August 18th is Miami-Dade County’s primary election, with early voting beginning this Monday, August 3rd. So who is on the ballot for residents of Downtown Miami?
It depends. Some of the races are county-wide; Miami-Dade’s Mayor and Property Appraiser, for instance. In other races, since Florida is a closed primary election state, this means that while I am in U.S. House District 27, the run-off for November’s Republican candidate will appear only on the ballots of registered Republicans. And while Miami-Dade County School Board District 3 includes most of the Brickell Financial District and the historic Central Business District, other areas in the City of Miami may be in District 2. This article will reflect my thoughts on only those non-judicial races/candidates appearing on my ballot: School Board District 3, County Commission District 5, County Mayor, County Property Appraiser, and the State Attorney for Miami-Dade. Next week, I will talk about the judges.
My thoughts & picks
For State Attorney: Melba V. Pearson
Melba V. Pearson is running against incumbent Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
Rundle has Miami-Dade’s State Attorney since 1993. She has been endorsed by the Miami Herald “with reservations”; but was called upon by the Miami-Dade Democratic Part to “step aside”. Rundle is generally considered to be good at her job (she has been re-elected six times, after all), but she faces a lot of criticism over “her failure to prosecute killer cops“. Rundle has also been endorsed by the conservative United Christians of Florida, which is not a bonus in my book.
Melba Pearson, on the other hand, I like more the more I learn about her. She was a county prosecutor for 16 years before becoming the deputy director of the ACLU Florida. To me, that indicates she is experienced with both sides of the picture: law enforcement and civil rights. Pearson has served as President of the National Black Prosecutors Association, and she advocates for the abolition of cash bail and criminal justice reform. Melba Pearson has been recommended &/or endorsed by: the Blue Wave Coalition, Florida NOW PAC, Emgage Action, Miami-Dade LGBTA Democrats, 644 Democrats, and Michael Froomkin at Discourse.net. And while it has nothing to do with her abilities in the office she is seeking, I love that she is married to a white, Republican “cowboy”. Her clear ability to be open, inclusive, and able to navigate across political and racial lines is why I strongly recommend Melba V. Pearson for Miami-Dade State Attorney.
For County Commissioner, District 5: Eileen Higgins
Even though there are two other candidates challenging incumbent Eileen Higgins for her seat, this was the easiest choice for me. I’ve known and adored Higgins long before she was elected to her county commissioner seat in 2018. I kept running into this energetic petite blond woman speaking fluent Spanish at neighborhood meetings, local events and (my favorite) on City of Miami trolleys. Higgins shares my passion for quality of life issues of Miami’s urban & suburban residents and for our environment.
Commissioner Higgins has fought for resiliency in the face of a changing environment, common sense gun reforms to keep us safe, and programs that afford everyone an equal shot at the American Dream. From more reliable transportation to sea level rise, from affordable housing to better paying jobs, she is a champion for the policies that help everyone in our community succeed.Miami-Dade Democratic Party
Eileen Higgins has been endorsed by the Sierra Club Florida Chapter Miami Group, Miami Herald, Miami-Dade Democratic Party, SEIU Florida, United Teachers of Dade, AFSCME Florida, New Florida Majority, SAVE, and Equality Florida; and she has my enthusiastic support as well.
Even if Eileen were not such a strong candidate, I do not like either of the other candidates running for the District 5 seat. Both Renier Diaz de la Portilla and Miguel C. Soliman were co-endorsed by the right-wing conservative group, Christian Family Coalition Florida. According to their ratings, both men support defunding Planned Parenthood and *counseling* (i.e. conversion therapy) for LGBTQ minors. I also didn’t appreciate their dirty smear campaigns, complete with altered photos of their rivals. Neither candidate has earned my respect, much less my vote.
For Miami-Dade County Mayor: Daniella Levine Cava
The county Mayor’s race is a crowded one, with Esteban Bovo, Ludmilla Domond, Daniella Levine Cava, Monique Nicole Barley, Alexander “Alex” Penelas, and Xavier L. Suarez all vying for the seat.
Two of the candidates – Esteban Bovo and Ludmilla Domond – were easy for me to eliminate. Both indicated to the Christian Family Coalition Florida that they support conversion therapy for LBGTQ minors, defunding of Planned Parenthood, and religious prayers at government functions.
I like Monique Nicole Barley’s enthusiasm and most of her positions – especially regarding affordable & workforce housing and public transportation. I do not, however, think she has the experience to govern a county the size of Miami-Dade; especially as her first public office.
Xavier L. Suarez has been involve in Miami politics for as long as I can remember, starting in 1985 when he was elected City of Miami Mayor to his most recent position on the Miami-Dade County Commission for District 7. Throughout his career, he has earned mostly high marks, and he supports a lot of positions important to me including affordable/workforce housing, funding for public transit, and addressing climate change and climate gentrification. I also like his son, the current City of Miami Mayor, Frances Suarez. I was very disappointed to learn that, according to Christian Family Coalition Florida, he supports the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
Alexander “Alex” Penelas is making a come-back after 15 years in the private sector. If the ticket wasn’t so crowded, I’d be taking a serious look at him in spite of his rocky past. Amy Matinez’ article for Florida Trend gives a good synopsis of his rise and fall and (perhaps) rise again.
Daniella Levine Cava is enjoying a huge number of endorsements that matter to me, including from the Sierra Club Florida Chapter Miami Group, SAVE, Equality Florida, 644 Democrats, the Miami Herald, New Florida Majority, Emgage Action (co-endorsement), The Blue Wave Coalition of Miami-Dade, SEIU Florida, Planned Parenthood, New Florida Majority, and Michael Froomkin at Discourse.net. She is an an attorney and social worker, and is the current County Commissioner for District 8. Cava is the founder of Catalyst Miami and is a strong supporter of environmental causes and social justice. Overall, Daniella Levine Cava checks the most boxes for me, so I will be checking the box for her.
For Property Board Appraiser: Marisol Zenteno
Marisol Zenteno is running against incumbent Pedro J. Garcia for the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser’s top seat. Zenteno is currently an employee of the county appraiser’s office, so she knows the demands of the job well. Zenteno previously held positions at chair of Miami-Dade County Commission on Human Rights, past president of the League of Women Voters of Miami-Dade, past president, and member of American Society for Public Administration (ASPA). Zenteno has been endorsed the Miami Herald, Blue Wave Coalition of Miami-Dade, Miami-Dade Democratic Party, 644 Democrats, AFSCME Florida, and Michael Froomkin at Discourse.net.
I know Pedro Garcia, and like him. I think he has done a good job as our county’s property appraiser since 2008 when he was elected. But I also think it is time for the appraiser’s office to modernize, and I think Marisol Zenteno is the woman for that job.
For School Board District 3: Lucia Baez-Geller
In another crowded field, we have five candidates running for the school board’s District 3 alone. To make matters more difficult, they agree on many important issues.
“They emphasized safety should schools reopen during the pandemic, and focused on the importance of mental health and the access and inclusion of Black students in advanced classes. All also supported an anti-racism curriculum and think highly of Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.”Miami Herald
The Miami Herald article has excellent summaries of each these (& the other 12) candidates running for Miami-Dade County School Board seats: Raquel Bild-Libbin, Marcela Gomez-Bogomolni, Joshua Levy, Russ Rywell. and Lucia Baez-Geller.
After that article and others, Lucia Baez-Geller got my vote on the strength background in the field of education, and the variety of her endorsers.
Baez-Geller has worked for Miami-Dade County Public Schools since 2005, and has been endorsed by the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, SAVE and Emgage Action, among others.
“For over 15 years, Lucia Baez-Geller has dedicated her life to education She was awarded the title of 2013 Political Advocate of the Year by the National Education Association. Lucia has worked with United Teachers of Dade, Florida Education Association, the National Education Association, Educational Excellence School Advisory Council, Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, Media Ambassador for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, and served as the Education Chair with the League of Women Voters.”Baez-Geller Campaign Announcement, August 1, 2019
So there you have it. I did a lot of research in deciding who earned my vote, and I have included most of those sources below. Please feel free to comment (politely). But whether you agree with my choices or not, I do hope you agree the best way to celebrate and keep our democratic republic is to vote!
My Sources (& anti-sources)
- Miami-Dade County Primary Sample Ballot
- Miami-Dade Democratic Party
- Florida NOW PAC
- New Florida Majority
- Sierra Club Florida Chapter Miami Group Endorsements
- SAVE Action PAC 2020 Pro-Equality Candidates
- Equality Florida
- Florida Bar Judicial Candidate Voluntary Self-Disclosure Statements
- Dade County Bar 2020 Judicial Poll
- League of Prosecutors Florida
- Daily Business Review: 2020 South Florida Elections: Use this Voter Guide to Learn More About Candidates Running for Judge
- Florida Bar County Judge Candidate Voluntary Self-Disclosure Statements
- AFSCME Florida 2020 Election Endorsements
- SEIU Florida Endorsements
- United Teachers of Dade (UTD)
- Emgage Action Recommended Candidates Miami-Dade
- 644 Democrats August 18 Election Guide
- Discourse.net: Miami-Dade Primary Day Ballot Recommendations 2020, Part II (Judges)
- The Miami Herald: Four races, 17 candidates. Who is running for Miami-Dade County School Board?
- The Miami Herald: Once without a home, Monique Barley running for county mayor to push opportunities
- The Miami Herald (paywall)
- Florida Trend: Former Florida Democratic star Alex Penelas makes a comeback
- Miami-Dade County Voter Guide (United Christians of Florida)
- Florida Family Action Judicial Endorsements
- Christian Family Coalition Florida Miami-Dade Voter Guide