Miami-Dade sees surprise entries in contest to win a County Commission appointment


Former Cutler Bay mayor Peggy Bell and former state senator Dwight Bullard threw their names into the contest for a vacant Miami-Dade commission seat on Thursday, joining the announced five candidates for an appointment battle to replace Mayor Daniella Levine Cava on the county commission.

Bell and Bullard represented two of the three surprises revealed shortly after the commission's noon deadline passed for applications for the vacant District 8 seat that Levine Cava had held since 2014.

The third surprise came from a missing name: Charles Press, the Key Biscayne police chief who said this week he planned to compete for the appointment. Press, the son-in-law of current commissioner Joe Martinez, was not immediately available for comment Thursday.

Five previously announced candidates filed for the South Miami-Dade seat: neighborhood activist Alicia Arellano, former state senator Frank Artiles, Palmetto Bay vice mayor John DuBois, counselor Leonarda Duran Buike and lawyer Danielle Cohen Higgins.

All but Artiles had already filed to run for the District 8 seat in 2022, when the Levine Cava term would have ended if she hadn't entered the mayoral race.

DuBois last week sent a pointed letter to commissioners telling them not to consider him for an appointment, writing I "demand that you uphold our democratic principles" and hold a special election for the seat.

After commissioners voted against that election, DuBois wrote a letter Thursday reversing himself and agreeing to an appointment on the condition that the county first survey District 8 voters to determine their preferred candidate for commissioner.

With the appointment vote landing on a special meeting called for Dec. 7, DuBois equated not adopting his plan for a phone survey to one of the darkest moments in American history. "Dec 7th is a date referred by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 as 'A Date That Will Live in Infamy,' " DuBois wrote in reference to the attack on Pearl Harbor. "Let's not allow Dec. 7 to repeat itself in 2020."

Of the District 8 candidates who filed for 2022, Cohen Higgins has raised the most money and shares donors with multiple commissioners. Bell's final term as mayor ended in 2018.

Bullard, a former Democratic member of the Senate and Florida House, lost his seat to Artiles in 2016 and now serves as political director for the New Florida Majority political organizing group. Artiles, a Republican, resigned in 2017 after a public diatribe against lawmakers and use of a racial slur.

Hours after the commission released the name of the seven people who filed applications for the District 8 seat, the Miami Herald reported Artiles bragged about a role in having a no-party candidate in a state senate race that a Democratic incumbent with the same last name, Jose Javier Rodriguez, narrowly lost in November. Artiles declined to comment.

With the District 8 seat vacant, 12 commissioners plan to select the commissioner to fill out the 13-seat board. The appointment requires a majority vote. Commissioners voted Tuesday to give would-be candidates about 48 hours to file a résumé with the county to be considered for the appointment.


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