ATLANTA - Former mayor Steve Clark won Miami's nonpartisan runoff election for mayor Tuesday, beating Miriam Alonso.

Clark's margin of victory over Cuban-born Alonso was 58.5%, or 24,097 of the 41,157 votes cast. Clark is a registered Democrat; Alonso is a Republican.

In the general election held Nov. 2, Clark topped a six-person field with 45% of the vote. City Commissioner Alonso came in second with 39%. Because neither received a majority, the two candidates squared off in Tuesday's contest.

Clark and Alonso were seeking the seat vacated by incumbent Xavier Suarez, who was elected in 1985 as Miami's first Cuban-born mayor.

In the campaign, Alonso urged Hispanics, who account for 43% of eligible voters, to keep an Hispanic in the mayor's chair.

Suarez endorsed Clark, however, and criticized Alonso for ethnic divisiveness.

Clark, who took office yesterday, returns as mayor to a city facing several challenges. In July of last year, Moody's Investors Service lowered the city's 23-year-old A1 general obligation bond rating to A, citing growing financial pressures.

In the same month, Standard & Poor's Corp. revised the outlook to negative for its A-plus rating on Miami's GOs, also noting economic stress.

In taking action last year, officials at both ratings agencies expressed concerns over Miami's weakening property tax base. Also noted was the increasing demand for city services resulting from a wave of immigration over the past decade.

One-third of Miami's population is now below the poverty level, and its per-capita income level is only two-thirds of the average in Florida.

Clark served as Miami mayor from 1967 to 1970. He was then elected mayor of surrounding Dade County.

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