Candidates head to runoff for shorter Seat 6 term on Miami Lakes Council

Miami Lakes Town Hall Wiki Commons
Just 6 votes separated the second- and third-place candidates Tuesday night.

The race for a shortened term on the Miami Lakes Town Council isn’t over.

Lawyer Bryan Morera will face former Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Town Manager Esther Colon in an April 30 runoff for the right to serve in Seat 6 through November 2026, according to unofficial results on the Miami-Dade County Elections Department website.

No candidate secured more than 50% of the vote to win outright.

With all seven of the town’s precincts reporting and all mail-in ballots counted at 8:26 p.m. Tuesday, Morera had 29.4% of the vote and Colon had 22.6%.

Colon held a tenuous second-place lead over social worker Hector Abad, who took 22.3% of the vote. Just seven votes separated them.

Because Colon’s margin of victory over Abad is less than 0.5% of the total, the Miami-Dade Elections Department must conduct a machine recount. Such recounts rarely result in a switch.

Miami-Dade Deputy Supervisor of Elections Robert Rodriguez said there are eight uncounted mail-in ballots on which Miami Lakes voters have until Thursday to correct their signatures.

“Unfortunately, it’s a lot of wait-and-see’ right now,” he said. “It’s in the hands of the voters curing their signature issues.”

For former Miami Lakes Vice Mayor Nelson Rodriguez and South Florida Autism Charter School spokesperson John Rogger, who took 19% and 6% of the vote, respectively, it’s the end of the road.

The winner later this month will serve the remaining term of ex-Vice Mayor Carlos Alvarez, who resigned in November, citing a need to focus on his work as a charter school principal and executive.

Morera told Florida Politics shortly after securing his spot in the runoff that he felt “incredibly proud” to perform well against four “supremely qualified” opponents in a race that stayed polite through Election Day.

“We all ran a phenomenal, civil race. I am not aware of any negativity that you see in some other races. And at the end of the day, that’s what it is being a Miami Laker. We are neighbors first, and even after the race is over, we still have to live with each other,” he said.

“There was a beautiful moment today at one of the voting precincts, where there were four of the five candidates present and we took a photo together. And we were all commenting on exactly that, the fact that despite the fact we were at odds in this moment, in this race, we’ve each run respectful campaigns and we all intend — every single one of us, including the candidates who aren’t going to be part of the runoff — to continue serving our town in different capacities.”

He said he feels “incredibly prepared” for the runoff and plans to recommence knocking on doors Wednesday.

“Which is exactly how I’ve been getting votes: the old-fashioned way, meeting our voters and residents in person, making a direct connection with them, listening to them and finding out what they need, what they want to see from their Councilman,” he said.

“So many people are getting used to being told, ‘Hey, I’m this candidate. I’m going to give you this.’ But they never stopped to think, ‘Is this what (my constituents) want?’ I think listening is a critical part of this job.”

Of the 20,004 registered voters in Miami Lakes, just over 2,100 cast ballots through Tuesday, representing a 10.5% turnout.

Aside from hyperlocal outlets, scant media attention was paid to the race. A survey the Miami Laker conducted of the candidates in February found that taxes, infrastructure, traffic congestion, property damage from limestone blast mining and public safety were top issues for the candidates.

All candidates agreed the town should continue outsourcing its policing needs to Miami-Dade County, which in November will elect its first Sheriff. They also concurred that Miami Lakes residents shouldn’t exclusively cover the cost of renovating Optimist Park.

Miami Lakes Council members and the Mayor are elected and serve at-large, meaning all town residents can vote for candidates seeking any elected office in a given election. Term lengths are typically four years.

Bryan Morera led all candidates in fundraising. Image via Bryan Morera.

Morera, a business lawyer in private practice, ran as a first-time candidate at 32 years old.

Like his opponents, he wanted to lower taxes, address blast mining problems and improve public safety. He also promised to dedicate more town resources to further beautifying Miami Lakes.

“Like many towns, we are facing some growing pains and face serious challenges that need to be addressed. Over the years, traffic has become more difficult to contend with at best, and a nightmare at worst; several of our tree canopies have been removed; and numerous interests have endeavored to treat taxpayer dollars like a blank check and to overdevelop our town,” he said.

“As your next Councilman, I will work with my colleagues to deliver long-term solutions to these and other issues to ensure that Miami Lakes remains a great place to live, work and play.”

Morera attracted ample financial support and was the money front-runner in the race with more than $20,000 in donations and $13,500 in expenditures.

About 100 people contributed to Moreno’s campaign in two- to three-figure sums. He received a handful or so of business contributions, including from insurance and real estate companies.

A few political committees also chipped. Morera received $1,000 apiece from the government relations arm of the Miami Association of Realtors, the PC of Miami-Dade Commissioner René García and New Dade PAC, a PC that largely gives to conservative candidates and paid large sums last quarter to Groundswell Strategies, a Coral Gables-based consulting firm helmed by former Marco Rubio organizer Anthony Busatamante.

Of roughly $13,500 Morera spent through April 4, more than $10,700 went to Groundswell Strategies.

His Facebook page said he received endorsements from García, Republican Rep. Tom Fabricio, School Board member Robert Alonso, Council members Luis CollazoJosh Dieguez and Marilyn Ruano, and former Vice Mayor Frank Mingo.

He is a member of the Miami Lakes Chamber of Commerce and previously served on the town’s Blasting Advisory Board.

Esther Colon had ample experience in municipal government and Miami Lakes elections. Image via Miami Lakes/Esther Colon.

Colon, 70, is a veteran of local government management and a 30-year resident of Miami Lakes.

She is also a retired professor and has served in numerous volunteer capacities in her longtime hometown, including the Blasting Advisory, Cultural Affairs, Sheriff Ordinance Ad Hoc and Elderly Affairs committees.

She vowed, if elected, to work on addressing the town’s traffic problems, especially in school zones; upgrading local infrastructure with a focus on drainage, road projects and pedestrian projects; and making Miami Lakes’ government more fiscally accountable and accessible to residents.

“I am a qualified, professional, and ethical candidate who is ready to work as a proud public servant,” she said in a statement.

She raised $9,000 through April 4, of which half was from her bank account. The remainder overwhelmingly came through personal checks. She also spent $7,400.

Colon has run for the Council twice before.

Hector Abad said he was answering ‘a calling’ to serve his community. Image via Hector Abad.

A first-time candidate, Abad has lived in Miami Lakes since 2001 and works by day as a social worker with Miami-Dade Public Schools. When not on the job, he remains active in the community and has chaired the town’s Education Advisory Board and served on its Mental Health Task Force.

“I want to continue to serve and work for our community,” he said in a statement. “That’s why I have decided to run for Miami Lakes Town Council, because helping others and working to improve our community is more than a job for me; it’s a calling.”

Abad, 53, ran on a platform prioritizing traffic management, crime reduction, economically empowering small businesses and apportioning more of the town’s budget to upgrading local infrastructure.

Through April 4, the last date on which campaign finance reports are available for candidates, he raised $10,000 and spent $9,000. Most of his donations came from people.

He carried an endorsement from Council member Ray Garcia. His Instagram and Facebook pages also feature character-endorsing quotes from Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid, Vice Mayor Tony Fernandez and Council member Luis Collazo.

Nelson Rodriguez sought a return to the Town Council. Image via Facebook/Nelson Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, 54, is a retired firefighter who now works in American Airlines’ baggage service department and teaches emergency medical services at Barry University. He was first elected to the Town Council in 2012, won re-election in 2016 and served as Vice Mayor for two years through 2020, when he unsuccessfully ran for the House.

His platform prioritized cutting taxes, improving street maintenance and reducing roadway congestion.

“I am ready to work on Day One,” he said in a statement.

“I have a proven track record as a Council member. I understand the town operation and I am very familiar with the needs of our residents,” he told the Miami Laker. “After receiving many calls from neighbors and supporters, I have decided to run again. After the November 2024 election we will have five new Council members. I believe I can be a mentor to these new Council members, and I hope to bring unity back to this current Council.”

Rodriguez raised $3,000 this cycle, inclusive of a $1,000 self-loan and $1,000 from Law Order and Justice PC, the political committee of Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell.

John Rogger aimed to make history and a major statement about inclusivity and achievement. Image via John Rogger.

Rogger, 37, ran to become one of the first — if not the first — people with autism to win elected office in Florida.

A first-time candidate, he chaired the town’s Special Needs Advisory Board. When not at his day job, he hosts a morning show on The Cove radio, KRMS 98.7.

Rogger said he wanted to broaden inclusivity initiatives and representation, fight to preserve Miami Lakes’ “small town charm” amid increasing development and improve local roads and traffic issues. He also hoped to make operations at Town Hall more transparent and finalize a local license plate reader project to help law enforcement.

“This is not only a fight for the betterment of our community, improvements for our town (and) decisions that matter to people,” said Rogger, who is the father of two boys on the autism spectrum. “It’s also my personal journey of breaking stereotypes, showcasing my dedication (and) proving that there are no limits to what can be achieved, which I hope is inspiring to others within the special needs community.”

He raised $6,600, including $700 from his bank account. The rest came mostly through personal checks, with just three corporate contributions. He also reported spending $7,300.

Rogger’s Instagram page featured several quotes about him from Miami Lakes elected officials and community leaders, including Cid, Special Needs Advisory Committee Chair Vivian Levy, pastor Darius Wentz, Arts for Autism founder Audrey Amadeo.

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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