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Five municipal elections across Miami-Dade. Who won? Who's headed to run-off?

Voters in Miami Beach lined up to cast their ballots on Election Day Nov. 7, 2023.
Verónica Zaragovia
/
WLRN
Voters in Miami Beach lined up to cast their ballots on Election Day Nov. 7, 2023.

Voters in Hialeah, Homestead, Miami and Miami Beach went to the polls Tuesday to cast their ballots for a slate of municipal candidates. In Surfside, voters had to decide on five charter amendments.

Results across Miami-Dade County showed that turnout was light given the off-year election.

Among some key results:

  • Alex Diaz de la Portilla, who is facing charges of money laundering and official misconduct, will head to a run-off against Miguel Angel Gabela for the Miami District 1 seat.
  • In Hialeah, Angelica Pacheco beat incumbent Vivian Casáls-Muñoz for a city council seat.
  • Commissioner Steven Meiner and Michael Gongora are headed for a run-off election later this month in the closely-watched mayoral contest in Miami Beach.

Just over 14% of registered voters cast a ballot in the Miami-Dade municipal elections, while turnout was just under 9% for the Homestead general and special elections.

Here’s a city-by-city breakdown of the results.  

Hialeah

In the Hialeah Group 1 contest, incumbent councilwoman Monica Perez, who is council president, easily defeated her challenger, Elias D. Montes de Oca.

In the Hialeah Group 2 contest, Angelica Pacheco upended incumbent Vivian Casáls-Muñoz. Pacheco won by nearly five percentage points. Less than 8,400 votes were cast in the race.

Read more here about the Hialeah race from WLRN news partner El Nuevo Herald.

Homestead

In Homestead, where turnout was 8.9%, voters had to decide on four city council seats.

Results show only 3,173 ballots were cast in early voting and Election Day voting. That represented just under 9% of the city's 35,610 registered voters.

The Seat 1 special election to represent the city’s northwest was won by was Thomas B. Davis. He finished six percentage points ahead of second place James Wyatt and Amy Spadaro.

The special election was held to fill the seat of Vice Mayor Julio Guzman, who ran for mayor last month and lost to incumbent Steve Losner.

In the race for Seat 2, representing Keys Gate, incumbent city councilman Sean L. Fletcher won with 63% of the vote.

Incumbent city councilman Larry Roth won Seat 3 over his sole opponent, William R. Rea.

In the Seat 6 race to represent the Oasis area, Clemente Canabal edged out Toshiba Mitchell by three percentage points. There was no incumbent.

Read more hereabout the Homestead election from WLRN news partners at the Miami Herald.

Miami

Three incumbent city commissioners faced challengers on Tuesday, including Miami’s District 1 seat left vacant by the suspension of Alex Diaz de la Portilla. In September, he was arrested and charged with money laundering and official misconduct. He has rejected the allegations and pleaded not guilty in court to the charges.

Despite the criminal allegations, Díaz de la Portilla came ahead of his top opponent, Miguel Angel Gabela, but with 36.6% of the vote he did not secure enough to avoid a run-off election.

Gabela went to court in August and won his lawsuit to keep him on the ballot. He had accused the city of carving his property out of District 1 to disqualify him from running against Díaz de la Portilla.

The three others in the race were Francisco “Frank” Pichel, Mercedes “Merci” Rodriguez and Marvin Tapia.

In a packed field for District 2, incumbent commissioner Sabina Covo beat out her seven challengers, but with just under 40% support she's headed for a run-off against Damian Pardo, who garnered 26% of votes.

Running against Covo and Pardo were Michael Castro, Gabriela Chirinos, Alicia Kossick, Eddy V. Leal, Christi Tacker and James Torres. Only Leal got more than 1,000 votes. The others got 735 votes or less.

Said Covo in a statement: "I am grateful to have our community’s strong support, finishing with a commanding first place lead in today’s election and laying the path for victory in two weeks.”

Ruth's List Florida, which is dedicated to electing Democratic pro-choice women statewide, applauded Covo making the runoff and pledged to continue their support.

“Ruth’s List is excited to see Sabina Covo emerge from an eight-person field and make the runoff on November 21st,” said Christina Diamond, CEO of Ruth’s List in a statement. “In just a few short months, she earned voters' trust and they see her as an accessible advocate and champion for their community."

In the District 4 race, incumbent commissioner Manolo Reyes had a decisive victory against his longshot challenger, Andres 'Andy' Vallina, with 86% of the vote. The 79-year-old Reyes told the Miami Herald on Monday that he is being treated for leukemia.

 Miami Commissioner Manolo Reyes
Matias J. Ocner
/
Miami Herald
Miami Commissioner Manolo Reyes, pictured here in 2019.

Read more here about the city of Miami elections from WLRN news partners at the Miami Herald.

Miami Beach

Miami Beach voters were voting for a new mayor among four candidates vying to succeed three-term Mayor Dan Gelber. Three commission seats were also up for grabs.

In the mayor’s race, Commissioner Steven Meiner came just ahead of Michael Gongora, but none had more than the 50% plus one vote required to win the post. Trailing both were Mike Grieco and Bill Roedy.

Meiner and Gongora will move to a run-election on Tuesday, Nov. 21. Early voting would begin Nov. 19.

Said Gongora in a statement: "I am beyond grateful to be moving on to the next round in this important race, and I look forward to continuing to share my vision and hopes for the future of Miami Beach."

“I have been a staunch advocate for implementing environmentally sustainable policies, promoting inclusivity, putting limits on excessive development that causes traffic congestion and strains our infrastructure, and improving and expanding public safety measures, which is why I was endorsed by the Miami Beach Police," he said.

In the Group IV commissioner race, Tanya Katzoff Bhatt came out ahead of Andres Asion, with 7,293 votes giving her a 13-percentage-point win.

In the Group V race, David Suarez came out ahead of Mitch Novick, with 52.51% of the vote. Suarez noted he’s a political outsider and was self−funding his campaign, allowing him to “have an unbiased and fresh perspective on how we can improve and upgrade a level of city services we deserve.”

In the Group VI race, Joe Magazine declared victory against Marcella Novella in one of the day's closest races. He ended the count with 6,489 votes — just 66 more votes than his opponent.

"I am humbled and honored by the support I received from Miami Beach voters who have elected me as our next City Commissioner," he said in a statement. "Together, we will fight to ensure Miami Beach works for families, treats everyone equally, and focuses on a resilient future. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for the opportunity to serve the community I love and where I’m proudly raising my daughter."

Magazine’s campaign website listed four top priorities. They included “reducing short-term rentals and commercial usages in our residential neighborhoods.”

Read more here about the Miami Beach elections from WLRN news partners at the Miami Herald.

Surfside

Voters in Surfside did not vote on any candidates on Tuesday but had to consider five charter amendments.

Soundly defeated was one charter amendment that would have extended the terms of the mayor and town commissioners from two years to four years.

Another amendment that requires a mayoral candidate to earn 50% of the vote plus one to win election or face a run-off also won by a large margin, with 66.26% of the vote. Currently, a mayoral candidate only needed to have more votes than his opponent.

Surfside voter Gerardo Vildostegui told WLRN he voted against extending terms of mayor and commissioner.

"The two-year terms give us a good chance to review our elected officials' work within a short period," he said.

Like a majority of Surfside voters, Vildostegui voted in favor of requiring mayoral candidates to win 50%-plus-one to be elected.

More voter voices

In Hialeah, one of the county's biggest cities, voters trickled into the JFK Library polling place on Tuesday afternoon as campaign volunteers drove around the parking lot carrying candidate campaign signs.

Armando Alba, 77, speaking to WLRN in Spanish, said he voted because local elections are more important than presidential elections, noting that local election results have more direct impact on Hialeah residents.

At South Pointe Elementary School in Miami Beach, there was no line to vote early Tuesday. Only about two dozen voters had cast their ballots before 8 am.

Outside the polling station, campaign volunteers held signs hoping to sway voters at the last minute.

Matthew Gultanoff, founder of Better Streets Miami Beach, told WLRN that he was disappointed with the candidates — none of which, he said, are supporting a current county proposal to connect South Beach to downtown Miami via Metromover. The project is called the Baylink.

"It’s concerning because we have elected officials who set the policy for the city and they just off the bat are against it," he said. "And they don’t experience what public transportation is like in the city today."

This article was originally posted on Nov. 7. It has been updated to reflect the full results.

Verónica Zaragovia was born in Cali, Colombia, and grew up in South Florida. She’s been a lifelong WLRN listener and is proud to cover health care, as well as Surfside and Miami Beach politics for the station. Contact Verónica at vzaragovia@wlrnnews.org
Joshua Ceballos is WLRN's Local Government Accountability Reporter and a member of the investigations team. Reach Joshua Ceballos at jceballos@wlrnnews.org
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