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State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.

South Florida

Miami-Dade Democratic Party says 27-year incumbent should leave Miami-Dade State Attorney race

The group’s executive committee approved a resolution calling for Katherine Fernandez Rundle to withdraw from the race.

The Miami-Dade Democratic Party Executive Committee has approved a resolution calling for Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to drop her reelection bid.

The group cites Fernandez Rundle’s record showing she has never prosecuted a cop for an on-duty killing. Fernandez Rundle has served in the role for 27 years.

That criticism has been amplified in the aftermath of George Floyd‘s death while being pinned by Minneapolis police officers. Fernandez Rundle has defended her record, arguing Florida’s laws set a high barrier for those prosecutions and that her cohorts throughout the state have also been slow to file similar charges.

The Miami-Dade Democratic Party Executive Committee’s bylaws bar the group from endorsing either Fernandez Rundle or her challenger in the contest, former American Civil Liberties Union attorney Melba Pearson. Those same rules, however, do not preclude the group from calling for a candidate to withdraw.

The group’s latest call points to a 2017 resolution by the organization calling for Fernandez Rundle to resign. The resolution was prompted by the decision not to file charges after Darren Rainey died at the Dade Correctional Institution.

“During an intervening period of more than three years, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has still failed to prosecute a single police officer for an on-duty killing, nor has she resigned from office,” reads a resolution approved late Tuesday.

“The Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee has a political and moral duty to engage in actions, exert pressures, and live values that support the most marginalized members of our community.”

The resolution then resolves to call on Fernandez Rundle “to suspend her campaign for reelection.”

Fernandez Rundle has defended her record, citing Florida case law which gives officers significant leeway in using deadly force. She argues such prosecutions shouldn’t be launched without a chance of success.

“A lot of people say, ‘OK, just do it anyway, just try the case anyway,'” Fernández Rundle told the Miami Herald late last month.

“Are we going to do that for everybody? Teachers, doctors, nurses? Our obligation says we’re not permitted to do that, and it applies to police officers as well. We can’t just take our best shot.”

Pearson has attempted to position herself as the more liberal alternative in the contest. At the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, Pearson argued the county should end cash bail and speed up the process for releasing certain offenders to prevent the virus’s spread in jails.

Days later, Fernandez Rundle did the same.

While the Miami-Dade Democratic Party Executive Committee cannot endorse a candidate, the group’s Treasurer, William Byatt, made his preference in the race known.

We have an incredible opportunity right now to make a substantive change in the criminal justice system in Miami-Dade County,” Byatt wrote on Twitter underneath a post highlighting the group’s newest resolution.

“We have the opportunity to elect [Melba Pearson], a committed advocate for social justice who understands both how the system works and how it’s broken.”

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 ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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