Because he has been looking and acting like the mayor for weeks.
Just a few quick observations about the election and the victory before Ladra takes an 18-hour nap (more on the victory party and campaign later).
The Gimenez campaign staff really went after the absentee ballots in the run-off (efforts we hear were spearheaded by Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Al Lorenzo) and it paid off. Ladra is still going to be following up on both sides and their tactics, but the added attention to the ABs narrowed the gap that former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina -- whose campaign relied heavily on an absentee domination -- had scored in the primary to almost nothing. Ladra knew then that Gimenez would win. Gimenez and his people pretty much knew it, also. Diaz de la Portilla said he knew it as early as 4 p.m. that afternoon. But he might have just been boasting.
When I asked how they closed that gap, Gimenez said they did it legally. "We chased our people," he said, referring to voters who requested absentee ballots and the follow up from campaign staff. But he did not expect the gap to be so small.
"We still expected him to lead absentees by 2,000 or 3,000," Gimenez told me. "But we were expecting to win much bigger at the precints." So does he think the tiny difference in absentee ballots cast for the candidates make more than a tiny diffrence in the race. "Absolutely." Because they did not get the larger lead at the precincts that they expected. Then he might have had that five point lead (instead of two) that Ladra was predicting. It didn't come because of last minute attack ads and negative campaigning -- like radio "talent" calling Gimenez a communist (Really? Is it 1983 again?) -- that helped Robaina gain even more of the majority of the Cuban vote. But that voting block was already mostly his. Gimenez, whose appeal is much wider while Robaina's is deeper, got the non-Cuban Hispanics, the non-Hispanic whites and the black vote (so much for Luke's endorsement).
"I had a much broader base of support throughout all the communities," Gimenez said. "He had a very limited base. Now they may have come out today a lot more than the other communities. In a general election, where we have more participation, we would have done a lot better."
About 4,600 more people voted for the former county commissioner, giving him a two point lead, 51 to 49 percent. Robaina conceded early (he was down and only some precincts in Northeast Miami-Dade and the southern parts of the county, where Gimenez was expected to do better, were left. First Ana Carbonell called Gimenez to tell him that Robaina would call. Then Robaina called and told Gimenez he had run a good race. "He said it was a tough campaign and wished me luck," Gimenez said. "He said that with what precincts were left, it would make no difference." Gimenez said that while there was tension between the two men, he was looking forward to "picking his brain" and getting Robaina'sn thoughts on some things. "He's got some ideas that I actually would like to tap into," Gimenez said, behaving very much like the mayor for all Miami-Dade. (Just vet those ideas with staff and advisors, you know, in case).
The mayor will likely be sworn in on Friday, but Gimenez said he was going to start working on Wednesday, meeting with the county manager -- between a barage of interviews on TV and radio that were being scheduled Tuesday night -- and going over what she was doing with the $400 million shortfall budget, which he has two weeks to present to the commission. "And I have to give them a vision of what my budget is going to look like, " Gimenez said.
"First thing I am going to do is cut my salary and benefits by 50 percent. I have to lead by example I have to meet with the unions and start negotiating next year's contracts. Those are going to be tough negotations," the mayor said (he later told some officers there that they were not likely to face as many concessions as the firefighters). "I gotta start reducing the size of government, reducing the number of departments -- the things I said I was going to do during the campaign. It's easier said than done but I'm going to get it done."
And while I do believe he has the intent and desire to get whatever done, Ladra will keep watching him. And he might not like me so-so for too much longer. Up to now, I've been a blogger hell-bent on exposing his opponent's hypocracies and discrepancies. But today, I'm going to be all up in his business and he may see me more as a pain in the side.
Remember, though, I was the first one to call you Mayor Gimenez.