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Eileen Higgins surprises in Miami-Dade Commission race

The race for the Miami-Dade County Commission District 5 seat is headed to a runoff after a surprising first-place showing from business owner and first-time political candidate Eileen Higgins.

Higgins, who was backed by Democratic party leaders in South Florida, ended up with just under 35 percent support. That bested Zoraida Barreiro, whose husband held the seat before deciding to run for Congress. That decision triggered this special election. Barreiro, who works as a health care executive, pulled in just over 33 percent of the vote.

Because no candidate surpassed 50 percent support, the top two finishers will head to a runoff election to be held June 19. Higgins took to Twitter Tuesday evening to celebrate saying, “We did it. One down. One to go.”

Alex Diaz de la Portilla finished a disappointing third with just over 27 percent of the vote, leaving him out of the runoff. That’s despite his history as a former state representative and an endorsement from the Miami Herald editorial board. Spanish-language TV actor Carlos Garin came in fourth with less than five percent.

Former District 5 Commissioner Bruno Barrerio‘s departure to run for the Republican nomination in Florida’s 27th Congressional District could now leave his former in the hands of a Democrat. Higgins was supported by several of the Democratic CD 27 candidates, some of whom congratulated her on Twitter following her first place finish Tuesday night.

It will be interesting to see if Higgins can carry the momentum through June and come out on top once again. It’s possible Republican voters consolidate and that Diaz de la Portilla’s share mostly shifts over to Zoraida Barreiro, pushing her over the edge.

The winner will represent District 5 for the remaining two years of Bruce Barreiro’s terms, after which they will be allowed to run for re-election twice.

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to

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