By Jim DeFede

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In Florida, 2019 was the political equivalent of sorbet – a palate cleanser, of sorts – between the heated politics of 2018, which saw contentious races for Governor, Senate, and Congress, and next year’s brutal battle for President.

Oh sure, there were a slew of local races in 2019, and as Miami Dade elections supervisor Christina White tried to remind voters – they count too.

“We are always telling our voters that the local elections are actually even more important to you than even the federal elections,” said White. “So you really want to pay attention.”

Not many were paying attention, however, with turnout a paltry 10 to 15 percent in most cities.

Miami Shores had a race where two candidates were forced into a runoff because they each received the exact same number of votes – proving that every vote really does count.

On Miami Beach, voters turned down an effort to give commissioners and the mayor a big pay raise.

Miami voters resurrected the political career of Alex Diaz de la Portilla, a former State Senator, by electing him to the city commission.

Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood passed bond measures to help local parks and improve police services.

In Miramar, Wayne Messam was re-elected as mayor. Bouyed by his victory in Broward he immediately set his sights on higher office.

“The promise of America belongs to all of us,” he said in his announcement video. “That is why I’m going to be running for President”

But Messam’s campaign never gained any traction and he eventually dropped out.

Election security continued to be a problem in Florida, with the Mueller Report claiming Russians tried to access election offices in the state – a claim that caught state officials like Governor Ron DeSantis off guard

“I think it’s important if there is a threat we at the state level know so the secretary of state can work with the supervisors to be able to deploy whatever measures are necessary,” he told reporters.

Overall, 2019 was a very good year for the Governor as he moved the state Supreme Court to the right, appointing a slate of conservative judges. He also won major budget increases for environmental issues, including Everglades’s restoration.

By the end of the year, DeSantis’s approval rating hit an astounding 71 percent.

But perhaps the biggest story of this year in terms of local politics was the not guilty verdicts in the corruption trial of Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper.

Cooper was arrested two years ago in an FBI sting operation.

“I’m just grateful I have a piece of my life back,” she said.

In December, DeSantis reinstated Cooper as mayor.

And of course how can we end our 2019 political wrap-up without noting that President Donald Trump is now officially a Florida resident. Both he and his wife Melania, changed their residency from New York to Florida.

To which New York Governor Andrew Cuomo responded, “Good Riddance.”

Jim DeFede

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