Council splits their endorsements in county mayoral race

Government By David Snelling, Reporter Thursday, March 5, 2020

The Miami Lakes town council is split in their support for two of the eight candidates who hope to become Miami-Dade County’s next mayor.
Councilmembers Jeffrey Rodriguez, Josh Dieguez and Marilyn Ruano have joined other elected officials from around the county in endorsing former county mayor and Miami Lakes resident Alex Penelas as he tries to win back his old job.
Mayor Manny Cid, Vice Mayor Nelson Rodriguez and Councilman Carlos Alvarez are supporting incumbent County Commissioner Esteban Bovo Jr. for mayor.
Councilman Luis Collazo said he’s undecided about which of the two candidates to support and said he had plans to meet with Penelas.
Current Mayor Carlos Gimenez is term-limited out of the county leadership job and is running for U.S. Congress.
Collazo said he hasn’t contributed to any candidates.
“Having a Miami-Dade County mayor that understands the unique needs of our community is extremely important to me,” Collazo said.
“I have known Commisioner Steve Bovo personally and professionally, prior to my tenure in public office.”
Collazo said he was scheduled to meet with Penelas the week of March 6 to hear the candidate’s positions.
Bovo’s District 13 includes Miami Lakes, Palm Springs North and Hialeah.
Ruano is supporting Penelas because he’s a town resident who she said is in touch with the needs of residents.
“I trust that he will do right by our community,” said Ruano.
She also said she has contributed to Penelas’ campaign.
Jeffrey Rodriguez and Dieguez didn’t respond to requests for comments about their choices in the race.
Jeffrey Rodriguez contributed $1,000 to Penelas’ campaign, according to Miami-Dade County Elections.
The law firm Gastesi & Associates, P.A., the office of Miami Lakes town attorney Raul Gastesi, also gave $1,000 to Penelas’ campaign, records show.
On Twitter, Penelas thanked politicians including Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan; the Medley town council; Philip Levine, former mayor of Miami Beach; North Miami Beach Mayor Anthony DeFillipo and Miami Shores Mayor Crystal Wagar, among others, for their endorsements.
Penelas said he worked with Jordan when she was an assistant county manager while he was mayor, from 1996-2004.
Cid, Rodriguez and Alvarez have supported Bovo with endorsements or cash or both.
Cid said Bovo helped get funds for the Freebie electric ride service that residents of all ages use in town.
“Bovo has been responsive to Miami Lakes,” Cid said. “I’m friends with Penelas. But on policy-making issues, I go with Bovo because he has delivered for the town.”
Nelson Rodriguez, who’s term-limited this year and is running for state representative, said the county needs leadership for the challenges it faces.
“Steve is all about making county hall more accountable and accessible to the taxpayer,” Nelson Rodriguez said. “He is laser focused on where we need to go.”
Alvarez called Bovo the “best candidate” for mayor.
“I am supporting Esteban Bovo for county mayor and I have made a contribution to his campaign,” Alvarez said.
According to Bovo,
County Commissioners Rebeca Sosa, Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Javier Soto are among elected officials who are supporting him in the race.
On Twitter, Bovo also listed Hialeah Gardens Mayor Yioset De La Cruz and Miami Commissioner Manolo Reyes as backers.
Besides Bovo and Penelas, the crowded field of candidates includes current Miami-Dade County
Commissioners Daniella Levine Cava, Xavier Suarez and Jean Monestime; Robert Ingram Burke, who previously ran for mayor of Miami; businesswoman Monique Nicole Barley and real estate broker Ludmilla Domond.
Penelas led in fundraising as of March 2, with $3.1 million, according to the county elections department.
Levine Cava raised $2.1 million; Bovo had $1.36 million and Suarez reported $1.4 million for his campaign.
Monestime had raised $37,810; Barley, who said she’s running a grassroots campaign, raised $1,077, and Domond reported $900 for her campaign.
Burke reported zero campaign contributions.

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