After nearly 30 years, Miami-Dade’s District 10 will elect a new county commissioner

·9 min read

The suburban enclave of Miami-Dade County’s District 10 will elect a new commissioner for the first time in about 30 years to replace Javier Souto who is leaving in November due to term limits.

Souto’s forced exit means a new representative for an area fully dependent on the county government for municipal services. No cities exist within District 10’s boundaries.

Miami-Dade voters approved term limits in 2012, limiting commissioners to a pair of consecutive four-year terms. Commissioners in office that year could finish out two more terms. Souto, the commission’s senior member, was first elected in 1993.

The candidates in the Aug. 23 election to be District 10’s second commissioner in 29 years are:

  • Martha Bueno, 43, elected member of the West Kendall Community Council board

  • Susan Khoury, 63, a former federal agent

  • Anthony Rodriguez, 34, Florida representative

  • Julio Sanchez, 59, owner of a medical software firm

Rodriguez, a Republican representative in the Florida House since 2018, dominates the fundraising race, taking in nearly $1.4 million for his campaign and political committee, A Bolder Florida. Bueno finishes a distant second with about $84,000 raised, followed by Khoury and Sanchez, who have each raised less than $3,000 in the contest to succeed Souto.

As the longtime chair of the commission committee overseeing parks and libraries, Souto secured the county’s first health-information center using library property taxes and approval for senior housing planned for the Westchester Regional Library.

He also had to retreat from his pursuit of converting the Westchester neighborhood into District 10’s first municipality, a proposal that faced such fierce opposition from residents that Souto recently led the passage of legislation canceling a prior resolution to start an incorporation study.

Martha Bueno

Martha Bueno, Miami-Dade County Commission candidate for District 10
Martha Bueno, Miami-Dade County Commission candidate for District 10

Bueno fought Souto’s Westchester incorporation effort, and criticized his fellow commissioners for waiving a county rule requiring petitions from residents in an area being considered for a new municipality.

“My question is,” Bueno told commissioners at a June 8 meeting, “what is the point of having rules if you’re not going to abide by them?”

Bueno holds an elected position as a member of Community Council 11, an advisory zoning board in the West Kendall area. She’s been a member for the past four years.

Until last year, she was vice chair of Miami-Dade’s Libertarian Party, and now is registered as an independent. She also launched a Spanish-language podcast, Libertarios Hispanos.

In late July, her campaign issued a press release inviting the public to subscribe to her page on OnlyFans, an adult website that showcases erotic performers.

Bueno’s page doesn’t contain adult content, but parody videos that include Bueno pretending to have a phone conversation with Rodriguez while suggesting he’s not engaged with voters. “I hear you haven’t been around the district,” Bueno says into the phone, leaning back on a bed in pajamas.

Bueno said she’s raised less than $500 from her page, but received television and online coverage from the novel campaign tactic. “I’m running a campaign that competes with $1.3 million without having to sell myself to corporate donors,” she said.

A married mother of four, Bueno lists a net worth of $4 million in financial-disclosure forms, with about $900,000 in the bank and $3 million in real estate, including a hemp farm started by Bueno, a longtime advocate for legalization of marijuana. Her husband, Vince Martin, is a pilot for Spirit Airlines.

Born in Miami, her Kendall home sits across the street from Rodriguez’s house. Bueno said she mostly pays her bills with proceeds from the sale of her stake in an online supplement company in 2016.

As commissioner, Bueno said she’d advocate for Miami-Dade to take a smaller role in regulating businesses and to lower taxes as a way to mitigate the higher costs of housing. “The best thing the county can do is get out of the way,” she said at an Aug. 1 forum by the Miami-Dade League of Cities

Susan Khoury

Susan Khoury, a candidate for the District 10 seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission.
Susan Khoury, a candidate for the District 10 seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission.

At an Aug. 4 forum by the Miami Foundation, Khoury described herself as the “squeaky wheel” candidate for a willingness to speak up and advocate on issues.

“I’m here because I really believe the Miami-Dade Commission and District 10 need a doer right now,” she said. “We have a lot of issues to deal with.”

Born in Jerusalem, Khoury moved to Miami as a child with her family. She was a special agent in the Inspector General offices of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission until 2002. Then she moved back to Miami from the Washington area to care for her mother. That move brought her into a neighborhood conflict that would score her two court wins over county police officers over allegations of improper conduct.

The Khoury family home sits across the street from the Glades Middle School, where softball and baseball leagues play in the evening during the week. Khoury would film cars she and other neighbors complained damaged grass and blocked driveways while parked improperly.

Spectators twice called police on Khoury, leading to her being put in cuffs by police in incidents that both led to financial awards for Khoury.

In 2015, an officer for the Miami-Dade school system brought Khoury to a mental facility that detained her overnight. The police officer was responding to a complaint about Khoury filming spectators and vehicles.

She sued and a federal jury in March sided with Khoury, awarding her $520,000. She said the incident spurred her to testify in Tallahassee in favor of legislation that passed in 2020 creating more state standards for when school police can remove a student for alleged mental-health issues. “It was so egregious, and I’m an adult,” she said. “Imagine how hard it is for a child.”

In 2018, two county officers cuffed Khoury outside her home on charges of resisting arrest. In 2021, Miami-Dade lawyers wrote in court papers Khoury did “nothing illegal” and settled the case for $45,000.

Khoury, who is single, reported no income in 2021 and said she hasn’t worked since leaving the federal payroll.

Khoury participated in the successful effort to persuade Miami-Dade commissioners to revive the county’s police oversight board, which dissolved in 2009 amid budget cuts.

Now she said she’s ready to advocate for legislation as a commissioner, particularly as Miami-Dade prepares for a state mandate to elect an independent sheriff in 2024. That’s of particular interest in District 10, which relies on the Miami-Dade Police Department for all law enforcement services.

“We are going be one of the areas that will be really impacted by the new sheriff. I really am concerned about that,” she said. “You can make more change inside than out.”

She also said police should be allowed to focus solely on law enforcement, with teams of social workers and other civilians called in to respond to problems where public safety isn’t in jeopardy.

“Law enforcement is not an expert in those fields, and they shouldn’t be dealing with those issues,” she said at the League of Cities forum. “We need to start letting officers do their jobs, and do them only.”

ANTHONY RODRIGUEZ

Anthony Rodriguez, Miami-Dade County Commission candidate for District 10
Anthony Rodriguez, Miami-Dade County Commission candidate for District 10

Rodriguez enters the District 10 race with Souto’s endorsement, and little competition on the fundraising front. For every dollar raised by the four candidates, 94 cents went to the Rodriguez effort.

In a district where Donald Trump won 64% of the presidential vote two years ago, Rodriguez is the only Republican in the contest for the non-partisan seat. Sanchez and Khoury are both Democrats.

Elected to represent Florida House District 118 in 2019, Rodriguez is running as an insider with the Tallahassee connections to benefit Miami-Dade and who also bucks party leadership on some county issues.

Rodriguez said he will continue opposing a Republican-led effort to replace the county’s independent toll agency, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX), with an agency where the state would appoint a majority of the board and retain authority over some spending decisions.

The dispute is currently tied up in a lawsuit between Miami-Dade and Florida’s Transportation Department, and Rodriguez said recent leadership changes at MDX should justify the state ending its fight. “There’s a new chairman. There’s a new executive director,” he said. “Let it go.”

He says his best friend is Daniel Perez, the Miami Republican in line to be Florida speaker in 2024, allowing Rodriguez to lobby for more state money in Miami-Dade if he’s elected to District 10. “I’m not too tainted by Tallahassee — I’ve only been there four years,” he said. “But I have been there long enough to have the right relationships to be able to bring resources to the county.”

A married father of three, Rodriguez and his wife, Licette, run Florida Advanced Properties, a company that manages properties for condominium associations. He reported about $100,000 in income last year, mostly from the family-owned company.

Though his business involves condo complexes, Rodriguez said he doesn’t want to bring large residential towers to the suburbs of District 10.

“No, I do not want high-rises in District 10,” he said at the Miami Foundation forum. “I do not want to build more and more in District 10.”

Julio Sanchez

Miami-Dade candidate Julio Sanchez, who joins three other challengers in running for the District 10 county commission seat held by Javier Souto.
Miami-Dade candidate Julio Sanchez, who joins three other challengers in running for the District 10 county commission seat held by Javier Souto.

Sanchez finished fifth in 2018 when four challengers ran against Souto, who received 62% of the vote for his final reelection campaign. In 2022, he’s running a low-key campaign.

Unlike the other three candidates, Sanchez has no campaign website. His latest disclosure form shows he has raised nothing from donors while putting up about $1,200 of his own money for the effort. That’s so far covered filing fees and $260 worth of signs. He didn’t participate in the Miami Foundation candidate forum.

“I still think I have a decent chance,” said Sanchez, who was born in Cuba but has lived in the Westchester area most of his life.

Sanchez owns a company that sells software to doctors’ offices, ITC Miami, and reported $42,000 in income from it last year. He’s also a part-time softball umpire, earning $7,000 from that job.

If elected, Sanchez said he would focus on trying to alleviate road congestion in District 10. And while he doesn’t want elevated thru-ways on local roads, Sanchez said he does want to push Miami-Dade to create double-decker highways on major commuting routes.

“Traffic is just horrendous,” he said.