Several hopefuls have eye on Suarez’s commission seat

Less than three months before Miami’s mayoral election, several candidates have been busy knocking on doors, talking to voters and raising money in hopes of replacing Commissioner Francis Suarez in District 4.

Suarez told El Nuevo Herald last weekend that he expects to resign from his Miami district seat in time to allow elections for his seat to take place the same day as the Nov. 5 general election. The commissioner is vying to unseat Mayor Tomás Regalado.

“I am committed to running for mayor and expect that the District 4 election will be scheduled on the same day,” said Suarez, who needs to call for a special meeting among his colleagues by early September in order for the elections to take place on the same day.

Five candidates have filed to run for commissioner in a future race in the district that includes Coral Way, Flagami and Shenandoah: Ralph Rosado, Denis Rod, Andrés “Andy” Vallina, Manuel “Manolo” Reyes and Miguel Inda-Romero. However, both Rod and Vallina said last week that they are considering dropping out of the race.

Vallina explained that his son was recently diagnosed with autism and he needs to spend more time with his family.

“My son needs my time, my efforts, my attention, everything,” said Vallina, whose day job is to organize nature-related programs for children with attention deficit disorders.

Vallina, a member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, said he is still interested in finding solutions for many of the problems in District 4, from crime and abandoned properties to trash in the streets. According to his most recent campaign finance report, Vallina had collected $1,200 in contributions by the end of June.

Meanwhile, Rod, a longtime community activist who also ran for the seat in 2009, said he’s disappointed with what he considers the unfair financial advantages of other candidates. Rod has raised $11,125.

“I have served this community on practically every city and county board and meanwhile some of my opponents have barely done anything in this community,” Rod said. “It’s very sad, because how can this be considered a real race when, from the beginning, one candidate already has $100,000?”

The candidate to whom he referred, but didn’t name, is Rosado, whose campaign account had $161,000 according to the last report.

“It’s not that complicated. I raised money simply by picking up the phone and calling people,” said Rosado, executive director of the South Florida Community Development Coalition. “I’m not the oldest person in this race, but it’s clear to people that I’ve worked hard and I’ve had a lot of success in my career.”

Rosado, who in 2010 ran for a seat in the state House of Representatives, said he wants to be the voice for elderly residents who live on fixed incomes and fear an increase in property taxes. He said he’s also interested in finding safety alternatives to the controversial red-light cameras, such as extending the duration of yellow lights and increasing the number of crosswalks in Miami’s intersections.

He has hired political consultant Francois Illas to run his campaign.

After Rosado, the candidate with the biggest campaign war chest is Inda-Romero. The attorney loaned himself $40,000 of the $60,000 in his campaign account.

Inda-Romero said his biggest motivation to run for the seat is the opportunity to improve the district where he grew up: Flagami. His priorities include improving street infrastructure to reduce flooding, as well as increasing police attention to the area.

“And I was as tired as everybody else with the empty promises of politicians and the corruption,” he said.

Inda-Romero hired political consultant Darío Moreno, his former professor at Florida International University, to run his campaign.

For his part, Reyes said he has just about all the money he needs for his campaign. The economist had raised $44,600 according to the latest campaign report, but said that he’s nearly doubled that amount since.

Reyes has run for the District 4 seat a half dozen times and says his message hasn’t changed: He wants to bring in new revenues to the city’s coffers and improve administrative efficiencies to save money.

“We have a very large population of elderly people who live on fixed incomes,” Reyes said. “These people can’t afford to pay property taxes if they go up.”

Reyes said he’s never hired a campaign manager before and doesn’t plan to do it this time around, either. He said his longtime friend Steve Ferreiro, a political consultant, is giving him campaign advice for free.

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