Voters will get to decide if the newly created elected Miami-Dade sheriff’s seat, tax collector and supervisor of elections will be partisan positions or not after the county commission voted last week to put the referendum on the 2020 ballot.
The sheriff’s position was created last year by voters who also made the elections head and tax collector elected positions rather than appointees of the mayor. The property appraiser’s seat was already a nonpartisan elected office, as are the county mayor and commission seats, as are most municipal offices.
“The positions of Sheriff, Property Appraiser, Tax Collector, and Supervisor of Elections are positions that our residents should have the right to select, endorse, and vote on the basis of merit, regardless of party affiliation,” said Commissioner Esteban Bovo, who sponsored the resolution.
But who is he kidding? Campaigns for these seats have increasingly become partisan, especially as Democrats — who have a majority of the voters in Miami-Dade but have not had a majority of elected representatives — try to seed the bench at the local level to create viable candidates for state office.
It really started to be obvious in the 2014 race between Daniella Levine-Cava and former Commissioner Lynda Bell, the incumbent. Democrats poured tons of resources into the Levine-Cava campaign and had impact.
Last year, Democrats helped Commissioner Eileen Higgins win a special election over two Republicans who were better known.
In 2016, local Dems scrambled to find a challenger to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who himself toyed with changing his party in a publicity stunt orchestrated by Hillary Clinton supporters, which included his spokesman and one of his campaign managers.
And Dems are not losing hope: They want a blue mayor in 2020.
Kendall Democrats President Bryan Hernandez, who worked on the Donna Shalala for Congress and Heath Rassner for State House campaigns last year — said as much in an op-ed he wrote this week for the Community Newspapers:
“Our county is in desperate need of visionary, smart leadership. The mayor who succeeds Carlos Gimenez must be a Democrat who will tackle the serious issues facing Miami-Dade,” noting there are a number of Democrats running. Those include Levine-Cava and former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas.
“I’m a 23-year-old professional who’s starting off his career in Miami. Affordable housing, public transit, and sea level rise are critical issues to me,” Hernandez said. “If a politician wants my vote in the 2020 mayoral election, they need to propose bold solutions to these problems.
He goes on to write about the issues the next mayor will have to face (because this mayor sure won’t, which includes climate change, traffic, affordable housing and “the growing level of inequality.” But it makes one wonder: Do you have to be a Democrat to care about those things.
Hernandez also talks about the rich getting richer with developers who live off the politicians they buy — but Ladra’s experience is that this practice is also bipartisan.
“Miami-Dade County is ground zero for both issues. The next mayor must lead us through these great challenges and secure a good future for me and my generation of Miamians,” Hernandez writes. “I call on local Democratic clubs, progressive groups, and all those tired with this corrupt, abysmal leadership to start planning for the goal of electing a bold Democratic mayor in 2020. That work must begin now.”
On the one hand, these races should be nonpartisan. It’s the right thing to do so that Independent voters aren’t shut out of the process or so that one party doesn’t dominate a race. But, on the other hand, is it really going to matter? Unless there are rules and penalties for bringing up partisanship in non partisan elections, there will always be the campaigns that use the R or the D to their advantage.
Even if the letter is invisible.