Former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez came out swinging at Wednesday's debate with former State Rep. Julio Robaina (Rep., District 117) and hit him right below the belt, making some in the audience of almost 30 people (minus campaign pros& reporters/bloggers) gasp.
It would be easy for him, Suarez stressed, to "get along with the mayor and the commissioners because I come from a large family with kids." The gist, taken from Suarez supporter State Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla's (Rep., District 36) successful GOP primary campaign against Robaina last year, is that Robaina, still single at 49, and with no children (that anybody knows of, anyway. Where's the baby?), is gay or at least a pansy who can't get a girl.
Robaina, whose girlfriend has two children and father has nine siblings, says he has frequent family gatherings with his "huge"clan and added that the low blow wink-wink-nod tactic, which is totally off topic and taken from a DLP campaign mailer sent last year that aimed to raise questions about his sexual orientation. "It's an insinuation. I'm a single guy, never been married," Robaina said. "He uses pictures of his family. He's a 'stable family man.' It's the same thing here," Robaina told Ladra after the debate. "And it's the kind of low blow tactic that Miguel and [State Rep. Carlos] Lopez-Cantera are known for." (Lopez-Cantera was in the audience for a short while but left before the debate ended, saying he had dinner plans).
Campaign Manager Steven Ferreiro recognized it, also. "The allegation is that he is gay or a mama's boy, that he's weak, not a family person, not an easy person to get along with," Ferreiro said, adding that another radio ad that came out from the Suarez campaign attacks South Miami Robaina as "Julito el peleón" or "Julio the fighter." Said Ferreiro: "He is a fighter -- for the people. If he argued against something it was because he wasn't in agreement. He was representing the best interest of the people, not the party."
Although transit and land use issues dominated the Urban Environmental League debate, Tony Garcia at Transit Miami already owns that issue quite thoroughly at http://www.transitmiami.com/politics/reflections-on-district-7-debate-julio-robaina-tgo-has-transit-vision -- one curious question submitted asked the candidates if they would "support a measure to prohibit discrimination in all aspects based on sexual orientation and identity." Ladra imagine the questioner had employment or other issues in mind because the county already has provisions that ban discrimination in housing. But Ladra wonders if it was the question submitted by Suarez campaign worker Vanessa Brito, who likes to consider herself a gay activist but is more like an opportunist who just happens to be gay. Because as head of the Miami Voice PAC, which worked with Norman Braman on the recall of Carlos Alvarez and Natacha Seijas and used Marlins stadium funding deal as one of the push buttons. Now she works for Suarez, who said on Wednesday that he favors using tourist bed tax dollars to build a roof over Dolphin Sun Life stadium. (Robaina said he would not, saying that those funds can be used in other ways and preferring to divert at least some of them to upgrade the Miami Beach Convention Center). Don't forget that means she and Braman are on the team with the candidate supported by the DLP clan, after Alex Diaz de la Portilla reportedly tried to help former mayor Carlos Alvarez and former commissioner Natacha Seijas fight the recall effort. What this makes them is opportunists that see cash registers for campaign consultants, mail gurus, background people, working all these new open emergency races and creating all new PACs to make more new money.
Which brings us back to Suarez. Ladra preferred the first question at the debate, asked by Nina West of Coconut Grove. "The Miami Herald survey of voters tells us the most important thing to Miami residents is ethics in government. Considering that your opponent has a pristine reputation, why would I ever consider voting for you?"
Even moderator Stephen Scott, an investigative reporter for CBS 4 News, sorta winced. But surely, Suarez -- whose 1997 election was overturned after a group of Miami Herald writers and reporters uncovered widespread electoral fraud and whose late-night tirades against critics (sometimes in his bathrobe) led people to call him Mayor Loco -- is prepared for this with some ready answers.
"I was in office for eight years," he said. "I voted every single time on every single vote and never against the interests of the community. I never, ever, ever committed any transgression... My record stands clear. Sometimes, people distort things."
And while Suarez was never charged with wrongdoing, his evasive nature with Ladra after the debate begs question. Once I introduced myself (he talked to me like he knew who I was so I just assumed, but he does that with everybody), he told me we could talk after the election. Which really does me no good when I am trying to ask about the race, about his absentee ballot strategy in particular. "After the election," he said again, literally fast walking away through the middle of the room -- shortest way to the door -- and moving the chairs in the way to get away from Ladra. I asked him three times, and three times he told me he would talk to me after the election. Now what is up with that? Is he off his meds? Ladra thought he would just tell us that it was Alex Diaz de la Portilla, who is reportedly a go-to guy on the ABs and, seemingly, a good friend and supporter. But he just kept running away.
Ladra assumes he left in the gorgeous little, blue convertible BMW sports car he came in, talking on the phone. "It was my CPA," said Suarez, who as of the last financial campaign disclosure report had collected almost $120,000, including several bundled contributions of the maximum $500 from development/real estate investors Jose and Carlos Garcia, the Migoya family, lobbyist Miguel de Grandy's clan , and others.
"I was asking 'How much money do I have left?'"
Ladra hopes to find out Friday, when the new campaign finance reports are due.