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Esteban Bovo, Daniella Levine Cava Head To November Election In Race For Miami-Dade County Mayor

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The race for Miami-Dade mayor will be decided in November's general election between Republican Esteban Bovo Jr. and Democrat Daniella Levine Cava.

Both surprised former county mayor and contender, Alex Penelas, who gave a concession shortly before 9 p.m. He finished third in the race. Former Miami mayor and current commissioner Xavier Suarez came in fourth.

CBS4's Jim DeFede breaks down election results:

Levine Cava and Bovo were leading the pack of seven candidates, late Tuesday evening.

Both received 29 percent of the vote.

"I'm going to need your help, each and everyone here to make sure that we make sure that our county stays the course, our county never defunds our police department. (Cheer)And that our county makes you the taxpayer the business owner who has suffered so much during this period of time makes you once again a priority," said Bovo to his followers on Tuesday evening.

"We will have to choose what kind of community we want to be a divided county, that turns a blind eye and casts aside the most vulnerable in our community Is that who we are? or will we chose to be a united community guided by morality and compassion where everyone can overcome this crisis and thrive" Levine Cava said to her followers.

CBS4's Jim DeFede spoke to the four major candidates and those interviews aired on Facing South Florida.

Here is part of Jim's interview with Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban "Steve" Bovo Jr.

DeFede: Do you see yourself as the Republican candidate in this mayoral race?

Bovo: I see myself, Jim, as the candidate that's representing the homeowner and business owner, the property taxpayer in this community, I see myself as the candidate that just wants to make sure that county government and its dollars are being spent wisely in the you know, in the expect or meet the expectation that residents want. Whether you're a Democrat, Independent or Republican and you're a homeowner, I would suspect that you don't want your money being misspent. And that's the constituency that I've spoken to and spoken too loudly. You know I've been consistent in every forum that I've gone to that I believe any program that the county initiates should try to serve a greater good and should meet the expectations of a lot of the residents in Miami Dade County, which you know, quite honestly, over the course of the last couple of years has been kind of drifting into more social engineering and I'm not sure if county government was designed for that. You know we provide service; police fire, we repair your street, you know, we cut the grass in the median. And in many instances, you know, we started failing there, we started doing budget cuts in those areas to fulfill other areas that perhaps sometimes a very loud minority would like.

DeFede:  You have the endorsement of Marco Rubio; you have the endorsement of Jeanette Nunez. You have the Republican establishment behind you. I understand that you don't want to only appeal to Republicans, but that is the driving lane that you have tried to focus on in this primary election and that's what sets you apart from an Alex Penelas or Danielle Levine Cava, am I wrong?

Bovo: Well, you just mentioned two individuals who are obviously very hyper liberal and hyper left and they are definitely left of where I stand on the political spectrum. But again, I speak to if there's a liberal that owns a home and pays taxes, I think they would be very interested in making sure their money's not being misspent.

DeFede: I want to ask you that because I know that you know, you used the word social engineering there a second ago, hyper liberal, and I know that in some mailers from some PACs, you know, the word socialist or communist sometimes it gets thrown around. I just want to ask you bluntly; do you consider Daniel Levine Cava or Alex Penelas to be either a socialist or a communist?

Bovo: Well, living in the United States, nobody's really a communist, right. Everybody's a capitalist and they're both very wealthy. In fact, they've made a mint of money in their lives. So I don't think they're communists, but are they appealing to a hyper left crowd in this in this election absolutely.

DeFede: Give me an example of the hyper left extreme policy than either Daniella or Alex support because you're talking in generalities. Give me a specific that you think is hyper-liberal, hyper-left socialism?

Bovo: I think the more that you take property tax dollars and you move them away from what are the four services and invest perhaps in, in immigration, for example, you know, our county government invests money in immigration services. And not that they're not important, but the private sector does an apt job and there's a lot of immigration lawyers in the community.

DeFede:  I'm interrupting you because I just want to be clear, because I don't understand when you say immigration services, what specifically, what county program are you referring to?

Bovo:  Jim, we take about $15 million dollars of our county budget property tax dollars invested in CBO'S [Community-Based Organizations]. Many of these CBOS do fantastic work and are worthy of our support. But embedded in that CBO process, ARE programs like immigration services, but we pay through a third party through property taxes to provide immigration services for the most part, you know, for folks that are here illegally and are trying to get their status addressed. And to me, that's an example of a misuse of what I believe would be government funds, you know.

DeFede: Can you identify; can you identify one of those CBO groups?

Bovo:  I don't I don't have them off the top of my head, but I'd be more than happy to send you the info. So you have it but like that, on the CBO side, we fund a lot of programs that could be very questionable that the county uses, again, property tax dollars to defeat a narrative that goes away again, from the core services. This is a difference between a police officer showing up at your house in five minutes, as opposed to 15 minutes. If you're, you know, using money that could help us maybe do the services that we expect.

DeFede: What's the current county size of the budget? If you're forgetting capital, you're around $3 or $4 billion?

Bovo:  Well, a total budget is about $9 billion budget,

DeFede: But the operating, the taking aside the capital, 3-4 billion, you're talking about $15 million to all CBO's. And do you really think that cutting CBO's is going to make the police arrive at my door faster?

Bovo: No, I didn't say that. What I'm saying is that we need to look at our entire budget and CBO is just one example of it. You know, you could look at procurement, you can look at other items within our county operations that ended up costing us more money, instead of us being able to invest the money where we should be investing it.

DeFede also spoke with Levine Cave. Here is part of his interview:

DeFede: Just give me your overview as to where you stand on transit?

Cava: Yes. Well, I am a transit advocate. I've recognized from the beginning that traffic will only be solved with quality transit, we don't have it. As Commissioner, I have fought hard for the replacement of the bus fleet, for the electrification of the bus fleet, for the last mile solutions, for circulators not just in the cities, but outside and the better bus project, which we have a plan. It's been developed and we need to move forward with it because it will make our bus system much more reliable, much more frequent, and more people will be able to depend upon it. So we have a lot of things that are coming down the pike, as well as the six corridors that were prioritized in the smart plan with two of them really underway. We've got the 836 Express Bus that has saved a huge amount of time coming from Dolphin Mall downtown. With the lanes that were striped right before you know, just as MDX was shutting down. We got those and we did get the $100 million grant for the bus rapid transit on the south corridor.

Now I voted against Bus Rapid Transit, I voted for bringing the rail, the one seat ride, the continuation because it was demonstrated by the studies to so enhance the number of people that would use it, it would really have been a game changer. But the Mayor came in he said, 'No, we can't do it anymore. We need that money for other corridors' and he shut the whole thing down, wouldn't even consider going part way to Cutler Bay to the Southland Mall, which would have been a great solution and bus from there so extremely, extremely frustrating how these decisions have been made. For Alex Penellas to say that he's going to dump those plans and start all over is another lie.  You know, those dollars are not committed at the federal level, we could be considered for that but we wouldn't be rated as high. But you know, this, this plan is underway, rail would be another eight years. So yes, I stood for rail. And what I've done is I've tried to make sure that we got gold standard BRT, which wasn't in the original, so I got that. And also to make sure that when we have the ridership that justifies it, that these platforms, these stations will be convertible for rail. So we're building for a future with a rail extension.

DeFede: The Kendall Express lanes, crossing over the EDB into the Everglades. What's your position on that?

Cava: Yes, so I never supported this Kendall Parkway. Again, this was another bait and switch from Mayor Gimenez, who was all about transit. And then unfortunately, he became the chair of the Miami Dade Expressway Authority, and he had access to those funds. And he thought okay, we'll tell the people in Kendall that will solve their problems with this toll road extension, but in actual fact, we had the information at the time of the decision. This was driven by the mayor, we knew that it would not really save time, three minutes was what we're talking about.

DeFede: Let's take a let's take a step back and talk about money invested in the transit system. Because I know one of the things that for instance, Alex Penellas has, has hit on you and others regarding this, he advocated for the half penny sales tax. He says that the ultimate problem with the half penny sales tax is that the money that was being accrued for projects like rail ended up being raided by commissioners such as yourself to help fill budget gaps, that while that may have been necessary in 2008, when you had the recession, that you've returned to it every year since and you continue to use and he cites you specifically, continues to use the half penny sales tax money to plug budget holes in other parts of the budget.

Cava: Right. So this started with the half penny lie. And we need to be super clear about that because he's seeking to dodge that responsibility. This was a program that was going to cost a penny. When the penny failed, they rolled it over to a half penny. They never changed the programs. So the same promises for a full penny, now we've got a half penny, you know, do the math, it does not add up. Now, there was a recession. This is before I came on the Commission, the Citizens Independent Trust that oversees the funds gave the county permission to use some of those dollars for operation. That's because the county has never made a substantial commitment to transit. Transit should not be based on the fare box; transit is an infrastructure issue. We need it for everyone's well-being. I came on in 2014 to the Commission and I have been pushing since the beginning to unroll what they call the unification unwind, unwind the unification and finally, this is the first year that it is fully unwound but last year as well, I've been pushing for it every year, and I tried even to make it permanent and my colleagues rebuffed me. They said, okay, and this year's budget, but you know, we don't have a commitment on the record from the commission to not go ahead and rate it in the future.

DeFede: It just to be clear, you did vote for budgets over during your time as Commissioner that included raiding into that fund and using those funds to plug budget gaps.

Cava: Yeah, so what happened was that it needed to go backwards. You couldn't stop all of a sudden running the transit system.

All of Jim's interviews are available at CBSMIAMI.COM/2020


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