The election is still more than a year away, but the novelty of a crush of open seats on the Miami-Dade County Commission has created such demand that two candidates bumped into each other at the Elections Department Friday while filing their candidacy papers.
Raquel Regalado, a former elected school board member who lost the 2016 mayoral race to incumbent Carlos Gimenez, filed her papers to seek the District 7 commission seat Gimenez once held and that's now occupied by Xavier Suarez. (Really quick: Suarez used to be the mayor of Miami, and so did Regalado's dad, Tomás. Suarez's son, Francis, is the mayor now.)
"I'm filing to get going," said Regalado after submitting her candidacy papers for the Miami-area seat to the Elections Department in Doral. "It's on."
One seat away was Marlon Hill, a corporate lawyer who also made his commission candidacy official Friday by submitting filing papers. He's running for the District 9 seat occupied by Dennis Moss, one of the two longest-serving members on the 13-seat board. Hill praised Moss, saying "this election is all about building on the work he has done."
Both Moss and Suarez are required to leave office in 2020 under term-limit rules that voters approved in 2012 but allowed existing office holders to serve another eight years before having to relinquish their seats.
Incumbent commissioners usually win reelection, so the two-term limit is causing an historic number of departures at County Hall in 2020. Of the seven commission seats up for election in August 2020, only incumbents Eileen Higgins and Joe Martinez may run again. And voters may have an eighth seat to fill, assuming Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava (whose second four-year term in District 8 doesn't end until 2022) goes through with plans to run for mayor in 2020. Gimenez, in office since 2011, is also required to leave office in 2020.
Regalado is the only candidate so far to file for the District 7 seat, but candidates have until June 2020 to join the race. Hill joins two other official candidates for the South Dade seat: Mark Coats, a school administrator who worked under former county mayor Alex Penelas (who is planning to run for mayor again in 2020), and Johnny Farias, a member of the South Bay Community Council.
Moss said Friday he's endorsing Kionne McGhee, the state representative from the area and Democratic leader in the Florida House, who is expected to run for District 9 but hasn't filed. "His district pretty much overlaps with my district," Moss said of McGhee, who was not available for comment Friday. "He's a bright, energetic young man."