The four-way Coral Gables commission race becomes a two-way race as longtime activist and everybody’s favorite tia abuela Marlin Ebbert heads into a runoff with land use attorney with hipster facial hair Mike Mena.
And Mena heads into it stronger, having garnered 44.5% of the vote Tuesday to Ebbert’s 33%. Retired Gables Police Sgt. Randy Hoff did not fare as well as Ladra thought he would with 18%. Maybe Ebbert’s name recognition — she ran against Vince Lago two years ago, getting 31 to his 53% — and a Miami Herald endorsement helped. Perhaps the baggage of Hoff having been a police union boss who advocated for employees on the retirement board was too much for residents to bear.
As Ladra predicted (and it was the only thing I got right), Serafin Sousa was a distant fourth with under 5 %.
Mena, who Ladra was told was recruited into the race by Commissioner Frank Quesada, had far more money to campaign and has been doing so aggressively (he is the opposite of Chip Withers) with a dozen or so mailers and teams of young people knocking on doors every day. He had raised more than $136,500 as of March 28, compared to Ebbert’s $21,600.
He will likely raise more far more money than her over the next two weeks as well. Expect the campaigning to start Wednesday as absentee ballots will likely be mailed out again in the next few days and the runoff is in less than two weeks, April 25.
Does it really matter who wins now? The pro development foces (read: Quesada and Commissioner Vince Lago) have the third vote they need to continue to drive their agenda now that former Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli won his seat back, beating Commissioner Jeannett Slesnick in the ugliest of the three races. The answer isnt simple. Ladra says no. And yes.
No because Ebbert will likely end up in the same 4-1 position that Slesnick found herself in many times. Yes because she is friendly with Commissioner Pat Keon (both women are members of the Gables Garden Club) and maybe can talk some sense into her on the dais. And Lago has voted against development a couple of times so it just might make a difference once or twice a year.
Plus the message to newbies like Mena should be that they need to serve on a board or committee at the city level before running for full fledged commissioner.
But Ebbert would have to get practically all of Randy Hoff’s share to beat Mena.
If only the 2,687 who voted for her Tuesday and the 3,643 who voted for Mena show up or cast ballots for the April 25 runoff, well then, better luck to Ebbert on her third, next try.