MIAMI LAKES, Fla. – The August primary is just around the corner. On Friday, 5 of the 7 candidates running to be Miami-Dade County’s next mayor showed up for a (socially distant) debate Friday at the Universidad Ana G. Mendez School, each making their pitch for the position. It is one elected office hat arguably holds more weight now than ever before.
The new county mayor replaces two-term incumbent Carlos Gimenez, who must leave office in November. Gimenez is running in the Republican primary for a Florida congressional seat.
“I am the only conservative that is running for office,” candidate Esteban “Steve” Bovo said. He is one of three sitting county commissioners in the race.
“I have a very interdisciplinary approach; I am a lawyer and a social worker,” candidate and county commissioner Daniella Levine Cava said.
Former Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas said: "I did the job before, I managed a whole host of crises."
"I'm just the other guy. I'm completely different," candidate Carlos DeArmas said.
The other two not at the forum were Monique Nicole Barley and Ludmilla Domond.
On Friday, each of the 5 worked to set themselves apart from the other. They talked about traffic, public transit, and, of course, the county's COVID-19 response.
“It does not help us if we speak in two separate voices,” Bovo, currently a county commissioner, said. “The county mayor’s voice should be the loudest one, all the cities should follow suit, and that’s the way we communicate with our residents to avoid the confusion we’ve seen.”
Xavier Suarez, currently a county commissioner, laid out what his golden rule was when he was city of Miami mayor: “Yes, of course the mayor of the county has to consult the cities. I always did that when I was mayor of the city; I consulted the mayor of the county.
Penelas said his former role as the county mayor is what's especially needed now as he believes the county needs firm leadership and working relationships.
“I think we’re allowing political rivalries to dictate how we conduct ourselves,” he said.
Levine Cava, currently a county commissioner, said she’s focused on thinking ahead.
"On the other side of this, the economy will look different. I do not hear people talking about how we have to innovate," she said.
Bovo said his course is steady. “In the debates, people start trying to glorify or gloss over their records, but I’ve been consistent.”
If no candidate wins the majority of the vote in the August primary on Aug. 18, the top two will face off in a runoff election on Nov. 3.