MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – With the primary election just a few weeks away, the race for Miami-Dade County mayor is starting to heat up. No fewer than seven candidates are on the ballot, but it increasingly looks like it will be a race against three or four top contenders. The most likely four, Alex Penelas, Daniella Levine Cava, Xavier Suarez and Esteban Bovo.
Penelas has been in the job before, serving as Miami-Dade County Mayor between 1996 and 2004.
"I'm not here just to get the title again. I want to be mayor to take on big issues," Penelas said.
For Penelas, the big issue during a virtual town hall on Thursday was rolling out his agenda of hope and success for Black Miami.
"This isn't an agenda that we're just not going to roll out and then put on a shelf," Penelas promised.
He received support from a wide spectrum of Black leaders during the town hall.
Community activist Amber Heyward said: "He understands. I have a personal, personal, story and experience about someone sticking my hand out. That's what my community needs, just someone to stick their hand out and give us a chance."
Levine Cava said she's had a plan for Black Miami-Dade called Empower that's been out for over a month. "So he's playing catch up," she said about her opponent.
Levine Cava, who’s running neck and neck with Penelas, has a long record of advocating for the disenfranchised.
“The community knows me. They know I’m the real deal. They know that I mean what I say — I’m not a fair weather friend.
In television ads, Penelas brags about his successes when he was mayor more than 20 years ago, and there were some, but there were also problems.
“I’m afraid that he’s going to bring us back to the kind of corruption and scandal and investigation that happened in his term in office. We can’t afford to go backward, we have to go forward,” Levine Cava said.
Flyers about the mayor’s race are flooding mailboxes in Miami-Dade County. One claims that Penelas is the progressive in the race, which isn’t true. And on the other side it says that Levine Cava had six years to fix Miami-Dade’s biggest challenges as a county commissioner and did nothing, which isn’t true either. Another flyer reminds voters that Penelas was the champion for a half-cent tax for transportation, which largely failed to deliver on its promises.”
“I will also be laser focused on delivery of rail for the North and South corridors,” Penelas said, basically pledging to make good now on promises he made to voters more than two decades ago to build out Metrorail.
Levine Cava said he welched then and, she said, he will welch in the future.
The primary election is Aug. 18. If no candidate wins the majority of the vote in the primary, the top two will face off in a runoff election on Nov. 3.