Daniella Levine Cava launched her 2024 reelection campaign Wednesday for a second term as Miami-Dade County’s mayor, formally starting an already well-funded bid to keep Florida’s most populous county under Democratic leadership after Gov. Ron DeSantis flipped it red in last year’s gubernatorial race.
Levine Cava, 67, signed candidacy papers Tuesday and her team filed them Wednesday morning at the Elections Department she supervises as the county’s top administrator, a post she won in 2020 during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic and which brought her global attention as the face of Miami-Dade’s response to the Surfside condominium collapse.
She’s also used more than $500 million in federal COVID aid to pump the county’s budget to record levels, with spending up 11% this year to cross $10 billion for the first time. Levine Cava resisted calls to cut property-tax rates by more than the 1% decrease she proposed and the County Commission approved last fall.
“Two years ago, I promised you we would win the future. And we are winning,” Levine Cava said in a video message delivered in English and Spanish. She repeated a theme from her Jan. 25 State of the County address, framing her agenda as one in pursuit of freedom as DeSantis boasts of leading the “Free State of Florida.”
Levine Cava said she wants to deliver an economy “where all people have the freedom to prosper and thrive. The freedom to be safe in their neighborhoods,” she said. “And the freedom to have their voices heard, because communities are at their best when our democracy is strongest.”
The video highlighted public safety and spending on preventing crime, helping small businesses and growing prosperity, this year’s slight reduction in property-tax rates, and boosting Miami-Dade’s resiliency and protection of the Everglades and Biscayne Bay because “so much that defines our strengths runs through our natural resources.”
Since taking office in November 2020, Levine Cava has raised about $1 million for her political committee, Our Democracy, much of it from donors with financial interests tied to county government.
Leading amounts include $85,000 from the parent company of Brightline, which is negotiating a deal with the Levine Cava administration to launch a commuter train along U.S. 1, and $50,000 from Nomi Health, the medical company that collected more than $50 million last year from Miami-Dade for its COVID testing and vaccination operations.
She’s used her committee to support candidates, fund polling and pay her longtime campaign manager and political consultant, Christian Ulvert.
Elected Miami-Dade’s first female mayor after six years on the County Commission, Levine Cava ran her 2020 campaign with the help of the Democratic Party and positioned herself as the choice for Democratic voters in a county Joe Biden won by 7 points and she won by 8 points.
Miami-Dade’s reputation as reliably Democratic got thrust into doubt in November when DeSantis won the county by 11 points. He was the first GOP candidate for governor or president to win Miami-Dade since Jeb Bush, a Coral Gables resident, won the county in the 2002 race for governor.
The DeSantis win — coupled with the possibility that he’ll be on the ticket again in the 2024 presidential race — has Republicans seeing Levine Cava as vulnerable.
“If DeSantis is the nominee for president, she is on the endangered species list,” said David Custin, a GOP political consultant who managed the campaign for Levine Cava’s 2020 Republican opponent, Hialeah Mayor Esteban Bovo.
Fernand Amandi, a Democratic pollster, said Levine Cava looks strong in private polling, but DeSantis at the top of the ticket would be a threat, especially if a well-known Republican like Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez or former mayor Carlos Gimenez, now a Republican member of Congress, decides to challenge her.
“Her seat, for political and symbolic reasons, is one the Republicans are desperate to win,” Amandi said. “She should try and make the election a referendum on her and her record. Because she’s still very popular, according to most public opinion polls.”