With veteran members of the Miami-Dade County Commission set to leave once term limits force their first exits in 2020, their seats are attracting the interest from prominent local politicians.
On Thursday, Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert said he was running to replace Barbara Jordan as the District 1 commissioner when Jordan is forced to leave her seat in 2020 after 16 years in office. Miami-Dade voters approved a two-term limit in 2012 for the 13-member board, and the rules are set to trigger their first mandatory departures eight years later, with the 2020 elections for five seats.
Two incumbents, District 5's Eileen Higgins and District 11's Joe Martinez, won their seats after 2012 and are free to run for reelection next year. The commission rotates elections between odd- and even-numbered districts every two years, so the remaining incumbents who were in office during 2012 will be forced to leave by 2022.
As the mayor of the largest city in District 1 who is facing his own term-limit departure in 2020, Gilbert has always been seen as a likely favorite for Jordan's seat. The two are allies, and Gilbert is a regular presence in County Hall. He hasn't made a secret of his plans to run for County Commission in 2020, but Thursday was the closet he has come to a formal declaration.
"The papers should have already been filed," he said. (Nothing was posted on the county's Elections site as of early Thursday afternoon.) He pitched his role as mayor as a good fit for the county board. "I'm someone who has been solving problems," he said.
While county commission races rarely drew office holders to challenge incumbents, open seats have proven more tempting. Gilbert, 46, is the second sitting official to file for the 2020 commission races. While he was still a state senator last year, René García filed for the District 13 seat being vacated by outgoing Commission Chairman Esteban "Steve" Bovo in 2020.