Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Sunday, October 6, 2013
Mayor reflects on elections
Took political hits on study, homeless

Taking 54 percent of the vote in any election is a respectable, clear-cut win, from the boardroom to the White House.

But two years ago, up against the same political newcomer candidate, Mayor Craig Cates cleaned up with 70 percent of the day's catch.

This time, Cates won his third term against government critic Margaret Romero by a 54-46 margin, saying the tighter contest came from his pro-dredging study stance and his support of a 24-7 homeless shelter.

"It gets kind of nasty out there," Cates said of the election.

"It shouldn't be, but it does happen. Hopefully the next races will be a little more civil."

Cates spent $31,000 on his campaign and has two victories behind him, while Romero spent $4,800 and has never held office.

Like a large segment of Key West, the mayor also didn't see a 74 percent "no" vote on the dredging study coming.

"I lost 15 points to the channel-dredging issue," Cates said after the results came in Tuesday night, blaming local media for constantly noting his pro-study leaning without fully explaining his vote.

"I was just for the study and didn't approve of widening the channel," Cates said on the dais Wednesday night.

"Every time I was for the study, they had to say I was for channel-widening."

But Cates also pointed out a political storm brewing against him from the newest member of the commission.

City Commissioner Tony Yaniz spent the campaign rooting for Romero, even holding her sign on Election Day at the corner of Flagler Avenue and Kennedy Drive, and promoting Vidal for the Utility Board, a race in which the mayor's wife was the first to declare her candidacy.

Romero announced, "I'm not going anywhere, folks," after losing to Cates for a second consecutive time.

Mayor Cates survived his contest and said he was more upset post-election by his wife, Cheryl Cates, being shut out of a Nov. 5 runoff between Vidal and top vote-getter Tim Root.

But Election Day 2013 had its lighter side for the Cates family.

Cates believes Oct. 1 marked the first time two family members were on one city ballot.

The couple's three daughters were all in town for the big day, along with their four grandchildren.

Twelve-year-old Taylor, who lives in Tampa, arrived ready to take notes on her grandparents' dual political runs for a school assignment.

"She's going to write a report on her grandfather," said Cates.

"She's so excited. Her teacher is excited that one of her students in civics class has a family in politics.

"It's exciting," he said on Election Day, after the whole family tooled around town decked out in the mayor's green, yellow and white re-election signs.

He wouldn't get specific on the dais at Wednesday's commission meeting, but he was blindsided by some of the opposition's tactics, particularly Yaniz's enthusiastic campaigning for Romero and Vidal.

"I'm for the people," Yaniz said while holding the Romero sign a few hours before the polls closed, saying that working families were the priority in Key West.

Cates was a proponent for working folks years back, Yaniz said.

"He forgot where he came from," he said.

Weeks earlier, Yaniz mocked the mayor for having taken the month of July as vacation, sailing to the Bahamas while the city held budget hearings.

On his Facebook page, Yaniz added that Cheryl Cates wasn't qualified for the Utility Board unless the necessary experience was "holding a daiquiri" in the Bahamas.

Yaniz, who Cates said is clearly getting ready to run for mayor next year, slammed the 24-hour homeless shelter that Cates has been pitching as an improvement to the city's overnight bunkhouse.

"How can I condone air conditioning and HBO to people who don't want to work?" Yaniz said on election night.

Cates that night said Yaniz's characterization of his idea for a comprehensive, all-in-one homeless center was unfair.

Yaniz said last week that he could defeat Cates for the mayor's office, but stopped short of announcing his candidacy for 2014.

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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