Opponents of Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade's longtime state attorney, have argued that 27 years is simply too long for anyone to be in power, especially a prosecutor with a glaring blind spot when it comes to police accountability.
The Miami-Dade Democratic Party has twice urged her to resign from office. Critics and social-justice groups spent the past several months drawing attention to her record of failing to charge law-enforcement officers for on-duty killings. And protesters took their cries for accountability all the way to Rundle's doorstep.
Despite the searing attacks on her record, Rundle secured another four-year term as Miami-Dade's top cop with 61 percent of the vote in yesterday's primary election. While many expected that Rundle would win re-election, her victory represented a major disappointment for pretty much anyone hoping for a sea change at the State Attorney's Office.
Miami-based documentary filmmaker Billy Corben, one of Rundle's most outspoken critics, says we did this to ourselves:
Katherine Fernandez Rundle's record is 27 years of injustice. Shame on us. We get the government we deserve. https://t.co/U2RPY5IdKK— Billy Corben (@BillyCorben) August 19, 2020
Danny Suarez, a former member of Miami's Civilian Investigative Panel, which investigates misconduct complaints against officers, said voters chose an "unethical" candidate:
The voters have spoken and they want the unethical @KathyFndzRundle for another 4 years, maybe the @HeraldOpEd’s “hope” after 27 years (not a typo) convinced people?— Danny Suarez (@SuarezMiami) August 19, 2020
But do people really want to elect the authoritian @CommBovo? Oh man???????????.
I will vote for @votedaniella.
Rundle's challenger, Melba Pearson, a former prosecutor in Rundle's office and past deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, conceded the race yesterday evening. In a social-media post, Pearson said that while she wished the results had turned out differently, she was proud of her campaign:
A picture from when it all began this year...While it’s not the result I wanted, I am so immensely proud of what we have built.— Melba Pearson (@ResLegalDiva) August 19, 2020
Voices that were ignored or otherwise unheard were lifted up.
People who have never voted before engaged because they supported our #cjreform message pic.twitter.com/UqyqRCqVFB
In a Facebook post this morning, Pearson said that "voices that were ignored or otherwise unheard were lifted up" this election cycle.
"People who have never voted before engaged because they supported our message of change and accountability," she wrote.
But Pearson's supporters called the loss "devastating":
This loss is devastating. How can a politician with countless proven scandals and corruption get reelected?— Elisa Rodríguez-Vila (@elisafayemakes) August 19, 2020
This fight isn't over. Next time, we will win.
Thank you @MelbaForMiami for running and putting up a great fight. https://t.co/c1OvzcKkTv
Our Revolution 305, the local branch of a national nonprofit that supports progressive candidates, tweeted about Pearson's loss within the context of one of the biggest stains on Rundle's career: the state corrections officers who were cleared in the gruesome death of Darren Rainey:
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The losses by Melba Pearson and Joe Kimok for Miami-Dade and Broward State Attorney sting. We had a chance to bring real structural reform to our criminal justice system. We wanted justice for Darren Rainey, whom Kathy Fernandez-Rundle failed. https://t.co/112bSoFmRO— OurRev305 (@OurRev305) August 19, 2020
During her victory speech last night, Rundle promised to "recommit" to fighting public corruption, saying, "If we cannot count on those that represent and serve us to do so honorably and ethically, then we weaken our precious democracy."
She said her first order of business will be to create a task force made up of academics, activists, faith-based leaders, law enforcement, sociologists, and others to examine inequities in Miami-Dade's criminal-justice system. She said she has heard the voices of those who supported her opponent and that she'll make sure the criminal-justice system in Miami-Dade works for everyone.
Critics aren't convinced. In the words of Corben: "The person who broke it says she's going to fix it."