After months of speculation and, recently, a spate of pointed criticism directed at incumbent Carlos Gimenez, Raquel Regalado has now confirmed she's running for mayor of Miami-Dade County.
"At some point you just have to decide and say, 'Look, beyond the criticism, what should we be doing differently?'" Regalado tells New Times. The school board member says she represents innovation and a break from the status quo under Gimenez. "This is going to be a very simple decision," she says. "It would be difficult to find two people who disagree so much."
In the coming days, Regalado says, she'll release a series of videos laying out her platform; she says transit and traffic are among her top concerns, as well as the economy, public housing, and education.
"I want this to be an ongoing conversation," she says. "I want to meet with people and talk... about what direction they want the county to take."
Regalado, the daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, is a second-term school board member and popular media personality: She hosts a daily Spanish-language radio show, Las Dos Caras de la Noticia, as well as a weekly TV program, Esta Semana con Raquel. Although she effectively grew up in the Miami-Dade political and media spotlight -- her mother, also named Raquel, was an extremely popular radio personality -- Regalado burnished her own political profile last fall as the leading critic of a proposed controversial $393 million courthouse bond.
She opposed the bond in the name of financial responsibility for taxpayers, but the effort was also a first shot at incumbent county Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who has long said he will seek reelection in 2016.
In early February, in another jab at Gimenez, Regalado teamed up with millionaire auto magnate Norman Braman to sue both the city and the county to block public funding related to the controversial Skyrise Miami development; a few days later she released a straw poll, commissioned by Braman, that showed her trailing the county mayor by only a few points among prospective voters.
"The fact that we're so close is a big deal," she told New Times then.
In the past couple of weeks, Regalado turned up the volume on a prospective run. On February 26, following Gimenez's State of the County address, she issued a video rebuttal: For two minutes, in her trademark rapid diction, she criticized the speech and staked a claim for herself, once again, as a champion of transparency and fiscal responsibility.
"Today Mayor Carlos Gimenez gave the State of the County. The purpose of this speech is to provide some direction for Miami-Dade County residents as to what we can expect for the next budget," she said. "Sadly, there were more questions than answers."
But the "last straw," Regalado tells New Times, was Gimenez's support of the proposed new megamall project from the firm that runs Mall of America in Minneapolis. Regalado says she believes the mall represents an outdated economic model, based on low-paying jobs and tourism, and undercuts the kind of vision she says she supports -- of Miami-Dade County as an emerging center of innovation and technology.
"Are we going to continue the same thing and turn [the county] into a tourist trap?" she says. "I have two kids... If the future is going to be a tourist trap, they are going to have to move somewhere else."
Regalado is 40 and a single mother of a 9-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl. Her daughter Isabella has autism, and on the school board Regalado has often advocated for special-needs programs. If elected, she would be the first female mayor of Miami-Dade County.
"I'm not a traditional candidate," Regalado says. "Unlike the last two strong mayors, I'm not a lifelong county employee. I don't belong to the county ranks. It's a different backbone. It's still a political backbone, but it's a different one."
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