Former Coral Gables Commissioner Wayne “Chip” Withers lost his bid to come back to office by unseating an incumbent Tuesday.
But did he really try? That’s questionable (read: not so much).
Commissioner Pat Keon, who had five times as much more money as he did, won handily, 57 to 43 percent in one of the two commission seats on the ballot. The other will head into a runoff April 25 between longtime grandma activist Marlin Ebbert and land use attorney Mike Mena.
Keon’s campaign was almost laughable. While she had raised at least $222,000 as of March 28 to spend on print, radio and even TV ads, she also basically took credit for the Gables tree canopy in an email blast and for a resolution that forces the city to program inclusive recreational activities for special needs kids. Really? Naturally both are good things, and I applaud the inclusion legislation. But was it necessary? And, even if we live in a world and county where it is, isn’t that, like the protection of trees, a no-brainer? Isn’t it far more difficult to make the right decision when developers are pressuring you to approve an oversized project despite the overwhelming objection of a huge majority of adjacent residents?
In fact, Keon’s Achilles heel was just that: She doesn’t listen to the people. She’s oblivious to their fears about the lack of police presence or their disgust with some metal flower sculptures that 1,600 people signed a petition to have relocated from the Segovia Biltmore circle. She is arrogant and has this “I know better than you” tone in everything.
But Withers never used that against her. He thought he could run a shoestring grassroots campaign that banked on his name recognition instead of any real fundraising to get the anti-development, arrogant incumbent message out.
This is also proof that you can’t get elected by just los cuatro gatos impressed by Modesto “Mitch” Maidique and your immediate neighbors, no matter how many of them you have. It was pretty obvious, and several sources confirmed to Ladra, that Withers had been recruited by the Riviera Homeowners Association to run against Keon because of her vote to approve the Paseo project on U.S. 1.
They never put their money where their mouth is and were, basically, outmessaged. That’s the only reason she got more than 1,200 votes ahead. It should have at least been closer.