreth, 57. ``He's in favor of all the people in the city -- Latins, Americans, straights, gays, everyone. He's a good all-around man.''

Longstreth's father, Robert, said he picked Diaz over Ferré because ``Ferré has had his turn.''

But Ferré led the 10-candidate field, easily making it into the runoff. He got strong support from virtually every sector of the community and was not surprised by his numbers.


He walked into his victory party at the Wyndham Hotel in downtown Miami looking happy and a little bit dazed. When asked what he would be stressing in the runoff he said, ``Maturity, experience, and a steady hand. The second time around is going to be very interesting, but we're on the right path. . . . I never had any doubts that I would be in the runoff.''

And asked if he would seek the support of other candidates, Ferré said, ``There is no such thing as transferring the popularity of one candidate to another. The Cuban vote I have to win on my own.''

At the polls, Ferré supporters cited his experience and his time as mayor.

``I liked when he was in office,'' said Carl Kesser, 55. ``I believe he knows our country. He's honest. Anything would be better than what we got.''

Herald staff writers Eunice Ponce, Joe Mozingo, Tyler Bridges, Elysa Batista and Keny Feijoo contributed to this report.

Ferré, Diaz Both Have Political Assets For A Runoff Campaign


Former Mayor Maurice Ferré enjoys a solid lead over newcomer Manny Diaz heading into the one-week Miami mayoral runoff.

The question now becomes: Does Diaz have enough time to overcome the vote different of more than 7 percent between them?

There are good arguments either way.

Here are Ferré's advantages:

He's got far more money in the bank. Betting that he would make the runoff, Ferré didn't touch $100,000 of the $550,000 that he raised before the first election. He won 32 percent of the vote Tuesday.

In contrast, Diaz spent almost all the $716,000 he raised in getting 24 percent to nose out Mayor Joe Carollo for the second runoff spot with Ferré.

With ready cash, Ferré can begin broadcasting ads immediately, a crucial advantage in a seven-day sprint. Because Diaz has only recently become known to Miami voters, Ferré could put Diaz on the defensive by raising questions about his capacity for the job.

Ferré also enjoys far more campaign experience. Beginning with a 1966 run for the state Senate, he has run 14 local races, winning nine and losing five. His record running for mayor: six wins, two losses.

Ferré first won the Miami mayor's race in 1973 and then was reelected five times consecutively over the next 10 years, but lost in 1985 and 1987.

Diaz has never run for office before. Can he stay cool under fire?

Ferré also showed a better balance of support among Miami's three main voting blocs.

He captured the most votes of the 10 candidates among white non-Hispanics and among black voters and finished second to Mayor Joe Carollo among Hispanics.

Diaz finished second among white non-Hispanic, third among blacks and third among Hispanics.

But he has his own set of advantages.

Because Ferré is almost universally known, most voters have made up their minds. That means he has less room than Diaz to capture the allegiance of voters who supported the other eight candidates.

Diaz also showed during the primary that he has the ability to raise money, outdistancing the field. But under city laws, he has only today and Thursday to collect cash for the runoff.

So what does each man have to do to win?

The primary election was unusually tame, with few of the personal attacks that typically characterize Miami campaigns.

That probably won't last. In an interview Tuesday night, about an hour before the polls closed, Ferré said he would likely raise questions about Diaz's legal and business dealings.

In the interview, Ferré also said he will likely raise questions about Diaz's votes as a member of a state board that raised hurricane insurance rates.

Diaz, too, can go on the attack and raise questions about Ferré's business dealings and sources of personal wealth. He can also remind voters of Ferré's violation of campaign finance law, which cost him a $56,000 fine that he paid in 1996.

To win, Ferré will need to turn out black and non-Hispanic white voters in solid numbers and capture at least 40 percent of the Cuban vote.

One factor in his favor could bring out black and non-Hispanic whites who might otherwise stay at home: a $255 million bond measure on Tuesday's ballot that would rebuild Bicentennial Park -- a popular proposal among non-Hispanic whites -- and create a park in Little Haiti, which City Commissioner Arthur Teele Jr. has been emphasizing among his black constituents.

One question facing Diaz is whether he will try to bring out Cuban voters by emphasizing that he was one of the attorneys who represented the Miami family of little Elián González. This issue could be a double-edged sword, however. Playing the Elián card could prompt Cubans to go to the polls to support him, but cause blacks and non-Hispanic whites to oppose him.

So which way will the runoff go? ``It will be a fascinating second round,'' said pollster Sergio Bendixen. ``Ferré is the favorite, but Diaz has a chance to win.''

``Ferré has the advantage, but he doesn't have a lock on City Hall,'' added pollster Rob Schroth.

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