Vote Miami: On Election Day, commission candidates vie to represent Grove, Allapattah

Early voting has begun in Miami city elections. Voters in Coconut Grove, downtown, Allapattah and Grapeland Heights will elect commissioners to represent Districts 1 and 2 on the five-person City Commission.
Early voting has begun in Miami city elections. Voters in Coconut Grove, downtown, Allapattah and Grapeland Heights will elect commissioners to represent Districts 1 and 2 on the five-person City Commission. News & Observer file photo

Tuesday is Election Day in Miami, when voters will choose two commissioners to represent neighborhoods in Coconut Grove, Brickell, Allapattah and Grapeland Heights.

In Miami, a five-person elected City Commission creates city laws, decides how to spend taxpayers dollars, sets parking rates, and determines the future of publicly owned land — from where to build a stadium to if a major music festival should be allowed to operate in a park. Typically, major decisions require three votes to pass. City elections are consequential — voters in District 1 and District 2 will elect their representatives to vote on these important items.

Multiple candidates are vying for both seats. If a candidate wins 50%+1 vote, they win the election outright. If not, the two candidates with the most votes will go to a runoff election Nov. 19.

Precincts are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Unlike during early voting, a registered voter must go to their assigned voting location, which is determined by their home address. You can visit Miami-Dade County’s elections department website to find your voting precinct.

In the city of Miami, more than 6,800 vote-by-mail ballots have been returned from voters in the city of Miami by the end of the day Monday, according the Miami-Dade County elections department.

By district:

District 1: 3,687 mail ballots returned

District 2: 3,132 mail ballots returned

Miami-Dade elections sent out 16,049 vote-by-mail ballots to registered voters in Miami. Only about 42% of those who asked for mail ballots have returned them. A total of 1,774 people voted early.

Three other cities are holding municipal elections Tuesday: Hialeah, Miami Beach and Homestead. The Miami Herald has joined local social impact organization Radical Partners on an initiative to encourage more participation in local elections. Voters in each of these cities can learn more about their local candidates and ballot questions on votemiami.org.

District 1

District 1 in Miami includes neighborhoods stretching from the Health District around Jackson Memorial Hospital to the north slice of Flagami near Blue Lagoon, with Allapattah and Grapeland Heights in between. It is among the most diverse working-class areas in the city of Miami that is vulnerable to upcoming redevelopment and gentrification. Several candidates cite protecting the area’s neighborhoods and residents from the impact of overdevelopment, reducing crime, and improving transit among their priorities.

The current district commissioner, Wifredo “Willy” Gort, is term-limited. Seven candidates are vying for the seat. Read profiles of them below.

Miguel Angel Gabela

Alex Diaz de la Portilla

Eleazar Meléndez

Verania “Betty” Hermida

Horacio Stuart Aguirre

Yanny Hidalgo

Francisco “Frank” Pichel


Vote Miami

To foster more robust civic engagement and greater participation in local elections, the Miami Herald is working with Radical Partners, a Miami-based social entrepreneurship organization, in a partnership called Vote Miami.

Local government and public affairs reporting makes a difference. Your support makes it possible. Click here to subscribe today, or consider donating to the Miami Herald Investigative Journalism Fund.

District 2

In District 2, incumbent Commissioner Ken Russell faces three challengers: real estate broker Jim Fried, businesswoman Rosy Palomino and real estate agent Javier Gonzalez.

Candidates for City of Miami’s District 2 election, incumbent commissioner Ken Russell, left, and challenger Jim Fried, participates in a forum hosted by Downtown Democrats at restaurant Zest Miami on Wednesday, October 2, 2019. SAM NAVARRO Special for the Miami Herald

Javier Gonzalez participates in the District 2 debate at the Frankie Shannon Rolle Community Resource Center at Coconut Grove Village West on Monday, Oct. 6, 2019. Carl Juste cjuste@miamiherald.com

Rosy Palomino headsho_fitted.jpeg

From potholes to climate change to overdevelopment, a range of issues have driven the debate in District 2. The district stretches from Coconut Grove up to Morningside, hugging Biscayne Bay and encompassing some of the city’s densest, tallest buildings as well as some of its leafiest single-family home neighborhoods.

Russell is running for his second term in office. He’s raised just over $1 million total for his re-election campaign — an amount of money he once called “obscene” when he first ran for office in 2015 against a well-funded opponent. He’s also steered $150,000 of his campaign funds to a candidate in the District 1 election in hopes of electing an ally on the City Commission.

Joey Flechas covers government and public affairs in the city of Miami for the Herald, from votes at City Hall to neighborhood news. He won a Sunshine State award for revealing a Miami Beach political candidate’s ties to an illegal campaign donation. He graduated from the University of Florida.