Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava announced on Tuesday that she is joining the 2020 race for county mayor.
Surrounded by family and supporters at the Miami-Dade elections office, Levine Cava touted her accomplishments in government and as the founder of the nonprofit social services organization Catalyst Miami. She said as mayor, she would prioritize addressing the county’s affordable housing shortage, improving mass transit and increasing climate change resilience.
“We have delivered real results in County Hall...but our work is not done,” she said. “Our county is facing crises of epic proportions, problems that threaten to literally wipe us off the map.”
Levine Cava joins a potentially crowded field of candidates vying to succeed Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who’s term-limited.
The commissioner, who has represented South Dade in District 8 since 2014, said she will join the ballot by registering at least 15,000 citizen petition signatures. If elected, she would become the first woman to ever hold the nonpartisan office.
During her address on Tuesday, she said the county had made progress toward protecting the environment by banning fracking, increasing access to affordable solar power and reducing toxins in county lakes and streams. On human rights, the county commision passed an expanded ordinance giving LGBTQ residents more equal rights protections. Commissioners have also expanded equal pay for county contractors, she noted.
Still, she said Miami-Dade must do more to respond to the threats of rising seas and worsening storms due to climate change. The county also remains one of the most unaffordable areas in the country with more than 50 percent of families spending over 30 percent of their gross income on rent.
“We cannot solve our problems by just wishing them away or hoping that market solutions alone will fix them like magic,” she said. “We need our government to wake up.”
Throughout her nearly five years on the commission, Levine Cava has ended up in the minority when supporting progressive causes. She was among three commissioners who voted against a 2016 policy to begin honoring requests made by federal authorities to hold immigrants arrested for local crimes for up to 48 additional hours. The county had previously ended the practice in 2013 but Gimenez issued the order soon after the election of President Donald Trump in 2016.
When asked on Tuesday how she would address the policy, Levine Cava said Miami-Dade has “always welcomed the stranger” and should not be “bullied or intimidated by the federal government.”
The commissioner also discussed transportation and traffic during her address to supporters.
She’s been outspoken about the need for improved mass transit across Miami-Dade. Last year, she supported the extension of the Metrorail along the South Dade transit corridor. The county’s transportation board voted instead to install a Bus Rapid Transit system. On Tuesday, Levine Cava said she would prioritize further mass transit expansions along all corridors.
Our traffic gridlock is “eroding our quality of life,” she said. “Leadership needs to act boldly.”
Levine Cava's candidacy will test the Democratic current that has swept across Miami-Dade in recent years. Although each of the past two county mayors have been Republicans, Hillary Clinton won the county in the 2016 presidential race by 30 points over Trump. And last November, Democratic Reps. Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsell-Powell—who also represents Monroe County—won two Miami-Dade congressional seats that had been held by Republicans.
It remains unclear who Levine Cava will face off against in the mayoral race. Former county mayor Alex Penelas, County Commissioner Esteban Bovo Jr. and former U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo have expressed interest in running. Former commissioner Juan Zapata has already filed paperwork to run. Penellas is the only Democrat other than Levine Cava so far in the unofficial or declared field.
Because the mayor is a nonpartisan office, all candidates will compete in one primary in August 2020. If no candidate takes more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters will face off in a November runoff on Election Day.