Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava won’t officially leave her District 8 seat until she knows whether or not she won the county mayor’s race.
Cava has told NBC 6 she will not try to keep her seat if she loses the countywide race. This comes in response to critics pointing to a “loophole” in the “resign to run” law forcing either a costly special election or a controversial appointment.
“I do not plan to seek that seat so I want to dispel rumors right here. I have served proudly as county commissioner. I plan to be the next mayor of Miami-Dade County. I am not planning to complete the term as county commissioner," Levine Cava said in a recent interview with NBC 6. “Nor will I seek appointment.”
The date she picked for her resignation to become official could cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars.
State law requires elected officials to resign their current position when seeking another. After Levine Cava turned in her resignation notice to the county, several candidates began to campaign for her soon-to-be vacated seat, thinking the election for District 8 would be Aug. 18, along with other county races. They were mistaken.
A legal memo obtained by NBC 6 between Levine Cava and the Miami-Dade County Attorney Abigail Price-Williams lays out the next steps.
Levine Cava followed the “resign to run” law. The seat is vacant “upon the effective date of the resignation” submitted by Levine Cava - so that will be Nov. 16.
After Nov. 16, according to the memo, the Board of County Commissioners can appoint someone to fill the seat within 30 days or call for a special election within 90 days; setting up a likely February election.
Suzy Trutie, the Deputy Supervisor of Elections for Miami-Dade County, confirmed to NBC 6 that a special election for District 8 would cost the county $450,000. Another $450,000 will be required if there’s no majority winner in that election and a runoff is needed.
The county has strict time tables for elections. If Commissioner Levine Cava resigned effective early in 2020, the county board could have tried to time the election to be on August 18th. If the process was delayed, it could have been an earlier special election.
“It’s important to me for this district to be represented as long as possible," Levine Cava said in response. "We have a lot of things pending before the commission and my district constituents. I want to do my best to represent my constituents as long as I am able.”
Palmetto Bay Vice Mayor John Bubois, who was raising money and campaigning for the commissioner’s seat, told NBC 6 that Levine Cava, “played the system for her own personal benefit.”
He said that since the coronavirus pandemic began, most of the work done at the county has been through Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office through executive order.
“The Commission has done very little to nothing as far as I’m concerned,” Dubois said.
Daniella Cohen Higgins, Leonard Duran Buike, and Hammocks Citizens Advisory Committee Vice Chair Alicia Arellano also began campaigning thinking the election would be Aug. 18.
“Because I thought the election was going to be in August, I had mailings, I spent a lot of money on a website,” Duran Buike said.
What made political observers grumble is how rare the move by Levine Cava is.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Eileen Higgins recently won a special election after former Commissioner Bruno Barreiro resigned immediately from his position to run for Congress.
Resigning on or before the election was the norm before term limits became a reality this cycle.
Miami-Dade County politicians including Arthur Teele, Maurice Ferré, Alex Penelas, Joe Martinez, JD Morales, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, and current Mayor Carlos Gimenez all resigned effective immediately or on election day to run for office.
Commissioner Joe Martinez, who represents District 11, said he will push for a resolution changing the county’s charter and plans on bringing it up at a board meeting in July.
His measure would amend the charter so when someone resigns to run for another office, the election to fill their seat will be timed with the August primary and the November general election. If the idea is approved by county voters this November, it would get rid of the need for the special election or appointment options.
“It would save county taxpayers a lot of money," Martinez said.
Levine Cava supports Martinez’s measure, saying, “I do think we want to clean this up."
Levine Cava will face Commissioner Steve Bovo, Commissioner Xavier Suarez, and former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, Monique Nicole Barley, Carlos Antonio De Armas, and Ludmilla Domond in the Aug. 18 election for county mayor.
The top two will go on to November.