Russell Calls for Sarnoff to Withdraw Officially as Confusing Runoff Looms

Ken Russell says the runoff is still on despite Teresa Sarnoff's dramatic exit from the race yesterday.
Ken Russell says the runoff is still on despite Teresa Sarnoff's dramatic exit from the race yesterday.
photos via Ken Russell and Teresa Sarnoff's Facebook campaigns

Yesterday Teresa Sarnoff ended a runoff with city commission opponent Ken Russell in the most dramatic way possible, by abruptly dropping a letter withdrawing from the race and blasting the dirty politics she says have dominated local elections. But is the race actually over?

Russell certainly doesn't think so. His campaign is still in full swing, and he's urging his supporters to plan on voting until he hears that Sarnoff has officially bowed out.

"We believe the next official step should be her official withdrawal from the race," Russell tells New Times. "But until we hear that official statement from the city that the runoff is canceled, our foot is on the gas pedal and we're encouraging our supporters to continue with the campaign."  

So why hasn't Sarnoff officially dropped off the ballot and saved the city the thousands of dollars that a runoff election would cost? It's because of the third-place finisher in the nine-way race for the District 2 seat that's being vacated by Teresa's term-limited husband, Marc.

That would be Grace Solares, an activist who has repeatedly sued the city on issues such as the Marlins Park fiasco. In her letter dropping out of the race, Sarnoff raised the specter of a new Solares lawsuit while throwing significant shade at the candidate.

"I do not want to put the taxpayers at risk of a lawsuit by the second runnerup, who has already cost the taxpayers more than $12 million," Sarnoff writes. 

But Solares has pledged on the record not to file such a lawsuit while blasting back at Sarnoff for her claims that her suits have cost the city millions by noting that her cases were all handled by in-house city attorneys. 

It's not clear if Sarnoff would consider officially withdrawing with Solares' pledge not to interfere in the race. New Times left a message with her office this morning, but we haven't heard back yet. 

Either way, it's not really clear if there's even a mechanism for the city to halt a runoff and hand the commissioner's seat to Russell. The law as written states that a commissioner must win at least 50 percent backing from voters. Without a clear legal ruling on the issue, Russell says he'd prefer to simply win at the runoff polls. 

"At this point, we just want to make sure the process is followed correctly," he says. "If those laws are unclear and we're on new ground here, we need to wait for the city to give us a clear ruling that there's a way to stop the runoff. Until I hear that, it's still on." 


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