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  • Writer's pictureFrank Landrian

Miami-Dade Sheriff’s race expands with Dem Broward candidate James Reyes

By Ladra on February 1, 2024

This is the Freddy Ramirez replacement candidate

And then there were 16.

James Reyes, who was conveniently named Director of Public Safety by Mayor Daniella Levine Cava just over two months ago, announced last week that he was joining the crowded race for county sheriff, immediately becoming the replacement candidate for Democrat Freddy Ramirez, who was the mayor’s choice until he shot himself in a botched suicide attempt in his vehicle off the side of I-75 after a state sheriff’s association event in Tampa.

Many longtime political observers and law enforcement supporters are scratching their heads: James who? That’s because before coming to the county corrections department in early 2023 Reyes spent 22 years at the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s own department of detention. He rose through the ranks from detention deputy cadet all the way up to director of the department.

But most of his experience is basically in corrections, which is going to stay in the county’s domain. The last four years, before coming to Miami-Dade, he was the executive director of the BSO’s Department of Administration. So he was a warden and a paper pusher.

How can Reyes lead a new sheriff’s office if he never walked a beat in his life?

Also, records show he is still registered to vote in Broward. Apparently, one doesn’t have to be a Miami-Dade voter to run for Miami-Dade sheriff. One should, but it’s not the case. Ladra heard there is another Broward voter in the mix, though we don’t know who, because, as members of law enforcement, their home addresses are legally redacted, exempt from public records laws.

Twelve of the candidates for sheriff participated in a town hall last month hosted by the Hispanic Police Officers Association.

Suspicious minds might believe Reyes’ appointment in early November was planned to raise his profile for this run for sheriff, the first in Miami-Dade since 1957. An NPA until the summer of 2016, Reyes is also being represented by campaign consultant Christian Ulvert, who represents the mayor and was running the Ramirez campaign until the shot heard ’round the county.

He’s a replacement. Exit Freddy Ramirez. Enter Jimmy Reyes.

“My family fled Cuba in the 1970s and arrived in Miami-Dade, Hialeah specifically, where I was raised. I am a product of Miami-Dade public schools and this is home,” Reyes said in a statement sent to Ladra by Ulvert after she asked about the Broward voting status.

“I was excited and humbled in January 2023 to come home after 22 years of service in the Sheriff’s Office of Broward County, to serve my community of Miami-Dade County,” the statement stresses, almost too obviously. “At the close of 2023, when my family and I made the decision together that I would run for sheriff to serve the residents of Miami-Dade County, we also made the decision to call Miami-Dade home once again, and we will be living in the county when I am elected.”

He means if. Because if he had no doubt, he would be moving already. It’s a much better look. Voters are going to want someone who lives among them. We always do.

With the mayor’s backing and the Democrat Party’s former political director as his campaign manager, Reyes immediately becomes the front runner in the blue column. The other Dem candidates are:

  • Maj. John Barrow — Currently head of MDPD’s Personnel Management Bureau, Barrow was a teacher before joining the police force 17 years ago.

  • Susan Khoury — A former federal law enforcement agent, Khoury sued the county for wrongful arrest after she was Baker Acted for taking video outside a school in 2017 and won a $520,000 judgement in 2022. That same year, she ran for county commission in District 10, losing to Anthony Rodriguez in the primary.

  • Retired Lt. Rickey Mitchell — Before retiring in 2006, Mitchell worked at MDPD for 25 years. He now owns a funeral home and has loaned himself $275,000 for his campaign.

There are far more Republicans running in the race. They are:

  • MDPD Maj. Jose Aragu — Currently assigned to the Midwest District, Aragu joined Miami-Dade Police in 2006. He spent his first year as an officer with the tiny West Miami Police Department.

  • Former MDPD Maj. Ignacio “Iggy” Alvarez — Before he retired from MDPD IN 2017, Alvarez — now an attorney with his own law firm — worked for the force for 25 years, including a stint as the head of the special victim’s bureau.

  • Jaspen Bishop —  An MDPD officer only since 2019, Bishop lives in Homestead.

  • MDPD Assistant Director Rosanna “Rosie” Cordero-Stutz — A 27-year veteran of the department, Cordero-Stutz is now assistant for support services, overseeing records, personnel and communications. She was also assigned to oversee the MDPD transition team for the conversion to a sheriff’s office.

  • Miami Police Officer Ruamen De la Rua — In 2013, De la Rua — the first to sign up for the race — came back to Miami Police, where he started in 1983 and worked patrol for almost four years. He spent the next 26 rising through the ranks at the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, leaving as School Resource Commander.

  • Ret. MDPD Reserve Ofc. Alex Fornet — Fornet only spent a few months as an officer at Miami-Dade in 2008. He is now the owner of a credit-repair business in Doral.

  • Ret. MDPD Maj. Mario Knapp — In 27 years at Miami-Dade Police, Knapp has  served as Captain of the Warrants Bureau, The Kendall District, and the Miami-Dade Police Training Bureau and has experience overseeing the Special Response Team, Dignitary Protection Unit, Bomb Squad, K-9 unit, Incident Management Team, Rapid Deployment Force, Marine Patrol Unit, Underwater Recovery Unit as well as General Investigations Unit and Uniform Patrol.

  • MDPD Sgt. Orlando Lopez — Lopez, who joined MDPD in 2005, works for the transit squad, which work the Metrorail and Metromover stations. He is the first LGBTQ liaison for the department and a member of Miami-Dade’s LGBTQIA+ Advisory Board.

  • MDPD Ofc. Rolando Riera — Riera joined the department in 2004 and is currently a sergeant in the Miami Lakes District.

  • Former PBA President John Rivera — For more than two decades, Rivera represented all county police officers as president of the Dade Police Benevolent Association. He was also a cop himself, having joined the department in 1975.

  • MDPD Ofc. Ernie Rodriguez — A 35-year veteran of the department, Rodriguez is currently with the MDPD Agricultural and Environmental Crimes unit.

  • Former Miami Commissioner and FHP Trooper Joe Sanchez — Elected to the Miami Commission in 1998, Sanchez left the dais in 2009 and has spent most of his law enforcement career in the public information unit. In 2014, he founded Badge Pros Consulting, dedicated to helping law enforcement agencies and private companies on security matters and traffic control.

So it’s going to be Reyes against one of them. The election is in November but voters will choose the party nominees in August.

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