Setting up a South Florida Republican battle royale, former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell plans to run for a Florida House of Representatives seat — against former U.S. Rep. David Rivera.
Bell, who announced her candidacy late Tuesday at a meeting of the Old Cutler Republican Women’s Club, told the Miami Herald on Wednesday that she looked at two open House seats in South Dade before settling on District 118, which includes some neighborhoods she represented in her four-year term on the commission.
“I’m not here to beat up on David Rivera, but I know I served 10 years in office, and I feel like I have a lot to offer,” said Bell, who previously served as Homestead mayor. “I’ve accomplished very, very much.”
Bell, 59, doesn’t live in the district, which extends from West Miami-Dade to Richmond Heights, but said she’d move there by Election Day, as required by law. She thought about running in neighboring District 114 — also not her home district — but said she didn’t want to challenge one of the Republicans already running, John Couriel, whom she called “a really great guy.”
Neither of her choices was ideal: Both districts are heavily Hispanic, especially among likely Republican primary voters. Bell’s long-shot bid might be based on the idea that other Hispanic Republicans could split the vote to her benefit, given her name recognition, but winning probably won’t be easy.
Bell has yet to file candidacy paperwork with the Florida Division of Elections, which in addition to Rivera lists two other Republicans —Anthony Rodriguez and Steven Rojas Tallon — running in the Aug. 30 primary. Candidates have until June to qualify.
District 118 opened after Republican Rep. Frank Artiles chose to run for the Florida Senate, even though he’s not term-limited. Newly redrawn district lines have made some districts more competitive and put all seats up for election this fall, which means plenty of political musical chairs.
These seats only open up once every eight years.
“I was greatly encouraged to run, and thought it was a good opportunity,” Bell said. “These seats only open up once every eight years.”
Bell lost re-election on the county commission to Daniella Levine Cava in a 2014 race that turned ugly and partisan. Bell had risen to the post of commission vice-chairwoman and surprised County Hall observers with some votes that bucked the GOP line. But Bell, a conservative Republican, also angered voters for pushing to loosen environmental regulations and opposing county transgender protections. She also drew scrutiny for lifting a chain-link fence ban seen as benefiting her daughter and son-in-law’s fencing company, and for naming an affordable-housing facility after her mother.
Since leaving County Hall, Bell has been appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the Florida Communities Trust and returned to National Right to Life, which opposes abortion (she’s president of the group’s Florida chapter). Bell and her husband, Mark, who lost a Homestead mayoral bid of his own in 2013, recently sold the old Redland Hotel after renovating it, according to Bell.
“Now we’re free of that,” she said, “so I feel like I’m free to run.”