Christine King unseats Jeffrey Watson on Miami Commission; Joe Carollo holds onto office

Christine King Jeffrey Watson Joe Carollo
Carollo and King both far outpaced their opponents with about 65% of the vote each.

Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo successfully defended his District 3 seat Tuesday, staving off several challengers. Jeffrey Watson, who was appointed to the Commission last year, fared far worse, losing soundly in his first election bid to challenger Christine King.

King will assume office later this month.

With all precincts reporting at 8:05 p.m., Carollo received 3,947 votes, representing nearly 65% of the total vote. Lawyer Quinn Smith got about 22%. Business owner Adriana Oliva received 9.4% of the vote. Miguel Solima, a previous candidate for the Miami Commission and Miami-Dade Commission, got about 4%. In total, 6,100 voters cast ballots in the District 3 race.

King, the CEO for the nonprofit Martin Luther King Jr. Economic Development Corp., trounced the competition. The 4,034 votes she earned as of 8 p.m. represented 65% of the vote.

Watson received just 978, or about 16%.

Nonprofit executive Michael Hepburn got about 9% of the vote. Stephanie Thomas, a former North Miami deputy clerk, received 4%. Resident Fraçois Alexandre, who sued Miami after city police beat him, got about 3.5%. Zico Fremont, a local business owner and nonprofit worker, got 2% of the vote. Revran Lincoln got less than 1%.

District 3

Carollo, the incumbent, flexed his political muscle in City Hall and fundraising might on the campaign trail. In late September, he led a public evisceration of Mayor Francis Suarez’s handpicked Police Chief, Art Acevedo, who has since been fired.

A former Mayor, Carollo raised nearly $1.9 million since April to keep his seat. Much of the funds coming into his campaign and political committee, Miami First, came from the city’s booming real estate sector.

His competitors raised a combined $133,000 — about 7% of Carollo’s haul.

All three challengers agreed housing affordability was among the city’s most pressing issues. Oliva’s platform included creating more transparent government, economic development, transit and cleaner, safer neighborhoods. Smith prioritized the environment, infrastructure and enhanced code enforcement and permitting. Soliman said transportation, public safety and economic development was key.

Carollo is unpopular outside his district — the Miami Herald Editorial Board recently called him “unfit to serve again” — but there was uncertainty as to whether his antics in and out of City Hall would cost him.

In the last two years, Carollo had a string of public spats with fellow Commissioners, local figures and the owners of Little Havana night club Ball & Chain, who almost exclusively funded former Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro’s since-canceled challenge for Carollo’s seat.

Since December, Carollo had suggested Miami and Hialeah should secede from Miami-Dade after a dispute with the county over street blockades, called fellow city Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla “the biggest disappointment of (his) entire political history,” and traded accusations of corruption with a Miami cop who was the subject of a two-year probe by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and FBI.

District 5

Lawyer Christine King, the CEO for the nonprofit Martin Luther King Jr. Economic Development Corp., presented the broadest platform of all District 5 candidates, encompassing affordable and workforce housing development, gun violence reduction, climate change and sea level rise initiatives, elderly and child care services, gentrification mitigation, improved government services, support for municipal employees and small business development, job creation and training.

Watson reneged on his vow to leave office after his one-year term on the Miami Commission ended in November — a pledge he made numerous times before Commissioners gave him the seat last year. It seems to have cost him that very seat.

He said he was “entitled to change (his) mind,” when talking with the Miami Herald about his raising money for a  committee intended to support a proper reelection bid. Since taking office, he said he had grown familiar with the city’s inner workings, connected with constituents and identified problems for which he could develop solutions.

His successes, including efforts to get Black residents vaccinated and deliver financial support to the community during the pandemic, earned him endorsements from some of his fellow Commissioners, including Manolo Reyes.

But challenger Michael Hepburn, a nonprofit executive for Reimagine Miami Foundation, called Watson “a liar” for going back on his word.

Hepburn and Watson were among 14 people who applied last year to fill the vacancy former Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon created when he left City Hall for the Miami-Dade County Commission.

Hepburn’s platform focused to four priorities: education, affordable housing, safe and sustainable neighborhoods, and economic and workforce development.

Thomas’ platform similarly had four prongs: affordable housing, economic development, safety and health care.

Alexandre also cited affordable housing and economic development as top issues. He also wanted to end community violence and provide quality education for all residents.

Fremont’s platform supported the $15 minimum wage increase, affordable housing and small business initiatives; a citywide “cultural rebirth” that includes preserving the city’s historic values, art and music while supporting a “mixed-income community;” COVID-19 relief; and climate change mitigation efforts.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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