Whether as an elected official, a lawyer or a member of a government, business or community organization, Jorge Fors Jr. said one principle has guided him.
It’s what made him a good President of the Coral Gables Bar Association years ago, what makes him an effective City Commissioner today, and it’s what will continue to inform his service, he said, on the Miami-Dade County Commission.
“You have to care,” he said. “If you don’t care, you won’t care about making mistakes. You won’t care about preparing, and you won’t care about leaving people behind.
“That’s not something you can teach. Either you are born genuinely caring for your neighbors, friends, family and community or you genuinely don’t, and that’s the most important trait for a person, but especially for an elected official.”
A lawyer by trade, Fors’ public service began in April 2019, when he won a runoff for the Coral Gables Commission, beating out a former longtime Commissioner and mayoral candidate by just 173 votes.
He announced plans in May to leave office early for a shot at the County Commission. Since then, he’s attracted scores of endorsements from unions, community groups and local leaders, including Miami-Dade Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, whom he’s running to succeed in representing District 6. The seat covers a center-north portion of Miami-Dade encompassing parts of Miami, Coral Gables, Hialeah and a portion of the county’s unincorporated area.
To win the election, he has some ground to cover. On Aug. 23, Fors captured just 26% of the vote in a technically nonpartisan, four-way Primary. That put him in second place behind government relations specialist Kevin Marino Cabrera, who received more than 43% of the vote.
Because Miami-Dade law requires a County Commission candidate to secure more than half the vote to win a seat outright, Fors and Cabrera — both Republicans — are now competing in a runoff that will culminate in the Nov. 8 General Election.
Fors anticipates the coming contest will favor his campaign, which he characterized as less polarizing and more attractive to centrists and progressives than that of his opponent. Winning that race, he said, will enable him to bring policies to Miami-Dade at large and District 6 specifically that made him an impactful municipal leader.
“It’s easy to get caught up — many elected officials do — in listening more to special interests and the folks who have more access to you in theory, but one thing I’ve remained allegiant to since getting elected is remaining 100% accessible and most accessible to the everyday resident, listening to what they need and want in our neighborhoods,” he said.
“District 6 is a very family-heavy neighborhood. We have a lot of bedroom communities in the district as well as municipalities. What the residents are really looking for is somebody who is going to protect their neighborhoods where they are raising their families.”
He sat down with Florida Politics to discuss the runoff and his plans, if elected. The transcribed conversation below has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Florida Politics: Coming out of the Primary Election, you received 26% of the vote compared to 43% for your General Election opponent, Kevin Marino Cabrera. Are you recalibrating your campaign to close the gap before Nov. 8?
Fors: We’re sticking to our message, and we’re confident it’s going to resonate with voters. In August, the type of turnout we got was difficult for us considering there was a Democrat (Miami Springs Councilman Victor Vázquez) in the race and that one of my opponents was endorsed by Donald Trump, which is obviously very polarizing.
In November, the turnout is completely different. I expect to get the lion’s share of the votes Vázquez received as the third-place candidate in August — we’ve secured his endorsement, by the way — and we expect more than double the number of voters that came out in August, including more than triple the amount of independents and more than double the amount of Democrats.
That will put us on a path to victory. With no Democrat in the race, we can take advantage of some of the polarization that comes with a Trump endorsement.
We really think the race looks the same. It was a tight race in August, and it’s going to be a tight race in November. But in November, the turnout favors us. With the Democrat out of the race in August, and you assume I get his votes, I’m actually ahead of Cabrera.
What is your opinion of Cabrera?
He’s a young man. He doesn’t have a lot of experience serving. My biggest concern with him is that he’s the definition of a political insider.
His entire adult life has been spent in politics and not serving the public but in a lobbying, political operative capacity — the backroom deals and the parts of government where sometimes the residents’ interests get lost.
He’s trying to take his business model to the next level now by sitting in a position as an elected official.
What do you think District 6 voters should know about you and your bid for the Miami-Dade Commission?
They should know I’m a candidate who already has a history of service and a record you can look back to instead of speculating about how I’m going to lead and govern.
The reason I have the endorsement of the incumbent (Miami-Dade Commissioner Sosa), who is now terming out, as well as of police, firefighter unions and other local leaders and organizations, is because I’ve already shown that I do this for the right reasons and I genuinely put the interests of my constituents first.
I’m not getting into any kind of personal gain.
Of which accomplishments from your service as a Coral Gables Commissioner are you proudest?
I’ve been a leader on transparency. I worked on what I like to call my transparency package, which brought about remote testimony and appearances by our residents at our City Commission meetings and enhanced notice measures, including a program I developed to allow residents to sign up for location-based notices and receive notices of matters directly impacting the immediate area around their home.
I also included email notifications to residents. In other words, it was a package designed really to give more access to residents, and they really can’t have access if they don’t know what’s going on.
I’m also very proud of my accomplishments in the public safety area, fighting for investments in fire infrastructure, including a new fire facility we’re building now that originally wasn’t in the budget, but we’re finding a way to put it in there.
My creating of youth zones for traffic calming has always placed high priority on. A youth zone is something similar to a school zone but where there’s no school. But there may still be a high level of youth activity, like parks or libraries.
And perhaps it’s not the biggest thing I did, but I’m extra proud of the jiu-jitsu defensive tactic program I created for our police officers, including a jiu-jitsu training facility. In the wake of some of the things we saw in the summer the George Floyd incident occurred, our response was to add additional funding for police to improve their hand-to-hand defensive tactics skills.
It’s something the Coral Gables Police Department has latched onto, and it’s really exploded as one of the most popular programs in the department.
Do you practice jiu-jitsu?
I started wrestling when I was 4 years old and wrestled until I was 20. I’ve done a little jiu-jitsu, but at heart I’m a lifelong wrestler.
In your opinion, what are Miami-Dade County’s three greatest needs?
The No. 1 one you obviously can’t avoid is the affordability of housing. That’s a crisis we’re currently facing, so the No. 1 need is increased inventory and accessibility so we can bring down some of these prices.
Secondly, we’re in need of additional public safety infrastructure and personnel, given the rapidly increasing population in Miami-Dade County and especially in District 6.
Third is transparency and accountability. We continue to see, including just (last) week, locally elected officials not putting the residents first and allowing in the rush of things, the hustle and bustle of governance, so that the interests of residents gets lost.
We need to remember who put us there, who hired us, essentially, and why we’re there. For that to be the case, there needs to be a lot more transparency not only at the county level but at every level of government. Because transparency is key to good governance, in my opinion.
How about District 6 in particular? What are its greatest assets and needs?
I already alluded to its greatest assets, which are its families. Unlike some other districts, where you have a different type of demographic, you look around here and we truly do have families, which is an amazing thing and something that needs to be protected on every front in terms of need.
We have a lot of elderly folks in District 6, the most of any district in Miami-Dade County. But when you start talking about older folks, you immediately run into — I have found, as I knock on these doors — the affordable housing crisis.
As these folks begin to age, we’re going to increasingly find ourselves challenged by placing our elder residents in acceptable dwellings and living conditions. We’re going to reach a crisis. It’s already happening. People are starting to talk about it. But over the next three years it’s going to become a really big problem.
These are older folks who don’t necessarily have younger family members around them who can or are willing to support them, older folks who don’t use the computer or the internet the way younger folks do and simply aren’t equipped with the skills to find the assistance they need.
One of the things I intend to do in District 6 is, as opposed to taking a reactive approach to constituent services, especially with the older folks, is to take a proactive approach and not wait for a family member or neighbor to contact our offices regarding assistance for an elderly person, to actually go out and find the elderly folks who need assistance.
We’ve seen that they simply are not going to find us, so we need to go out there, find them and connect them with the assistance they need instead of just waiting around for them to contact us.
What do you enjoy about campaigning?
Meeting people. You meet so many new people who you would otherwise never come across, especially for me, when you go from serving the city of Coral Gables to then serving a much larger part of the county.
In District 6, you have such diverse communities, going up from Hialeah all the way down to Glenvar Heights. The opportunity to knock on all those doors — to meet the folks there, the community leaders there who don’t hold elected office but do a lot for their communities and their specific neighborhoods — is the most rewarding part.
What don’t you like?
The negative campaign attacks. We’re in an election here where my opponent has decided to resort to spreading 100% false statements about me — flyers of me in an orange jumpsuit handcuffed behind bars when I’ve never been incarcerated in my life, claiming I’ve been investigated for fraud and things of this nature, which are outright lies.
My opponent has resorted to that because it’s clear he’s desperate and will do anything to get elected.
How would you characterize your campaign? What is its overriding message?
It’s a family-first platform. I’m a person who has served the community already. What you see is what you get with me. I’m doing this for all the right reasons. I’m just a normal guy trying to improve our community.