Miami mayoral race attracts diverse crowd

MIAMI -- Without a major crisis like the Elian Gonzalez custody dispute or a corruption scandal, this year's mayoral campaign has been a low-key affair. But it's not lacking in colorful characters.

Voters on Nov. 6 will pick from an incumbent accused of throwing a tea canister at his wife and nine other challengers, including a former mayor unseated after a voter fraud scandal, two lawyers who represented Elian's Miami relatives and a member of the Florida Socialist Workers Party.

Mayor Joe Carollo, 46, initially said he would not seek re-election in an attempt to save his failing marriage.

But he changed his mind in March, citing progress made during his four years in office.

"Whether you like the stands I've taken or not, in the tough times I've been there. I haven't run or buckled," Carollo said recently.

A recent poll showed Maurice Ferre, a native of Puerto Rico who spent 12 years as Miami mayor, leading all candidates. Ferre, 66, is credited for guiding the city through heavy periods of growth from 1973 to 1985.

The other contenders with name recognition are Elian lawyers Manny Diaz and Jose Garcia-Pedrosa, and City Commissioner Wifredo "Willy" Gort, an investment banker.

The other candidates are a retired accountant, a real estate investor and a welding shop manager.

Carollo credits himself with pulling the city out of a multimillion-dollar deficit and lowering the crime rate.

The Cuban exile community also heralded the Cuban-born Carollo for support for anti-Castro protests close to the American Airlines arena for the Latin Grammys.

Carollo's position played a part in the organizers' decision to move the show back to Los Angeles in August.