How I’m Voting in the Coral Gables Election

There are three separate contests in Tuesday’s election in Coral Gables. Here’s why, barring some last-minute surprise, I’m voting for Korge for Mayor, and Quesada for Group 4.  I don’t have much to say about Group 5.


In one sense we’re pretty lucky: we have three quite serious candidates.

The Mayor, Don Slesnick, runs on his record. It’s a better record than some people give him credit for, but it’s not perfect either. If he wins another term (his last under term limits) we’ll be fine, but he’s not so wonderful that I’m closed to the idea of a better candidate. I particularly respect Slesnick’s unwillingness to bash workers or to run away from his background as a labor lawyer.

Jim Cason has a great story to tell. He had a distinguished career in the foreign service, ending up as a career ambassador, which is an achievement. His career was marked by acts of courage and controversy, both of which suggest a bit of a bull in a china shop approach to things. (See this article for details.) If we needed someone to negotiate with a terrorist who had a bomb on a plane, Jim Cason might be the guy. But I’m not sure how well that skill translates into being one vote on a five-person city commission. We don’t get a lot of airplane hijackings in the Gables, and the last time someone claimed to have a bomb, the police dealt with it just fine. Cason’s other negatives are that he’s lived here all of two years, and his civic record is thin — he didn’t even vote in the last election, admittedly pretty shortly after he’d arrived. He’s been a tireless, but also verbally pugnacious, campaigner. He’s a high risk choice — might be great, might be really awful — in part because we really don’t know him yet.

Tom Korge has been around Coral Gables much much longer. He’s a well-respected tax lawyer, and performed particularly well in the candidates’ debate I saw. Folks I trust, who know him (I don’t), say he’s a great guy. However, I can’t say I like his latest advertisements very much, particularly those trying to equate Slesnick and deposed county Mayor Alvarez. It’s not IMHO a fair comparison. On the other hand, while some have suggested that because Korge used to Chair the Pensions Board, he should have some blame for today’s pensions underfunding crisis, I don’t buy that. The Pensions Board is primarily about how to invest the money, and isn’t responsible for setting the payouts, which is done in the context of labor negotiations. Indeed, the case for Korge, besides his general thoughtfulness, is his background in tax and pensions. If pensions are really the city’s greatest problem, and everyone says they are, he may bring the most expertise to the table. I also think he would be good for town-gown relations; although he’s mostly town, he does teach as an adjunct at UM so he has professional relationships with some people on the UM campus, and that should help him bridge what is too often an over-polarized divide.

So I think I’m going to vote for Korge. I can see why someone would vote to retain the Mayor, but I think it might be time for a change, and Korge seems like the right man for our current problems. I get why some people love Cason, but I think he’s a risk we don’t need to take given the presence of other good candidates.

Group 4

Once again we have a number of plausible candidates.

Politically, I suppose I should be a Brad Rosenblatt fan. I can’t do it. I recognize that there are lot of people he’s helped, and who think he’s wonderful. His long record of civic good works exceeds that of any of the other candidates, although both Quesada and Sanabria also have things to brag about. But Rosenblatt feels like a risky candidate because he seems a bit naive. He signed blank checks at 25; he mis-estimated how disclosures about his history would work in a campaign at 35, and didn’t come up with a good contingency plan to manage them either. I wouldn’t have him as my lawyer. (That’s a metaphor; he’s not a lawyer, he’s a businessman.)

Gonzalo Sanabria seems like a smart guy. I also found him quite charming personally. Having outsourced the negative campaigning to his supportive PAC(s?), Sanabria has run what on the surface at least seems a good campaign. To his credit he has been the candidate who has made the clearest promises about what he would do. He’s another candidate whose call to civic engagement came late in life, as he didn’t bother to vote most of the time he was making his fortune. But he has got good works on c.v., and I think he has principles. I’m just not sure they are the same as mine: I think (based on his votes to move the UDB) that he’s someone who is instinctively much more pro-development than I am, an attitude that has not, in the main, served South Florida well in the past decade or two. I’m not one who thinks we should stop all building, but I do think that local government needs to take a strong hand to control people who would move the UDB and put more stores and more developments on what is left of the Everglades. That’s not an issue in the Gables, but it bespeaks an approach I don’t share. Indeed, his very strengths — intelligence and energy — might make him dangerous.

Frank Quesada too seems like a smart guy. There’s no question that his politics are well to the right of me, but I do believe him when he tells us that he’s a numbers and facts guy. (See Quesada Makes His Case for the Commission Group 4 Seat.) His style is methodical and careful. He has energy and determination. I find it odd that people in the comments to other posts here are slamming him for his youth. I don’t think 31 is in any way too young to be a Commissioner. The US Constitution says you can be a US Senator at age 30, and a member of Congress at 25. I think being on the Commission isn’t any more demanding than those jobs. I think I remember what I was like at 31 and I think I was about as responsible as I am now, if perhaps a little more hot-tempered. (Quesada does not seem hot-tempered: he seems very calm.) More to the point, we let people act as lawyers and other fiduciaries for large and important matters at that age. From what I’ve seen so far, I might well be comfortable with him as my lawyer, and while the test for a good Commissioner isn’t exactly the same (and I certainly don’t want to be read to suggest that a Commissioner has to be lawyer!), for me the tests have enough in common that I am ready to vote Quesada.

There are three other candidates in the race. The Herald endorsed Rene Alvarez, and I thought he did OK in the candidates’ debate, but he hasn’t been running a full-court campaign, and indeed the endorsement was sort of odd. Jackson  Rip Holmes is cheerfully irrelevant. Richard Martin also did OK in the debate, but his comments on this blog afterward were so intemperate and out of bounds that I wouldn’t vote for him for assistant dogcatcher.

Group 5

Bill Kerdyk, the incumbent, only has one opponent, Richard Namon.  Namon seems like he might be a more serious citizen than I originally gave him credit for, but he didn’t cut a great figure at the debate. Then again, neither did Kerdyk. Kerdyk has all the money, and all the endorsements, and seems certain to cruise to victory, but I’m not endorsing anyone here.

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20 Responses to How I’m Voting in the Coral Gables Election

  1. Jeff Garcia says:

    Good choices Michael, I am going the same way. Say hi to David.

  2. Whatsup says:

    Wonder if Jeff Garcia is the same Jeff Garcia doing all the printing for Korge’s campaign? Palm something is the name of the company, if so, I can see his point in choosing his candidates.

  3. Rob says:

    Unsurprisingly, you argue well for your choices. I come out differently on Quesada. He misunderstands the Commission’s role in arguing that he will be tough with the Unions. He also misunderstands the Commission’s role in arguing that he will fire wasteful workers. He simply mouths the right’s anti-government rhetoric. But, the clincher for me: Quesada works for Valdes-Fauli.

  4. Jeff Garcia says:

    Whatsup – I am the Garcia who is helping Korge. I am doing his TV ads not his printing, that is why I put my name rather than hide behind some screen name. I am also a Coral Gables resident and voter who has met with the candidates and interviewed them before signing on. I think Korge & Quesada are good choices. Quesada is only a friend. My company is Palm Media and I am proud of my work, clients and affiliations. All the best.

  5. TheIt says:

    Whats undoing Quesada is his alliance to Valdes Fauli and he is so young at 31 that its just not the right time to take such a giant leap of faith. Valdes Fauli was ran out of office as he became arrogant and aloof.
    Your resistance based on a udb vote is just your foundation for oppossing the most qualified candidate in Sanabria so my take on this is that you are so keyed up on one issue that all others are of zero significance to you. I know its hard being a Yalie to go with a fiscal conservative but, for crying out loud, there simply is no comparison in resumes between Sanabria and the rest of the field in Seat 4

    • 1) Ok, I’ll bite: Why is the fact he works at a past Mayor’s firm so terrible? Why.would V-F’s aloofness suddenly overpower what appears to be a totally separate human being?

      2) “So young” at 31 is not a comment I take seriously. See the text of the post above.

      3) Yale is a deeply, deeply conservative place that I attended many years ago. William F. Buckley was an emblematic graduate. It has nothing to do with this race, and little to do with my politics.

      4) Are you suggesting that Quesada isn’t fiscally conservative? If so, why? And are any of the serious or semi-serious candidates (with the possible exception of Rosenblatt) anything other than that? If you say yes, on what do you base it?

      Evidence, please.

    • AnEconomist? says:

      Sanabria is a developer not an economist. Really, that you claim otherwise is disingenuous. Gonzo is in this race to make money as a commissioner.
      Frank is almost ready and the election will probably be closer then most people expect.
      Let’s hope the Little Havana style politics does not win in Coral Gables.

  6. TheIt says:

    So you like two attorneys? God help us!!!

  7. TellingItLikeItIs says:

    Voted absentee for Korge, Quesada, and Namon (as a protest vote). Was leaning towards Cason until the last debate where his style completely alienated me, and was impressed with Korge’s answers and style. Have been favorably impressed with Quesada throughout the campaign – agree with all of Michael’s arguments in his favor.

  8. whatsup says:

    One reason I would not vote for Quesada is that he changed his registration shortly before he started his campaign, to independent, from Republican. Florida has seen enough flip floping by candidates. IMHO, if someone flip flops on party affiliation for a campaign, they will flip flop on issues as they see fit.

    • Just me says:

      This is a non-partisan election. So, I don’t really see how party affiliation matters.

      • Whatsup says:

        It has to do with voter numbers-no matter how bipartisan a race appears to be, the party affiliation does say some voters one way or another, including some who have posted here, I would venture to say including Mr. Froomkin and if party affiliation would not matter, Mr. Quesada would not have changed his and Bill Clinton would not have robocalled for Korge.
        It is my personal opinion that a candidate that changes affiliation to appeal to more voters would change positions on issues. We definitely have seen this lately in Florida.

        • Whatsup says:

          Mr. Froomkin posted Mr. Quesada’s independent status on making his assesment of the candidate., it was a good political move on Quesada’s part if you don’t mind flip floping candidates, I do.

  9. Al says:

    So, when will Tom Korge own up to his connection to that Tampa political committee that is doing all those horrific attacks on Cason and Slesnick?

    AnEconomist, why aren’t you upset about these stealth attacks? Is it because you have a double standard? That’s only natural, btw.

  10. Burt says:

    I like Quesada, and I hope he wins. Yeap. I do. I talked with him I found he spent about half the time listening.

    Sanabria is just someone I can’t connect to. He has the big experience but what really is he going to do besides push his agenda on all of us, just like everyone does. So what if that agenda is backed up by “experience”. Experience at what? Getting through his agenda?

    Maybe all that experience makes him as wise as all those people on Wall Street, that are keeping things cool for all of us. No worries, no financial bubbles. Just smooth sailing on the seas of prosperity.

    I don’t like Brad because he doesn’t listen at all. And he will need a bit more distance between the now and the blank checks. His mom is fantastic though! Too bad she lives in NYC else she’d sweep it.

    Cason hasn’t lived here long. Coral Gables is about being Coral Gables. I think you have to get the feel of the place before you can decision make about it.

    Between Korge and Slesnick, well … I just hope that it doesn’t split between those two and Cason runs up the middle. I can be bribed to vote for the winner if I knew who would win, between the two.

    But I think I’ll vote Slesnick. He’s really friendly and I forgive him for … well .. we won’t bring that up now.

    • Glenn says:

      Between Korge and Slesnick, well … I just hope that it doesn’t split between those two and Cason runs up the middle. I can be bribed to vote for the winner if I knew who would win, between the two.

      I thought this deserved to be highlighted. Two long time residents (that have committed their lives to Coral Gables) may end up splitting the vote and let a transient slide to a win.

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