Coral Gables Falls Prey to Dark Money

The guy supported by the mysterious group that seems to have falsified return addresses on the false and misleading mailers they sent voters, well that guy, Jorge Fors Jr., won the Coral Gables Commission run-off by 173 votes in a race with 26% turnout.

There are four groups you could blame for this:

First, low-information voters who got bamboozled (not all of Fors’s supporters of course, but enough to swing the result). I don’t in fact blame them. Not having to be well informed is a luxury of prosperity and good times. Pity it tends to be self-limiting….

Second, the Florida legislature, which has written campaign rules that it designed to be abused. Filing deadlines are arranged so that dark money groups don’t have to file much or anything in the way of disclosure until after the election, so we can’t tell who is paying for hit jobs on candidates. Even when disclosures are filed, the rules (intentionally) leave open ways to obfuscate the source of funds. I sure do blame them.

And third, of course, whoever it was who paid for and designed the hit mailers on Cabrera that I am sure swing more than 87 votes.

Last, but far from least, I blame the worthies of the Coral Gables establishment who don’t want to have their elections fall at the same time as any other race. That depresses turnout and keeps the election nice and clubby, just they way they want it. I blame the current Mayor, who chaired the most recent Charter Revision Committee, and rejected suggestions to move the date, even though being on the county ballot would save the City significant money. Supporters of the off-year-election status quo argued (1) that if the City were on the county ballot, our election would appear right at the end, and there would be ballot fatigue — but I bet votes cast would still be well over 26%! And they also argued, but very very quietly, (2) that if we had City elections on the main ballot then — horror of horrors! — more students would vote. And we can’t have that riff-raff deciding elections, now can we?

We should run Coral Gables City elections like we do for judges: have the non-partisan races on the day of the primary, and any run-off on the day of the general election. Leaving races to off years as we do not only wastes taxpayer money paying for the election machinery (twice in this case), it also suppresses the vote. But again, in the eyes of our city worthies, that’s a feature not a bug.

But one guy you shouldn’t blame is Ralph Cabrera. He worked hard; indeed he came by my neighborhood at least twice. He didn’t go low in this race. He should look in the mirror in the morning and feel good about that.

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1 Response to Coral Gables Falls Prey to Dark Money

  1. Karla says:

    Well said.

    I would tweak your #4 however. If it were up to me, ALL local (non-state, federal or judicial) races would be in off years, but all in November on the same day around the state. Then runoffs 2-3 weeks later (2.5 month gaps for runoffs, e.g., August then November, is too long for these mostly small races).

    Florida’s (and Miami-Dade’s) largest cities already adhere to this schedule.

    I do wholeheartedly agree that having these elections in April of odd years is the perfect way to keep the least engaged citizens from voting.

    Just my 2 cents.

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