Miami-Dade County

Joe Martinez easily reclaims County Commission seat

Joe Martinez was chairman of the Miami-Dade commission when this file photo was taken in 2012. He won back his old District 11 commission seat in 2016.
Joe Martinez was chairman of the Miami-Dade commission when this file photo was taken in 2012. He won back his old District 11 commission seat in 2016. El Nuevo Herald

Joe Martinez, once chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission, easily reclaimed his District 11 seat in a contest that was supposed to be a bitter one before incumbent Juan C. Zapata dropped out of the race six weeks ago.

Martinez opened up a 39-point lead against lone opponent Felix Lorenzo with about 90 percent of the county precincts reporting Tuesday. Two incumbents also were cruising to reelection in easy contests: District 9’s Dennis Moss led food-service executive Earl Beaver by 48 points, and District 7’s Xavier Suarez led law-firm clerk Michael Castro by 44 points.

Seven of the 13 county commissioners faced reelection this year, but only two wound up contesting their races against challengers. District 5’s Bruno Barreiro, District 13’s Esteban “Steve” Bovo and District 1’s Barbara Jordan drew no opponents, and so were automatically reelected when the June 21 filing deadline passed. Audrey Edmonson was challenged by former El Portal mayor Daisy Black, but Black’s June 29 death switched the District 3 race to uncontested.

Martinez, 58 and a former county police officer, will have more time on the County Commission than five of his colleagues on the 13-member board, having served from 2000 to 2012. He gave up his seat representing the Kendall area to challenge Mayor Carlos Gimenez and lost, and Zapata won the open contest for District 11.

After four years in office, Zapata stunned Miami-Dade political circles when he dropped out of the District 11 race with a July 15 letter to the Election Department. Zapata’s withdrawal came too late to remove his name from the ballot, and election staff posted a notice at polling places that stated: “A vote cast for Juan C. Zapata will not count.”

Both Martinez and Lorenzo, a retired pharmaceutical sales executive, oppose two Zapata initiatives: asking voters to incorporate two cities within the district, which relies on Miami-Dade for municipal services; and rebranding parts of West Kendall as the “West End.”

Of the seven commissioners beginning new terms in November, only Martinez can seek another four-year term in 2020. A term-limit rule approved by county voters in 2012 restricts incumbents to a pair of consecutive terms. It kicked in during the 2012 elections, meaning the incumbents facing reelection this year are finishing up their first terms under the new rules. They’ll be termed-out in 2020, while the remaining six incumbents would be termed-out in 2022. Martinez’s two-term limit would prevent him from running again in 2024.

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