Black or Blue

In choosing Rev. Richard Dunn to fill in for Miller Dawkins, commissioners saved Miami's citywide election soul -- for now

Through the years, Miller Dawkins has been the most skilled exploiter of Miami's citywide electoral process; the fifteen-year veteran commissioner has relied upon Hispanics and Anglos to propel him to re-election. In 1993, when Dawkins found himself in a tight race against Hispanic radio commentator Margarita Ruiz, his colleagues' assistance guaranteed his triumph. Then-Commissioner Victor De Yurre says he suppressed his antipathy for the mercurial, arrogant Dawkins specifically to protect citywide voting.

The propping-up of Dawkins and the appointment of Dunn aside, Hamersmith believes it's only matter of time until someone forces the single-district route in Miami. "What if the City of Miami doesn't go to district elections?" Hamersmith asks. "Then you are probably looking at a real-world scenario of a city with five seats held all by Hispanics. No Anglo representation nor African-American representation. In the real world, the tendency for power may ultimately be a move for total control. Hispanics clearly have the numbers to do this. Single-member districts are almost mandatory in the city of Miami."

In the meantime, Dawkins might still return to the commission. The seat now occupied by Dunn would revert back to its former occupant if he is acquitted. Dunn, of course, might not be the one who gets bumped: He faces a November 5 election to retain his post. Although no black candidate is likely to register as an opponent, several prominent Hispanics probably will.

Carollo and Regalado have already come out in support of Dunn and are helping to raise money for his campaign. It remains to be seen who Gort and Plummer will back. Their choice is tantalizingly simple: Support Dunn and keep the black seat, or reach out to a Hispanic ally and risk a lawsuit calling for single-member district elections.

The two can count on plenty of advice as the election approaches. Only two hours after Dunn was sworn in, Cuban newspaper publisher and recent commission candidate Eladio Jose Armesto stopped by Gort's office for a private discussion.

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