Miami-Dade County

Miami still waits for clarity after commission candidate’s concession

Ken Russell
Ken Russell Courtesy

Absentee ballots will be mailed out Saturday for voters planning to participate in Miami’s District 2 runoff — an election in which one of the two candidates has already conceded.

Teresa Sarnoff, the wife of outgoing District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, suspended her campaign Thursday, acknowledging that opponent Ken Russell is too far ahead to even try to catch without unleashing a barrage of unsavory attacks. Sarnoff says she will withdraw from the race, but only if she’s confident the city would respond by canceling the Nov. 17 election and declaring Russell the commissioner-elect.

That, however, remained a question late Friday, even after the results from Tuesday’s election were certified. Sarnoff had not withdrawn and Miami’s city attorney had not issued a clarifying legal opinion. And so the city is, for now, preparing to host a runoff election.

“Right now we have an election. We have two candidates in a race,” City Attorney Victoria Méndez said Friday.

Unsure of how the city will proceed, Russell, who has called on Sarnoff to withdraw, said he’s still campaigning. Adding to the uncertainty around the election, Sarnoff commercials aired Wednesday and some voters received Sarnoff mailers Friday urging them to vote for her Nov. 17. The commercials were proactively booked and she said the fliers were in the mail Tuesday afternoon, when her campaign was confident she would make a runoff — against third-place finisher Grace Solares.

“We’re not resting on laurels, not taking our foot off the gas pedal,” Russell said. “We’re canvassing. We’re phone-banking. We’re reaching out to absentee voters who should be receiving their ballots tomorrow. What happens between now and then is going to be very fluid.”

There is some pressure on Méndez to issue an opinion. Mayor Tomás Regalado said he’d like to honor the city’s laws, but would also like to avoid the $100,000 cost of an election in which one candidate has already conceded and supported the other.

“The people deserve to understand what’s going on,” he said. “When you have a candidate that says she’s supporting the other candidate she’s running against, that’s very confusing.”

In the meantime, Sarnoff says Miami needs to change its charter to end runoff elections and allow a candidate to be elected with a plurality of the vote. She has called on Russell to support such a change.