HomeLocalState Democratic chair endorses Fausto Gomez for mayor, but Key Biscayne party...

State Democratic chair endorses Fausto Gomez for mayor, but Key Biscayne party members say they were blindsided

Fausto Gomez picked up the endorsement of Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz on Wednesday, but his recommendation in the nonpartisan mayor’s race left some prominent island Democrats blindsided. 

Diaz’s endorsement is personal — it isn’t an official stance of the state or local parties, but he put it on his Twitter feed along with recommendations for mayor’s races in South Miami and Sunny Isles Beach. 

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In a statement, Diaz said he was responding to a request from a person he’d been friends with for 50 years.

“Fausto asked for my support and I gave him my endorsement because he knows the community well, has lived there for decades, and would make an excellent mayor for the residents of Key Biscayne,” Diaz said. 

But the move surprised local Democrats, including Jackie Kellogg, the local party leader. She said Diaz didn’t consult in advance.  

“It’s definitely causing a stir,” Kellogg said, explaining that because the race is nonpartisan, the local Democrats are not making any candidate endorsements for mayor and village council.

Jennifer Stearns Buttrick, who has hosted fundraisers raising over $100,000 for Charlie Crist, Val Demings, and other top-ticket Democratic state candidates, was livid. 

“Honored to endorse fake Democrats like Fausto Gomez? KB deserves better than your embarrassing endorsement in a non-partisan race. Florida Dems need real leadership,” she wrote on Twitter, responding to Diaz. Buttrick, and many other island Democrats, are supporting Joe Rasco, a Republican, for mayor of the Miami barrier island.

Another bone of contention? Key Biscayne Democrats are supporting two hotly-debated changes to the Village Charter, but Gomez has built much of his campaign urging their defeat. One of the proposed amendments asks if the island’s restrictive debt ceiling be raised; the other would enable the Village Council to make changes to zoning without going to voters for each specific change. 

Kellogg said the Democrats are pushing for “Yes” votes on both questions because of the threat of sea level rise on the barrier island. 

The term “nonpartisan” is pretty much a technicality in many Miami-Dade election contests, as candidates frequently tout party identification, at least at the county level. County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, for example, holds a nonpartisan office but embraced running as a Democrat. 

Rasco has endorsements from outgoing Mayor Mike Davey and also from Katie Petros, who finished a close third in the August mayoral primary. Petros also endorsed council candidates Oscar Sardiñas and Ed London. 

Gomez did not respond to a request for comment. 

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Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.

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