Who is Sabina Covo? What you need to know about Miami’s new commissioner

And why she’ll need to recuse herself from some votes

Newly-elected Miami Commissioner Sabina Covo, who will be sworn in on Saturday, won the special election Monday, getting nearly 30% of the vote in a crowded field, eight points over the No. 2 finisher.

The journalist-turned-PR-pro has never held any kind of public office before. She’s covered elections and government as a reporter for TV, radio and print. She served as the Hispanic communications director of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs under Nikki Fried. The first Colombian-American elected to the city commission, Covo also ran the U.S. campaign for Colombian presidential candidate Federico Gutierrez.

But this is the first time she has campaigned and run for local office herself.

“It was a real master’s class for me,” Covo told Political Cortadito Tuesday. “I learned a lot from the campaign trail, from talking to people.

“I didn’t expect it to be like that,” she said, regarding negative attack ads, mostly hitting her on a bankruptcy she filed in her 30s. She told Ladra she did it on the advice of an attorney because she was newlywed and pregnant and had amassed $45,000 of medical costs between jobs and sans insurance.

Read related: Miami District 2 race gets heated with attacks and smears on lead candidates

“I expected it to be cleaner. The attacks were interesting.”

She was called a socialist, a con artist and a “fraudster.” Endorsed by Ken Russell, the predecessor who resigned the seat to run for Congress, she has also been called Ken Russell in a wig.

Sabina Covo flanked by Daniella Levine Cava and Annette Taddeo on Election Night.

And as for the rumors that she’s just a place holder because she will run for congress against Maria Elvira Salazar in 2024? She says she won’t.

“I am not looking to run for Congress,” Covo, 43, said. “If the voters elect me in November, they’re going to have me for four years.”

That doesn’t mean she’s going to start campaigning right away. “I am not going to be actively campaigning. I need to get the job done first and make sure my constituents can see I am working,” Covo said. “I am going to be completely concentrated on my district. My constituents are asking for that.

“I am going to be a full-time commissioner. I am working already,” she told Ladra. “There are things that can be done right away if we have the right management. I have owned a small business. I know how to negotiate.”

Her priorities include quality of life, security, resiliency to climate change, more green spaces and more code enforcement. She wants to hire three “community managers” for her staff to oversee different neighborhoods.

Read related: Sabina Covo beats 12 others to win the special election in Miami’s District 2

“What Coconut Grove is asking for is not the same as what downtown is asking for or Morningside or Edgewater or Brickell,” Covo said, adding that she does not have anyone in mind and will advertise the jobs.

Why on Earth would she want to sit next to the toxic Joe “Captain Pollo” Carollo and/or the corrupt, verbally abusive Alex “Johnny Walker” Diaz de la Portilla?

“I’m not happy with the way the city is being managed. My children are growing up here,” said the 22-year resident, who lives in the Grove and shared photos of her children — Pedro, 14, Paulo, 10, and Carmen, who is almost 2 — during the campaign. Carmen is the little girl dancing on the table in the park in Covo’s campaign TV commercial.

Sabina Covo’s daughter dances on a park table top in a TV commercial.

“I don’t see the inclusion, the quality of life we deserve. This district is so rich and so poor at the same time,” she said. “I have the courage and the empathy to make sure I can represent the community.”

But does she have the courage to stand up to Carollo, ADLP and Chair Christine King, all of whom endorsed disgraced former Judge Martin Zilber for the job? Carollo and The Dean can be especially hostile when they wanna.

Hay que ponerse Vaselina,” said Covo, using a common Spanish-language saying for letting offenses just slide off you (she is also fluent in Italian). “I want to make sure that we can be respectful, decent and that we work a lot.”

Respectful? Decent? Has she ever watched a city commission meeting?

Ladra is going to have to watch Covo. The public relations firm she owns with her sister and a brother-in-law, Sabina Covo Communications, represents many clients, some of whom may have business with the city. One striking example is Melo Group, developers that have had a number of projects in the city and want to build residential high-rises with retail on a full city block in Miami’s Arts & Entertainment District, where they have the 3-acre property under contract for $105 million, according to The Real Deal.

“Of course there can be a conflict of interest. Given the Melo Group’s projects before the city, I will be recusing myself from any vote regarding them,” Covo told Ladra. “While I do not represent them for any items in the United States as my contract work is exclusive for Latin America, I believe it is right to recuse myself from any vote and will do so with the city clerk.

Sabina Covo interviewed Maria Elvira Salazar for MegaTV during the 2020 campaign.

“Our firm handles publicity for a number of clients, of which none have me on contract or any project or program before the city of Miami,” said Covo, who campaigned on bringing transparency to City Hall, so she shared her client list with Political Cortadito. They are: Onda Bay Harbor, S Natural Oils (which is her own beauty line), Vertiblines, GLr Network, Femme Arts and Sharing For Kids. For Melo Group and Newgard, she works exclusively in Latin America.

Read related: Endorsements come in for the four front runners in city of Miami District 2 race

What about Christian Ulvert, her consultant? Will he have the same access to City Hall and influence with Covo that he has with the county mayor?

“I’m 100% independent and that’s how I handle my campaign. He [Ulvert] was the firm working with the team,” Covo said, adding that her campaign manager was Liam May, a Kentucky transplant who also worked six months for Russell as a part-time commissioner’s aide. She also had help from the Miami Dade Democrats, which endorsed her.

According to the latest campaign reports, Covo raised almost $100,000 between her campaign account and her political action committee Dream Miami, which we expect will be getting fat from here to November.

Covo is also an author, having written a book — La Casa de los Relojes — a murder mystery revolving around a woman and her father, who has a heart condition that no doctor can figure out.

Maybe her next book will be about City Hall. But not before her first commission meeting March 9.