One of the most important elections in Miami-Dade history is around the corner, and it has nothing to do with the racist president of the United States.
On August 18, voters will elect a new county mayor, new county commissioners for three predominantly African-American districts, and possibly a fresh-faced state attorney to replace the current one, whose time has passed.
Voters began receiving absentee ballots this past week, and early voting is scheduled to start on August 3. This is how I am breaking down the major county races and the Miami Gardens mayor's race.
Miami-Dade County mayor
County Commissioner Xavier Suarez has earned the chance to lead the county. He has been a public servant his entire life, with the added experience of being Miami's mayor during a very turbulent era. He understands the nuances needed to get the job done at the city and county level. Suarez has never stopped helping the people of Liberty City and Overtown, even though neither neighborhood is in his district. He was instrumental in getting the Miami-Dade Children's Trust to provide more funding to inner-city youth programs. Suarez wants to make public transportation free. And he is smart enough to finish expanding Metrorail so we don't have to be stuck in gridlock on the Palmetto Expressway for the rest of our lives.
Former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas certainly has the résumé to be county mayor, but he's been out of public office for nearly 20 years. Suarez's commission colleagues Steve Bovo and Daniella Levine Cava have bright futures, but they don't have experience cutting deals with people they don't agree with and they represent extremes on both sides. Bovo wants to be the pro-Trump mayor. He recently posted a photo of one of his campaign signs surrounded by Goya food products in an attempt to own the libs. Meanwhile, Levine Cava wants to be Miami-Dade's version of Bernie Sanders.
In light of what's going on around the nation to end systemic racism and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, it's obvious Katherine Fernandez Rundle can no longer be state attorney. There have been too many miscarriages of justice on her watch. Choosing not to prosecute the guards who boiled inmate Darren Rainey to death in a jail shower was already unforgivable. But in her 27 years as Miami-Dade County's top law-enforcement official, Rundle hasn't charged any cops responsible for the reckless killings of unarmed men. Her office is still investigating Homestead police officer Anthony Green for shooting Edward Foster in the back five times in 2015. The case has received renewed attention because of the police brutality protests.
Rundle has never prosecuted the cops who killed Raymond Herisse on Ocean Drive in a hail of bullets, the cops who tasered skater Israel "Reefa" Hernandez to death, or a group of Miami-Dade police officers who gunned down their own informants in the Redland. The list goes on. But Rundle was quick to falsely arrest teenager Deandre Charles for killing a local rabbi based on a witness' cartoon sketch that she tried to pass off as a positive ID. This young man spent an entire year in adult jail before Rundle finally dropped the case. His life will never be the same. She has ripped the Black community apart.
Black pastors, community activists, and former and current elected leaders are split down the middle in supporting Rundle and her opponent, Melba Pearson, a former state prosecutor who is running on a reform platform. The only way Rundle wins is if people don't vote for Pearson because she is Black. Then we will know how racist Miami-Dade really is.
District 1 county commissioner
Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert brings experienced leadership that will help his city and its neighbors avoid becoming overrun by crime. Under his leadership, Miami Gardens has followed through on a $60 million bond program to improve local parks and create a state-of-the-art crime-fighting control center for the police department. Gilbert also knows how to work with big organizations like the Miami Dolphins to give back to the community.
His opponent Sybrina Fulton has done remarkable work in memory of her son Trayvon Martin, the Miami Gardens teen murdered by George Zimmerman. So many people love what she stands for. She has received support from Black celebrities and from Hillary Clinton. But it is going to be hard to overcome her inexperience. Veteran county commissioners know how to use their advantage against newcomers and first-time elected officials. She is more popular than Gilbert, but he is savvier in dealing with other politicians.
District 3 county commissioner
Keon Hardemon has accomplished great things for Liberty City, Overtown, and Little Haiti. Some people believe Miami's only Black city commissioner makes controversial decisions. But he's a savvy politician who has extracted money from developers to build affordable housing and create economic development. Despite being the youngest member of the city commission, he has demonstrated leadership as chairman. Because of Hardemon, the city finally funded long-delayed projects at Charles Hadley Park and helped attract celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson to open a restaurant in Overtown.
District 9 county commissioner
The race to replace Dennis Moss is too close to call. Kionne McGhee and Marlon Hill are the leading contenders. McGhee is a polished former state legislator who was the Democratic minority leader. But Hill is ready and has the pulse of the street. He can build a bridge between South Dade and County Hall in downtown Miami.
Miami Gardens mayor
Vice-Mayor Rodney Harris will create continuity. He can build on the excellent job Gilbert has done. He knows the city, and his passion is to do the right thing for his constituents.
All these candidates have put in the work. They are not carpetbaggers. They have been there for their communities and have helped African-Americans move forward.
Follow Luke on Twitter: @Unclelukereal1
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