Damian Pardo won the runoff for Miami’s District 2 seat, beating incumbent Sabina Covo and becoming the city’s first openly-gay commissioner, unofficial election night results showed. He led Covo by more than 250 votes, with all precincts reporting.
The mood inside Flanigan’s in Coconut Grove was one of celebration as a crowd of about 50 supporters crammed into a small room adorned with Christmas decor where they clapped and chanted “Damian,” with one attendee likening the victory to “David and Goliath.” Guests included Miami-Dade County Commissioner Kevin Marino Cabrera and businessman Bill Fuller, who, along with Martin Pinilla, won a $63.5 million judgment against Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo earlier this year.
“It’s such an honor,” Pardo said when asked about the historic race. “Because I know what it means to young folks. I know what it means to older folks like me... It’s really proven when you can get elected to be a city commissioner in what is considered to be a pretty conservative city.”
Pardo, 60, is a Morningside resident and financial planner with a history of activism, including serving on the city and county LGBTQ advisory boards, the Stonewall National Museum & Archives in Fort Lauderdale, Care Resource, which is an AIDS service organization, as well as SAGE, a national organization for elders in the LGBTQ community.
Pardo was among the founders of the LGBTQ civil rights organization, SAVE, serving on its board from 1993 to 1997 and continuing to volunteer for the organization in subsequent years. Despite his history with the group, SAVE endorsed Covo, citing concerns about Pardo’s comments on the Parental Rights in Education bill, also known as the Don’t Say Gay bill, at LGBTQ board meetings. Pardo told the Herald he adamantly opposes the bill, and that his comments were misconstrued.
Covo, 44, is a public relations consultant and former TV journalist who was elected to a shortened term on the commission in February after she won a special election to replace Ken Russell. She’s spent a whirlwind nine months in office, where she faced criticism for her vote to settle a controversial lawsuit over a small park in Brickell, and received pushback for her connections to developers, with critics calling her the establishment candidate — a characterization that Covo denied.
Covo and Pardo beat out six other candidates in the general election earlier this month, with Covo leading with 39.3% of the vote, followed by Pardo with 26.4%.
Covo raised the most money out of all eight candidates in the general, with more than $237,000 in campaign contributions, according to the most recently-available campaign finance reports. Excluding the more than $165,000 that he loaned himself, Pardo raised the second-most in the crowded candidate field with about $90,000 in contributions, campaign finance reports show.
Pardo’s platform included criticizing corruption in City Hall. Across town on Tuesday, Miami District 1 candidate Miguel Gabela led against incumbent Alex Díaz de la Portilla. Pardo said he wasn’t surprised by Gabela’s apparent win.
“Voters had enough,” Pardo said of the apparent results for both districts. “They want to believe that things can change.”
The District 2 winner will represent Miami’s coastal neighborhoods, including Coconut Grove, Brickell, downtown, Edgewater and Morningside.