With a contentious mayoral race front and center, Key Biscayne jumped out as the busiest precinct in Miami-Dade County on primary election day, with turnout already at 28% in the first five hours of voting, according to Elections Department statistics. It’s a number that is double the rate in the rest of the county.
By noon, 540 people had voted at the Key Biscayne Community Center, the busiest voting site in the county, officials said. Even with the turnout, lines were relatively short and voters cast their ballots in a gymnasium quickly.
Outside, mayoral candidate Katie Petros said she felt “very positive” about the election from a table she’d set up facing the Community Center. Her rivals, Fausto Gomez and Joe Rasco, also were on site, shaking hands with supporters.
It’s the first mayoral primary in decades, coming as the village is getting ready to spend up to $250 million to combat sea level rise on the barrier island. Whoever is elected mayor will likely preside over the first borrowing from a $100 million resiliency bond that voters approved two years ago. The other big issue has been the fate of the Rickenbacker Causeway and who can best deal with county leaders in replacing the Bear Cut bridge and address persistent traffic issues.
The race has seen multiple negative mailers attacking the records of Gomez, a former lobbyist and condominium leader, and Rasco, a former two-term mayor and head of the county’s governmental affairs department. Petros is a former one-term council member who entered the race late after her former council colleague, Brett Moss, decided against a run for the mayor’s position.
Gomez ran a campaign attacking the leadership of outgoing Mayor Mike Davey, whom he said had left a “leadership void” on the causeway and other issues. Rasco and Petros have run on their records.
Polls have shown high satisfaction with island government services, and candidates have promised to mostly continue existing policies while moving forward with resiliency projects. Rasco and Petros, however, say they are in favor of increasing the island’s borrowing capacity; Gomez thinks that move is “premature.”
In addition to the mayor’s race, interest is also high because a local elementary school teacher, Sandra Manzieri, is challenging incumbent Mari Tere Rojas for District 6 spot on the Miami-Dade County School Board.
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Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.