No matter what happens in the Coral Gables elections Tuesday, there will be new face for the first time in 10 years in the seat where Commissioner Chip Withers, who is not seeking another term, has sat for a quarter of a century. Ladra predicts the two incumbents, as usual, win the other two races (more on that later), but this crazy, obnoxious, six-man race to replace Papa Chip has been the most difficult to call. But we are going to go with the least recognizable name of the three candidates who are legitimate: Frank Quesada. Frank Que Que? That's right.
One can't entirely blame the negative ads and attacks against one of the front runners, Brad Rosneblatt, who should have been smart enough to know they were coming and head them off. Still, there is no excuse for candidates who made Rosenblatt's longtime relationship with fashion designer Rene Ruiz part of the campaign crap. First there was a push poll linked to the FOP or the Accountability Project, but either way on behalf of Gonzalo Sanabria, who also plays the same issue fiscal responsibility issue over and over again (money burning or being poured out the faucet). Last week there were email blasts from Miracle Mile property owner Jackson Rip Holmes calling Rosenblatt the "gay candidate" (um, duh) because he got the Equality Florida endorsement. Not that Equality, or SaveDade who also gave Rosenblatt the endorsement, as expected -- has much juice in Coral Gables, but this shows Holmes has been asleep at the wheel. He seems surprised. Rosenblatt deserves to win if only to send a message to the creepy people who thought this kind of lame crap would work. And it would be a great dramatic finish if he did. But Ladra thinks he's going to come in a close second to...
Frank Quesada, who we like to call the Cuban Kerdyk (and we only mean it in the best way), will become the first newcomer to join the 2001 slate elected in a landslide vote that showed major discontent in the city and Vice Mayor Billy Kerdyk, his former boss and mentor who should have run for mayor (but more on that later). It says on his website that he was an aide for Kerdyk (but I have never known the commissioners to have aides). He also served on the city's traffic advisory board and is on the board of directors of the Coral Gables Community Foundation, where the mayor and his wife Jeannett have both served as chair of the board. Quesada is young, 31, and tall and gorgeous and his wife and family are beautiful. He has the blessings of Kerdyk, Withers -- who gave his endorsement just a couple of weeks ago -- and former mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli, in whose law firm the young Cuban Kerdyk worked. In his first campaign for office, Quesada -- who promised to stay clean and has, but keeps reminding us that he has -- raised $104,000. In addition to financial support from Valdes-Fauli, he has $500 donations from Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez, Carlos Lacasa, Carlos Trujillo. That is a very respectable amount for a freshman and more than Gonzalo Sanabria, who lost to Maria Anderson in 2009 and raised a total of $63,400 reported as of Friday. But if you look closely, Sanabria -- who more transparently loaned himself $100,000 for his bid two years ago -- padded that last report with $23,000 in four contributions from himself. Perhaps he did not want to be seen as someone who only got $40,000 in donations, especially if he could not pull in another $10,000 in that last quarter after so much negative press for his main opponent. Sanabria, who and spent at least $124,000 in the election two years ago, is not going to be able to get that kind of traction and would have needed it even more (people still hold a grudge from 2009) and that is why we have him at a solid three. He could go down, but not up.
None of the other three are worth worrying about. Richard Martin, III, a real estate professional who went up against Commissioner Ralph Cabrera in 2009, should have been doing better on his second bid. He raised $3,370, enough to buy some buttons. Holmes should have stayed home if he was going to use his excuse for a candidacy to pull out the gay card. Hey, wait, didn't he mail order a bride? He should talk. No wonder he practically had to loan himself all but $50 of his $1,400 treasure chest. Rene Alvarez is no better. Widely considered a plant by another campaign to dilute votes, Alvarez loaned himself $1,000 and got a $200 from one single contributor. He already spent all but about $80 of it so he won't be paying himself back. Hope whoever nudged him into the race will at least cover his costs. Ladra has no idea how Alvarez got the Miami Herald endorsement and, frankly, thinks that the board was just dazed and confused from all the county recall/mayoral mumbo jumbo.
So that leaves Quesada and Rosenblatt in the end and Ladra thinks that Quesada will take it. Not necessarily even because of anything he said or did right, but because of the train wreck that became the Rosneblatt campaign after he had to admit to 10-year-old charges of embezzlement. No matter how good the explanation is, coupled with tax liens and bankruptcies the whole sordid affair makes the skittish Gables voter think twice even when they may have supported him.
Bad news: Gables misses its opportunity to elect its first openly gay commissioner (and, yes, Rip, that would be a good thing). Good news: La Bella Ciudad gets a Hispanic majority commission for the first time.