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Challenger launches campaign against Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell


Levine kickoffSurrounded by nearly 100 well-wishers bundled up in a chilly Tuesday afternoon, Daniella Levine Cava jumped into the political race to challenge Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell.

Drawing a parallel to the time after 1992's Hurricane Andrew, which devastated the South Miami-Dade district she's seeking to represent, Levine Cava urged her early supporters to join forces to improve their community -- and help her get elected.

"That storm could have torn us apart, but instead it became the tie that bound us," she said. "We can achieve very big results without a big storm."

Before her remarks, Levine Cava was endorsed by Katy Sorenson, Bell's predecessor who represented District 8 for 16 years. Now the head of the Good Government Initiative at the University of Miami, she is still beloved by progressive politicians county activists, many of whom attended Tuesday's campaign launch.

Sorenson said she tried to persuade Levine Cava, the founder and then-chief executive of the social-services agency Catalyst Miami, to run for the seat when she retired four years ago. But Levine Cava turned her down at the time -- only to surprise Sorenson recently when she told her she planned to run this year, Sorenson said.

"Daniella has served our community as a beacon of hope for many," she said. "She will be the commissioner to restore public trust."

Backing Levine Cava will be Miami-Dade Democrats, who have their eye on the conservative Bell. Party faithful were out in force Tuesday, and Levine Cava's team repeatedly reminded them that the campaign will need their sweat and dollars to try to unseat Bell.

It is notoriously difficult to defeat incumbent commissioners, and the experienced Bell, who before winning her seat was mayor of Homestead, already has a campaign account of more than $179,000.

Though Bell, who is in a nonpartisan post, has recently sided with labor on some matters -- late last year she voted to restore the pay for sanitation workers, for example -- Levine Cava is likely to lean on labor unions for support. Several union players attended the kickoff, including John Rivera, president of the Police Benevolent Association.

In an interview Monday with the Herald, Levine Cava said she is interested in issues of "fairness," including for public workers.

"I would certainly place a very high priority on a good wage scale for everybody in the county," she said.

Photo credit: C.W. Griffin, Miami Herald staff