Politics

Two Miami-Dade commissioners reelected after no challengers qualify against them

Two Miami-Dade commissioners were automatically reelected on Tuesday, and the candidate rosters were set for county mayor, commissioner and property appraiser as qualifying ended for the August elections.

The most prominent race will pit Mayor Carlos Gimenez against Commission Chairman Joe Martinez and five lesser-known candidates: Edna Diaz, Gary Johnson, Farid Khavari, Helen Williams and Denny Wood.

In another countywide race, Property Appraiser Pedro Garcia will face state Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

But no contests drew more interest than the ones for county commission, according to the unofficial candidate list on the elections department’s website.

Commissioners Esteban Bovo and Xavier Suarez, elected to short terms in a special election last year, will serve four more years after no challengers submitted paperwork to run against them.

Four other incumbents, Commissioners Bruno Barreiro, Audrey Edmonson, Barbara Jordan and Dennis Moss, each drew at least two opponents.

The challengers are Calixto Garcia, state Rep. Luis Garcia and Carlos Munoz Fontanills against Barreiro; Alison Austin, Keon Hardemon, Michael Jackson Joseph, Eddie Lewis and Nadia Pierre against Edmonson; Shirley Gibson and Wade Jones against Jordan; and Darrin McGillis, Alice Pena and Loretta Riley against Moss.

Miami auto magnate Norman Braman, who backed last year’s recall of Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas, intends to back Luis Garcia, Austin, Gibson and Pena.

On Tuesday afternoon, the workers’ rights group South Florida Jobs With Justice staged a demonstration in front of Braman’s downtown Miami car dealerships to protest his involvement in the races. The group says Braman, who has set up two political committees to donate to candidates’ campaigns, is undermining minority voters’ rights.

Braman issued a statement saying he is backing four minority candidates so that voters have a choice. “This election is not about me,” he said. “Attempting to make me the focus of the issues in this election is an attempt to mislead the public.”

The two reelected commissioners, Bovo and Suarez, received a round of applause from their colleagues at Tuesday’s commission meeting. Former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferré called Suarez on Monday to say he was mulling over a run. But by Tuesday, Ferré announced on Spanish-language radio that he had decided against the idea.

The open commission seat to replace mayoral hopeful Martinez drew three candidates — Manny Machado, Javier Muñoz and former state Rep. Juan Carlos Zapata — as well as some controversy.

Machado had a run-in Tuesday with Zapata campaign consultant Steven Ferreiro. The incident was over a stack of Martinez-for-mayor signs on a trailer in front of Machado’s house. Ferreiro, who lives nearby, took photos, suspecting the signs had been improperly removed from elsewhere.

Machado, a Miami-Dade police detective on leave while he runs for office, then claimed harassment. He flagged police, who questioned Ferreiro. No charges were filed. Machado’s campaign manager, Sasha Tirador — who is also Martinez’s campaign manager — said Machado had the Martinez signs because he supports him for mayor. Martinez, who has long backed Zapata, said Machado is not distributing signs for him.

Ferreiro said he filed a separate police complaint over Zapata signs that disappeared from Bird Road and Coral Way.

Also qualifying on Tuesday were candidates for community councils, which serve unincorporated swaths of the county.

The qualifying deadline for other county offices is noon Friday. The election will take place Aug. 14, with runoffs on Nov. 6, if necessary.

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