At Coral Gables Library No glitches, no delays
Sweaty and rushed, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez stopped by the Coral Gables Branch Library precinct to see how the voting was going. He had been concerned because throughout the county there had been problems during early voting- long lines, broken voting machines and frustrated workers.
At the Coral Gables library on Election Day, the mayor discovered, everything was going fine. Voters moved easily in and out of the library. The mayor, in a light blue shirt and dress pants, dropped by at about 10:30 a.m. Within a few minutes he was on his way to check on another precinct.
At the library, the mayor spoke with Robert Welsh, who was campaigning for Ross Hancock, a 60-year-old Democrat making his first run for the Florida legislature. Welsh, 59, was wearing a long-sleeved white T-shirt and a floppy hat. Atop the hat was a bulky thing that looked like those triangular cheese head hats worn by fans of the Green Bay Packers. Welsh’s version of the cheese head hat was blue and white. On each of its three panels was a message about his candidate: “Ross Hancock: Declare your independence.”
Looking at Welsh’s hat, the mayor couldn’t repress a little laugh. The hat was, indeed, a bit outlandish. “It was supposed to be outlandish,” Welsh said in a conversation a short time after Election Day.
Welsh lives in South Miami, just south of Coral Gables. In South Miami he is sometimes referred to as “Bicycle Bob” because he rides around on a blue bicycle, often with a basket full of political flyers. He grew up in a Republican home, is now registered as an independent and has became an Obama supporter. He has been a volunteer campaigner for municipal and state candidates for about a decade. “I will campaign for a grass-roots Republican who is not far right or a grass-roots Democrat who is not far left,” he said in the conversation after Election Day.
The mayor of Miami-Dade County, which sprawls over about 2,000 square miles and is about 20 percent larger than Rhode Island, is chosen in non-partisan voting. Gimenez, 58, is a Republican. He said he voted in early voting before election day. He would not say who he voted for. But he talked about some of the key issues of the campaign.
His biggest concern, Gimenez said, was the economy. “It is always the number one issue,” he said, and it is a factor in resolving many social issues. Robert Welsh, standing next to the mayor, nodded. He said later that he agreed with the mayor that the economy was critical. But he said he expected they would differ on the specifics of how to deal with it.
Gimenez was born in Havana and moved to Miami with his family. He went to high school and college in Miami. After graduating from Barry University, Gimenez served for 25 years as a member of the Fire-Rescue Department of the City of Miami, the largest of 35 municipalities encompassed by Miami-Dade County. During his last nine years at Fire-Rescue Gimenez was the chief of the department. In 2000 he began a three-year term as the city manager of Miami. In 2004, he was elected to the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners. He won a second term and in a special election in 2011 became mayor of Miami-Dade County. He was re-elected mayor of Miami-Dade County in August of 2012.
“This is a great day for America,” Gimenez said of Election Day. “There is a wide range of opinions in America. We settle it with the ballot and not in other ways, like other countries do.”