Dan Gelber battled crime, COVID-19 and chaos on South Beach, now he’s seeking final term as Mayor

Four challengers are vying to oust Gelber in Tuesday's mayoral election.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber has seen a lot since securing his second mayoral term unopposed in 2019. On Tuesday, he’ll be looking for a third and final term leading the South Florida tourist mecca. This time, he faces several opponents.

Four candidates are running to oust Gelber, who has run the city through the COVID-19 pandemic and overseen a contested debate surrounding the city’s nightlife. Voters will have their chance to render their verdict on Gelber’s leadership Tuesday.

Also competing in the contest are Realtor Jean Marie Echemendia, businessman Ronnie Eith, innkeeper Carlos Enrique Gutierrez, and Gus Manessis, who works for a condo management company.

Gelber, a former state Representative, surely has the most seasoned political chops of the five candidates. Paired with a healthy fundraising lead, Gelber is the favorite to emerge from the crowded field Tuesday.

Gelber has pushed for the city to alter its famous South Beach nightlife district, shifting focus to the arts. That begins by moving the alcohol cutoff from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m., a change Gelber supports.

Voters will be able to vote on a separate ballot measure to decide that issue. But with all four of Gelber’s opponents against the earlier last call, the debate is sure to creep into the mayoral race as well.

The Mayor and multiple City Commission members argue an earlier alcohol cutoff time would help cut down on the increasing crime and rowdiness seen in South Beach in recent years.

The issue of crime will also be a factor in Tuesday’s contest. A McLaughlin & Associates poll from August showed 53% of voters ranked crime and safety as the most important issues. A similar number — 52% — said Miami Beach was moving in the wrong direction. Gelber has pushed plans to address crime, which includes hiring more police officers.

Serving as Mayor during the COVID-19 pandemic forced Gelber to make some tough calls, including implementing curfews and other restrictions as Miami-Dade County was the hardest hit in the state at the pandemic’s outset. Gelber also earned a national profile battling with Gov. Ron DeSantis. Gelber argued DeSantis was misguided in limiting local action to fight the virus.

Gelber also courted some institutional support in securing a third two-year term as Mayor. Equality Florida Action PAC endorsed Gelber, as did the local SEIU chapter.

To win outright Tuesday, a candidate will need to court a majority of the vote to avoid a runoff in the five-person field.

Ryan Nicol

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 [email protected]

One comment

  • Lauren R.

    November 1, 2021 at 9:17 pm

    What kind of an article is this? How come there’s no mention of all the corruption, and of this mayor’s shenanigans to give away the city’s public land and assets to developers? It sounds like he’s a fine man, when it’s be a scandal after another. He will win because the other four are not serious candidates and came out of nowhere, but not because anyone wants his disgraceful presence anywhere near.

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