Christi Fraga elected first woman Mayor of Doral, two new Council members win seats too
Image via Christi Fraga.

Chisti Fraga (2)
Only two other people have served as Mayor of Doral, which celebrates its 20th year of incorporation in 2023.

Three runoff races in Doral concluded Tuesday with the election of former Miami-Dade School Board member Christi Fraga as the city’s first woman Mayor and two new City Council members — Rafael Pineyro and Maureen Porras — winning seats.

With all 11 precincts reporting at 7:57 p.m., Fraga had 54.55% of the vote compared to 45.45% for Claudia Mariaca. Fraga will succeed founding Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez, who in August won election to the Miami-Dade County Commission.

In the City Council runoffs, Pineyro defeated Susie Castillo with about 51% of the vote tally to take Seat 1, while Porras topped Ivette González Petkovich for Seat 2 with nearly 52% of ballots cast in her favor.

Those figures may shift slightly as election officials tally more votes, including absentee and mail-in ballots pending authentication due to signature inconsistencies.

The winners will join Council members Oscar Puig-Corve, who won election in 2020 to a four-year term in Seat 3; and Seat 4 member Digna Cabral, the only candidate running in Doral this year who secured more than 50% of the votes cast during the General Election to earn re-election outright in Seat 4.

As expected, turnout for the runoff election was far lower than in the General, when more than 15,000 residents went to the polls or mailed in ballots. About 6,000 Doral residents, including 3,211 who submitted mail-in ballots, voted in Tuesday’s election.

(L-R) Former Doral Council members and Vice Mayors Claudia Mariaca and Christi Fraga competed to be Doral’s first woman Mayor. Images via Claudia Mariaca and Christi Fraga.

Mayor

The runoff for Doral Mayor was a faceoff of longtime residents with histories of public service.

Fraga, 35, is a former Doral Council member who in 2020 won a seat on the Miami-Dade School Board, a position she vacated this year to run for Mayor. In private life, she is the owner and

managing partner of South Florida Small Business Solutions, a bookkeeping and property management firm.

Mariaca, 48, served on the City Council from 2016 until this year. She holds academic accreditations in finance and economics and has served on the Miami-Dade and Florida leagues of cities.

In an interview with the Miami Herald, she said she would treat the mayoralty as a full-time job since her husband’s income enables her to not need outside employment.

The two candidates’ platforms featured several overlapping priorities. Both promised to improve public safety and quality of life, enforce government transparency and accountability, and address traffic congestion.

Fraga’s campaign website also targeted assistance for senior citizens and people with special needs, controlling local real estate development, improving the city’s existing infrastructure, keeping taxes low, expanding education opportunities, enforcing homeowners’ association compliance and repealing a measure city officials passed in January 2021 giving themselves post-service pensions.

Mariaca, meanwhile, pledged to remove the county’s Covanta trash incinerator from the city — a popular issue among Doral candidates this cycle — while completing a $150 million plan to upgrade the local park system. She carried an endorsement from Bermudez, who weighed in on each of Tuesday’s races.

In terms of fundraising, Fraga carries the heavier stick. She raised more than $486,000 between her campaign account and political committee, Next Generation Leadership, since filing for the race in January. As of Dec. 8, she had more than $70,000 remaining.

Both candidates accepted a blend of grassroots and corporate donations.

Fraga’s largest business contributors included general contracting firm The Pinecrest Group, millwork company FA Millwork and electrical infrastructure company Ibex Tech Corp., each of which gave $10,000.

Her most generous political donor was Hialeah Mayor Steve Bovo, who gave $24,000 through his political committee, A Better Hialeah.

Mariaca raised about $225,000 since filing to run at the beginning of 2022. She had about $39,000 left last week. As was the case with Fraga, a significant chunk of her gains came from real estate development businesses.

Neither Fraga nor Mariaca shied away from asserting themselves politically. As a member of the School Board, Fraga supported several conservative measures, including an item celebrating the National Day of Prayer.

She was also one of three members who opposed the appointment of Superintendent Jose Dotres — she supported state Education Department Chancellor Jacob Oliva for the job — and was the only member last year to vote against recognizing October as LGBTQ History Month.

Mariaca attracted attention in October for comments she made about a candidate forum hosted by media website Doral Voice. In declining an invitation to participate, she called the website “fake,” alleging it is “one of those fly-by-night organizations that show up during an election season with no other purpose than to spread bad information.”

Juan Carlos Esquivel, the president of Doral Voice and an unsuccessful candidate for the City Council this year, took exception with that characterization. He described the outlet as a “community service” he ran at a financial loss but did not dispute that he donated to Fraga’s campaign. Fraga also endorsed him.

In the General Election, Fraga took 40.9% of the vote. Mariaca received 30.4%. That put them past third-place candidate Peter Cabrera, the longest serving member of the City Council (his term ended Tuesday), and pastor Haim Otero. They received 27% and 1.8% of the vote, respectively.

Bermudez served as Doral’s first Mayor from 2003 to 2012 and again from 2016 to 2022. Between those stints, technology wholesaler executive Luigi Boria held the city’s highest office.

(L-R) FIU Corporate Relations Director Susie Castillo and management consultant Rafael Pineyro ran to fill the seat Mariaca vacated. Images via Susie Castillo and Rafael Pineyro.

Doral Council — Seat 1

Both veterans of government service, Castillo and Pineyro ran to succeed Mariaca, whose departure from the City Council this year — in accordance with Florida’s resign-to-run law — triggered an election to replace her.

Castillo, 62, is the director of corporate relations at Florida International University. She served for eight years on the Miami-Dade School Board through 2020.

Last month, she led General Election candidates with 43.6% of the vote.

Pineyro, 38, is a former county parks manager and Chief of Staff to the Mayor of Doral. He took 32.4% of the vote Nov. 8 to beat out third- and fourth-place candidates Carlos Pereira and Frank Gamez.

Castillo, whom Bermudez endorsed, ran on a platform prioritizing the relocation of the Covanta incinerator, reducing traffic congestion and ensuring government transparency and fiscal responsibility.

She raised $118,000 between July 1 and Dec. 8. As of last week, she had $27,000 left.

Pineyro, whose government work history also includes nearly three years as a county case manager in Texas, raised $64,000 since filing for the race in January. By Dec. 8, he had less than $2,000 remaining.

His platform focused on neighborhood safety, supporting the police, reducing traffic congestion, improving public transportation, fighting tax and fee increases, attracting “quality businesses” to Doral and preserving the city’s parks.

This isn’t the first time Pineyro’s run for elected office. In 2018, he challenged incumbent Jose “Pepe” Diaz for a seat on the Miami-Dade Commission, taking second place with 26% of the vote.

(L-R) Like several others running in Doral this year, lawyers Maureen Porras and Ivette González Petkovich agreed the county’s trash incinerator needs to go. Images via Maureen Porras and Ivette González Petkovich.

Doral Council — Seat 2

Both Democratic lawyers, González Petkovich and Porras ran to succeed Cabrera on the city dais. In last month’s election, they respectively placed first and second to outpace and eliminate logistics CEO Juan Manuel Sucre from the runoff.

González Petkovich, 43, is a former Assistant State Attorney whose eponymous criminal defense firm has offices in Doral and Coral Gables. She ran with endorsements from Bermudez, Cabral and Puig-Corve.

Her platform included supporting “thoughtful development” within city limits. She also cited her work with the Doral Community Coalition and Commission on the State of Women as noteworthy to her candidacy.

In 2016, she challenged Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr., then a state Representative, for a seat in the House. She lost by 5.5 percentage points.

Since launching her campaign back in November 2021, González Petkovich amassed close to $49,000, spending all but $300 last week.

Porras, the 33-year-old immigration legal director of the Doral-based Church World Service, In 2020, she made an unsuccessful run at the Statehouse, losing by 7.4 percentage points to Republican Rep. David Borrero in the General Election.

This cycle, she raised more than $89,000 since filing to run for the City Council in July 2021. By Dec. 8, she had $24,000 left.

Her platform focused on strengthening small businesses and the local workforce, updating the city’s infrastructure and sustainability practices, supporting Doral’s immigrant community and improving traffic conditions, public safety and education.

Both candidates vowed to oust the Covanta incinerator, which González Petkovich calls a “qualify-of-life nuisance.”

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.


3 comments

  • Geejay

    December 13, 2022 at 9:34 pm

    Thanks for your reporting. Although the election turnout in Doral was low, the results reflected a repudiation of the previous Doral City Council members voting themselves such lucrative pension and healthcare benefits.

    • Jose

      December 14, 2022 at 6:45 am

      Agree but my reason for voting for Fraga who politically I do not agree with much is because Bermudez is the new Commissioner clone of Jose Pepe Diaz who works only for developers .

      Actually as Mayor that was all he did changing zoning laws for developers in a city where 3:30 pm already becomes a rush hour parking lot.

      Fraga is no puppet of Bermudez to put it mildly .

      As far as the political apathy in Doral this seems to define Doral and Sweet Water .

  • Mario Molins

    December 14, 2022 at 12:05 pm

    Congratulations to the winners !! Now let’s work to improve Doral’s quality of life:
    Move Covanta,
    Control development and
    Improve traffic.
    Best wishes,
    Mario Molins

Comments are closed.


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