Two mayors, an influencer, and a trapeze artist: the run for Miami-Dade mayor

After the recent State of the Union speech by President Biden, the 2024 political cycle kicked off strongly on the national stage. But while most of the nation focuses on the election for the top job, Miami-Dade County is holding its important election, for County Mayor. 

“Local government is where most of the government happens, ” says Dario Moreno, an associate professor at FIU’s School of International and Public Affairs. 

“Quality of life issues, such as zoning, police protection, trash pick up, even environmental issues are done at the local level.” Adds Manny Cid, one of the candidates running for Miami-Dade Mayor in this August’s election: “This is the most crucial election in our county’s history.” 

In the county’s 2024 mayoral race, 3 candidates will try to unseat incumbent Daniela Levine Cava.

Manny Cid, picture courtesy of Cid for Mayor.

They are Manny Cid, 41, the current mayor of Miami Lakes, Alexander Otaola, 44, a social media influencer and talk show host, and Miguel “El Skipper” Quintero, 45, a local trapeze artist and owner of Miami Flying Trapeze.

Levine Cava, a lawyer turned public servant after working for over 30 years as an advocate for South Florida families, has been the county’s mayor since 2020. She became the first woman to be the Mayor of Miami-Dade County, and in her tenure, has worked on initiatives to fuel the economy, focus on building a resilient community, and improve living conditions for residents.

In her latest State of the County address, which you can read here, she describes her most significant accomplishments as affordable housing, economic growth, and resiliency advancements. She is the candidate with the most funding right now, with almost $1 million in campaign donations. 

“We are investing in our greatest asset: You,” stated Levine Cava at her State of the County. “That’s why the new Future Ready Scholarships at Miami-Dade College make sure that county residents in need have an opportunity to get a degree at zero cost.” 

Christian Ulvert, a senior advisor to the Cava campaign, adds: “We are running the same campaign we have been running since 2014. It’s who she is at her core. She is going to ensure that her campaign is defined by her strengths and beliefs.” 

Cava is heading back out with her team to speak with the residents and hear from them about the changes the community needs, working to once again get the 40,000 signatures needed to be on the ballot. 

Yet some residents feel uneasy with the current administration, citing issues within the county government that include lack of transparency, increased taxes, and what some feel are broken promises on behalf of the administration. 

“The incumbent doesn’t really have any serious opposition, the most formidable opponent would be Manny Cid” explains Professor Moreno. 

Manny Cid, the current Mayor of Miami Lakes, has a long history in public service and has launched his bid to become Miami-Dade County’s mayor. 

At 29, he became the youngest person to be elected to the office of vice mayor in Miami Lakes, and at 32, he became the youngest person to be the Mayor of Miami Lakes. 

“It was a natural progression,” says Cid about his county-wide campaign, “I am uniquely positioned to be that person that ensures that Miami-Dade county remains affordable, but I also understand how to be the administrator.”

Cid is a small business owner in Miami-Dade County, and his main goal for becoming mayor is to help lower costs of living in the County. His first action as mayor will be to roll back property taxes and lower the costs of living. 

“The difference between me and traditional elected officials is that when I say that, I keep my promise” continues Cid, “I did it in Miami Lakes”.

This year, Cid’s administration was able to roll back property taxes in Miami Lakes by 10%, making it one of the lowest property taxes in the County. 

Other candidates are also making a bid, running on different platforms and goals, Alex Otaola and Miguel “El Skipper” Quintero have also launched their campaigns for the mayor’s office.  

“I don’t want to be the mayor, I don’t want this new career,” says Miguel “El Skipper” Quintero, “but if I do take it on, I’m going to take it on hard, full, and to the best of my ability”. 

Quintero, a physicist, theologist, journalist, and local trapeze artist, is running for mayor in hopes of cleaning up a system he deems broken.He owns a local business called Miami Flying Trapeze, which he runs from the backyard of his home.

Manny Skipper, photo courtesy of Skipper4Mayor

During the last few years, Skipper has spoken out against county policies on various fronts and has asked for an audience with county staff over the fines his business has faced. Skipper’s home business is facing fines for not having a certificate of use, for unlawful parking of commercial vehicles, and for failing to obtain building permits.

“I stopped operating for a couple months until I found the law,” says Quintero. “I knew there was a law in the state of Florida that said I could do it.”

Quintero argued that the county can’t regulate his home-based business as stated in Florida Statute 559.995. 

The statute states that home-based businesses, “may not be prohibited, restricted, regulated, or licensed in a manner that is different from other businesses in a local government’s jurisdiction, except as otherwise provided in this section.”

Quintero plans to change the way that people view local government if elected to office. One of his first moves will be to place a camera inside the Mayor’s office. His goal is to clean up what’s wrong with the county government, opening all departments up to investigation, and inviting journalists to come and dig, to clean out the wrongdoings. 

Quintero considered himself a long-shot candidate, but he wants to show his followers, and everyone in the county, that your voice can be heard, and that you can make a difference. If he wins the election, he does not plan to run for re-election and plans to show residents how much power they can have in their local governments. 

“Seeing the county’s tendency to lean towards a left-controlled government,” says Alexander Otaola, another candidate for the Mayor’s office, “a dangerous left, a left that impoverished, a left that inevitably leads to dictatorship, is one of my main reasons for running for Mayor.” 

Otaola is a Cuban influencer, he hosts his web-based show Hola Ota-Ola, runs a locally grown organic food business out of his ranch, and is a vocal opponent of the regime in Cuba. His talk show has hosted political figures like ex-president Donald Trump, and current Argentine president, Javier Millei. 

In 2020, he claims he used his platform to convert over 100,000 Cuban-American voters in Miami from registered Democrats to registered Republicans. (The real number is likely much smaller.)

Otaola is also among the first openly gay individuals running for Miami-Dade County mayor, but he is firmly against what he calls “the LGBT agenda”.

“I am an openly gay person who does not share in any way the LGBT agenda and the tendency to use minorities for indoctrination,” Otaola remarked.

Otaola believes that family is one of the primary building blocks of society and that as much as we should push for various family models to be accepted and respected in society, it should only be for adults to speak about, as trying to teach otherwise to young minds erases the history of humanity and how we have made it this far. 

“Our youth needs to understand that this agenda, this agenda that makes you argue with your parents, this agenda that makes you disrespect, as a minor, the choices that your parents make, is an agenda that is here to divide society and highlight the beginnings of communist and socialist ideals in society” Otaloa explains. 

Otaola believes that inclusivity is a danger to the society. That conservative opinion, which is shared by many in power, is dangerous to the progress that has been made in Miami-Dade County to foster an accepting society.

This year’s mayoral election will be an important one, alongside many of the talking points and national battles that the culture wars have ignited, candidates all over the US are fighting against the clock to ensure we don’t fully succumb to broken ideas. 

It’s important to remember at any local level, the importance that county and city governments have on our lives, and how the choices made here at home can expand upon the national stage and cause irreversible changes.

Check out the candidates’ websites, research and inform yourself, and make sure to head to the polls in August. 

Mayor Daniela Levine Cava

Mayor Manny Cid

Miguel “El Skipper” Quintero

Alexander Otaola

Jonathan Casaverde Maimon is a senior majoring in Digital Communications with a track in Digital Journalism as well as a minor in International Relations. When they graduate, they plan on obtaining a master’s in political communications and continuing to work in Washington DC.