The Miami-Dade Commission runoff between incumbent Bruno Barreiro and his challenger, state Rep. Luis Garcia, almost didn’t happen.
Barreiro was a mere nine votes shy of winning more than 50 percent of the vote in the four-candidate primary election. That majority would have made him the outright victor.
Instead, Barreiro, who obtained 49.95 percent of the Aug. 14 primary vote, will be on the Nov. 6 ballot pitted against Garcia, who garnered 33.05 percent. The two are vying to represent commission District 5, which includes some communities along the Miami River, Little Havana, the Roads, Brickell and the southern and eastern edges of Miami Beach.
Having come so close to avoiding a runoff, Barreiro heads into the second round with the political winds at his back.
“I’ve brought a lot of honesty, a lot of integrity, a lot of hard work” to the office, he said in a debate organized by several community groups last week.
Barreiro has raised more than twice as much in campaign funds as Garcia, and he has established name recognition — particularly in voter-rich Little Havana — from his 14 years on the nonpartisan county commission and previous six years in the Florida House of Representatives, where he served as a Republican. Two years ago, activists fell just short of collecting enough signatures to recall him.
Garcia has a political base from his seven-year tenure on the nonpartisan Miami Beach City Commission and his six years serving as a Democrat in the state House. He briefly sought a congressional seat before clashing with party leaders and switching to run for commissioner. His legislative district overlapped with part of Barreiro’s commission district.
Garcia has run on a platform of reform, criticizing Barreiro for not doing enough to bring economic development to Southwest Eighth Street, promote renovations to the Miami Beach Convention Center or upgrade the county’s public transportation system.
“Dade County has a reputation: Everything it touches turns to dust,” Garcia said at last week’s debate. The event was held at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral and hosted by the Miami Shenandoah Neighborhood Association, Miami Neighborhoods United, and the Roads and Silver Bluff homeowners associations.
Barreiro, 46, has countered that he has supported funding Little Havana programs such as Viernes Culturales (Cultural Fridays) and a new convention center, though he blames Miami Beach and tourism board leaders for stalling the project. And he trumpets the county’s public transit system — particularly the Golden Passport, his signature achievement that allows senior citizens to ride for free.
Garcia, 66, has poked Barreiro over one of the biggest projects ever built in the district: the largely publicly funded ballpark for the Miami Marlins. As commission chairman at the time, Barreiro shepherded and voted for the stadium, and remains a staunch champion.
At the debate, Barreiro left the door open for the county to consider financing some renovations to Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens. Among other things, the Miami Dolphins would like a partial roof.
“I don’t support renovating Joe Robbie stadium 100 percent,” he said, using one of the stadium’s many former names. “I have to take a look at that. It’s not going to be substantial.”