Winner of Sunny Isles Beach Mayor runoff could change as rejected ballots are cured
Tuesday's runoff capped the second time Larisa Svechin (left) and Dana Goldman (right) competed for the Sunny Isles Beach mayoralty. Images via Larisa Svechin and Dana Goldman.

Schvechin Goldman
Just 26 votes separate the two candidates. Sixty mail-in ballots remain uncounted.

A heated race for Sunny Isles Beach Mayor has reached a tentative conclusion as challenger Larisa Svechin received just over two dozen more votes than incumbent Dana Goldman.

But that result still pends certification and could swing the other way, depending on how many rejected ballots are cured.

With all five precincts reporting Tuesday night, Svechin had 50.4% of 3,276 ballots cast in her favor compared to 49.6% for Goldman. As of Wednesday morning, those numbers remained: Just 26 votes separated the two candidates.

Image via Miami-Dade Elections Department.

But there are more than enough rejected mail-in ballots awaiting cures — corrections to voter errors, such as using a signature that doesn’t match the one on file, voter ID information or a date — to upend that result.

According to Robert Rodriguez, assistant deputy supervisor at the Miami-Dade Elections Department, there are 60 such ballots. He made clear that those hoping the results will change after the cure process is completed should temper their expectations.

“Historically, not too many people submit cure ballots,” he said.

Rodriguez told Florida Politics that as of 10 a.m. Wednesday, every voter whose mail-in ballot was rejected has received a cure affidavit enabling them to rectify issues with their ballot and have it counted. They have until 5 p.m. Thursday to return the affidavit to the Elections Department.

The Sunny Isles Canvassing Board — consisting of City Manager Stan Morris, Clerk Mauricio Betancur and resident Gloria Taft — will meet at 2 p.m. Friday to review the ballots and cure affidavits. They’ll then certify the election with the new ballot counts.

“If a voter sends in the cure affidavit, they fix it with an ID and everything’s on file, Elections Department staff can fix and process the ballot as approved,” Rodriguez said. “If there’s still a problem, it has to go to the canvassing board.”

The runoff between Svechin and Goldman came after neither candidate secured more than 50% of the vote in the Nov. 8 election. As was the case Tuesday, Svehcin edged her opponent slightly with 2,450 (43.2%) of the vote compared to 2,413 (42.55%) of ballots cast in her favor. Third-place candidate Anita Funtek took just 808 votes.

The runoff was a rematch between Svechin and Goldman, who competed last year in a Special Election for the city mayoralty. Goldman ultimately won, succeeding George “Bud” Scholl, who resigned to focus on his job as President and CEO of OneBlood.

Both Svechin and Goldman have served as Sunny Isles Beach Commissioner, Vice Mayor and Mayor, though Svechin’s job as Mayor until November 2021 was in an interim capacity.

Prior to last year’s election, Goldman filed a complaint with the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust alleging Svechin violated county rules by using “re-elect” in campaign ads. The Ethics Commission dismissed the complaint for lack of legal sufficiency.

The Commission also dismissed a complaint against Goldman accusing her of using endorsements from a prior political race for her campaign last year.

Tuesday’s runoff capped the second time Larisa Svechin (left) and Dana Goldman (right) competed for the Sunny Isles Beach mayoralty. Images via Larisa Svechin and Dana Goldman.

As detailed in the Miami Herald, a local real estate company sued Goldman this year for making libelous statements in campaign ads about the company and Svechin.

Sunny Isles Beach-based Dezer Development accused Goldman of knowingly spreading “false and defamatory statements … to further their personal vendettas” against the company to aid her re-election campaign.

The lawsuit cites a video ad posted to Goldman’s social media accounts and a website her campaign paid for claiming Dezer donated $750,000 to Svechin, who in exchange would support legislation “radically upzoning” properties to benefit the company.

The complaint also says the website, svechin4sale.com, incorrectly suggests Svechin has family secretly working for Dezer.

Goldman ally and City Commissioner Jerry Joseph is also named in the lawsuit for accusing Svechin on social media of having ties to Dezer. In a Nov. 28 Facebook post rife with errant capitalization, Joseph wrote Svechin is “100% funded by Gil Dezer,” the company’s President, and that Dezer Development has tried to “Silence” him and Goldman from providing residents with “TRUE AND UNDENIABLE FACTS” supporting their claims.

The lawsuit contends that not “a single part” of Goldman and Joseph’s claims are true. Svechin told the Herald that while she accepted an unspecified sum from the Dezer family in 2016, she had not taken any money from them this cycle.

Goldman told supporters in an email that the lawsuit was an attempt to “bully and intimidate” her from “standing up for the residents of our great city.”

Svechin called Goldman’s accusations “unprovoked — and some even say ‘crazy,’” in a Nov. 26 guest column for Miami’s Community Newspapers.

“Residents have voiced their frustration and anger about the rampant, one-sided campaign negativity here in our normally quaint and civil city — and they just want it to stop,” she said.

A Miami Beach-born real estate lawyer at the law firm Shutts & Bowen, Goldman filled a vacancy on the Commission in 2014 and won four consecutive elections since, including her victory over Svechin last year.

She ran this year on a platform prioritizing the development of greenspaces and active recreation areas, expanding education opportunities, addressing local redevelopment issues, strengthening condo dweller rights, improving the city’s walkability and bikeability, protecting and cleaning beaches, and eliminating wasteful government spending.

Svechin, who immigrated to South Florida from the former USSR at age 6 under religious asylum, works in private life as grant writer for the nonprofit YG Institute. She won election to the Sunny Isles Beach Commission in 2016 and won re-election twice.

Her campaign website says she wants to “Make Sunny Isles Great Again” by cutting government costs and bureaucratic red tape, improving municipal services, tackling infrastructure needs, expanding the city’s police department, rooting out “condo corruption,” upgrading parks and other public spaces, stopping city staff from “openly and illegally campaigning for elected officials” and hosting monthly town halls to seek resident input.

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.


2 comments

  • Marcos suarez

    December 7, 2022 at 1:58 pm

    I hope we don’t import that Maricopa County “virus ” here.
    The easiest way to lose transparency in the voting process is that flip-flop ambiguity.

  • John Doe

    December 8, 2022 at 12:08 pm

    If you only LIVED here, and could witness for yourself the targeted harassment and lies brought by the Svechin campaign. Larisa had a mob of online trolls, who made life hell for anyone speaking of behalf of other candidates. It’s a shame money wins, and Dezer money goes DEEP. Just come look at our shiny city, and tell me who is running what.

Comments are closed.


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