Live blog: Miami Beach mayor’s race goes to runoff, other local results

Caplin News is reporting live from polling locations and candidate watch parties for today’s local elections in Miami-Dade County. Editors Milena Malaver and Natalie La Roche Pietri are at Caplin headquarters in FIU managing the blog.

Key election results Tuesday

  • The Miami Beach mayor’s race goes to a runoff on Nov. 21 between Steven Meiner and Michael Gongora.
  • Alex Diaz De La Portilla faces a runoff against Miguel Angel Gabela in Miami District 1.
  • Manola Reyes sailed to an easy win in District 4, while incumbent Sabina Covo won re-election in District 2.
  • Miami Beach Group 4 commissioner candidate Tanya Katzoff Bhatt knocked off rival Andres Asion. In other commissioner races, David Suarez won in Group 5 and Joe Magazine came out on top in Group 6.
  • In Hialeah, in Group 4, challenger Angelica Pacheco appears to have narrowly defeated incumbent Vivian Casals-Munoz, 52 percent to 48 percent. In the other contest, Group 3, incumbent Monica Nicole Perez easily fended off challenger Elias D. Montes de Oca.
  • In Homestead City Council races, the winners were: Thomas Davis in Seat 1, Sean Fletcher in Seat 2, Larry Roth in Seat 3 and Clemente Canabal in Seat 6.
  • In Surfside, Referendum 1 on town debt was voted down, Referendum 2 on qualification of commissioners was voted down, Referendum 3 on extending the length of officials’ terms was voted down, while Referendum 4 on local elections passed and Referendum 5 on town clerk’s powers passed.

Miami Beach mayor’s race headed to runoff

Steven Meiner, left, and Michael Gongora, right. (Photo of Meiner by Katie Kelly. Photo of Gongora by Sophia Bolivar)

By Sophia Bolivar

The Miami Beach mayor’s race is heading to a runoff later this month.

The top two finishers were Steven Meiner and Michael Gongora and they will face off on Nov. 21.

Meiner had 30 percent, or 4,086 votes, and Gongora came in with 28 percent, or 3,849 votes, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, according to the city of Miami Beach website.  

“We’ve all worked very hard and it’s reassuring to see that big money didn’t pay off,” said Góngora a few minutes before today’s election results came in.  

Mike Greico and Bill Roedy finished third and fourth. Roedy had 21 percent and Greico came in with 20 percent.

The winner on Nov. 21 will replace Dan Gelber, who has served for six years. 

Mayor candidate Steven Meiner tells Caplin News about his plans

By Katie Kelly

Photo by Katie Kelly.

Miami Beach mayor candidate Steven Meiner said Tuesday he’s overjoyed that he’s forced the race into a run-off later this month even though he raised the least amount of money among the four candidates.

“I think it’s really two things: the public safety law and order but also the ethics, you know, that’s the one thing I kept hearing from people,” Meiner told Caplin News at his Tuesday night party. 

Meiner collected $117,995 for his campaign, while the other candidates raised more, including Bill Roedy, who took in almost $3 million and didn’t make the Nov. 21 runoff. 

Meiner will face Michael Gongora in the runoff.

“Our government needs to be more transparent, more open to our residents because our residents are going to dictate to us the decisions we should make, but they need the information,” Meiner said. 

Public safety is a top priority for the candidate when it comes to the well-being of Miami residents. 

“There’s so many things that I have many ideas for that I want to hit the ground running,” Meiner said. 

He also said he wants to bring in more voices from city government department heads so they can be heard and seen by residents to show that they are committed to making Miami Beach better. 

“One of the things I say is we don’t hear from our public works director, our co-compliance director, our parks director — we never hear from them (at) a commission meeting, that’s going to change,” Meiner said.

Gongora: ‘One more step forward on the journey to being the next Miami Beach mayor’

Video by Sophia Bolivar

Diaz De La Portilla faces runoff in District 1

Alex Diaz De La Portilla, the indicted former Miami District 1 commissioner, will face a runoff election on Nov. 21 after he failed to top 50 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s five-person contest.

Diaz De La Portilla had 37 percent, or 1,571 votes, while Miguel Angel Gabela finished second with 29 percent, or 1,237 votes. The two will meet in the runoff. Gabela, an auto parts salesman, lost to Diaz De La Portilla in a runoff four years ago.

Three other candidates finished further back in the field on Tuesday.

Diaz De La Portilla is facing various criminal charges and was suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

In September, Diaz De La Portilla was arrested on charges including money laundering, bribery and criminal conspiracy. Authorities said he took $245,000 from a company in Delaware in exchange for voting in favor of building a sports complex.

De La Portilla has denied any wrongdoing. 

In other Miami district contests Tuesday, Sabina Covo won reelection in District 2 and incumbent Manolo Reyes prevailed in District 4. 

Katzoff Bhatt wins Miami Beach commissioner seat

By Laura Palfrey

Miami Beach Group 4 commissioner candidate Tanya Katzoff Bhatt claimed victory over opponent Andres Asion on Tuesday. 

Katzoff Bhatt had 56 percent with 7,283 votes, while Asion finished with 43 percent, or 5,605 votes, with 100 percent of precincts reporting.  

“There is nobody who will work harder for you, do the heavy lifting, ask the hard questions for you better than me,” said Katzoff Bhatt while addressing her supporters at her victory party at Harry’s Pizzeria. 

Her dedication to improving Miami spurred from a growing frustration with the status quo. Bhatt’s platform prioritizes two critical issues – public safety and overdevelopment.

In a statement on Instagram, Asion conceded defeat, saying, “We didn’t win the seat but I’m genuinely happy with the strides we’re making.”

Katzoff Bhatt pictured with her daughters Anna and Julia after the results of her win. Photo by Laura Palfrey.

“I’m thrilled and it is an honor and a privilege and deeply humbling to be given the face of the residents of Miami Beach, and the trust and support to get here and then to do the work,” said Katzoff Bhatt to Caplin News.

District 4 Commissioner Reyes cruises to victory

Miami District 4 commissioner Manolo Reyes was on his way to a landslide Tuesday.

Reyes looked to have easily defeated longshot challenger Andres Vallina 86% to 14%, with 100 percent of precincts reporting. 

Reyes, 79, recently disclosed that he has leukemia and has been undergoing treatment.

Check out Caplin News’ advances on the elections

A candidate with a ‘diverse ear’

By Laura Palfrey

Takicha Roundtree, 45, who runs her own branding agency, said she cast her vote early for Tanya Katzoff Bhattf for Miami Beach commissioner. 

Living next door to the candidate, Roundtree praises Katzoff Bhatt’s listening skills, saying she has a “diverse ear” that tunes into the different voices and needs of the community. 

Roundtree said Katzhoff Bhatt is a candidate “who genuinely understands and represents the interests of Miami’s diverse population.”

Traffic congestion is a pressing concern for Roundtree, who also supports more leniency in short-term rentals, viewing it as a potential way to support traveling nurses and displaced families.

If Gongora wins as Miami Beach’s first openly gay mayor, it would put ‘pep in our step,’ supporter says

By Sophia Bolivar

Jessica Londono, 38, a Sunset Harbor resident proudly wore her “Michael Góngora for Miami Beach Mayor” to the candidate’s election results watch party at Cafe Avanti in Miami Beach.

“I have personally seen him firsthand change and make the right decisions,” said Londono shortly after the polls closed. 

Londono has been a supporter of Góngora since his start because of his concern for the environment and the preservation of historic buildings such as the Byron Carlyle Theater located on 71st in Miami Beach.

Having Gongora as the first openly gay mayor of Miami Beach would add “a little pep in our step,” said Londono.

Meiner ‘knows Miami Beach’

By Alexander Luzula

Mercedes Castillo, 45, is a retail manager volunteering with Steven Meiner’s campaign for Miami Beach mayor. 

“Of the four candidates running,” she said, “I think he’s the best option because he’s been commissioner for four years, he knows Miami Beach, he lives here with his wife and kids, and he’s fighting for a cleaner, safer and more secure city.”

Two issues that matter in Miami Beach

By Carlton Gillespie 

Paul Theilecke, a North Beach resident, said his decision to vote for Mike Grieco for Miami Beach mayor came down to two issues.

“Safety, number one, and the development or rather the non-development of South Beach,” he said,

Theilecke said he knew Grieco because their kids went to school together and called the candidate “a great guy.”

Polls closed, Grieco supporters wait for results at candidate party

By Katie Kelly

Mike Grieco’s results watch party started at 7 p.m. as polls closed at the South Pointe Tavern with a showing of nearly 40 supporters. 

One of those, Chris Borchetta, works in real estate and is a photographer who moved to Miami seven years ago from California. 

“Over the years, I’ve seen him around the community fighting nonstop for what he believes in and fighting for the people in this community,” Borchetta said. “I have become a huge advocate of his.”

Miami Beach Dem Club’s election results party

There are currently over 50 people gathered at the Miami Beach Democratic Club’s watch party sponsored by Miami Beach commissioner candidate Tanya Katzoff Bhatt at Harry’s Pizzeria. Photo by Laura Palfrey.

First look at the Republican presidential debate stage

The stage is set on Tuesday, Nov. 7, for the third Republican presidential debate in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Miami gears up for GOP presidential debate in Adrienne Arsht Center

A billboard announcing the third Republican presidential debate on Tuesday, Nov. 7, in downtown Miami. Five hopefuls will participate in Wednesday night’s debate at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, according to the Republican National Committee. They are Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Voter worries about safety on Ocean Drive

By Laura Palfrey

Juan Aleson, a 72-year-old retired human resources professional who has called Miami Beach home for the past 20 years, voted Tuesday for Michael Gongora as Miami Beach mayor and Tanya Katzoff Bhatt as Miami Beach commissioner. 

Aleson attended the Miami Beach Democratic Party Club gathering as the polls closed sponsored by Katzoff Bhatt and expressed his concerns about safety in Miami Beach, particularly on Ocean Drive.

Aleson said he was confident Katzoff Bhatt would win, saying, “Tanya is a close friend and I believe she will do great things for Miami.”

Candidate Marcella Novela wants to clean up Miami Beach

By Alexander Luzula

Marcella Novela, candidate for the Group 5 Miami Beach Commissioner seat, turned out to draw support at City Hall earlier today. 

“My very first plan is to start the Clean Streets Miami Beach,” said Novela. “I really want to clean up our city. It’s far too long we’ve allowed it to be in this stage of neglect. I think it’s our number one priority because our city looks like garbage, people are gonna treat it like garbage.”

An art curator and advisor, Novela says this campaign has been a “dream job” for her.

“It really is something I see as like my dream job. I really loved this city for so long. When I moved to Miami Beach 22 years ago, this was really my first love, and I’ve seen how glorious this city can be. And now I see what we’ve become, and our city’s just been neglected and abandoned. There’s a lot of love in the city, and we need to give love back to our city for it to flourish.”

Polling places virtually empty in Allapatah

By Anthony Cruz

Voter turnout has been light in Miami Board of Commissioners District 1. 

A campaign volunteer for candidate Miguel Gabelas has been outside of a church in Allapatah since the afternoon and says he’s seen only four people walk in to vote.

‘I call BS,’’ says Miami Beach City Commission candidate Katzoff Bhatt

By Alexander Luzula

“I think a lot of our issues stem from overdevelopment. Traffic, lack of affordable housing, infrastructure weakness, sewer line breaks, all that comes from thoughtless overdevelopment,” said Miami Beach commissioner Group 4 candidate Tanya Katzoff Bhatt. 

“I’m not against development per se, but this notion of more 50-story towers with $20 million apartments for people, that’s not what we need more of. We need buildings where people and families can live in an affordable manner and build a community.” 

A resident of Miami Beach for 21 years, Katzoff Bhatt has worked as a civic activist since 2015, and outlines limiting overdevelopment, public safety, helping the homeless, and improving quality of life for Miami Beach residents as her key platform points. 

Katzoff Bhatt said it was overdevelopment in her community that pushed her to become an activist, working with the Miami Design Preservation League and serving as president of Miami Beach United, a non-profit advocacy group, as well as serving on the Miami Beach Planning Board.

“I’m thorough, I’m thoughtful, I am respectful, I ask hard questions, I call BS how I see it, and that’s how I’m going to be as a commissioner.”

It’s time for a change in District 1, one voter says

By Anthony Cruz

Cordell George Herbert, a longtime resident of District 1, voted for Francisco “Frank” Pichel on Tuesday after previously voting for him in the 2021 City of Miami mayoral race. 

Herbert said he is disappointed with the actions of those who have previously held the District 1 Commissioner’s seat. And that Pichel is the “right one for the job.”  

“The other {candidates} have done nothing for Allapatah, he is the proper one,” Herbert said.  

Former District 1 Commissioner Alex Diaz de La Portilla was arrested in September and is facing corruption charges related to money laundering and bribery. He was suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the seat is currently vacant. 

Pichel is another candidate in District 1 who has had run-ins with the law. Last month, he was arrested after allegedly threatening a man with a gun during an argument over campaign signs.

A Miami Beach voter with crime on her mind

By Katie Kelly

Jury consultant Rachel Shrimp, a Republican, voted in the early evening Tuesday at the South Pointe Elementary School, but declined to reveal her choice in the Miami Beach mayor’s race. 

She didn’t hesitate, however, to make clear which issues mattered.

Shrimp said she hopes the next mayor will tackle crime and the party atmosphere in Miami Beach. During tourist season, Shrimp said she can’t go grocery shopping in her own neighborhood.

“I live in the South of Fifth so we have crime during these peak times,” she said. 

Miami Beach firefighters endorse commission candidates

By Alexander Luzula

The Miami Beach chapter of the International Association of Firefighters supports three commission candidates: Andres Asion for Group 4, Joe Magazine for Group 6 and David Suarez for Group 5. 

Union representative Michael Sica, 45, says the Union backs these candidates because they “have proven they’re community leaders and they’ll be good for the community of Miami Beach, and then also for public safety, police and fire.” 

The union has not endorsed any candidate in the mayor’s race.

Miami Beach residents vote for a new mayor (includes video story)

By Samuel Larreal

The Caplin News morning show, Newsbreak, spoke with early-morning voters in Miami Beach when polls opened today. The video story has an accompanying written piece.

Michael Gongora talks plans as Miami Beach mayor if elected

By Alexander Luzula

Michael Gongora

Several hours before the polls were set to close outside of Miami Beach City Hall, a crowd of supporters and well-wishers for Michael Gongora and the other candidates gathered for some last-minute campaigning.

“Day one, I want to meet with the police chief immediately and focus on a more proactive policing plan, police walking the beat, keeping us safe,” Gongora said.

“I also want to start getting ready for spring break, which is right around the corner in March. I have serious changes in mind for the Building Department to make it easier for people to pull permits, and I want a government that’s focused on resident quality of life, a clean and safe city, one where we are focused on traffic, noise, homelessness, and issues that impact living here on the residents.”

“I served three times as a (Miami Beach) commissioner, so politics is in my blood. My grandfather was a commissioner in Cuba before coming to this country. And I love Miami Beach, and I know nobody can do a better job than I will do as mayor.”

Gongora cast a ballot for himself during early voting. With three city commissioner seats up for grabs, Gongora steered clear of those contests and encouraged voters to “get to know them and make their own decisions.”

Reyes’s opponent criticizes neglect of District 4

By Rafael Hernandez

Andres Vallina says he’s seen his Flagami neighborhood be neglected and mismanaged and is running against Commissioner Manolo Reyes to change that.

A Flagami resident for 53 years, Vallina, 55, who is viewed as a longshot, has seen developments in neighboring districts and wondered why similar progress hasn’t happened where he lives.

“This is the farthest west part of the city of Miami and District 4 and we get nothing here,” Vallina said.

Standing outside the polling station at Robert King High Park, Vallina said, “I just feel that the district isn’t run or managed properly. I don’t think it’s an individual problem, I think it’s an operational problem.”

Dem Chair Nikki Fried makes a stop in Miami ahead of GOP debate and Trump

Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried, center, speaks during a Biden-Harris 2024 campaign news conference, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023, in Miami. The event coincides with the third GOP primary debate in Miami and a rally with former President Donald Trump in Hialeah on Wednesday. Also shown are Biden-Harris 2024 National Advisory Board member Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, second from left, Biden-Harris 2024 campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez, second from right, and former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., right. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Reyes, in Miami District 4, because he ‘hasn’t been in jail’

By Rafael Hernandez

Mario Hipolito did not want to vote for Commissioner Manolo Reyes in Miami District 4, but without knowing anything about opponent Andres Vallina, he said he had no choice.

“I don’t know the other guy,” Hipolito said, “so if I have to vote, I’d have to vote for someone that I at least know hasn’t been in jail.”

Hipolito, a Republican and retiree, said he has seen an influx of trucks and motor homes in his Flagami neighborhood, which he believes is due to poor zoning.

The 79-year-old Reyes was diagnosed with leukemia in late September and is doing well with treatment. Hipolito said he’s also a cancer survivor.

Gongora gains with stance on law enforcement

By Carlton Gillespie

Jorge Reyes, a real estate broker, said he voted for Michael Gongora for Miami Beach mayor on Tuesday because he’s pro-law enforcement.

“He supports law enforcement and law enforcement supports him,” Reyes said. “I have a number of friends who are in law enforcement so that was important.”

He also mentioned development as a critical issue. Reyes said he favors “just smarter development.”

‘The worst election cycle,’ says one Miami Beach voter

By Alexander Luzula

Retired librarian Jo Manning, 83, voted for Steven Meiner for Miami Beach mayor, preferring his stance on policing over other candidates. 

“Meiner has concentrated on law and order, and he’s good and he helped our neighborhood when we had an issue,” said Manning. “But there’s a lot of issues — there’s homelessness, there’s law and order, there’s affordable housing, there’s overdevelopment. Those are issues that are very, very important.” 

Manning also was critical of the negative direction the campaigns have turned. 

“This has been the worst election cycle,” she said. “We’ve lived here for 27 years. I’ve never seen such nastiness, such mean flyers, the mailers, people going after each other right here, supporters of different candidates going after each other. It’s really been ridiculous.”

Miami Beach mayoral candidates send out last-minute texts to residents 

Text from Bill Roedy

“How low will Grieco go? Using the atrocities against Israel as a weapon in his campaign against me is evil and opportunistic.  

I, Bill Roedy, am a Jew and stand 100% with Israel and have done so all my life.

As a committed members of Temple Beth Sholom, a family rooted in the Jewish faith and having had the honor of working in Israel, I proudly stand by my enduring connection with Eretz Israel, which has spanned over five decades. The present moment calls for me to raise my voice and convey my unwavering support for Israel and not allow anyone, for any reason, to defame my identity and faith.

Shame on you Grieco. You are unqualified. Miami Beach deserves better. Am Yisrael Chai.”

Text from Steven Meiner

“I’m Commissioner Steven Meiner, your Law and Order candidate for Mayor. I am a dedicated federal enforcement lawyer raising my family here.

As we head to the polls today, remember, I’m endorsed by the Miami Herald. They see the “tougher edge” I bring to Miami Beach and recognize my ethics, integrity, and honesty, as have many of our community leaders. I’ll lead with those values as your Mayor with dignity, just as I have run my clean campaign focused on the issues.

I haven’t taken money from developers or special interests. My only loyalty is to you, our residents.”

Text from Bill Roedy

“MB: Watch this important video of our Israeli soldiers on the front lines supporting Bill Roedy to be Mayor of Miami Beach. Bill Roedy is the true Change leader Miami Beach needs TODAY and everyone knows it.
If you stand with Israel and believe in the bright future of Miami Beach, VOTE ROEDY #243 TODAY TIL 7PM at a precinct near you.

Click here to watch the video of Israeli soldiers supporting Bill Roedy:”

Flagami voter praises ‘good job’ by incumbent Reyes

By Rafael Hernandez

Alfredo Diaz waged a one-man support campaign for Malonolo Reyes, who is running for re-election in Miami County District 4.

“In reality, I’m worried about very little,” Diaz said in Spanish outside the Robert King High Park voting site, “because when you do a good job and the community sees you’re responsible, you don’t need to do much work for the community to recognize you.”

Diaz, 65, said he has met Reyes on numerous occasions and believes his dedication to the Flagami community makes him a candidate worth rallying behind. After Hurricane Ida struck South Florida, Diaz recalled Reyes taking charge of the situation and ensuring residents of his district got the supplies they needed. 

Reyes, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia, is facing a challenge from longshot candidate Andres Vallina.

Early-voting turnout light across Miami-Dade County

Early voting has been sparse across Miami-Dade County ahead of Election Day.

Axios Miami reported that, based on mail-in and early in-person voting, turnout has been 8.49% in Miami, with just over 10,000 voters casting ballots of the 125,000 registered voters in the city.

In Miami Beach, where the four-way contest for mayor has gotten attention, turnout was 18.81%. In Hialeah, it was 5.78%, in Homestead, 5.08% and in Surfside voting was at 10.43%.

The figures do not include any ballots cast on Tuesday, Election Day, although in-person voting also was light in the morning, according to FIU student reporters stationed at various polling places in the county. 

Voting problems in Hialeah

By Samuel Larreal

Several voters were turned away Tuesday from the John F. Kennedy Library at 190 West 49th Street in Hialeah, where two City Council seats are up for grabs.

Confused voters said no one had told them that it wasn’t the right place to cast their ballots.

“I come here every year to vote, I don’t get why they are changing it now,” said Bárbaro Gonzáles, a priest at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. “No one informed us about a change on (the) polling site. Everyone said that the polling location was this library.”

The voters were directed to voting locations at nearby schools.

Milena Malaver is a senior majoring in Digital Journalism. She currently works as an editor for Caplin News and as social media manager for FIU's Society of Professional Journalist Chapter. Milena has an interest in covering local news.
Managing Editor

Natalie is a senior double majoring in journalism and English. She interned at the Miami Herald and was an NBCU Academy fellow in Washington, D.C., where she reported on national issues that affect South Florida. Natalie has an interest in political reporting and gender issues.