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Amid light voter turnout in Tuesday’s runoff elections, challenger Miguel Angel Gabela, an auto-parts salesman, cruised past suspended commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla for the city of Miami’s District 1 commission seat.

Gabela and Diaz de la Portilla fought an intense election battle — with at least one lawsuit challenging the results of their primary election — still pending in circuit court. Gabela garnered 1,645 votes (54%), while Diaz de la Portilla only garnered 1,380 votes (46%), according to the latest results.

Diaz de la Portilla’s seat was left vacant when he got suspended from office by Gov. Ron DeSantis. He was arrested and charged in September with money laundering and official misconduct. He has rejected the allegations and has pleaded not guilty in court

In the District 2 race, incumbent Miami commissioner Sabina Covo lost to her challenger, Damian Pardo, who becomes the city’s first openly gay commissioner.

In the Nov. 7 election, Covo garnered 40% support compared to Pardo’s 26% backing in a crowded field of candidates. On Tuesday, Pardo got more than 2,600 votes (52%), while Covo got only 2,395 votes (47%), the latest results show.

In Miami Beach, Steven Meiner beat Michael Gongora to become the city’s next mayor, while two incumbent Miami commissioners lost to challengers, according to the latest election returns.

By 8 p.m., Meiner had nearly 800 more votes than Gongora, with 20 of 21 precincts reporting results. Meiner’s vote tally was 5,298 (54%). Gongora’s was 4,505 (46%).

Meiner, a former Miami Beach commissioner, will be sworn Nov. 28 to replace three-term Mayor Dan Gelber, who is term-limited. He will join three new city commissioners elected Nov. 7: Tanya Bhatt, Joseph Magazine and David Suarez.

Meiner and Gongora were forced into a runoff after neither got more than 50% of the vote during the Nov. 7 election that included two other candidates.

Meiner’s campaign website outlined his priorities as mayor. It included boosting law enforcement and security, countering overdevelopment and addressing homelessness. Meiner has been an enforcement attorney with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission since 2007.

Steven Meiner (right) beat Michael Gongora to become the next mayor of Miami Beach.
Steven Meiner (right) beat Michael Gongora to become the next mayor of Miami Beach.

Just days prior to the runoff election, the Miami Herald reportedthat three former female colleagues at the SEC said Meiner had made unwanted advances toward them, including one who reported his alleged conduct to supervisors that then prompted an internal review in 2016.

Meiner told the Herald in a statement that the sexual harassment allegations raised by former SEC colleagues were “absolutely untrue and offensive.” When asked earlier in the week about the allegations, Meiner told the newspaper he was “not familiar” with them and that he was loyal to his wife and “shocked” to hear the claims of inappropriate behavior at the SEC.

The Herald Editorial Board withdrew its endorsementof Meiner over the weekend.

The Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections reported that turnout was low at 14% for the combined total of voters in all races. Elections officials counted, as of 8 p.m., less than 18,000 ballots. The number of registered voters: 127,235.

Joshua Ceballos

Joshua Ceballos is WLRN's Local Government Accountability Reporter and a member of the investigative team. His work appears under a partnership between WLRN and the Key Biscayne Independent.

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Joshua Ceballos is WLRN's Local Government Accountability Reporter and a member of the investigative team. His work appears under a partnership between WLRN and the Key Biscayne Independent.