Homestead voters chose to keep Mayor Steven Losner in office for four more years, selecting him by a large margin over Vice Mayor Julio Guzman for the city’s most prominent elected office.
With all 18 precincts reporting, Losner had 60% of the vote compared to 35% for Guzman. The still unofficial results show 783 votes separating the two candidates.
Losner told Florida Politics by text he is “humbled and honored by the resounding vote of confidence” he received. He thanked his wife and family for their “unwavering support” and Homestead residents for their trust.
“I’m ready to continue the work we’ve started and deliver on our promise to preserve and protect our quality of life,” he said. “We brought together a united coalition of residents in our campaign and the results tonight reaffirm that united we will keep Homestead moving forward.”
Third-place candidate Sonia Castro Natal — who drew accusations of being a “ghost candidate” for her past support of Losner, her late entry to the race and nonexistent campaign footprint — received 134 votes, representing 4% of the total.
Meanwhile, education professional Toshiba Mitchell and retired physician-turned-entrepreneur Clemente Canabal will compete in a runoff for Seat 6 on the Homestead City Council after none of the four candidates in the race captured a large enough share of the vote to win Tuesday.
Candidates had to receive more than 50% of the vote to win outright.
Mitchell and Canabal were the two top vote earners, receiving 38.5% and 26% of the total, respectively. Voters will decide next month which of them will succeed Council member Patricia Fairclough-Staggers in representing the Oasis neighborhood on the city’s east end.
Homestead 50 Community Development District Chair Brandy Ramirez and university talent acquisition specialist Carlos Galvan, who took 24.5% and 11% of the vote, respectively. It’s the end of the road for them.
Only 3,160 of 35,584 registered voters in Homestead cast ballots by Tuesday.
Canabal edged Ramirez by just 47 votes.
The contest between Losner and Guzman featured two candidates with Homestead roots four generations deep.
But it’s undeniable the incumbent Mayor carried more name recognition into Election Day. The city’s central greenspace bears his family’s name, Losner Park, and from 2001 to 2007 he served as the city’s Vice Mayor. He returned to office in 2019 after successfully seeking the mayoralty.
A lawyer by trade, Losner’s policy priorities centered on the city’s economy, infrastructure and public safety, from jobs, civil services and curbing crime to stemming overdevelopment in the city, an issue for which his 2021 opponent criticized him.
Changes to the city’s election rules this year extended mayoral terms to four years. Officeholders can serve for no more than eight consecutive years.
Losner carried endorsements from more than a dozen Republican Miami-Dade state and local officials, including Doral Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, who chairs the county’s legislative delegation and represents Homestead in Tallahassee, and Hialeah Rep. Alex Rizo, Chair of the Miami-Dade GOP.
Of note, Rodriguez is married to Canabal.
Democratic Rep. Kevin Chambliss, whose district includes Homestead, also backed him.
Losner reported raising nearly $89,000 this cycle toward his re-election bid. More than half the funds came from real estate and construction businesses.
Guzman, a former Minor League Baseball player-turned-real estate broker, amassed even more — $96,000 through Sept. 19, of which about 42% came from development businesses and professionals.
He vowed to improve housing affordability by adding to the city’s mixed-use development inventory, broaden employment opportunities, reduce traffic congestion and modernize Homestead while maintaining its “historic charm.” That included revitalizing the city’s downtown area by making it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists and a more attractive destination for diners and entertainment seekers.
In an interview last month, with Go! Latinos Magazine, Guzman said he also wants to upgrade the city’s parks.
A third candidate for Mayor, Sonia Castro Natal, joined the race one day before the city’s qualifying deadline. She raised $860 through the end of September, inclusive of a $360 self-loan and a $500 check from a company whose mailing address is for Old’s Havana, a restaurant in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.
Guzman lodged accusations last month that Castro Natal’s candidacy was a strategic move by Losner to “divide the Hispanic vote.” He told NBC 6 she looked like a “ghost candidate,” referencing schemes during the 2020 election to run non-campaigning candidates in close races with the sole intention of siphoning votes from others.
One such ploy saw Republican candidate Ileana Garcia unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. José Javier Rodriguez by just 34 votes. The man allegedly behind it, former Republican Sen. Frank Artiles, is set to go on trial next year on charges of campaign finance violations.
Losner, whom Castro Natal campaigned for four years ago, denied he had any part in Castro Natal running. He said he has a “wide range of support” among Hispanic voters in the city and cited Gov. Ron DeSantis’ current run against former President Donald Trump as an example of two former allies later competing for the same office.
City Council — Seat 6
Mitchell, the learning and development manager at The Mission Continues, a veterans-focused community service organization, came in second in fundraising but ranked first in votes Tuesday.
“We’re here to work for Homestead, and we still have more work to do,” she told Florida Politics as the vote tally grew in her favor. “We’re going to get out there and keep knocking on doors, meeting with residents and letting them know about our campaign and the work we have to do here. We’re ready to go.”
She commended her opponents for running great campaigns and said she looks forward to working with them for the betterment of the city.
Mitchell raised $31,000. More than half came from real estate businesses.
Her campaign website said she is “committed to service,” “SMART solutions” and “listening to the concerns and ideas of all residents working collaboratively to build a stronger, more vibrant, and inclusive community.” It included no specific policy goals.
In a phone interview Tuesday, she said addressing traffic congestion, pausing development in the city and improving its infrastructure are among her priorities.
“Of course, my biggest is community engagement,” she said. “I know that’s what leads to races like mine. Community engagement and services has led me here, and I want to make sure these opportunities are afforded to all our residents. We are a very informed community that’s near and dear to my heart.”
She said her campaign has received endorsements from the Fraternal Order of Police and the Homestead Police Department.
Mitchell boasted a strong community service background, with prior Chair posts on Miami Dade College panels for Women’s History Month, Black Heritage Month and Hispanic Heritage Month, and the Young Professionals Network of the Miami Chamber of Commerce.
In next month’s runoff, she’ll face Canabal, who raised more than every other candidate combined. A good chunk of his gains came from heavy hitters in the Florida GOP.
Canabal promised, if elected, to tackle traffic congestion, increase police funding, boost code enforcement and penalties for illegal dumping, expand housing affordability, create high-paying local jobs and advocate for sustainable growth initiatives.
He raised $67,000 through Sept. 28, due in no small part to contributions from real estate and construction businesses, which gave tens of thousands of dollars, and the political committees of Republican elected officials.
Senate Majority Leader Ben Albritton gave $2,000 through two PCs he controls, as did House Speaker-designate Daniel Perez of Miami.
Canabal also accepted $1,000 contributions from the PCs of Sens. Bryan Ávila and Jim Boyd, Reps. Jay Trumbull, Joe Gruters and Rizo, Miami-Dade Commissioners Kevin Marino Cabrera and Anthony Rodriguez, Miami-Dade Clerk Juan Fernandez-Barquin and former Reps. Vance Aloupis and Jose Félix Díaz.
Ramirez positioned herself as the race’s anti-special interests group candidate. Her Facebook page, which she used in lieu of a campaign website, boasted she was “unbought and unbossed” because she took no donations from lobbyists, developers or political action committees (PACs).
She carried endorsements from the South Florida AFL-CIO, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Hispanic Police Officers Association and WeCount!, a nonprofit focused on immigrant workers’ rights.
By the end of last month, Ramirez raised more than $15,000. While most of her gains came from direct donations of three figures or less, she did accept a $1,000 check from Local No. 349 Electro PAC fund, the political spending arm of a local IBEW chapter.
Ramirez told the South Dade News Leader her campaign priorities included using undeveloped city property to create high-paying jobs and adding local entertainment options for families and youths.
She said overdevelopment in the city is its biggest problem.
Galvan, who works by day as a talent acquisition specialist for the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, raised more than $5,000.
All his donations came through personal checks except a $1,000 contribution from a subsidiary of real estate management company Varcamp.
Galvan had a donations page, but no campaign website.
A post on his Instagram page said stopping the use of a golf course-adjacent site as a landfill dump was among his priorities. Another post stated, “We want to promote the beauty of the city of Homestead, maintaining its essence, but at the same time implementing development strategies, in order to have an orderly growth, without affecting certain areas that are currently being misused.”
In addition to selecting either Mitchell or Canabal for Seat 6, voters next month will decide three other City Council races.
That includes a Special Election to replace Guzman in Seat 1, which represents the Northwest neighborhood. Candidates include U.S. Army veteran and teacher Thomas Davis, local activist and Homestead Greater Federation of Women’s Clubs member Amy Spadaro, and former Miami-Dade Parks marina manager James Wyatt.
According to Robert Rodríguez, assistant deputy supervisor at the Miami-Dade Elections Department, the highest vote-getter Nov. 7 will win the seat outright.
Two incumbents will also try to repel a challenger each on Election Day.
In the Seat 3 race to represent the Villages neighborhood, incumbent Larry Roth faces William “Bobby” Rea, a former captain with the Homestead Police Department who sued the city in 2014 alleging violations of public records laws.
The city later settled the case and paid him $200,000, a sum he said he would have earned had he continued working until retirement. He’d been a city cop for 25 years.
He has run for City Council several times since.