‘Honest and real’: 4 local leaders endorse Joe Saunders for HD 106

Joe Saunders JS
‘Joe Saunders embodies the qualities we need in a representative: integrity, passion, and a deep understanding of our community’s needs.’

Former Rep. Joe Saunders’ bid to represent coastal Miami-Dade County residents in the Legislature has the support of four more local leaders.

Miami Beach Commissioner Tanya Bhatt, North Miami Council member Scott Galvin, Surfside Commissioner Gerardo Vildostegui and former Miami Beach Planning Board member Gayle Durham are now backing Saunders, according to his campaign.

All provided statements explaining why they’re supporting Saunders this year.

Bhatt, who won her City Commission seat in November, cited Saunders’ commitment to local control over how Miami Beach grows as key to securing her support.

“He’s honest and real, two things we need more of in our politics. Over and over Tallahassee politicians pass laws that erode local control and rob our cities of the power to govern themselves,” she said. “Joe Saunders embodies the qualities we need in a representative: integrity, passion, and a deep understanding of our community’s needs.”

Durham expressed similar sentiments.

“The single greatest threat to the integrity of local neighborhoods in Miami Beach are Tallahassee power grabs that erode local control,” she said. “Joe Saunders has a long record of standing up to developers and corporate interests that want to take away our ability to plan how our cities grow.”

Vildostegui, who won election in March, said Saunders’ promise to deliver on resiliency and cost-of-life issues won him over.

“Surfside, like all of Northeast Miami-Dade and like all of Florida, needs serious leadership in the Florida Capitol,” he said. “District 106 needs a Representative who understands our communities, and who can bring people together to solve urgent problems such as sea-level rise and the property insurance crisis.”

Galvin, meanwhile, highlighted his personal interactions with Saunders.

“I’ve worked for decades with Joe and watched him navigate complex policy and budgets, and always with a servant’s heart. He’s the real deal,” he said. “North Miami deserves a leader like Joe who will always fight for working families and our state’s most vulnerable.”

The nods from Bhatt, Galvin, Vildostegui and Durham join numerous others from current and former federal and state lawmakers. Several advocacy groups, including LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, SAVE Action PAC and the Florida Leadership Council have also endorsed Saunders since he filed to run May 1, 2023.

Saunders, who made history in 2012 as one of the first openly gay people to win a seat in the Legislature. He served a single, two-year term representing Orlando in the House before losing his re-election bid. Miami-Dade Property Appraiser records show he has owned a one-bedroom apartment in Miami Beach since April 2021.

For the past decade, he has worked as political director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida.

He’s the sole Democrat running in HD 106. On Nov. 5, he’ll face the winner of a GOP Primary between incumbent Rep. Fabián Basabe and Melinda Almonte.

No-party candidate Maureen Saunders Scott, a St. Johns County resident who last month changed her name on the ballot to “Moe Saunders,” is also running. She is Joe Saunders’ aunt, and he’s since sued her to stop her from running under a name one letter different from his.

For nearly a month, Florida Politics has sought an explanation from the Florida Department of State for why the name change was permitted, as it runs afoul of a relatively new state law barring candidates from running with a nickname that would mislead voters or imply a candidate is someone else.

So far, the agency has yet to provide one.

HD 106 covers a coastal strip of Miami-Dade between Miami Beach and Aventura.

The General Election is on Nov. 5.

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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  • Michael K

    July 9, 2024 at 12:57 pm

    Joe Saunders is one of the best – truly a servant of the people.

    He will be a welcome addition to the Florida legislature.

Comments are closed.


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