For Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tuesday’s victories for himself and two candidates he favored are votes of confidence as he enters his second two-year term.
Levine pointed to the support he pulled Tuesday as a sign that voters are pleased with his tenure thus far. And after a campaign in which many of the mayor’s critics accused him of trying to build a majority on the dais, he said voters chose people who mesh well and will keep the city moving forward.
“We want to have a cohesive, forward-thinking commission that gets along and moves the city forward,” Levine said.
Other commission winners: businessman Ricky Arriola, Group 5; and information technology consultant John Elizabeth Alemán, Group 6.
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Only the Group 4 race remains. In a runoff Nov. 17, Miami Dade College Professor Kristen Rosen Gonzalez will face Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Perez, a music industry professional and wife of noted Latin music produce Rudy Perez.
Unsurprisingly, Levine is backing Perez. They are friends, shared a political consultant, and he gave her $11,000 early in the campaign through his personal and business addresses. The mayor avoided “official” endorsements before Election Day. On Wednesday, he said Perez was “absolutely the right choice.”
Scott Diffenderfer, who missed the runoff by 156 votes, said Wednesday he would vote for Perez.
Rosen Gonzalez, endorsed by several community activists, brands herself as the independent candidate.
“I will be a strong independent voice who will advocate for residents, for all the people who were on the opposite side of the mayor, so they can have a place to go in City Hall,” she said.
A critic of Levine, Rosen Gonzalez said she will push a positive message for the rest of the campaign and wants to work with Levine on mass transit and flooding issues.
Perez said she wants to see North Beach revitalized, prepare for sea level rise and find transportation solutions — particularly parking. She also suggested she has to battle a perception that she would simply follow the mayor’s lead.
“What I would love for people to understand about me is that, regardless of who supports me, I am my own person, and my guts will guide my decisions,” she said. “And they will always be for the betterment of Miami Beach and its residents. I am beholden to no one.”