Miami D1 race could become rematch for suspended, arrested commissioner

As the Miami election deadline approaches Tuesday, there is one thing that is practically certain: It won’t end there. We won’t have winners in two of the three districts on the ballot.

Sure, Commissioner Manolo Reyes will win easy peasy over whoever that guy is that threw his hat in at the last minute and then didn’t campaign at all. But the races in districts 1 and 2 have five and eight candidates vying, respectively, and none, not even the incumbents, will get more than 50% of the vote.

A poll at the beginning of early voting predicts a runoff in the Miami District 1 race between suspended Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla, who was relieved of the seat by the governor after his September arrest on public corruption charges — including bribery and money laundering — and Miguel Gabela, an auto parts dealer who only got 39% of the vote in 2019’s runoff against him.

That same poll shows Mercedes “Merci” Labrada Rodriguez, a lifelong county administrator who has been appointed by Diaz de la Portilla to various city boards, comes in third. She has only been campaigning for a month, compared to Gabela who started at the beginning of the year. But she has raised $133,000 in less than three weeks — thanks to help from both Diaz de la Portilla and Commissioner Joe Carollo — which gets her more air time on TV and radio. She has spent at least $71,000 on advertising so far, which is more than the $60K Gabela raised.

Read related: Miguel Gabela wants a rematch vs Alex Diaz de la Portilla in Miami’s District 1

Much or all of it is brought to her via the two amigos. Developer Nir Shoshani, for example, bundled at least $10,000 into her campaign account, according to the last campaign finance report with transactions through Oct. 20. He also gave $37,000 to ADLP between his campaign and his political action committee before the commissioner was arrested. And former District 2 puppet, disgraced judge Martin Zilber, gave Rodriguez $1,000 from is Beautiful Grove Miami PAC. So did former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, who she used to work for.

Some longtime political observers believe Rodriguez will be the one who makes it into a runoff with ADLP, which would be weird since they’re longtime pals and she learned everything she knows about campaigning from The Dean. It would be better to see a runoff between Gabela — , who was intentionally drawn out of the district during the redistricting process — and Rodriguez. But that would also be weird since it would still be Gabela vs. ADLP.

Diaz de la Portilla beat Gabela four years ago in a runoff, 61% to 39%, which is not really that huge a victory when one considers that Diaz de la Portilla spent $1.65 million between his campaign fund and his PAC — $820,800 in the general and $824,820 in the runoff — against Gabela’s 216K.

Read related: No appointment in Miami; five qualify for District 1 election, including ADLP

It may be hard to believe that Diaz de la Portilla can win with the corruption charges hanging over his head. But he’s been playing a local Donald Trump, saying that he is a victim of a political hatchet job by a Democrat prosecutor. District 1 voters could buy into that.

He raised $11,000 in October, which is a very poor showing for The Dean. Especially since $5K came from Tallahassee lobbyists he probably shook down. The PAC, Proven Leadership for Miami-Dade, has not submitted any new reports and did not had any contributions after the arrest in the last report.

Gabela and Rodriguez know they are fighting tooth and nail for the runoff slot. That is why they are hitting each other and not the others. Rodriguez is using the same ADLP attacks from four years ago. Gabela is saying out loud what everyone is thinking with a mailer that paints Rodriguez as a puppet for Diaz de la Portilla.

“Tell me who you hang with…” starts the mailer, and also the Cuban saying that ends “and I’ll tell you who you are.”

“Merci Rodriguez is more of the same — a continuation of the corruption in Miami,” it says.

It was paid for by the Miami Prosperous PAC, which has raised $46,000, including $5,000 from the New Leadership Network PC, which, ironically, got $2,500 from Proven Leadership. Break out the flow chart. But it is clearly working on behalf of Gabela, because its only expense is for Dark Horse Strategies, whih is Emiliano Antuñez, Gabela’s longtime consultant.

For all the hype, “Mr. Miami” Marvin Tapia comes in fourth in that poll, only beating former cop Frank Pichel, who was arrested a couple weeks ago after he pulled a gun on another candidate’s campaign worker.

Read related: Miami Commission candidate pulls gun on opponent’s campaign worker re signs

Ladra bets it was with a DLP campaign worker. Because they are getting aggressive with their tactics. Reports have come in about incidents where mostly young Hispanic women in what everyone calls the “highlighter shirts” (because of their bright green color) yell at voters from their vehicles or from the sidewalk across the fence. Basically causing a scene.

They seem pretty desperate. Coincidentally, Gabela got video of one of the DLP campaign workers outside one of his properties in the district — banging on the fence, trying to get voters to come out just after 6 p.m. on a recent Saturday.

They were trying so hard to get into the property, they’re lucky the residents there didn’t call the police.

What’s one more arrest in this district race?