Mayor Oliver Gilbert was reelected to his seat in Tuesday’s special election, which was ordered by the state Supreme Court. The do-over came after former Opa-locka Police Chief James Wright sued to try to get back in the race.
“I don’t look at it like I won, I look at it like we had this conversation about what Miami Gardens was, what it is now and what it will be and that conversation will continue,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert’s opponents said they plan to hold the mayor accountable over the next four years and encouraged residents to do the same. Issues like reducing violent crime and gun violence, creating jobs and new development and the progress of the city’s $60 million general obligation bond for park improvements will continue to be focal points for the 13-year-old city.
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“I wished him success in leading the city forward. I wish that that does happen and I think it could happen if the residents knew more than they know and were better informed,” former Councilman Ulysses Harvard said.
The incumbent mayor earned about 66 percent of the vote, while Wright earned about 21 percent. Harvard and political newcomer Clara Johnson received about 8 and 5 percent, respectively.
The catalyst for the Dec. 6 election was Wright’s effort to get back into the mayoral race. He sued the city after he was disqualified for having his qualifying check returned by his bank. His initial lawsuit failed, and he appealed his case. Eventually, the state’s highest court threw out the Aug. 30 election results and ordered the special election.
Wright said he was disappointed but didn’t see Tuesday’s outcome as a total loss as his case changed state law and had almost immediate impact. In Opa-locka, Commissioner John Riley was reinstated in his race after initially being disqualified for bouncing a check.
“We thought it was significant that we put up this fight and I think any other individual would’ve given up and abandoned ship,” Wright said.
He wished Gilbert well and said he hopes residents continue to stay engaged beyond campaign season.
“It’s really a time for the community to come together, there’s no sense in trying to communicate what isn’t being done,” Wright said.
The candidates also hope that engagement extends to polling places in future elections. Only about 8,400 of the city’s 68,000 registered voters participated in the special election.
“People will complain or say they didn’t know what was going on but then you don’t come out and exercise your right to vote,” Harvard said.