“Candidate Night 3” of four such events hosted by the Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations (KFHA) on Sept. 13 drew an audience of nearly 200 to hear 10 of 15 state representative office seekers trade points on current county and state issues.
The fourth and final KFHA special candidate meeting was scheduled Monday, Sept. 20, to hear hopefuls for Congress and Florida governor as well as details about Florida constitutional amendments.
Concluding the Sept. 13 session, Palmetto Bay Mayor Gene Flinn stood alone to pitch his platform while former Homestead Mayor Lynda Bell, runoff opponent for Katy Sorenson’s District 8 County Commission seat, was reported in Alaska attending the birth of her eighth granddaughter, according to Tony Garcia, campaign aide.
The only heated exchange of the evening occurred between School Board District 7 runoff candidates when Carlos Curbelo accused opponent Libby Perez of a conflict of interest, alleging a KFHA member had been involved in her campaign. Perez initially received a KFHA endorsement as well as that of her employer, Dr. Marta Perez of the Miami-Dade School Board.
Curbelo’s charge was denied vigorously by Marvin P. Stein, Political Action Committee chair, who declared, “Never has the PAC ever been involved in any misrepresentation or involvement during my 25 years of chairing the committee,” emphasizing the PAC is “completely independent” of the KFHA organization.
KFHA board member Don Kearns, internal vice president, heatedly questioned Curbelo on his statements.
Curbelo, 30, a Republican campaigner for national and state offices, was employed last year by U.S. Sen. George LeMieux before seeking the District 7 school board seat being vacated by Ana Rivas-Logan.
Rivas-Logan, candidate for state representative in District 114, was absent for the second time during the KFHA Candidate Nights since July. Her two opponents, Millie Herrera, former East Kendall Community Council member, and Denny Wood, self-appointed “spokesman for disabled issues,” appeared on Sept. 13.
Wood said his primary goal was to seek more para-professionals in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grades (at a 1 to 5 teacher to pupil ratio) “because our children’s minds gain up to 90 percent of basic learning know-how at those age levels.”
Herrera prioritized eliminating tax breaks for corporations in favor of small business people, like herself, as well as reapportioning state funding for Miami-Dade County.
Earlier, two Doral city commissioners, Sandra Ruiz and Robert Van Name, pointed to their experience in one of Miami-Dade County’s newest cities as reason for election to a District 112 state representative seat. A third candidate, Jeanette Nunez, did not appear.
In District 115, Jeffery (Doc) Solomon, banked on his leadership in state affairs as past president of the statewide chiropractic association, and mostly agreed with stands taken by opponent Jose Felix Diaz, a University of Miami law graduate who has represented clients in Tallahassee. A third candidate, Christopher Blau, failed to appear.
Diaz said he would make a special effort to develop legislation aimed at eliminating Medicare fraud in Miami-Dade and Florida. Solomon noted “a near total lack of enforcement” and rampant greed has created corrupt healthcare providers.
In the District 119 state representative race, Redland agricultural advocate Katie Edwards and opponent Graziella Renee Denny claimed new ideas were needed to better represent Miami-Dade’s interests in Tallahassee. Candidate Frank Artiles did not appear.
Edwards favored retaining agriculture to further development to help Miami-Dade’s economy while Denny said “only new and fresh ideas will break Republican-Democratic politics that now rule legislative decisions.”
Veteran legislator and District 120 incumbent State Rep. Ron Saunders said he would rely on his past performance to continue representing Kendall interests, opposing Senate Bill 6 tying educational funding to student performance while remaining in support of the class size amendment.
Key West Mayor Morgan J. McPherson claimed state educational allotments were “poppycock, just game-playing with numbers,” adding “decentralization of state government with greater local controls is the only way to provide an alternative to lobby-influenced decisions in Tallahassee.”
Perez claimed her 21 years’ service in schools, PTAs and administration “would best serve all children” in Miami-Dade. She seeks to protect art, music and elective programming during proposed cutbacks in curriculum.
Curbelo said he wants to reform student learning and work for higher efficiencies in the system, noting his endorsements by the United Teachers of Dade and Rep. Juan C. Zapata, four-term Miami-Dade legislator. Earlier, Kendall candidate Eddie Barrera who lost in the primary for the District 7 post, announced his backing of Curbelo.
At the session’s conclusion, Flinn, when asked by KFHA’s Ken Karger if he believed in cutting budgets “from the top down or bottom up as evidenced by Miami Mayor Carlos Alvarez,” the Palmetto Bay mayor said he had spent eight years in office “without any office staff to run a city government” except for an aide and clerk.
Endorsed by Commissioner Sorenson after the Aug. 24 primary, Flinn said he believed in “sharing staff,” and emphasized his priority to seek restoration of $80 million-plus state funding cut in state apportioned funding to Miami-Dade County.