Coral Gables residents to choose new Mayor, fill two Commission spots

Casting a Vote on an Election Ballot
Voters will sort through 13 candidates on Tuesday's ballot.

Coral Gables voters will head to the polls Tuesday to decide on a new Mayor. Two City Commissioners are vying to become the next Mayor, meaning voters must choose successors in each of those seats on the Commission as well.

The Miami Herald has a detailed analysis on the races and candidates involved, particularly the mayoral contest. The mayoral race is a three-way competition between City Commissioners Patricia Keon and Vince Lago and real estate agent Jackson “Rip” Holmes.

Mayor Raúl Valdés-Fauli is retiring from that role, allowing a new face to step in. Both Keon and Lago were first elected to the City Commission in 2013. Holmes, an activist, filed to run for Mayor just before the Feb. 26 filing deadline. He’s raised less than $1,700 total and is not expected to mount a serious challenge.

The winner of each election must secure 50% of the vote Tuesday, however. Otherwise, a runoff between the top-two candidates will take place on April 27.

Lago, who currently serves as the Coral Gables Vice Mayor, collected more than $370,000 in his bid, while Keon raised just over $228,000. Keon’s total also included a $100,000 self-loan, which she did not tap into. Lago outspent Keon $220,000 to $127,000.

The mayoral race is technically nonpartisan, though candidates’ partisan leanings may play a role. Lago is a member of the GOP. Keon is a Democrat.

Republicans over-performed in Miami-Dade County this past November, thanks in part to an impressive performance among Hispanic voters. Nearly half of Coral Gables voters are Hispanic.

The race to replace Lago in Group Two on the City Commission is a six-person contest.

The two biggest names in that contest are José Valdés-Fauli, the brother of the outgoing Mayor, and Tania Cruz-Giménez, the daughter-in-law of former Miami-Dade County Mayor and now-U.S. Rep. Carlos Giménez. Cruz-Giménez is married to Rep. Giménez’s son, C.J.

Those two have raised the most money in the race. Valdés-Fauli added more than $122,000, including a $5,000 self-loan. Cruz-Giménez raised just under $108,000, all in outside cash.

Attorney Rhonda Anne Anderson and marketing vet Claudia Miro both netted just under $40,000.

Placing fifth in the fundraising game is attorney Mayra Joli, a bombastic figure who has previously run for the U.S. House. She’s a vehement Donald Trump supporter as well.

Joli added just under $11,000, while University of Miami grad Alexander Luis Haq raised around $2,000.

The Group 3 contest seeking Keon’s successor is a four-way contest. Again, two candidates were well ahead of the pace in terms of fundraising.

Attorneys Alex Bucelo and Javier Baños led the field. Bucelo collected nearly $163,000. Baños added nearly $148,000, but relied on more than $64,000 in self-loans. The candidates spent similar amounts, with Bucelo spending $96,000 and Baños showing nearly $88,000 in expenses.

Kirk Menendez brought in nearly $54,000. He’s a former Miami assistant city attorney and worked as chief of staff for Miami Commissioner Ken Russell.

Attorney Phillip “PJ” Mitchell is also running for the seat, raising just over $31,000 in total.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].


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