Doral Mayor Juan Carlos “J.C.” Bermudez raised $23,000 in July, his first month of fundraising for his currently unopposed bid for the Miami-Dade Commission seat representing District 12, records his campaign filed this week show.
Nearly half came from the county’s booming construction and real estate market for which Doral has been a hotspot.
Bermudez, Doral’s first elected Mayor, has overseen much of the city’s development over his two terms in the role spanning 15 years, and he has surely made many industry friends along the way.
The Miami-Dade Commission is a nonpartisan board and, as such, candidates for the 13-seat legislative body run without listing their political affiliations. But one need only look at the political committees contributing to his campaign to confirm that Bermudez, a longtime Republican according to his voter registration, maintains strong GOP support.
Bermudez received $1,000 checks from Republican-aligned political committees including Florida Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera’s People Above Politics, Rep. Vance Aloupis’ The Right Future for Florida and Republican National Lawyers Association member Jesus Suarez’s Building Better Conservatism and People for Ethical Government.
Bermudez is vying for the Commission seat now occupied by Chair Jose “Pepe” Diaz, a former Mayor of the neighboring city of Sweetwater who has served on the county legislative board since 2002.
It’s been rumored Diaz, who represents both Doral and Sweetwater from the County Commission dais, is eying another run for Sweetwater Mayor when he vacates his seat next year due to term limits.
The potential semi-switcheroo may make for an interesting showdown if both men succeed in getting elected. Doral and Sweetwater want to annex a business-rich, 1,200-acre area both cities abut containing distribution centers for Amazon, Goya Foods, UPS and John Deere, as well as Telemundo, Topgolf and freight forwarding company Interport Logistics. The land and properties within it represent roughly $1 million per year in municipal tax revenues.
Diaz, in July, succeeded in passing a fast-tracked ordinance imposing new annexation restrictions that blocked Sweetwater, but not Doral, from being able to annex the area.
Diaz’s move was akin to “changing the rules in the middle of the game,” the Miami Herald quoted Bermudez as saying. “He is benefiting the city where he was once the Mayor and apparently where he wants to be Mayor again.”
But it’s not game over yet. If Bermudez is elected and Doral’s annexation application doesn’t go through by November, he has the political capital to possibly reverse Diaz’s ordinance. Bermudez’s vice chairmanship of the county’s powerful transportation planning board, which includes all 13 Miami-Dade Commissioners, nine municipal officials and a School Board member, is one of myriad local leadership roles he’s held during his tenure as a public official.
A third player who is already involved in the annexation fracas may still enter the fray: current Sweetwater Mayor Orlando Lopez, whose second term ends in 2023. Lopez, who has yet to say whether he’ll run for Diaz’s seat, dismissed Doral’s claim to the area, telling the Herald the move was nothing more than a “power grab” meant to make “a rich city richer.”
Lopez’s predecessor, former interim Mayor Jose M. Diaz, whom Lopez succeeded in booting from the 2015 Sweetwater mayoral race by citing Florida’s “resign to run” law, has thrown his support behind Bermudez in the form of a $1,000 campaign contribution.