MIAMI – Florida Circuit Court Judge Pedro P. Echarte, Jr. ruled on Wednesday that Miguel Gabela is a qualified candidate for District 1 in the City of Miami’s upcoming municipal election set for Nov. 7.
Gabela is the candidate who said the city surgically carved out his home of over 20 years from the district during redistricting.
“He became a ‘nonresident’ because of the City’s actions,” the judge said to Kerri McNulty of the city attorney’s office during the hearing. “He didn’t move out, you guys moved the lines on him.”
As City Attorney Victoria Méndez worked to explain how Gabela was in “old District 1″ and now is “allegedly” living in District 1, Echarte enthusiastically responded, “Bingo! This man has always tried to reside in District 1.”
Earlier in the hearing, Echarte told McNulty the extent there were any “gaps” in Gabela’s District 1 residency, the gaps were “caused by the City of Miami” and “not by any of his actions.”
In a statement, Gabela’s attorney Juan-Carlos Planas, Esq. told Local 10 News:
“As we expected, the Court ruled that Miguel Gabela meets the residency requirement of the City of Miami Charter and is a qualified candidate for City Commission. It is regretful that the City of Miami would take such an un-Democratic stand against one of its own citizens by first attempting to carve his house out of the district and then so combatively trying to disqualify him even though he moved to a new home within the district. Fortunately, the rule of law and our democracy prevailed in court today.”
In response to the ruling, Méndez told Local 10 News:
“We are in the process of reviewing the ramifications of the Court’s Order with respect to residency requirements in the City of Miami.”
The District 1 commission seat is currently vacant after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Alex Diaz de la Portilla following his arrest on several corruption charges to include bribery and money laundering.
At last check, the City of Miami said Alex Diaz de la Portilla remains an eligible candidate for District 1.