Miami Shores saw one of its closest municipal elections ever

Tiny Miami Shores hosted an election Tuesday, and the four candidates for the three open positions were separated by razor-thin margins. 

Only 139 votes separated the first-place finisher from the last-place one. The difference was 22 votes between third and fourth places in an unofficial tally. The fourth place finisher is the only one to be shut off from joining the council. 

Of the village’s 7,730 registered voters, fewer than 2,000 cast ballots. The two candidates with the highest number of votes will become mayor and vice mayor for a four-year term. The third-place candidate will serve as a council member for two years.

If the tally stands, Sandra Harris, who came in first, will be the next mayor. She beat out second-place finisher Daniel Marinberg by 23 votes. Katia Saint Fleur came in third while Councilman Jonathan Meltz took fourth. 

“I just want to thank my community for believing in me and placing their confidence in me,” said Harris. “I look forward to serving.”

Marinberg said he ran to help keep Miami Shores moving in the right direction. Both he and Harris said they want to fix the village’s flooding issues and convert some properties from septic to sewer systems. 

Saint Fleur said she’d use the knowledge she’s acquired from years of governmental work to improve Miami Shores Village.

“One of my first priorities will be to find ways to engage with and interact with the village residents and hear from them about their views on how to move the community forward,” she said.

Saint Fleur, who would be the village’s first Haitian-American council member, raised $47,905 during the campaign, the highest of any of the candidates. Harris raised $13,360 and Marinberg raised $8,614. Meltz raised $3,250. 

“Throughout the course of my career I’ve worked with and helped a lot of people, and I’ve done good work with many organizations,” said Saint Fleur. “The contributions I’ve received are a reflection of people and community leaders trying to give back, help and support.”

Meltz, the only candidate up for re-election, said he doesn’t believe in accepting money from contributors outside of the village.

“What does that mean when you’re accepting money from larger donors outside of Miami Shores?” said Meltz. “It sounds as though you may be inclined to allow them to have an influence within your city.”

All four candidates had their campaign tents set up early Tuesday in the polling area parking lot across Lawton McCall Community Center. 

Residents were steadily in and out of the polls all morning, voting for the candidates they said would bring much-needed change.

“I voted for Katia and I voted for Sandra,” said Nancy Valdez. “The city is run very much like an old boys club, and we need change and transparency.”

“I voted for Katia and Sandra,” said federal public defender Christian Dunham. “Because I think we need some change in Miami Shores and I think they’re going to align more with the people who are going to try to change things.”

“I voted for Meltz because he’s conservative and we need change,” said Richard Vishagan.

Others simply said they felt required to vote.

“All of them have the same issues,” said Vanyuer Dominick after voting for Harris. “I just have to vote, so I vote.”

The polls saw a 26% voter turnout, which has been the village’s average for the last few years, said Miami Shores Village Clerk Ysabely Rodriguez. Four votes are being reviewed due to mismatched signatures, she said. Due to the tightness of the race, a machine recount is being considered. 

If the results are confirmed, Harris, Marinberg, and Fleur will be sworn in at 6:30 p.m. on April 20.

Yanelis Luzardo is a senior majoring in Journalism with a Pre-Law and Film Certification. She wishes to pursue a career in the entertainment industry and continue her legal studies.