Political newcomer Alex Lama won the runoff election to represent the central section of Sunny Isles Beach on the City Commission.
Lama, 47, a Republican who works in advertising and has lived in the city since 1988, finished with about 61 percent of the vote, defeating 39-year-old lease broker and self-described libertarian David Grossman. Turnout for the election was low: Just 1,800 voters cast ballots in a city of 22,000 people where approximately 10,000 people are registered to vote. More than 4,800 people voted in the commission race on Nov. 6.
During the campaign, Lama vowed to address pedestrian safety and traffic issues and to advocate for “reasonable” development. Pedestrian safety became a key issue in Sunny Isles Beach this summer after a car veered onto the sidewalk along Collins Avenue and crashed into a bus stop where a family was waiting, killing a 34-year-old father of two and injuring his wife and daughters.
Although Lama has never held political office, he has served on the city’s resident advisory committee since April and volunteers with the Parent Teacher Student Association at Sunny Isles Beach K-8 Center. He was elected to Seat 2 on the nonpartisan five-member commission, a seat that represents a swath of the city between 172nd and 178th streets.
Lama was the favored candidate among developers, who play a significant role in the economy of Sunny Isles Beach, a 1.5-mile strip of land on the coast of northern Miami-Dade County that is known for its high-priced real estate. The candidate raised more than $68,000, much of which came from real estate developers. Grossman, also a political newcomer, raised roughly $6,400, of which he loaned himself $1,300.
Grossman has previously run into trouble with Florida regulators and owes the state a $32,000 fine, a record that became an issue during the campaign when prominent residents, including the mayor’s wife, sent letters to voters detailing Grossman’s legal troubles.
In 2015, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation found that Grossman had tricked investors into believing they could buy stock in the popular video game company Virgin Gaming, records show. Grossman reached a Consent Agreement with regulators, which did not require him to admit or deny their findings, but stipulated that he had to pay a $32,000 fine within 90 days. Grossman has yet to pay the fine, according to a spokeswoman for the Office of Financial Regulation.
Three candidates ran for Seat 2 in the Nov. 6 elections, but none of them secured more than 50 percent of the vote, triggering a runoff election.
Miami Herald staff writer Nicholas Nehamas contributed to this report