Miami-Dade County

Candidates vying for Suarez’s Flagami District 4 seat left out in the cold

When Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez withdrew from the mayor’s race Monday night, the ripple effect left five civic-minded souls who had spent months raising campaign cash out in the cold.

The field of candidates competing for a much-coveted city commission seat now has no seat to fight for.

“I feel a little jilted. We worked hard,” said Ralph Rosado, executive director for a countywide non-profit who said his campaign knocked on 15,000 doors. “I’m certainly disappointed, but we knew from Day One that this was a possibility.”

Because Suarez quit the race before resigning from his commission seat he can retain the Flagami District 4 post for the remainder of his four-year term, which ends in 2015. Suarez’s decision essentially hands another four-year mayoral term to incumbent Tomás Regalado, who now faces two relative unknowns in the Nov. 5 election.

The Suarez campaign, which had little difficulty collecting about $1.4 million, had been beset with problems since Miami-Dade police investigators raided the homes of two of the commissioner’s aides in June, seizing their computers. Last week the duo chose not to contest misdemeanor charges for unlawfully submitting 20 absentee ballot requests online, and agreed to one year of probation.

A week before that, Suarez was blasted for waiting too long to fire an administrative assistant who went rogue on her Twitter account, belittling constituents who had asked her questions.

Monday night in front of his home, Suarez said the miscues and intense scrutiny had become too stressful for his wife Gloria, who is expecting the couple’s first child. Suarez said they’d been trying to have a baby for four years.

That jarringly ended the campaign of five candidates vying for Suarez’s seat, some of whom had opened accounts and been walking door-to-door since January. In total they had raised $244,255 as of June 30, city records show. Leading the way were Rosado, who had tallied $161,089, and attorney Miguel Inda-Romero, who had collected $59,645.

Other candidates vying for the seat: Westland High School teacher Manolo Reyes, consultant Denis Rod, and Andres “Andy” Vallina.

Inda-Romero, who said he personally knocked on over 9,000 doors, saw the turn of events in a slightly harsher light than Rosado. Though he said he had no hard feelings toward Suarez, he called the rules set by the city’s charter “unfair,” and said they should be changed. He also said many residents who were supporting him, some with signs in their yards, “don’t understand what just occurred.”

“This caught me off guard, but I took the risk. From the beginning I was advised this could happen,” said Inda-Romero. “It’s similar to a boxer training for a fight and a few weeks before they cancel it. This might feel worse than losing.”

Rod, who ran unsuccessfully for the same seat against Suarez in 2009 and has raised $11,125 said he had no ill will towards the commissioner.

“It wasn’t shocking. I was expecting him to withdraw from the race,” said Rod. “The problem for me is the burden of having knocked on doors, having walked in the hot weather, and having people put signs on their lawns. But still, I believe he had no choice.”

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