A coincidence that Levine Cava and her adviser were both in Tokyo? What text messages show

Could Miami-Dade County’s mayor and her 2024 reelection manager really be in Tokyo at the same time and not see each other?

It turns out, the answer is no.

Text messages released this week offer some insight into what last week sounded like an unlikely scenario: Mayor Daniella Levine Cava leading a county delegation to Tokyo while one of her most influential advisers, campaign consultant Christian Ulvert, was vacationing in the same city with no coordination or plans to get together with his No. 1 client.

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“No interaction. I have my own trip,” Ulvert told the Herald in a text message on Nov. 27 after Instagram photos from his husband, Carlos Andrade, showed the couple were in Tokyo. “I don’t even know where and what they are doing.”

Text messages released Tuesday by Levine Cava’s office show it didn’t take Ulvert long to get up to speed with at least one of the senior-level county travelers in Tokyo for the trip organized by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce

“Want to see if there’s enough space at the place we’re having dinner tomorrow night,” Johanna Cervone, Levine Cava’s chief of staff, texted Ulvert on the 27th, his first day in Tokyo. “Or you can make a reservation at the same place?”

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Cervone, a former senior staffer for Florida’s Democratic Party, and Ulvert, a leading consultant for South Florida Democrats, were already close associates when Levine Cava took office in 2020.

As the two top advisers to Levine Cava, they’re frequently in communication about the mayor’s plans and schedule. So efforts to meet up for a meal on any given evening wouldn’t be a revelation.

But the text messages do refute the notion that Ulvert could be halfway around the world in the same city as Levine Cava and remain oblivious to the county trip.

They also reinforce Ulvert’s ready access to Levine Cava’s senior staff as he presides over the mayor’s reelection efforts while also running a consulting firm, Edge Communications, with private-sector clients.

In an interview Tuesday night, Ulvert said he did end up getting together with Levine Cava in Tokyo. Ulvert said he, Cervone and Levine Cava had a drink at his hotel Sunday night.

“It was a last minute thing. I just called them,” he said in a call from the Atlanta airport, where he said he and Andrade were on their way back from a nine-day trip that included brief stops in London and Singapore. He said the trio mostly talked about Japan. “It was about our trip,” he said.

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Miami-Dade paid for the Levine Cava trip to Japan, along with expenses for Cervone and other county staff accompanying the mayor and four county commissioners: Marleine Bastien, Juan Carlos Bermudez, Kevin Cabrera and Oliver Gilbert.

The trip concluded Tuesday, with the county delegation arriving back in Miami on Wednesday.

Last year, Ulvert was abroad with Levine Cava and other elected officials for a trip to Qatar. The Middle Eastern nation paid for the officials’ travel and employed Ulvert as a communications consultant as part of a larger U.S. lobbying team.

His local clients include groups with interests before the county, including labor unions. Earlier this year, he said he was in talks to work for developer Michael Swerdlow in his pursuit of county land in the Poinciana area but that the arrangement did not materialize.

The text messages from Japan released to the Miami Herald through a public records request filed last week don’t show communication between Ulvert and Levine Cava while they were in Tokyo. They do show Cervone and Ulvert trading messages to try and meet for dinner with Andrade and others.

Jet lag and other complications seemed to scuttle those efforts.

“Dinner tonight?” Cervone texted Ulvert on Nov. 29.

Ulvert wrote back that he and Andrade already had reservations at one of Tokyo’s fanciest restaurants. “We made it two months ago,” Ulvert wrote.

Two nights earlier, it was Cervone who begged out of a possible get together with two other county employees out for an early night in Tokyo.

“We went to eat ramen but we’re headed back to the hotel right now,” Cervone wrote. “We’re exhausted.”