Of course it’s a mega retail shopping complex. You didn’t think it would be just a stadium, did ya? For soccer? Where’s the fun (read: money) in that?
Well kept secret details of the long-awaited plan to turn Melreese Golf Course, the only golf course owned by the city of Miami and a historic gem, into a mega retail destination with shops, offices and restaurants, plus a 700-room hotel, have come out only in recent days, since the item is coming before the Miami Commission Thursday. And people are actually surprised that only a tiny, little bit of the plan includes a 25,000-seat soccer stadium?
This ain’t about a public venue for Kendall families to go to major league soccer games, something we all want. This is about a sweetheart deal public land grab. This is so David Beckham and his new Miami partners, which include Jorge Mas and the Mas family, turn it into a $1 billion, 73-acre complex with 600,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, 400,000 square feet of office space and at least 3,700 parking spaces that have a business plan all of their own.
Read related: Lawsuit to shed light on soccer stadium deal, land taken by eminent domain
It’s bigger than Brickell City Center and might have once been deemed the largest shopping complex ever imagined, except for that mega mall in Northwest Dade.
Except that this is smack in the middle of our gridlocked Miami-Dade, right next to Miami International Airport.
That’s only the first reason not to entertain this silly idea — at least for now. Until we have some of the stupid smart plan solutions in place, there is no reason to add this many trips to our already busy 37th Avenue.
But there are other reasons. How about that it’s a no-bid deal given to a bunch of insiders with connections to City Hall? How about the fact that the details about the shopping center on steroids was kept secret from everybody until the last minute? Even Beckham and co — who were just kidding with their plan to build the stadium in Overtown — know it’s a tough sell.
What else do we still not know?
Proponents will say that this is an economic win with a guaranteed paltry $3.5 million a year in rent to the city and $44 million or so a year in tax revenue. All they want is the chance to bring this to voters.
Read related: Carlos Gimenez’s own land for/near new soccer stadium
But that’s not entirely honest. All they really want is a chance to bring a slick, shiny multi-million dollar campaign to convince voters that this is in their best interest. They are going to use words like Freedom to tug at the heart strings and might even conjure Cuban exile royalty ghosts and what their wishes might have been if he was alive today. They are going to go all out, balls to the wall. If you think the FIU campaign to get the Youth Fair land lease referendum passed was something special, get ready for the campaign of your lives.
To them, “taking it to the voters” is basically a yes.
Because the opposition will not have the money that the developers making millions on this sweetheart real estate deal have, so there won’t be a slick campaign for the no vote. That will all be grassroots. And, probably, hopefully, viral. But still, it will be an uphill battle against the better funded side.
The city of Miami is selling itself and its citizens cheap if it allows this to even go to a public vote, knowing full well what that means. This is nothing more than a no-bid contract for a bunch of political insiders who are trying to take advantage of us. The way the development is unfolding, the land is worth way more than $4 or $5 million a year. Which is why some people have urged the commission to open the golf course up to bids — make it a competitive process and see what others might pay to do the same thing.
Read related: King Petty Carlos Gimenez gets goofy over soccer stadium
Beckham et al don’t want that. Because they can’t compete. That’s why they’re flying in all kinds of cheerleaders today and have to plan a tailgate party by soccer fans to try to sway the commission.
Don’t believe the hype. Take a step back and let’s look at this with time and more input from the community.
Ladra has heard that two of the five commissioners are already against the plan. That includes Willy Gort, whose district includes Melreese. Here’s hoping that third vote is off the fence today on the right side.
This is not the plan to take to voters if they ever want to convince us to do anything with public land for a stadium. Keyword: Stadium.

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If you had a political forum, and the Republican front runners weren’t there, did it still happen?
We shall see on Monday evening when the Kendall Federation of Homeowners welcomes every Democrat candidate and five of the Republican hopefuls to the District 27 seat vacated by the retirement of U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
According to the email blast and KFHA President Michael Rosenberg, four Republicans — including the top three potential vote-getters — are not going to make it to the 6:30 p.m. powwow at the Kendall Village “Civic” Center, in the middle of the shopping plaza, at 8625 SW 124 Ave.
Maria Elvira Salazar, the Spanish-language TV news magazine star who everyone thinks has the lead now that Bruno Barreiro‘s wife lost her county commission race, had been out of town until Saturday, Rosenberg said, but was supposed to confirm after that and has not. Barreiro, Angie Chirino and Maria Piero have not responded.
“Bruno, I’ve invited eight times. Not even a response,” Rosenberg said, adding that he also texted Zoraida Barreiro, who used to respond quite quickly when she was running for office, and got nada back from her either.
“They want our vote, they just don’t want to talk to us,” he said.
Wanting to talk are former Doral Councilwoman Bettina Rodriguez-Aguilera, right, and four people you probably never heard of: Elizabeth Adadi, Stephen Marks, Michael Ohevzian and Gina Sosa. They have all confirmed attendance at the forum. For these people, a day without Maria Elvira, Barreiro and Angie Chirino is a good day.
On the other hand, every Democrat confirmed: Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, Matt Haggman, Michael Hepburn, David Richardson and Donna Shalala all said they would be there.
Maybe that’s all that matters, since the Democrat winner in August has the advantage in November in what many are saying is one of the most flippable seats in the country. Maybe Bruno has the right idea in not giving it 110%.
“This will be a civil meeting to learn about these candidates. educate the community about these candidates,” Rosenberg said. “We are going to tell the candidates not to go off road, to focus on the questions and answer it so voters can learn about them. Otherwise it is a wasted meeting.”
Republican candidates will go first start at 7 p.m.  The Democrats start at 8:15. They will have two minutes to introduce themselves and then a minute to answer six questions. 
“That means you need to be right on point, clear, and not waste a second from the context of the question,” Rosenberg wrote to the candidates.
Each candidate will also get two one-minute challenges to use if another candidate specifically names them or misrepresents their position. So if it happens a third time, Ladra supposes they just have to live with it.
Or maybe address it in the end, where there will be a two minute summary or closing statement.
The KFHA also plans forums in the following weeks for candidates to the Miami-Dade County Commission (July 23) and to the Florida House (July 25). Hopefully, all the viable candidates will be there for that.

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Qualifying came and went quietly last month and we ended up with quite a few challenges in the Florida House and some interesting contests in four of the five open seats.

State Rep. Jose Oliva is the only Republican incumbent in South Florida without a challenger. Reps. Kionne McGhee, Barbara Watson, Richard Stark, Sharon Pritchett, Shevron Dion Jones, Joe Geller and Evan Jenne were also automatically re-elected without opposition, but they are Democrats in areas that are already dark blue.
There are a couple of head-to-heads. Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) will face Steve Friedman and Rep. Robert Asencio (D-West Kendall) has a rematch, of sorts, with Anthony Rodriguez, who lost the Republican primary two years ago to former State Rep. David Rivera (who never qualified  for State House 119 this year as he had threatened to, either). In another rematch in House 112, Rep. Nicholas Duran (D-Shenandoah) will face Republican Rosy Palomino again.  And, next door, newly elected Rep. Javier Fernandez (D-Coral Gables) will face a guy with a similar name, Republican Javier Enriquez. Someone named Ahmed Rizwan is challenging Rep. Bryan Avila (R-Hialeah), but nobody is watching that.
Read related: Unforgivable: Jose Oliva goes unchallenged in blue wave year
And all those contests are in November, anyway, more than four months away.
In August, we have some big, fat primary ballots due to termed out reps that leave open seat opportunities that nobody wants to pass up.
In 115, where Ladra lives, we have two Democrats and four Republicans vying for former State Rep. Michael Bileca‘s seat. Jeffrey Solomon (photographed, left) will probably and should win against someone named James Schulman. This is Doc Solomon’s third or fourth run at the seat — he’s not afraid of running against an incumbent — so he is like the incumbent this time and everybody knows his name. Among the Republicans, it will either be GOP favorite Vance Aloupis or Jose Fernandez, the only two who have dropped any mail so far. Carlos Gobel and Rhonda Rebman Lopez, who dropped the Rebman from her name to sound more Hispanic and has loaned herself almost $100,000 (more on that later), are still silent but could make moves in the next couple of weeks. This seat is totally flipable. One of the five most vulnerable House seats in Miami-Dade.
Not so much so in 119, where Jeanette Nuñez exits right, and we have another four Republicans, but only one Democrat and one NPA. So, in August, we will see the battle between Juan Fernandez-Barquin, Enrique Lopez, Analeen “Annie” Martinez — daughter of Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez, (photographed with her, right) which could be why she has quite a bit of a fundraising lead (more on that later) — and Bibiana “Bibi” Potestad. The winner there, like Ladra just said, will likely take it in November because Democrat Heath Rassner seems like he doesn’t know what he’s doing, having first filed in HD 5 in the panhandle and having lost already once in the 116 race to former State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz. NPA Daniel Sotelo, however, has raised $24,455 so far and could be a factor — especially if Martinez wins and Sotelo makes the whole general campaign about dynasties. We know that works.
Read related: Republicans start lining up for 2018 state primaries, challenges
Democrats could gain one in District 103, which covers Miami Lakes and Hialeah Gardens and is vacated by Manny Diaz, Jr., a charter school no-show employee and quarry mining industry sellout who thinks he can win a senate race now (more on that later). Diaz and Oliva handpicked Miami Lakes Councilman and Oliva Cigars employee Frank Mingo to replace him. But there’s a primary with Cindy Polo, a stay at home mom inspired to run after the school shooting at Parkland against Richard Tapia, who dropped out of the Miami-Dade School Board race against the mayor’s sister-in-law after he met with CJ Gimenez, who discouraged him. Ladra can’t help but wonder if someone is encouraging him now. This is only flipable if Polo wins and yes it’s flipable (more on this race later).
The blue team could have scored again in Ambassador Carlos Trujillo‘s former district in Doral — but instead they fumbled another one. Doral Councilwoman Ana Maria Rodriguez (photographed left) is running as the sole Republican after King Nine Lives Rivera himself decided not to throw his hat in the ring this year — and it’s the first time since when that David is not on the ballot? Rodriguez, who has remained unscathed during the mud bath in Doral, is a worthy opponent even in one of the most flipable seats. Especially since the primary pits Ross Hancock, who has run in so many districts already that he hasn’t been able to build a base, against Javier Estevez, who has raised less than $1,700 since September of last year.  Dems in Doral have voted for Ana Maria before. They won’t mind doing so again. This seat likely stays red. And it could have gone blue with the right candidate. The Miami-Dade Democratic Party really blew it. Again.
On the flip side of that, House District 113 — which became open when David Richardson decided he had enough of butting heads in Tallahassee and he would try to ride his first gay elected thing to Washington — has three Democrats and only one Republican who is wasting his time, because whoever wins this race in August is the next state rep. That means it’s either one of two former Miami Beach Commissioners Deede Weithorn and Michael Grieco the comeback kid, who got off probation for campaign law violations in his 2017 mayoral bid just in time to run, or “Kubs” Lalchandani, an attorney for plastic surgery centers where botched procedures have led to patient deaths whose real name is Kabir Arjan. Like Ladra said, whoever wins that primary is going to win in November say the demographics, so Republican Jonathan Parker is irrelevant. This seat will stay blue forever.
Read related: New Mayor Dan Gelber endroses Deede Weithorn for State House
Interestingly enough, there are also a couple of incumbents facing challenges from their own party:
Newly-elected State Rep. Daniel Anthony Perez (R-Westchester) — who beat Jose Mallea and some Republican lady from Broward for the seat in a special election last summer, after Jose Felix Diaz resigned to run for senate (and lost) — will face tax attorney Frank Polo, a balsero from the 1994 crisis who spent 10 months at the refugee camps for Cuban rafters at Guantanamo. That’s a GOP leaning district so whoever wins that will likely easily beat Democrat James Alexander Harden. Another lost opportunity for the blue team, who should have had a player here.
On the blue side, State Rep. Roy Hardemon faces two Democrat challengers in the primary — Joseph Beauvil and Dotie Joseph. There’s an LPF in that race also but this is a solid Democrat district. Republicans need not apply, and they didn’t.
And in 109, we have two Democrats longtime and well-known Democrats battling it out: Former State Rep. James Bush III hasn’t been able to win even a seat on the United Teachers of Dade board, so what makes him think he can beat Cedric McMinn, a political climber who worked as district assistant to State Rep. Cynthia Stafford in this very district before he became chief of staff to Miami-Dade School Board Member Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall. This election is going to be run and decided by educators (and educational interests?) so it may be worth watching.
But that was a blue seat that will stay blue. At the end of the day, the Democrats really didn’t come through with that promised blue wave — at least not in the Florida House. They could have flipped four or five seats (if you count Raschein) and will be lucky if they get even two. Let’s call it what it is: a blue trickle.

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The Miami-Dade Democratic Party has big egg on their face in the wake of qualifying last week that left the one incumbent who was most important to challenge this year completely unfazed: State Rep. Jose Oliva — who brought guns to our schools, ladies and gentlemen — was reelected already without even a sigh.
Duysevi Miyar, the teacher and failed Miami-Dade School Board and one-time state House candidate who said she was going to challenge him, told her friends on Facebook last week, after she failed to do so, that she wasn’t gonna dwell on it.
“Sometimes things happen, and it hits you like a truck! I sent my qualifying documents and they didn’t make it on time. I don’t want to look back in the rear mirror. I want to look foward,” she wrote on her Facebook page eight hours after she missed the qualifying deadline June 22 and two days after she announced having been endorsed by United Teachers of Dade. “I will now focus my energies on helping my colleagues that are running. I will not lose hope! Thank you all that supported me! For this I am blessed.”
Blah blah things happen blah. Sorry not sorry but it should not have been left to the last moment or sent with someone else. Or maybe Miyar shouldn’t have been “feeling fantastic” at Disney World a day earlier, according to her Facebook addiction. Did the mouse make her late?
Read related: Florida State Rep. Jose Oliva must go — before he is speaker
But, really, it isn’t her fault. A race this important should never have been left to this flake in the first place and qualifying should have been taken care of on Day 1 by the Democratic Party, which gets all the blame.
“I’m also extremely disappointed,” Dade Dems Chair Juan Cuba texted Ladra Friday. “Sevy feels terrible.”
Sevy feels terrible? Doesn’t really seem that way from Facebook. And anyway, you should feel worse. Wasn’t this the blue wave year to make a statement? And what better statement could you have made than to take out the House Speaker? We talked about this, Juan. We agreed he was the No. 1 target.
Cuba and any other self respecting Democrat leader should feel the total weight of this epic fail for the rest of this election cycle and maybe beyond. If they hadn’t been so busy meddling in a local county election getting Eileen Higgins elected (to impact a congressional race not local issues so much), maybe they would have been able to unseat the next Speaker of the House.
Read related: Dems push full court press for Eileen Higgins in special District 5 county race
Oliva was ripe for the taking. As the architect of the vile and widely hated Marshall Program part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Student Safety Act, he was vulnerable. The Dems coudla shoulda ran someone else against him. Anybody would do this year. Just put Oliva with guns up on some billboards and bingo, we got ourselves a new state rep in Miami Lakes — and a new Speaker.
But noooooooo. Instead, he coasts. Like he’s done something to deserve a coast.
This is by far the biggest missed opportunity in state races that we’ve seen probably in a decade. It’s why Cuba wouldn’t call me back about it. Or text further. If some think that Miami-Dade GOP Chair Nelson Diaz should resign his seat for losing the Miami-Dade District 5 election, what does Cuba deserve for this colossal crapout?
And how can we have any confidence in anything else they do this year?
No matter how many seats they turn blue this is going to be the Dems’ legacy for 2018: Eileen Higgins for Jose Oliva.

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The obvious winners and losers in the special shotgun wedding District 5 county commission race, besides candidates Eileen Higgins (winner) and Zoraida Barreiro (loser), are the political parties: The Miami-Dade Democratic Party (winner) and the Republican Party of Miami-Dade (loser). We’ve said it all along and it’s no surprise so we’re not including them in the list.
Yes, it’s time for the list.
As always, there are other people, groups and institutions that we can say have gained or lost from this particular election — especially those who were heavily invested, whether emotionally or financially. It happens in every race. And in this race, in particular, there are people along the fray who got burned and people behind the scenes who need to be exposed.
As is now tradition, Political Cortadito’s winners and losers for the Miami-Dade District 5 race are:
WINNERS
Joe Carollo — What? Why? Ladra is off her rocker? Nope. While its been almost a year since the city commissioner beat Zoraida Barreiro for his seat, he certainly didn’t wish her success! Even if he wasn’t certain the Barreiros helped Alfie Leon in the city commission runoff after Zori was left out, nobody does a grudge like Joe Carollo.  It’s only all the more gratifying to him that his brother Frank Carollo was Barreiro’s political consultant.
Xavier Suarez — Not only did the Miami-Dade commissioner in adjoining District 7 endorse and campaign for Higgins in the city where his son is mayor, giving his nod more street cred, he is also one step closer to that chairmanship he’s always wanted and which would make a nice treat right before he heads into a mayoral contest with the current commission chair, Esteban “Stevie” Bovo. Or maybe this is just the first step in the Suarez power consolidation plan (more on that later).
Maria Elvira Salazar — Needless to say, you will find Bruno Barreiro in the losers list. His congressional campaign is all but toast. I mean, how can anyone (read: donors) believe he can get it done now, when he couldn’t even get deliver for his wife against a nobody who doesn’t speak that much Spanish in a district where more than 70 percent of the voters do? This is the single biggest boost to Maria Elvira’s campaign since she announced. It is now a race between her and sleeper candidate Angie Chirino.
Christian Ulvert — Who else is getting sick of seeing this guy’s name in this column?  He’s already cocky AF, he’s going to be unbearable today. Ulvert took time off from the high profile gubernatorial campaign of former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine to help Eileen. So everybody vote Gwen Graham or Andrew Gillum because otherwise we will have a monster on our hands.
Underdog candidates — Okay, so the party assistance is nice if you can get it, but this Higgins upset election still shows that even an entrenched establishment incumbent — and Barreiro was a defacto incumbent — can be unseated by someone relatively new to the scene with enough gumption and social. And it’s gonna be a boost to some of the first time candidates on the ballot this year (more on that later) as well as underdogs in larger seat races. It could help them raise money. It could help them get volunteers. At the very least, it should give them a little kick in their step for the next couple of weeks.
LOSERS
Bruno Barreiro — Talk about messing up. Bruno Barreiro, who resigned this seat for a congressional race he will now never win, could have stayed on the commission through November, which is what he’d do if there were a time machine available. He resigned abruptly like that thinking that it would give his wife the advantage in a special election. He didn’t realize it would turn into this partisan battle. He should already start thinking about what he’s going to do in September.
Carlos Gimenez — The county mayor endorsed Barreiro and really hoped she would eke it out.  She’s controllable for his last two years, which can now be a little rocky if Higgins pans out the way many of us hope. He may have to work a little harder and answer some real questions. He won’t have a pocket vote for whatever he wants, that’s pretty likely. And worst of all, he may not get another no-bid contract for someone on his friends and family plan.
Nelson Diaz — Yes, we said we wouldn’t list the local GOP but the chairman is another matter entirely. This is not his first loss. Diaz had just been made chair when Levine Cava was elected. You would think he might learn. Even though he couldn’t get involved in the primary, because there were two other Republicans in the running, he was slow to get the party involved in the runoff — and even then only did it halfway. Marco Rubio‘s robocall was weeks late.

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A partisan campaign likely made the difference
Even though Zoraida Barreiro was ahead for a tiny little bit in the special shotgun wedding election to replace her husband on the Miami-Dade Commission, she was never winning. The tiny 45 vote lead she had after absentee ballots were counted wouldn’t hold.
Democrats, who had made this nonpartisan election a grudge match, own early voting and election day results, for the most part. And this held true Tuesday as Eileen Higgins soared over Barreiro, matching her lead and getting a 277 vote gap in la gringa‘s favor with early voting for a 51 to 49 split. And that only grew as the night continued.
Read related: More people come out to vote in special Miami-Dade District 5 runoff
Partial election day results just before 8 p.m. showed Higgins with more than 53% to less than 47% for Zory, a 913-vote gap.  By the end of the night, when all 60 precincts reporting, Higgins kept the 53% vote with a 955-vote lead. So, as expected, Zory Barreiro won ABs — though with an insufficient gap — and la gringa won early voting and Election Day. A closer look shows that la gringa barely lost ABs while arrasando with the early and day of votes.
In the end there were 2,000 more people motivated to vote than in last month’s first round (13,943 t0 11,905 total votes) even though there were four candidates then, including former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, who came in third ut still got more than 3,300 votes.
But even though two dynasty names were beat by a relative newcomer, the race was more a partisan thing than a dynasty thing.
This ain’t the first time that Miami-Dade Democratic Party gets involved in what is traditionally a non partisan race (Daniella Levine Cava was the first time), but this is the best time. Or, rather, the most intense time. We’re talking a reported 34,000 handwritten postcards sent to Democrat voters in District 5 from progressives all over the country! We’re talking a paid political consultant who took time from the heated Florida gubernatorial election to help Higgins get over the well-oiled machine of GOP veterans!
By the time the Miami-Dade Republican Party got involved it was too little, too late. That Marco Rubio mailer and robocall would have been far more effective three weeks ago, before absentee ballots went out. They got involved only a couple of weeks ago.
“It’s also been a bad year for Republicans. It also happened eight years ago and eight years before that,” said Miami-Dade GOP Chair Nelson Diaz.
Read related: Dems push full court press for Eileen Higgins in special District 5 county race
But most political observers in the 305 said this race was unprecedented because of the dem involvement.
“Higgins’ election win was more about winning the battle of expectations by the Democratic Party,” said Hector Roos, a political analyst and consultant who did not work for either campaign. “It was not just the result of three months of negative campaigning, criticizing ‘dynasty politics.’ That’s actually a very common and unusually unsuccessful campaign message.”
No, Roos said, this campaign was about whipping your base — Patrick Murphy beat Rubio by seven points in District 5 — into a frenzy.
“Like it or not, hyper-partisan strategies combined with limitless outside resources and funding in small turnout special elections win, as seen in examples across the country,” Roos said.
Higgins did not return a phone call and text message, but it may have been buried in a hundred other texts and calls.
A “very disappointed” Zoraida — wife of Bruno Barreiro, who resigned to run for Congress and thought he had this in the bag — said that the attacks on her as a dynasty candidate and the hyperpartisan rhetoric drowned out any debate on the issues.
“This woman has a mind of her own,” she told Ladra late Tuesday night, as she laughed, patted backs and said good night to volunteer poll workers who have been with the Barreiro campaign machine for 20 years.
“Unfortunately, this campaign wasn’t too much about District 5,” Barreiro said, “and these are the results.”

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