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Upstart outpolls political veteran for Miami mayor

A former six-term mayor with 35 years of political experience lost out to a political upstart who made his name as the attorney for the family of Elian Gonzalez in Tuesday's runoff to be Miami's next mayor.

Manny Diaz took 55 percent of the vote to beat Maurice Ferre in the two-candidate runoff. The final vote was 28,050 for Diaz, 22,716 for Ferre.

Ferre and Diaz had exchanged heated words in debates and campaigned at a feverish pace since Ferre finished ahead of Diaz in a 10-candidate election Nov 6.

Incumbent Joe Carollo, who has served since 1997, was voted out of office, narrowly finishing behind Diaz last week.

In the Nov. 6 election, Ferre, a Puerto Rican, took 8 percent more votes than Diaz, a Cuban-American. Both candidates then set out to win over the mostly Cuban-American vote that backed Carollo _ who on Monday endorsed Diaz.

Ferre, 66, was mayor from 1973 to 1985 during a time of economic development and growth. Diaz, 47, has never held public office. He represented Elian's Miami relatives during their protracted and unsuccessful custody battle with the U.S. government to keep the boy in the United States.

The runoff shaped up to be a referendum on how Miami's government handled the Elian case and on the current campaign for governor by former Attorney General Janet Reno, blamed by many Cuban-Americans for ordering the raid to seize Elian from his relatives' Little Havana home.

Ferre drew support from a coalition of non-Cuban-Americans, while Diaz was backed by many Cuban-Americans.

The Elian issue fueled sniping between Ferre and Diaz during the week after a first-round campaign that was called one of the cleanest in recent Miami history.

Ferre claimed that Diaz's campaign was behind phone calls to Miami radio stations and voters charging that Ferre is anti-Cuban and backs Reno for governor.

Diaz denied his campaign was behind the phone calls, and said the charge was "classic Miami politics in the mid 1980s."

In Miami Beach on Tuesday, David Dermer beat former state Rep. Elaine Bloom in a runoff for mayor, getting 6,469 votes, or 54 percent, to Bloom's 5,560 votes.

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