Miami Dade mayor candidate bets her campaign on cultural appropriation and party politics

by | Sep 15, 2020


A Miami Dade mayoral candidate is betting her 2020 campaign on the power of identity politics, hoping to win voters in two key ways: first, by working hard to identify herself as a Democrat, even though the mayor’s race is supposed to be non-partisan, and second, by duping some voters into thinking she is Hispanic, even though she most definitely is not.

The last time Miami Dade county was represented by a non-Hispanic mayor was 1993.  Stephen P. Clark held the position for 23 years, then term limits for mayor were enacted. A Cuban, Alex Penelas, succeeded Clark, served two terms, then was succeeded by a fellow Cuban, Carlos Alvarez, who was succeeded by current mayor and fellow Cuban, Carlos Gimenez.

On November 3, Miami-Dade voters will choose between Estaban Bovo, another Cuban, and Daniella Levine Cava, who is clearly hoping voters think she might be Cuban. In Miami Dade’s upcoming general election, about 60% or more of the voters are of Hispanic descent.

Being Hispanic obviously has its advantages in a candidate’s ability to connect with the majority of voters in the county.  Levine Cava knows this, and even admitted to the Miami Herald that she purposely changed her name from “Levine” to “Levine Cava” to make her seem more “Spanish” to voters.  She’s lived in Miami since the 1980’s as simply Daniella Levine. Here’s the Herald’s story:

…Levine Cava [is] the commission’s wealthiest member, with a net worth now topping $6 million thanks to stock holdings and property she owns with her husband, Robert. Though known as Daniella Levine professionally since moving to Miami, the candidate used her more Spanish-sounding name to run for the commission. “I did think it would communicate that I spoke Spanish — even though it’s not a Spanish name, it’s an Italian name,” she said at the time.

But duping voters by playing a controversial name game is only part of Levine Cava’s strategy. She also hopes to turn Miami Dade’s strict non-partisan campaign into a Democrat versus Republican contest because she knows that Democrats outnumber Republicans in the county, even though doing so is illegal.  County rules prohibit her from referencing her party affiliation because non-partisan campaign rules prohibit any overt mention of party membership.

The non-partisan nature of Miami Dade’s mayor’s office helps explain why the past two mayors of Miami-Dade County were registered Republicans, yet were still able to find a broad coalition of support across the county. Levine / Cava’s “run as the ‘Hispanic’ Democrat” strategy is further evidenced by the Miami-Dade Democratic Party sponsoring ads in support of Levine Cava bearing their political party disclaimer.

In the primary, Levine / Cava referred to Bovo as a supporter of Donald Trump to convey his partisan affiliation without using the word Republican and avoid violating the law.  Voters, especially Hispanics weary of hyper-polarized partisan rhetoric coming nationally from both parties, may reject a candidate who not only isn’t who she pretends to be, but also tries to make the mayor’s office more partisan.

In the end, Miami-Dade County will have to choose between a candidate defined by cultural identity and one hiding behind a Hispanic-sounding name and trying to define herself, against the rules, by party label. The results will be interesting.


  1. Mary Waters

    I’m confused in the interpretation of Commissioner Levine Cava being the instigator of the mayoral campaign being a partisan race. In fact, I interpret that it is she defending herself from the person who started this inaccurate tale. Other candidates in non-partisan races are guilty in this smear tactic.
    And really, an admitted addition of her husband’s name. She is fluent in Spanish, has never denied her heritage, plays by the rules, unlike many others, and her financial status has no bearing on her integrity, honesty and loyalty. She knows this county, all of it, unlike other candidates who are severely lacking in familiarity and knowledge. We need a smart, talented, boots on the ground mayor who will represent all constituents not special interest groups or a particular culture, political affiliation or the size of your bank account. My full confidence is with non-partisan mayoral candidate Daniella Levine Cava.

  2. Mana

    Thanks for the info, but i am a conservative Democrat and my vote goes to Bovo and Trump, she is like Beto from El Paso, seems to be that democrats like to play the hispanic faced

  3. Oscar A Mendoza

    She says many things about Hispanic and she spoke Spanish but in reality is one of democrats with liberals side in her mind
    I will be vote for vobo and President Trump

  4. M Smith

    Though a Florida resident outside Miami-Dade County, I utilize rail transit (Tri-Rail Commuter and Metrorail) trains into Miami.

    Glad to know that transportation-infrastructure was a subject covered in a televised candidate forum (10-03-2020) between Ms. Levine-Cava and Mr. Bovo for Mia.-Dade County, FL mayor: Levine-Cava proposed a train to south M-Dade. Mr. Bovo indicated that he previously favored a bus, ultimately approved by the present county mayor.

    Neither pointed out that rail TRACKS EXIST from Miami Inter-nat’l. Airport where Tri-Rail terminates both to Homestead and west Kendall, west of Krome Avenue near NW 88th Street. In other words, no option to extend Tri-Rail train service southward and westward (Instead, a NEW SR 836 toll road to west Kendall without transit!).

    Further, It was disturbing to read in the Miami Herald news (09-20-2020, page 21A, 26A) that Mr. Sprowls, future speaker of the Florida state House, is not a fan of (funding) commuter rail when billions of dollars are programmed to be spent on NEW toll roads and NEW toll lane miles on non-toll expressways (some to exceed $100 million per mile) from the border with Georgia to west Kendall.

    What a poor legacy for the environment and the next generation!

  5. Andre Boucle

    How exactly can this article justify saying Daniella is trying to make this race partisan, when Bovo is a groveling Trump sycophant? Pot calling the kettle black much?

    I just voted. For Daniella and for Biden. Looking forward to seeing an end to the same old Cuban mayors with the same exact corrupt political stances in MD. I’m first generation Cuban American btw, and I have to say the Bovos of the world really don’t represent what a lot of young Cuban American voters are about.

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