Voters head to polls in Florida's primary election
SOUTHWEST-MIAMI-DADE (WSVN) -- Today is election day and voters are taking to the polls in South Florida.
Polls opened at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Voters are casting their ballots on local, county, state, Senate and Congressional races. The votes will determine our congressional representation as well as who will sit in judgment in legal issues.
The biggest race on the ballot is the Miami-Dade County mayoral election. On Monday, the Miami-Dade mayoral candidates went head-to-head and finished up their last-minute campaigning.
"I think we've pretty much got our house in order in terms of finances," said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who is running for re-election. "My future plans are to diversify the economy in Miami-Dade County, and I want to be the sales person, the promoter of Miami-Dade County."
Up against Gimenez is former police officer and current county commissioner Joe Martinez, who cast his vote Tuesday at a high school in Kendall. "I feel really good," he said. "I feel very confident, a lot of positive vibes. This election has turned out to be not about money. This is not a money thing. It was originally. When you get out-raised four-to-one, people automatically say ... you don't have a chance. But when you go out into the community and you talk to the people, and you see what's going on, and they say, 'We do want to head in a different direction.'"
Gimenez and his wife cast their votes in Coral Gables that same morning. "I think most voters that I've spoke to have been very complimentary of the fact that I kept my promises," Gimenez said, "and they basically say, 'We like you because you said what you were going to do, and you did it, and we like that, and we want you to keep on doing that.'"
Gimenez said he needs re-election to finish what he started. The next task on his agenda is developing business in the county, after a year spent cleaning up what was handed to him by voters following a recall of the previous mayor. "Reduce the taxes, reduce the government, we had to get employee concession, we eliminated all executive benefits," he said.
Gimenez touts his record of keeping promises and stressing that he reduced the number of county departments from 42 to 25 and cut his own salary in half. He hopes to trim an additional $405 million from the budget if re-elected.
Martinez said Gimenez' method of cutting the budget has divided county workers. "We have to unite again the county government, bring them together, bring up the morale," he said. "One of the things that was talked about was that morale is low, and we're in the service industry, so when your employees don't feel good, the morale's not good, guess what? It's a bad reaction."
Martinez said he wants the county to serve as a catalyst for economic development by facilitating business opportunities. "You may find me visiting a business, trying to see how they can expand, how they can get more people," he said. "You may find me at a consulate office, talking to them about how they can do trade."
Both are major candidates who are similar in those respects, but they do not agree on everything. For example, Martinez opposes term limits for county commissioners, something Gimenez supports. Martinez also said Gimenez's claims for downsizing government are misleading because many of the positions eliminated were vacant. Gimenez stands by his statement. "The proof is in the pudding," he said. "It's $40 million savings in this fiscal year's budget, through reduction and reorganization that we did. There's another $40 million in savings in reorganization next year."
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