Miami-Dade County

Voters get final say Tuesday for commission seats in Miami, Miami Beach

Voters who failed to give majority support to a candidate in three commission races in Miami Beach and one in Miami on Nov. 5 will select winners in Tuesday’s runoff election.

The top two candidates in each of those contests advanced to the runoff. Polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for voters to choose commissioners for groups 1, 2 and 3 in Miami Beach and for district 5 in Miami.

For the Group 1 seat on Miami Beach, realtor Micky Steinberg, wife of former state Rep. Richard Steinberg, led a crowded field that also included retiree Elsa Urquiza, who finished second. Steinberg campaigned on ridding the city of corruption, fixing flooding problems and strengthening the city’s schools. Urquiza, who manages real estate that she owns, says she will try to scale back renovation plans for the convention center.

In Group 2, Commissioner Jorge Exposito has his hands full against challenger Michael Grieco. Exposito, elected in 2009, said he will continue to pare down pension costs that have hamstrung government, while Grieco, a criminal defense attorney, says he wants to stick to the basics: cleaning up parks and filling potholes.

The city’s Group 3 seat is between Mayor Matti Herrera Bower and retired community banker Joy Malakoff. Many expected Bower, who wants a new convention center in town, to win the post outright two weeks ago, but Malakoff made a strong second-place showing. Malakoff went the runoff with about 40 percent of the total vote, just behind Bower’s 44.

In Miami, voters will replace term-limited Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones for the city’s district 5 seat, which runs from Overtown to Liberty City, and east to Shorecrest and Belle Meade.

The Rev. Richard P. Dunn II, a big early favorite, was side-swiped on Nov. 5 by Miami-Dade Assistant Public Defender Keon Hardemon, who doubled Dunn’s vote total. Dunn, the senior pastor at Faith Community Baptist Church, is widely recognized in Miami because he has sat in the District 5 seat on three occasions since the mid-1990s: twice being chosen to fill it while commissioners were suspended, and another time after winning a special election to retain the seat.

Hardemon’s only political experience was running a losing campaign for a county commission seat last year to Miami-Dade Commissioner Audrey Edmonson. Dunn, who has struggled with late finance reports and unexplained expenses, has campaigned on his experience and how he would tackle the district’s crime and public housing issues. Hardemon often discusses his local ties — his mother is a Miami police officer, and the candidate graduated with a law degree from the University of Miami — and how he will try to develop and attract business to the inner city.