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Lesbian activist Vanessa Brito leads successful recall of Miami-Dade Commissioner Natacha Seijas

Longtime Miami-Dade Commissioner Natacha Seijas was soundly defeated in a recall election Tuesday. Lesbian activist Vanessa Brito, a board member of Unity Coalition, a Hispanic LGBT political group in Miami-Dade County, led the movement to recall Seijas.


Miami-Dade Commissioner Natacha Seijas, a formidable fixture in county politics known for her acerbic style, was removed from office Tuesday amid a seething voter revolt.

An overwhelming 88 percent of those who turned out to vote in District 13, which includes Hialeah and Miami Lakes, backed the recall of Seijas, who has ruled over the western county region for 18 years.

The commissioner had mounted a major defense to the recall campaign, angling to differentiate herself from Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez, an unpopular figure also on the ballot who was viewed as more vulnerable to ouster.

Seijas made no public comment Tuesday night. An aide, Terry Murphy, said in an email: “She will not be participating in any media stories about the election results.’’

Bankrolled by county employee unions, developers and lobbyists, Seijas raised $213,575 through a political action committee, Abre Los Brazos — nearly 10 times as much as her political opponents could muster. But in the end, voter anger trumped the power of incumbency, sweeping both Seijas and Alvarez from office by the same drastic margins.

“Natacha Seijas is a poster child for everything that is wrong with Miami-Dade County government, a government that is out of touch with taxpayers and has sold out to special interests,’’ said a jubilant Michael Pizzi, the mayor of Miami Lakes and an attorney who helped lead the charge to oust Seijas.

Pizzi said he plans to push for reform at County Hall, including term limits, campaign finance changes and the creation of at-large districts.

Widespread voter discontent has been palpable for weeks, on the local radio talk shows, in online postings, and in a poll conducted for The Miami Herald and its news partners by Bendixen & Amandi International, a public opinion research. But the recall vote proved even more skewed against the incumbents than most anyone predicted.

Luis Del Rio, who turned out at the Miami Lakes Branch Library, said he voted to recall both Seijas and Alvarez Tuesday because he thought they had misspent taxpayer money. “It’s time we fix what they’ve done wrong,’’ Del Rio said. “It’s time to change.’’

Seijas was targeted for recall last fall after she joined a majority of the county commissioners in approving Alvarez’s proposed budget, which raised the property-tax rate to make up for the collapse in property values. The budget, which took effect Oct. 1, included pay raises for most county employees. About 60 percent of homestead property owners got higher tax bills, despite dwindling property values.

For residents of Miami-Dade, which is often called the epicenter of the nation’s real-estate meltdown and is struggling with unemployment far above the national average, the budget and tax-rate increase quickly proved to be a touchstone for anger and frustration with the government. As Norman Braman, a wealthy Miami auto dealer, targeted the mayor for recall with a well funded, professional campaign, Vanessa Brito, a 27-year-old political activist, latched on to the momentum.

Brito started Miami Voice, a political action committee, to target county commissioners who had supported the budget. The group had little money, but it got help from Pizzi, a long-time opponent of Seijas with a knack for political theater. The group garnered sufficient petitions to force a vote only for Seijas.

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I love Vanessa, and I don't think it is necessary to broadcast her sexual orientation to every Herald reader.

Frances, Vanessa is a well-known lesbian activist. Until now, that's how many people in Miami-Dade County knew her.

She is a board member of Unity Coalition, a Hispanic gay-rights group, http://www.unitycoalition.org/MeetTheBoard.html and I have written frequently about Vanessa and her activities.

Just because someone is on the board of the Unity Coalition does not indicate they are lesbian or gay.

I don't understand why the headline would read "Lesbian activist Vanessa Brito leads successful recall of Miami-Dade Commissioner Natacha Seijas." I read the article thinking that Seijas was anti-gay (which I believe she is), but in fact it was not. Tt was she voted for Alvarez's budget.

Poor decision on the headline.

SandMan makes a good point, but a woman who is on the board of Unity Coalition AND has a female domestic partner ... pretty good chance she's a lesbian.

This is an interesting discussion. Some people still become uncomfortable seeing someone -- even a person who is not closeted -- identified as gay or lesbian.

I love and admire Vanessa, but making her sexual preference a headline issue is completely unwarranted, in poor taste and basically unethical, whether or not she is public about it.

REGARDLESS of the type of sex she (or anyone else for that matter) enjoys, she is first and foremost well known as a human being, as a woman, as a Hispanic, and as an involved member of our community, among many other things and talents.

Commissioner Seijas' recall election had nothing to do with anything even remotely connected with sexual issues, but rather with Seijas' support of the fired Mayor's unconscionable tax increase, shameless staff pay raises, and irresponsible budgets.

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