Commissioner Jean Monestime May Enter Mayoral Race at Democrats' Urging

Miami-Dade Commissioner Jean Monestime
Miami-Dade Commissioner Jean Monestime
Courtesy of Miami-Dade County

Let's say you're the Florida Democratic Party and you notice that although your state's most populous county has a strong Democratic voter advantage, its highest office, the county mayoral seat, has been held by a Republican for more than ten years. What would you do? You'd probably try to get a Democrat to run for mayor.

Apparently, that's why state Democratic honchos are urging Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Jean Monestime to enter the mayoral race, according to the Miami Herald

Miami-Dade municipal politics are officially nonpartisan. There's no party primary system in place, candidates run without (the official) support of a party, and their personal party affiliation isn't listed on the ballot. In recent years, that's led to Republicans running against other Republicans for the seat. 

The position is currently held by Carlos Gimenez. Though he publicly flirted with changing his party affiliation to independent earlier this year, Gimenez remains a Republican. He took office after another Republican, Carlos Alvarez, was recalled. In the race to finish Alvarez's term, Gimenez defeated Julio Robaina, another Republican. In his bid for reelection to his first full term in 2012, his main competition was Joe Martinez, yet another Republican. 

His biggest announced competition for reelection next year so far is Raquel Regalado, who, you guessed it, is a Republican. Her biggest financial backer is local billionaire Norman Braman, who is also the biggest backer of Marco Rubio's presidential campaign. 

It's no secret that the Florida Democratic Party continues to struggle, but back in November, Chairwoman Allison Taint unveiled an ambitious new effort dubbed "Municipal Victory." The plan is to recruit and back Democrats to run for positions on the local level in races ranging from city commission to county mayor. The intended results would be twofold: The party would identify and groom talent who could someday run for higher offices on the state and federal levels while also hoping to counterbalance the Republican state government by pursuing Democratic policy more strongly on the local level. 

So it's really no surprise Democrats see the Miami-Dade Mayoral Office as an opportunity. 

Registered Democratic voters in the county outnumber Republicans by almost 175,000, and independent voters too now outnumber Republicans. 

Monestime has served as chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission for a little more than a year and is the first Haitian-American politician to hold the position. He came to power in 2010 after defeating incumbent Commissioner Dorrin Rolle in an upset victory. Monestime had previously served as a commissioner in North Miami and lost election for that city's mayoral seat twice. 

According to the Herald, Monestime is seriously considering the opportunity, though he wouldn't comment. Under Florida's "resign to run law," he'd have to forgo reelection to his commission seat. 

Monestime has mostly pursued an agenda favorable to the county's low-income residents and has maintained a progressive voting record. 

Of course, this being Miami, race and ethnicity would come into play. The other uniting factor among all of those Republicans mentioned above who have either held or run for the office: They're Cuban. Conventional wisdom has it that only a Cuban-American can prove successful in the county mayoral race (the last Democrat to hold the position, Alex Penelas, was also Cuban-American), but, hey, conventional wisdom rarely brings about real progress. 

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