Primary Elections: The Race for Commissioner


Gabriella Torna

Early elections begin on October 23rd and will end on November 5th,

The race is on for the Miami Beach Commission seat after two seats were left open when Joy Malakoff resigned due to a spinal injury and Michael Grieco was fired due to criminal charges. Michael Góngora and Adrian Gonzalez will be competing for the spot that is being vacated by former Commissioner Joy Malakoff. The candidates running to replace Michael Grieco are Rafael Velasquez and Mark Samuelian.

Candidate Michael Góngora is an attorney at Becker & Poliakoff. His previous involvement in political campaigns makes this his third time running. He has run and lost the race for mayor of Miami Beach and the for District 38 Florida Senate seat. Góngora’s focus if he wins this election is to improve traffic conditions and resident outreach.  He has raised $264,020 thus far. His opponent, Adrian Gonzalez, is the proud owner of David’s Cafe, a little Cuban café based in Miami Beach. This is Gonzalez’s first time running for an elected office. Because of his experience with small businesses, Gonzalez wishes to use the position of commissioner to help improve the city’s permitting process for small businesses. Although he is aware that his experienced counterpart may have an advantage, he still feels confident about the upcoming election and has thus far raised $69,389.

“I think a candidate with experience would be a better fit. That’s not saying one without experience like Adrian Gonzalez cannot make it, but I find myself more comfortable with one who has experience,” sophomore Adrian Vidal said.

One of the candidates running for Grieco’s seat is democratic activist Rafael Velasquez. He was the subject of controversy during a 2002 election when it was revealed that he had illegally voted twice before becoming a naturalized citizen. If Velasquez wins, he plans on focusing on proposing an independent inspector general and mass transit across Biscayne Bay. Although his campaign has already garnered $46,488 in campaign finances, his success may be damaged due to allegations from Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez that Velasquez exposed himself to her. Despite these allegations, Velasquez has no plans of dropping out of the race anytime soon. His opponent, Mark Samuelian, is the president of the civic activist group Miami Beach United. His previous campaign for city commissioner in 2015 resulted in a loss. Samuelian’s main focus is prioritizing permanent backup generators for pumps, as well as addressing the concerns of families who are wary of the city’s plans to raise streets, which could lead to potential flooding. Samuelian has already raised $470,451, more than half of which has come from his own pocket.

“I believe that people who are running for an electoral office and in professional environments should be professional in and outside of the office, and anyone that is accused of sexual misconduct should be immediately removed or put under investigation until further notice, ” junior Faith Vaguez said.

As Nov. 7 approaches, candidates prepare for the election. Early voting began on Oct. 23 and will end on Nov. 5. The tensions are high to see who will fulfill the newly vacated spots for Commissioner of Miami Beach.

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