By Jim DeFede

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Typically, odd-numbered years offer little political excitement, but 2021 was anything but typical.

It was a year marked by loss. In April Congressman Alcee Hastings died. A legendary figure who spent 28 years representing parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, he was remembered in a Congressional memorial as a tireless advocate for his district.

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His death set off a mad scramble to replace him with eleven candidates jumping in the race, including Broward County Commissioners Dale Holness and Barbara Sharief. But it was Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a political neophyte who pumped more than a million dollars of her own money into the race who won the Democratic primary and an almost certain victory in the special general election early next year.

Cherfilus-McCormick won by just 5 votes and when she goes to Washington next year, she will become the only Haitian American in Congress.

Because Holness and Sharief had to resign to run for the congressional seat, Governor Ron DeSantis appointed their replacements on the Broward Commission – he chose Jared Moskowitz and Torey Alston.

In Miami Dade, it was a trio of municipal elections that generated all the thrills. On Miami Beach, voters backed the concept of rolling back the last call from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber won re-election and Kristen Rosen Gonzalez – the unconventional candidate who claimed to be Hispanic when she is not – returns to the Miami Beach city commission thanks to a runoff in which 93 percent of voters didn’t bother voting.

In Miami, the city’s bitcoin loving bro Mayor Francis Suarez was re-elected as was the bombastic and always colorful Joe Carollo, who theatrically claimed he was deeply worried then-Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo was going to have him assassinated during a bogus arrest in which rogue cops would shot him and then plant a throw-away gun.

In Hialeah, riding high with the endorsement of Donald Trump, Steve Bovo was elected mayor. Bovo, who ran for county mayor and lost, said this was not a consolation prize and that he was committed to helping the people of Hialeah.

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Across the state, Governor Ron DeSantis battled local districts over mask mandates and vaccinations, calling a special session to block efforts by employers to keep their workers safe by requiring vaccinations.

And critics argue the Republican-controlled Legislature during its session continued to take the side of big business over the will of voters by overturning the election results in Key West, which had voted to protect the environment by limiting the number of massive cruise ships which can dock in their port.

With fishing guide Captain Will Benson warning other people across the state that what happened in Key West could happen to them if they ever try to defy the need of big businesses like the cruise ship industry.

And as the year drew to a close another historic political figure in South Florida died – former Congresswoman Carrie Meek.

Her death at the age of 85 on November 28, prompted an outpouring of remembrances – her grandmother was born a slave, her parents were sharecroppers and she rose to be the first black woman elected to the Florida state senate and the first black woman elected to Congress from Florida.

Standing on the steps of the Capitol, here is how she described the moment to C-Span in 1992: “To me, it’s very redemptive to say that I’ve been able to – through the help of God and the people of Florida to stand here and to look at the Capitol. And it shows that the times have changed. The attitude of the country has changed. Carrie Meek has changed. I’m really pleased to be here.”

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Next year Governor Ron DeSantis is up for re-election, as is Senator Marco Rubio and the entire Florida congressional delegation. 2022 promises to be another interesting political year for Florida.

Jim DeFede