MIAMI Voters in Miami-Dade, one of the most populous U.S. counties, picked former county commissioner Carlos Gimenez on Tuesday to succeed a mayor ousted in a recall vote triggered by outrage over a property tax hike.
Gimenez received about 51 percent of the votes cast in Tuesday's runoff election. He edged out Julio Robaina, a former mayor of the city of Hialeah just northwest of Miami, who conceded before the final official vote tally was announced.
Both Republicans and Cuban-Americans, the two were the top vote-getters in a first-round election in May in which a total of 11 candidates took part.
Former 2 Live Crew rapper Luther "Luke" Campbell was among the first-round candidates.
Both Gimenez and Robaina promised voters they would roll back the property tax increase that doomed former Mayor Carlos Alvarez, while also cutting the size of county government.
The historic recall of Alvarez, also a Republican, was the biggest of an elected official between regular elections since California voters tossed out Democratic Governor Gray Davis in 2003.
The mayor's post is non-partisan and Gimenez will now serve out the remainder of Alvarez's term, which ends in November 2012. His biggest immediate challenge will be drafting a budget to present to the county commission within about two weeks while closing a deficit totaling about $400 million.
He will also have to grapple with record-high unemployment of 13.4 percent in Miami-Dade County, which includes Miami and is home to about 2.5 million people.
The county was hard hit by the U.S. housing and mortgage foreclosure crisis. Nagging unemployment has raised fresh worries about the economic rebound that seemed to be gaining steam in parts of Florida earlier this year.
Voter turnout was light on Tuesday, with only a sliver of the county's 1.2 million registered voters casting a total of just over 199,000 ballots.
(Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Peter Bohan)