Norman Braman Backlash Begins With County Unions Protest Today UPDATE

The counterattack against Norman Braman's plan to unseat four Miami-Dade County Commissioners begins this afternoon. A group called South Florida Jobs with Justice, a coalition of labor, community, and faith-based organizations, is going to hold a protest at the auto magnate's luxury car dealership at 2060 Biscayne Boulevard at 4 p.m. The rally's purpose? To warn Braman to stay out of county politics. "His ultimate goal is to have control of the county commission," says Fred Frost, the coalition's director of governmental affairs. "No individual should exercise this much influence over an election."

Update: Norman Braman has issued a statement, claiming the coalition is trying to distract voters from the real issue: Accountability from the county commission. "Attempting to make me the focus of the issues in this election is an attempt to mislead the public," Braman says. 

After leading a successful recall of former Mayor Carlos Alvarez and County Commissioner Natacha Seijas last year, Braman is supporting a quartet of candidates against Bruno Barreiro, Audrey Edmonson, Barbara Jordan, and Dennis Moss in the August primary. Two weeks ago, Braman told CBS4's Jim DeFede that he plans to raise $500,000 to $600,000 for his slate, but that he won't make them beholden to him.

Frost scoffed at Braman's claims that he won't try to control his candidates: former state Rep. Luis Garcia,  Liberty City activist Allison Austin, former Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson,and Miami-Dade Farm Bureau President Alice Pena. "We think Mr. Braman should stay out of politics and let the people decide for themselves," Frost says. "He is going to flood the airwaves with negative ads. Television dictates the way people vote."

Braman has maintained he is just trying to even the playing field since the incumbents raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from lobbyists, developers and contractors that do business with the county.

Ironically, Frost's union, the South Florida AFL-CIO, has poured tens of thousands of dollars to support the previous campaigns of the incumbent commissioners, as well as efforts to fight the strong mayor referendum in 2007 on behalf of the county commission. Frost insists the money the union has given to county commission campaigns pales in comparison to what Braman will raise. Frost adds that the car dealer has no business getting involved in elections for African-American seats.

"He lives in Indian Creek Village for half the year and the other half he lives in France," Frost says. "Regular ordinary people are sick of billionaires putting up millions of dollars into super PACs to support a slate of candidates."

Frost tells us that he expects at least 100 people to show up for the protest.

Update: In his statement, Braman says by supporting alternatives and encouraging people to vote, he is helping Miami-Dade residents have "a real choice which they have not had in the past. He also noted that all the candidates in his slate are minorities. 

"The real question is why would any group oppose a choice?" Braman says. 

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.