Saturday, May 21, 2011

District 7 race heads to court

Early voters in South Miami, Pinecrest and Coral Gables who cast ballots already for a new Miami-Dade commissioner in District 7, may have wasted their time.

A circuit court judge could cancel that race on Monday.

Attorney Ricardo Corona, better known for a late-night TV show that dispenses legal advice to call-in viewers, filed a lawsuit against Miami Dade Elections Department Supervisor Lester Sola last month after he was not allowed to qualify for the race and become a third candidate to replace Carlos Gimenez, who resigned to run for mayor to replace Carlos Alvarez, who was recalled by Norman Braman, who is backing former Miami mayor Xavier Suarez in the District 7 race, instead of supporting Corona's efforts to open the field to more participants (others besides him could qualify if the period were opened up again). He was told he was too late, even though he was there in time, as shown by documents stamped at 4:58, two minutes before the bell. But he was given another form that the staff said he needed in lieu of his 2010 tax return and that document was stamped at 5:22 p.m. Still, even a watchdog like Ladra knows the litmus is the first stamp.

"Like the people who came out for the recall, they wanted to help create change and I wanted to participate in that change," Corona told Ladra in a telephone interview Saturday. "And as I encountered the difficulty of an outsider to participate, it crystalized the issues we have and why people don't want to be part of that participation."

Corona told Ladra that elections staff were texting and making calls while he filled out the financial disclosure form they had given him and he believes that political insiders -- the financial backers and influencers who work various elected officials and candidates at the same time -- "they circle the wagons" to ensure their clique's control.

His first motion asked the court to put him on the ballot. But while Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas did not take that drastic a step, he took issue with the 29-hour qualification period and said he had grave concerns that public notice requirements were not met. "I don't like the way it was done," Thomas said in the ruling. "I don't like the way the commission conducted the notice aspect of this. I don't like the way the commission set the deadline for this. I think it was messy. I think it creates an issue, at least in my mind, as to whether or not it put people who were considering running for office proper notice."

Corona says that the commission should have taken longer than three minutes to decide to put the District 7 race on the ballot. "It's obvious that they had discussions outside the public eye, which is a direct violation of Sunshine Laws," Corona said, referring to Florida statutes that require elected officials to refrain from discussing issues that might come before them outside of the public view. So, the attorney, who lost a bid for judge some years back, refiled to stop the election, or delay it rather, so proper notice could be given -- and he has another chance to file.

Former State Rep. Julio Robaina has said he is willing to delay the election so that proper notice can be given and Corona could be placed on the ballot. It is about having a clean process, Robaina said. Ladra doubts that former Miami mayor and Braman puppet Xavier Suarez -- whose history and company show he has less respect for the process -- would agree to slow his mad dash to the county commission dais via a special election with dismally low turnout.

Let's hope Judge Thomas throws down a speedbump on Monday.

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