Ethnic Voting on Miami Beach

Unless there’s a HUGE surprise at the ballot box, Miami Beach is about to get its first Hispanic Mayor. City Commissioners Simon Cruz and Mattie Bower are in a close race, but some Beach-watchers are saying– there’ll be a runoff, strictly because of pockets of anti-Hispanic feeling remain on the Beach.
Two other City Commissioners (not Bower or Cruz) suggested this to me off-camera, as I toured polling places today. Their reasoning? There are still voters who don’t want to cast votes for a candidate with an Hispanic name.
My sources said little-known mayoral candidate William Smatt might get a lot of those votes– they each said Smatt was pulling as much as 8% of the vote (I assume they were citing exit polling). Smatt is Jamaican-born, and has focussed much of his campaign on the quirky notion that if casino gambling comes to the Beach (something they Mayor can’t really achieve), he would abolish property taxes for city residents.
There’s another minor candidate, Raphael Herman– but my commissioner/sources said the name “Raphael” would keep Hispano-phobes from voting for him (Herman is not, in fact, Hispanic– he’s Israeli).
The politicos figure– if minor candidates get 5% or better of the vote, that could well mean a runoff for Cruz and Bower. All indications are, they’re running very close together.
Whatever anti-Hispanic feeling there is on the Beach, the city’s population is now 53% Hispanic, and the election of Bower or Cruz will mean a comparatively quick political coming-of-age for Hispanics in a city where, less than a generation ago, they had very little clout at the ballot box.

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