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

After what must be the shortest campaign cycle in the city’s history, Sabina Covo won Miami’s special election in District 2. The TV journalist turned communications pro will fill the vacancy created when Ken Russell resigned to run for Congress (and lost).

Covo, who was endorsed by the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and former Sen. Annette Taddeo, got almost 30% of the vote, which is a huge coop in such a clusterbunch election with 13 candidates splitting 6,243 votes. The Colombian-American becomes the first Hispanic and the first woman elected in District 2.

Eddy Leal, who took an unpaid leave of absence from his job as the mayor’s attorney to run for the commission seat, came in second place with almost 22% of the vote. Downtown Neibghbors Alliance President James Torres came in third with 15%. Some observers believe the two men drew from the same pool of voters, splitting the vote even more, and that one of them — either one — would have won if the other had not run.

Read related: Low turnout in Miami special election so far with Election Day 24 hours away

Some observers believe that was the idea in the first place when Leal jumped in at the last minute. His campaign was funded with at least $125,000 of dark money that nobody really knows where it came from. Leal did not return a call for comment Monday night, but Ladra wonders if he’ll be back at work Tuesday.

Covo might not be who everyone wanted — can’t you just see Commissioners Joe Carollo and Alex Diaz de la Portilla eating her alive? — but most people are happy that it is ABZ, or Anyone but Zilber. Former Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Martin Zilber, who hurriedly resigned in disgrace in 2021 in the wake of a scathing ethics investigation, came in a distant fourth place with the partial counting of mail-in ballots and just stayed there throughout the entire vote count.

Among the accusations against him are that he mistreated his staff, forcing a pregnant assistant to carry his chair and having her and others do his personal errands — and that he missed work 51 days while being paid.

Perhaps he would have done well in Miami, where that kind of thing is not just tolerated but rewarded. That’s why ADLP wanted him on the dais so badly, not only so he could be a rubber-stamp vote, but also because they are kindred spirits.

This is why commissioners met twice to try to appoint someone. ADLP only nominated Zilber. He would hear of nobody else. He couldn’t get three votes and the special election was set.

The race became nasty right from the start, with attack ads against Zilber and the other three frontrunners. More than $1 million will have been spent when it is all added up. Most of it by Zilber, who spent at least $514,280 between his campaign account and his political action committee. That’s according to the most recent campaign finance reports. Another one is due after the election and that figure might increase.

But, so far, Zilber (and his four political consultants) paid $674 per vote just to be rejected. At least. In comparison, Covo’s campaign account and Dream Miami PAC together paid $52.67 per vote. He only got 763 votes — less than half the votes that Covo got, winning with a 510-vote lead.

Read related: Martin Zilber outraises, outspends all candidates in Miami special election

A lot of money was spent, especially for a seat that will be on the ballot again in November. That means that Covo and anyone else who wants to be the D1 commissioner will have to start campaigning again right away.

“Hell, yes,” said Torres when asked if he would run in the regular election. “What we have there today is the status quo,” he said, because Covo was endorsed by Ken Russell 2.0.

He said he was happy with his performance in a short election cycle and wants to see what he can do in the next nine months — more time to get his downtown core of support out.

Covo, who lives in Coconut Grove, will be sworn in later this week and will have her first city commission meeting next Thursday, March 9. She campaigned on being corruption proof. Fingers crossed.