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

It’s not just Miami-Dade District 6 where former President Donald Trump has a friend running. One of the candidates challenging Miami-Dade Commissioner Danielle Cohen-Higgins is also a Trumpster.

She doesn’t have his endorsement like Kevin Marino Cabrera has, but that’s probably only because Karen Baez Wallis, who resigned as director of Jackson South’s emergency services to run for office, does not think the 2020 presidential election was entirely stolen.

“I don’t believe the election was 100% stolen. I think there are a lot of discrepancies that came out,” Baez Wallis told Ladra, who missed the opportunity for a follow up question because just how stolen was it? Two percent? Ninety-six percent? Was it 50/50?

“But we went through a process. The votes were counted and he was sworn in as president,” Baez Wallis said of Joe Biden — and you could almost hear her eyes roll through the phone.

She also equates the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol to protests against the Roe vs. Wade reversal.

“I’m going to put that in line with what happened in front of the Supreme Court justices’ homes. It’s the same thing as picketing in front of the justices’ houses. There should never be threats toward public officials,” Baez Wallis said. “Both are felonies. I don’t approve. They’re both illegal.”

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Um, maybe not. The protesters who are in front of Judge Brett Kavanaugh‘s Maryland home every week, for instance, have a permit and are working with local police to make sure they don’t cross the line and that they’re protected, too. The only protester arrests Ladra knows about were two at the courthouse for damaging public property.

But Baez Wallis is passionate about her national politics. She has been since at least 2016, when she tweeted against Hillary Clinton several times, even comparing the former First Lady to Adolf Hitler.

Ladra asked Baez Wallis if she thought this would cause problems on the commission because, let’s face it, while these are non partisan races, the campaigns — as well as the elected offices — are becoming more partisan every year. And with things like climate change, affordable housing, human rights and gun control creeping into local politics, it could become a more front and center quality.

Baez Wallis said her healthcare background gives her an out.

“I’ve been very careful to let people know that, as a healthcare worker, we have an ability to look at problems not from our own personal bias, but from the what’s best for the patient,” she told Ladra. “I may not be aligned with my patients, but I have to advocate for them, go to subject matter experts and make the decision based on their recommendation.

“The role of a nurse and director of emergency services is to present all the information to you and let you make a decision. Even if I’m not in favor of it, that’s your decision.”

Read related: Miami Foundation plans forums for every Miami-Dade Commission race

Are we still talking about county government? Yes. Baez Wallis is trying to say that she doesn’t have to be a right-wing Republican at County Hall. “I can separate myself because I’ve been doing it for 26 years,” she said, adding that she is running because residents feel unheard and lobbyists get more facetime.

“The people don’t think they have a voice,” she said. “I’m not going to have canned answers. I’m not a politician. It’s important to have a healthcare worker on the dais. We really are dedicated to public service. We leave our families in times of crisis to serve the public.”

Her husband is a helicopter pilot for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.

“As the previous director of a trauma center, I have had boots on the ground through a hurricane, through a pandemic. I was there,” Baez said. In fact, the COVID-19 crisis is what stopped her from throwing her hat into the ring earlier, she said.

She’s definitely using the healthcare hero worship to her advantage. Her campaign features a photograph of her in scrubs and with a stethoscope.

Baez Wallis said her work experience has also given her a glimpse of the violence in South Dade. “I am intimately aware of the violence in Cutler Bay, Homestead, Goulds,” she told Ladra.

Read related: Miami-Dade’s Danielle Cohen Higgins files petitions to qualify for her first race

“There is definitely a problem in our community with gun violence,” she said. “And violence as a whole,” she carefully added.

Violence that has given her the wherewithal to withstand the negative attacks she says are surely coming. “There’s nothing tougher than holding the hand of a mother who has just lost a child,” she said.

Hear from her yourselves, gentle readers, at the forum Tuesday night organized by The Miami Foundation. The virtual candidate meet and greet starts at 7 p.m. and one can register for the Zoom session here. The other candidate challenging Cohen Higgins is Alicia Arellano.

Arellano is also a Republican. But she never trashed Clinton on twitter as far as we can tell.