The Monestime for Mayor boomlet may be ending.
Jean Monestime, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission, has “ruled out” challenging Mayor Carlos Gimenez in 2016, the head of Florida’s Democratic Party said Wednesday. The remarks by party chair Allison Tant were the first public sign from state Democrats that their effort to recruit Monestime to mount a partisan challenge against a blue county’s Republican mayor had failed.
“I do think he has ruled out a run,” Tant said in an interview. She said running Democrats for mayor in Miami-Dade “is a conversation we need to be having. He had led the way on this conversation.”
But hours after Tant’s comments were made public, a Democratic source who spoke to Monestime Wednesday said in a text message: “It is my impression that the chairman and is still weighing a run and is meeting with constituents and constituent groups regarding a path forward.”
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Monestime continued to remain mum Wednesday after privately spreading the word since last week that he was interested in a mayoral run in a county where Democrats are so dominant that Republicans finish third in registration totals behind independents. But Monestime faced intense resistance from Democratic lobbyists and others close to Gimenez not to mount an uphill race that would require Monestime to give up his commission seat by year’s end, win or lose.
Like all county offices, the mayoral post is non-partisan. Candidates are not identified on the ballot by party affiliation, and all mayoral hopefuls face each other in an Aug. 30 primary. The election ends if one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, or the top two finishers head to a November run-off. At the moment, the only registered candidates raising money for the mayoral race are Gimenez and Raquel Regalado, a two-term school board members. Both are Republicans.
The Democrats’ case to Monestime, Miami-Dade’s first Haitian-American board chairman, was that he could do well enough in the August 30 primary to force Gimenez into a November run-off on Election Day. Then he would benefit from the heavy Democratic turnout that occurs in Miami-Dade during presidential years. For the plan to work, one senior Florida Democrat said the party needed to “nationalize the race and make it really partisan.”
The pitch was that deep-pocketed Democrats across the country would dent Gimenez’s fund-raising muscle, with a reelection effort that has already raised about $3 million for the incumbent. Some Democrats in Miami privately scoffed at the idea, saying the presidential campaign would eat up all party effort and resources, with Monestime forced to rely on local unions for his war chest.
Florida law requires office holders to resign once they qualify to run for another post, with the resignation taking effect once the term begins for whichever office they’re seeking. Monestime, reelected in 2014, has two years left in his term and could seek reelection in 2018 before term limits required him to leave office.