There will be a vote in the Miami Commission tonight (and you know it’s going to be dramatic,) to fill the seat that has been involuntarily vacated by Michelle Spence Jones. The special session starts at 4, and I’m assuming that the circus will begin well before that. Already this morning, there has been a prayer breakfast at which potential candidates strutted their stuff, and several losing candidates from November and January, including Dufirstson “66 votes” Neree, David Chiverton (Mr. 7 percent), and the Jay Leno of Miami Black politics (meaning he’s always hovering in the wings, waiting to take a fired politician’s spot if his current gig doesn’t pan out) — Rev. Richard Dunn, have begun making their pitch to commission members in hopes of securing the seat. The MSJ camp is pushing its own choices, school board guy Pierre Rutledge, who has the support of the guy who probably should be the nominee himself, but clearly doesn’t want it, Patrick Range Jr., and Erica Wright, who I can tell you from personal experience was a solid Spence-Jones supporter before the campaign. A group of D5 residents have even floated an open letter to the commission, via Blogging Black Miami. It reads in part:
Recent articles in the Miami Herald have suggested that the Commission is considering Rev. Richard P. Dunn, II as a candidate. Patrick Range, who news reports have also rightly identified as a qualified candidate, has respectfully declined to be considered for the appointment. We believe that, for a district of over 60,000 residents, consideration must be given to more than one willing candidate. The discussion must be widened. The politics of Miami can no longer be restricted to a select few. District Five needs the Commission to cast a wider net and take this opportunity to consider the abilities and talents of other citizens who have earned due consideration—people who presently serve the City, and the residents of District Five, selflessly and with enthusiasm and unquestioned integrity.
… and suggests a number of possible names, including Wright, Rutledge, Dr. Robert Malone, who ran unsuccessfully for the District 109 House seat last year, Alison Austin, who heads the Belafonte Tacolcy Center, which provides youth programs to the struggling community of Liberty City, and in short, ABD (anybody but Dunn, who ran against Spence-Jones in 2005 and almost beat her, and then ran again in the special election.) Among the signers of the petition are local community organizer Hattie Willis, and Gihan Perrera, co-founder of the Miami Workers Center. Neither of those two are what you’d call supporters of machine politics, nor are they known supporters of Spence-Jones so I’m going to have to strongly disagree with Miami New Times’ Eric Maza’s characterization of them as “MSJ supporters.”
So who gets the seat? Stay tuned. Dunn would seem to have the inside track, since he seems to always get appointed when open seats become available, but hope springs eternal that the commission will opt for someone who will finally bring some positive attention to the accursed D-5 seat. Austin wouldn’t be a bad bet (nor would Wright, who got the Herald endorsement, but doesn’t have any political experience.) But the the commission should be wary of stalking horses for Spence-Jones, namely, anyone who would preserve her influence, or too easily agree to step aside should she win her legal case and try to run again in November.
UPDATE: I just spoke Alison, and she confirmed that she submitted a formal letter to the mayor’s office expressing interest in the appointment. She hasn’t yet met formally with any of the commissioners. Alison also knocked down, pretty firmly, the notion that the signers of that open letter, which included members of a Miami-Dade coalition of Democratic women, were or are part of MSJ’s or any other camp.
My sources on the ground tell me in no uncertain terms that the letter was more about convincing the commission to NOT nominate Richard Dunn. The ABD movement has begun. Let’s see if the commissioners listen.