For a brand new Miami-Dade County Commission, Ladra prefers these people

One would think that with five open Miami-Dade commission seats this year, due to term limits finally kicking in, we would have better candidates trying to seize the opportunity. But when you really look at it, this batch of wannabes is one of the least promising.

It was amazing — and it sucks — that former Miami Beach Commissioner Micky Steinberg was able to take the District 4 seat without having to convince one voter. There was no debate. No discourse. And that’s not good for democracy. Steinberg doesn’t really have to be accountable to anyone.

Nonetheless, with five new commissioners joining the five newbies elected in 2020, it means this is going to be a brand new commission that is totally different from the one we had four years ago.

Read related: Five open seats on county commission = Miami-Dade voters to see new, old faces

These are probably the most important electeds in most county residents’ lives. They set property taxes, sure, but they also cut bus service, close streets, invest in parks, upzone properties so developers can build 550 homes on a natural preserve or an industrial park outside the Urban Development Boundary.

These people affect our daily lives more than any congress member or state senator. So the most important thing we can do is vote.

Some people have asked Ladra for her recommendations on who would be the best or, in some cases, least worst candidate in a particular race. So here are my recommendations for this Aug. 23 county commission race.

Instead of numerical order, Ladra is going to start with the easiest. And that is the District 10 race to replace termed out Commissioner Javier Souto. It’s the easiest because there is really only one candidate who is in it for the residents. And that is Martha Bueno.

We could play Where’s Waldo with State Rep. Anthony Rodriguez, who hasn’t been to a single forum to talk directly to voters and even snubbed the Miami Herald editorial board. Last week, he basically kissed off the Kendall Federation of Homeowners Associations.

¿Que se ha creido?

KFHA President Michael Rosenberg said he called Rodriguez multiple times to try to get him engaged. “This bothers me to no end,” Rosenberg said at the forum Thursday. that a candidate would not come and address our boar and addrss the commty but this person wants your vote.”

Bueno took the opportunity to hit Rodriguez on his campaign contributions. She brought two fat maleticas filled with Monopoly money and questioned why he would spend $1.3 million for a job that pays $6,000 a year.

Rodriguez hasn’t really walked his district, relying on name recognition and mail. He hasn’t gone to a single candidate forum. And how accessible does anyone think Rodriguez will be if elected commissioner?

Yet, the super Republican has time to go and talk to voters in Cutler Bay! He campaigned with Commissioner Danielle Cohen Higgins in her district on a recent Saturday, as evidenced by a Twitter video. It would seem he is very assured of his victory and is already trying to form alliances on the dais (not dias, commissioner).

He should check it before he loses all his Republican cred. Because Bueno — a former Libertarian running with no party affiliation — is doing better than many would have thought. She treated her team to last week’s Bad Bunny concert to celebrate how well they are doing and posted a video of herself dancing in the audience.

Ladra doesn’t care about Bueno’s bathing suit pictures and her Only Fans account — except that maybe she’s pretty creative and also smarter than people think. It’s just good strategy. They sell cars with bathing suits, don’t they.

There are two other candidates in the race, but the only thing Susan Khoury and Julio Sanchez might do is take this contest into a runoff. Fingers crossed.

Read related: Javier Souto pulls back Westchester incorporation post resident pushback

Rodriguez has several other things that go against him: An endorsement from the Christian Family Coalition is the first. That’s a no-brainer. Support from that organization — which is anti-women, anti-LGBTQ and pro conversion therapy — is a deal breaker for Ladra with any candidate.

Then there’s the fact that he has collected more than $1.4 million in campaign contributions between his campaign account and his political action committee. Much of it from special interests (read: developers).

Then there’s his silence on the failed effort to incorporate Westchester. Bueno was very vocal against Souto’s misguided attempt earlier this year to turn his district into a municipality. Rodriguez was somewhat absent. And you can bet that the same people who supported that idea have given to his fat campaign. Will he try the incorporation effort again? I don’t know. But I know that Bueno won’t touch it unless the community brings it to her.

In County Commission District 10, please vote for Martha Bueno.

The Christian Family Coalition also endorsed Kevin Marino Cabrera in District 6, Karen Baez-Wallis in District 8 and Doral Mayor J.C. Bermudez in District 12, but we have to believe that is because they had no real choice.

Read related: Local transit workers union endorses candidates in local, state, federal races

That last race has always seemed like a no-brainer, easy win for Bermudez, the founding mayor of Doral who has served twice in that capacity. He has all the endorsements, including the four mayors in District 12: Hialeah’s Esteban Bovo, Hialeah Gardens’ Yioset de la Cruz, Medley’s Roberto Martell and Sweetwater’s Orlando Lopez.

Not a real inspiring bunch. Along with the contributions that mirror those of Bovo’s mayoral race in Hialeah, this solidifies Bermudez as the establishment’s choice. Yuck.

But for all the years he’s been in office, Bermudez has never been the focus of any major investigation. And that is something in this town! He has famously lost his cool on the dais a few times and uses sarcasm as a weapon. He has earned himself some political enemies, which is why it’s even more incredible that there’ve been no big headlines. We would have been reminded about it last week.

At least he was never forced from office after being charged with a crime.

Lacayo, on the other hand, pleaded guilty to perjury after she was found to be living outside the city of Sweetwater, where she had been elected as a commissioner. As part of her guilty plea, she had to resign her seat and she could not run for office again for a year.

Read related: Booted off Sweetwater Council, Sophia Lacayo aims for county commission

She has also spent more than $1.2 million already, or as of Aug. 5, according to her campaign finance reports. Most of it has been her own, loaned in strange sums to her campaign. Folks say it looks shady. Lacayo is throwing huge parties with celebrity guests and giving away prizes. Nobody knows where the money is really coming from and the whisper campaign started by Bermudez and/or his supporters is that it’s dirty Venezuelan money. They have tried to link her with Nicolas Maduro.

Dude, she’s Nicaraguan. They should have tried to tie her to Daniel Ortega.

Supporters say Lacayo, who has several accounting companies, is a self-made millionaire. They call her the Nicaraguan Kim Kardashian and say this campaign is kind of a vanity project. She wants the title of commissioner. She wants to hold shovels in photo opps with other electeds. She wants to be interviewed on TV. She wants the dog and pony show.

Her campaign consultant, Sasha Tirador, says that people are quick to question the source of her funding but men can self fund campaigns — like Sen. Rick Scott and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who ran for governor in 2018 — without raising an eyebrow.

Not true. Ladra always said that Levine — as well as former Doral Mayor Luigi Boria, another Tirador client — were trying to buy their seats the same way Lacayo is trying to buy hers.

Anyway, the point is that it should have been easy to endorse Bermudez over this crazy chica with the perjury past and the populist campaign. But then Bermudez goes and gets endorsed by the CFC! What is a voter to do?

Read related: Ladra makes 2022 judicial picks public

“I take any of the endorsements I can,” Bermudez told Ladra Sunday after leaving church. So the KKK? The Proud Boys?

The practicing Catholic then mentioned that he hadn’t been endorsed by the CFC in the past — like that’s the honor. He also said he didn’t know what conversion therapy was. What? Is he going to be the new Javier Souto?

“I think people have to be given the right to do what they want with their lives,” he said after Ladra explained it to him. “We are all God’s children.”

Ladra also told him that he could reject the endorsement and that by accepting it he is legitimizing the CFC and implicitly supporting their ass backwards position. And that’s why I can’t recommend him. If I lived in District 12, I would probably vote for Lacayo in protest.

Besides, wouldn’t a dais with Lacayo and Bueno on it be the bomb?

In County Commission District 12, please vote for whoever you mistrust the least.

This might also be the situation in District 6, where people think they have to choose between a thief and a Proud Boy affiliate. But there is an alternative.

Read related: Jorge Fors vs Kevin Marino Cabrera = heated Miami-Dade commission race

Commissioner Rebeca Sosa‘s replacement race always looked like a two-way contest between Coral Gables Commissioner Jorge Fors, Jr. — who cheated taxpayers by claiming a false homestead exemption for eight years — and former Trump campaign man Kevin Marino Cabrera, who joined the Proud Boys in a Jan. 6-like siege on former Congresswoman Donna Shalala‘s office in Coral Gables.

But there is a third candidate who could surprise everyone by getting in a runoff with one of these guys. And if Miami Springs Councilman Victor Vazquez gets into the runoff, he could win in November.

Vazquez is the only Democrat in the group and is being helped by the Miami Dade Democratic Party and by the numbers, because Dems are coming out to vote so far more than Republicans (more on that later). He will also get some Republican votes in Miami Springs, where he won in a landslide last year with more than 70% of the vote. They could vote for their neighbor again.

And so might some Republicans who have to hold their nose to choose between Fors and Cabrera.

Vazquez is a lifelong educator and a disabled military veteran. He’s been walking door-to-door with his prosthetic leg to meet voters. He is not great at public speaking. But he is very good one on one. He also seems painfully honest.

He has only raised $31,226 compared to the $300K plus raised by the other two — who have a lot of special interest donors in there.

So Vazquez doesn’t have a lot of money to get his message and his name out there. Heck, some people might not even know he is running. He’s a long shot. But he is the best candidate of the four. Yeah, there’s a fourth guy, Dariel Fernandez, but he really doesn’t stand a chance.

In County Commission District 6, please vote for Victor Vazquez.

At one point, Ladra said she would vote for Alicia Arellano if she lived in District 8.

Karen Baez-Wallis isn’t sure Joe Biden won the presidency fair and square and compares the insurrectionists to peaceful protesters, so she’s a hard no. Just say no to Karens.

Read related: Trumpster or healthcare hero? Hopeful in Miami-Dade County D8 race is both

And Danielle Cohen Higgins, who was appointed to the seat when it was vacated in 2020 by Daniella Levine Cava, who is now La Alcaldesa, was appointed to the seat. Also, she gets contributions from some shady development sources and her winning would give political consultant Christian Ulvert more power at County Hall.

But Arellano, who chairs the Hammocks Citizens Advisory Committee, hasn’t been to many forums and isn’t doing much to get her name out. She seems almost like a plantidate, though there is no reason to have one, because Cohen Higgins is going to slam this and then she’ll be able to say she was elected by an overwhelming majority. She shouldn’t get such a free pass.

If Ladra lived in District 8, I would vote for Arellano just to lower DCH’s final percentage. She should not get a bigger head.

In County Commission District 8, please vote for Alicia Arellano.

That leaves us with District 2, vacated by the termed-out Jean Monestime, the first Haitian American to be elected to the county commission. Four of the six candidates in the race are Haitian American. And there has been a lot of controversy about whether or not this black seat is a “Haitian” seat, which has publicly revealed some of the rifts in the community.

Candidate Monique Nicole Barley-Mayo even has a campaign message about taking the seat “back” from the Haitian community.

Read related: Special interest money abounds in Miami-Dade D2 campaign reports

That’s ugly and uncalled for. The community needs to be one and advocate together because they have the same exact issues. Barley-Mayo, who Ladra earlier felt should be named to a committee where she could make a difference, lost me on that one. No wonder her cousin, Commissioner Keon Hardemon, is not supporting her.

This is the district Ladra knows the least and has been relying on friends and The Miami Times, Miami’s unofficial black newspaper, for information. I did watch a forum with all the candidates in attendance and two people stood out: former North Miami Mayor Joe Celestin and longtime educator and high school principal Wallace Aristide.

I also really like Marleine Bastien, founder and president of the Family Action Network Movement. She has already been a public servant in the community for about 40 years. But I’m afraid of what electing another social worker might do. Will we get more equity officers?

Friends and people who know more about this district than Ladra have said that Aristide is not a good option so…

In County Commission District 2, please vote for Joe Celestin.

So, that’s it. Some recommendations are hard: Bueno, Vazquez. Others are soft: Celestin, Arellano. But even if you have another candidate in mind, the important thing is to vote. This is the biggest impact we can have on local electeds.

Don’t let it pass.