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Coral Gables Elections Go From Quiet To Controversial, As Runoffs Loom

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Raquel Coronell Uribe
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WLRN

What was supposed to be a quiet election for Coral Gables on Tuesday turned out to be a contentious mayoral race. While the main issue in the contest was about real estate development in Coral Gables, mayoral candidate Vince Lago came under fire in the weeks leading up to election after the Miami Herald revealed Lago signed a letter from last October directed to Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart.

The letter condemned the Catholic school’s mission statement. A new amendment promised to “educate students to analyze and work to eradicate social structures, practices, systems, and values that perpetuate racism and other injustices.”

Lago would go on to the win the mayoral race, based on unofficial results from Tuesday night, and the commission races on the ballot are head to runoff elections.

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Victor Otero is a registered Democrat who voted for Lago, despite the party’s endorsement for Pat Keon. Otero said he mailed in his ballot early, predicting mail delays similar to the November 2020 election. However, Otero said he regretted mailing in his vote before Lago’s letter came to light.

“I voted for Vince Lago because I felt that he had been very accessible. A week later or so is when the letter that he co-signed to Carrollton came to light, which I found very terrible. No need to sugarcoat. It was a shocking letter to read in 2021,” Otero said. “I would have voted for Pat Keon. Full stop.”

Maria Cruz voted for Lago. She claimed the letter was actually about parents’ disagreement with a supposed straying from Catholic teachings. Cruz said the letter has been misconstrued.

“It had nothing to do with racism. It was just another example of dirty politics,” Cruz said. “Parents have the right to ask the school to see what they're teaching their kids.”

Coral Gables resident Jessica Blatt said she voted for Pat Keon. While the main issue Blatt was concerned about during the election was climate change, she said she didn’t understand why someone who supports equality would denounce an mission statement that condemns racism.

“I just think it’s really wrong to label potential strides and attempts towards anti-racism, and towards creating a more equal, educated society about the ways race is impacting our society as political,” Blatt said.

The third candidate in the mayoral race was Jackson "Rip" Holmes. He received about 4% of the vote.

Two commission seats were also at stake and both are headed to runoff elections. Rhonda Anderson and Jose Valdes-Fauli will compete for the group 2 commission seat and the group 3 runoff will be between Javier Baños and Kirk Menendez.

The runoff election is set for April 27 and early voting will take place on April 24 and 25 at the Coral Gables Library.