North Miami Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime and nonprofit executive Marleine Bastien will compete in a Nov. 8 runoff election to determine which of them will represent District 2 residents on the Miami-Dade County Commission after neither received enough votes to win office outright.
With 119 of 120 precincts reporting at 9:42 p.m. Tuesday, Bien-Aime secured 26.5% o the vote while Bastien took 23.7%. Miami-Dade law requires a County Commission candidate to receive more than half the votes cast during the technically nonpartisan Primary contest to win office outright.
For the remaining four candidates, Tuesday marked the end of the road. Retired paramedic William “D.C.” Clark took 20.8% of the vote, high school principal Wallace Aristide got 18.4%, former North Miami Mayor Joe Celestin received 6.5% and business consultant Monique Barley-Mayo earned 4%.
District 2 includes portions of Miami, North Miami, North Miami Beach, Opa-locka, Hialeah and the unincorporated neighborhoods of Liberty City, North Dade Central and Biscayne Gardens.
The district’s current Commissioner, Jean Monestime, elected in 2010, must leave office in November due to term limits voters approved in 2012. He did not endorse anyone as his preferred successor.
Of the six candidates, Bien-Aime held the edge in money and political experience. The Port-au-Prince-born politician won election to the North Miami Council in 2013. Six years later, he was elected Mayor.
Since filing for the race in November 2021, Bien-Aime raised more than $861,000. A significant chunk of his gains came from the real estate sector. He had $221,000 left by mid-August after heavy spending on advertising and other campaign-related costs.
He ran a campaign prioritizing supporting local businesses, addressing rising housing unaffordability, improving transportation, creating “forward-thinking” community services that help residents in need, and environmental and infrastructural sustainability.
His political career hasn’t been without controversy. In 2018, he was the target of sexual harassment allegations stemming from an alleged incident in 2016, when a former staffer said he propositioned her. A related federal lawsuit was settled out of court. Bien-Aime maintains he is innocent of any wrongdoing.
Bastien, who also immigrated from Haiti, runs Family Action Network Movement, a nonprofit that helps low- to moderate-income families. She founded the organization in 1991 as Haitian Women of Miami. Today, the organization operates with a more than $2 million budget.
Her run at the Miami-Dade Commission, which she filed for in October 2019, marked her first attempt at elected office.
Bastien took a mostly grassroots approach to fundraising, with some corporate contributions from companies in the health care and real estate industries. Her campaign collected nearly $254,000 through mid-August. It spent nearly half that sum.
Bastien’s boasted a broad campaign platform. She vowed to improve housing affordability and increase homeownership, support entrepreneurs and small businesses, boost funding for senior centers to support wellness and social programs, develop a more efficient and safe transit system, and curb gun violence, among other issues.
Clark, who was born in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood and grew up in the James E. Scotts Projects, the second Black public housing project built in Miami-Dade, proffered a similarly long list of campaign priorities.
He placed second-lowest in campaign fundraising with $65,000 collected since April 2020. All but $4,365 of that was gone by Aug. 18.
Clark vowed to close the “prosperity gap” by increasing Miami-Dade County’s employment of Black residents to a level congruous with its population, address the county’s growing housing affordability crisis and develop a comprehensive plan to boost employment, including job training and placement. He also targeted reducing gun violence, providing safe places for youths, leveraging benefits from opportunity zones to benefit locals and upscaling Miami-Dade’s water and sewer infrastructure, which has grown increasingly faulty in recent years, as priorities.
Aristide, who was born in Haiti and lived in Nassau before settling in Miami-Dade, raised almost exactly half of what Bien-Aime did. Of that, he had $116,000 by mid-August.
His fundraising included large donations in recent months from a political committee linked to Malaysian casino giant Genting, which aims to build a sprawling, 14-acre mixed development a short drive from County Hall called Resorts World Miami. The company is also part of a consortium seeking to develop a monorail linking Miami and Miami Beach.
Aristide’s campaign, titled “Succeed With Aristide,” listed building equal access for residents to resources and opportunities, improving elderly care, providing better health and wellness options, youth programming, economic development and workforce housing affordability as priorities.
Celestin, who immigrated to Miami-Dade from Haiti in the 1970s, is an engineer by training. He left office as North Miami Mayor in 2005 for an unsuccessful run at Monestime’s seat.
Since filing for the race in December 2019, he raised about $109,000. That included five-figure contributions from Weston-based urologist Angelo Gousse, who runs a nonprofit focused on supporting impoverished children in Haiti called Angels for Humanity, and a political committee chaired by Democratic consultant Screven Watson.
Celestin said he was running for office to incentivize major corporations to relocate to District 2 and create jobs, aid community reentry for former inmates, assist child-care and after-school programs for low-income families, reduce crime through county-trained “citizens on patrol” volunteers, seek federal grants to rebuild parks and recreation properties in the district, add to Miami-Dade’s affordable housing index and extend the Miami-Dade Metrorail northward.
While Celestin filed to run for District 2 more than two and a half years ago, he did not report soliciting funds from a political committee until June 30, 2022. The political committee in question, Floridians for Strong Families, opened in April 2019 and has been actively fundraising since, collecting nearly $73,000 through mid-August.
According to the Miami Herald, Celestin filed for bankruptcy protection last year over more than $500,000 in unpaid, decades-old judgements. He was also behind on property taxes for his home until the Herald questioned him about it last month. He’s since paid up.
Barley-Mayo, also a Miami native, ran for the Miami-Dade mayoralty in 2020, placing fifth. That year, she raised nearly $2,000. This election, she collected $360, all from her husband, who also contributed $500 worth of campaign signs, according to her fundraising and spending ledger.
The cousin of current Miami-Dade Commissioner Keon Hardemon, Barley-Mayo told the Herald that, if elected, she wanted to aid charities and community groups so they are better equipped to assist residents in areas where the county government has fallen short.
In a recent post on her campaign’s Facebook page, she shared her priorities from her 2020 run for Mayor. They included transportation, affordable housing, teaching for financial literacy and encouraging first-time homeowners.