MIAMI (CBS4) – With Election Day just three weeks away, it appears the race for a Miami commissioner could be a historic one. Several candidates are hoping to oust incumbent Marc Sarnoff. What’s unusual is one candidate, considered a front runner, is transgender. She’s hoping society is ready to put labels aside.
CBS4’s David Sutta walked the streets of Coconut Grove with Donna Milo Tuesday afternoon as she knocked on doors and tried to drum up votes. She offers a firm handshake as she starts to offer up reasons why she’s the candidate for them. Since March, Milo estimates she’s knocked on over a thousand doors, trying to become Miami next commissioner.
Outspent four to one and taking on the incumbent you could call her the underdog, but she’ll tell you she’s not.
On Tuesday, her campaign made significant progress picking up the endorsements of Miami firefighters and the general employee union.
“She is very experienced on how the city government is working. What is does right and most importantly what it does wrong.” firefighter union representative Robert Suarez said.
Oddly enough, the union supported Sarnoff four years ago when he was running for office against an incumbent. Decisions by the commissioner in the form of cuts to union contracts and pensions have driven the union to switch candidates.
As a small time developer who lost a bid for Congress last year, Donna has overcome a lot including the issue of sexuality.
Donna used to be known as Ed Milo. Now an open transgender, she’s hoping society is ready to look past sexuality in politics.
“One particular aspect of your life doesn’t define you,” said Milo. “I think we are defined by our goals, our values, our ideals, what we feel is right for our families and our communities.”
Both unions said Tuesday Milo’s sexuality wasn’t a factor for them.
“We know who she is. That’s most important to us. We know the candidate we are supporting. No secrets, no mysteries with Donna. She is very well known to the residents of the City of Miami.” Suarez said.
Anthony Hatten, who represents the General Employees Union (Local 1907) said they chose Milo based on her record, not her sex.
“I don’t have a problem with that at all.” Hatten said.
Recent polls show many voters don’t mind either. Milo has become a frontrunner in the field of challengers. She still is a long way behind the incumbent though.
Political Analyst Fernand Amandi believes the endorsements from the union shows transgender may be a non issue.
“I don’t think it plays a role as it would have in the past because of the novelty factor,” Amandi pointed out if Milo wins it would be historic. “I think it would be historic none the less if she becomes the first openly transgender elected official, to my knowledge, in Dade County.”
Milo agreed that the race is historic, but not the way Amandi suggested.
“I just look at it as Miami is at a historical point. Miami could cease to exist if someone with common sense doesn’t take back the reins and bring fiscal sanity back to the city,” she said.
There are three other candidates challenging Sarnoff including Coconut Grove attorney Michelle Niemeyer, who has the police union’s support. Kate Callahan, who has served on the Public Health Trust for 16 years and Williams Armbrister, is a retired FPL employee.