Miami-Dade voters on Tuesday appeared poised to return one longtime incumbent, Audrey Edmonson, to the County Commission by a wide margin and ready, as well, to fill a vacant seat with another political veteran, former state Rep. Juan C. Zapata.
But, in something of a surprise, 14-year Miami-Dade Commission veteran Bruno Barreiro was locked in a closer-than-expected race with a seasoned challenger, outgoing state Rep. Luis Garcia, for the District 5 seat that includes southern Miami Beach, Little Havana and Brickell. Barreiro was maintaining a narrow lead late into the evening.
Garcia, a former Miami Beach commissioner and fire chief, was the sole surviving candidate of a slate recruited by Miami car dealer Norman Braman with the goal of unseating four commission incumbents who were up for re-election.
Garcia hammered his opponent for supporting the publicly subsidized Miami Marlins stadium, an issue that helped doom former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, also targeted by Braman in a successful recall vote last year. Braman’s political committee mailed fliers highlighting Barreiro’s support for the stadium and tying him to Alvarez.
Edmonson, who was pushed into a runoff by a novice candidate, Keon Hardemon, the 29-year-old scion of one of Liberty City’s most colorful and powerful political families, was beating her opponent handily with about two-thirds of the precincts in the district reporting. The District 3 seat runs from Overtown, up through Little Haiti, Allapattah, Wynwood, Brownsville and Liberty City, then hugs the coast from Miami Shores down through the Upper East Side and Edgewater.
Hardemon parlayed his family name into the runoff. But he struggled to gain traction across the sprawling, diverse district, and the campaign drew little notice. Edmonson largely treated the campaign, in her own words, as “a major distraction’’ from her work as a commissioner.
Zapata, meanwhile, appeared comfortably ahead of political newcomer Manny Machado, a Miami-Dade police detective, in what was a sometimes-bitter contest to replace outgoing Commissioner Joe Martinez for the District 11 seat, representing a vast swath of unincorporated, suburban west Miami-Dade that includes West Kendall. Martinez opted not to run for re-election to run — unsuccessfully — for county mayor.