Campaigns gear up for primaries

Candidates reach out to voters in the community amid elections

Erick Johnson | 7/31/2014, 9 a.m.

Candidates running for various political and judicial positions in Miami-Dade County stepped up their campaigns with speeches at various forums held throughout Miami’s Black communities in the past week.

In North Miami, former Mayor Kevin Burns vowed to clean up the city and highlighted his clean political record and experience over his opponents, Dr. Smith Joseph and former councilman Jean Marcellus. The three candidates are seeking to replace suspended North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau who was charged with wire fraud in connection to an $11 million mortgage scheme.

Burns, who served two terms as mayor of North Miami from 2005-2009, appeared confident as he told about 120 people that his experience and clean political record will help restore the city’s image. At times he indirectly alluded to the lack of mayoral experience of Joseph and Marcellus.

“The city is at a critical crossroad,” said Burns. “We do not have the time for on-the-job training for our next mayor. That would be a recipe for failure.”

Joseph is currently a physician, but he assured voters than he is one for the top job despite having no political experience

“I am the best candidate for Mayor of North Miami,” said Joseph. “I run a successful practice as a resident of this city. My record speaks for itself.”

“I will utilize my knowledge I have learned in the past four years to enhance government in North Miami,” Marcellus said.

On Saturday at the Joseph Caleb center in Liberty City, dozens of judicial candidates made their pitches to about 60 people at the ninth annual summer luncheon hosted by Janet Dixon. There were also speeches by District 2 Commissioner Jean Monestime who is up for re-election this year. State Rep. Cynthia Stafford, who was automatically re-elected after no one filed to oppose her, also spoke. But the forum at the Caleb Center mainly included judicial candidates for the county and circuit courts.

“I am from this community and I will continue serving this community,” said Judge Rodney Smith who’s seeking re-election to the 11th Circuit Court.

Smith was appointed to Miami-Dade’s County Court in 2008 by then-Gov. Charlie Crist and later elected to the seat unopposed. At 33, he was one of the youngest judges in the state. In 2012, after choosing to put himself through the grueling Judicial Nominating Commission process — a voluntary act that speaks well of most candidates — Gov. Rick Scott elevated him to the circuit bench.

At the luncheon, candidates hustled around the room passing out the flyers and cards to senior voters who will most likely vote by absentee ballots, which will be mailed Aug. 11. The luncheon’s master of ceremonies, Gary Johnson, a talk show host on “On the Front Line” on 880 AM Radio, reminded candidates to keep their promises once they are elected.

“We need people in positions who are going to do what they say and say what they do,” he said.

The forum in North Miami remained mainly clean for two hours, but there were moments when Burns took subtle jabs at his opponents. With the city’s financial future in doubt, the candidates spoke in support of a forensic audit, a process that would take eight months to complete, according to Burns.