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After Miami Beach commissioner’s death, his partner considers running for the seat

Miami Herald logo Miami Herald 6/28/2022 Martin Vassolo, Miami Herald

The partner of Miami Beach Commissioner Mark Samuelian, who died last week, said on Tuesday that she will consider running to take his place on the City Commission.

Laura Dominguez, a digital marketing professional who had worked as Samuelian’s campaign manager and treasurer, told the Miami Herald that residents, business leaders and politicians encouraged her to step forward to fill the vacancy on the commission.

While she is still grieving, Dominguez said taking on the position would mean honoring her partner’s legacy. “I am forced to give it a hard look and think about it,” she said. “I was grieving. It hadn’t even crossed my mind.”

Names of other potential candidates have also circulated. Former Commissioner John Alemán, who said she was asked if she would fill the vacancy, told the Herald she would be willing to serve as an appointed commissioner pending approval from her employer, which currently has a contract with the city.

Two commissioners told the Herald that Dominguez had expressed an interest in running for the seat.

Commissioners must decide in the next month whether to appoint a temporary replacement to fill Samuelian’s seat for about a year or hold a citywide election in November and let the voters select a new commissioner to serve out the remainder of Samuelian’s term.

Samuelian, who died Wednesday, won reelection last year and had about three years left in his term, which ends in 2025.

Dominguez, a business owner who met Samuelian in 2012, had said last week that Samuelian died of an “unexpected illness.” Dominguez on Tuesday said Samuelian was “such a private person” and that it was his wish not to disclose the illness.

“I am focused on taking time to heal and finding strength in the community I love so much,” she said in a statement Tuesday. “I know public service was a big part of my life with Mark, and I have no doubt it will continue to be in the future.”

Next steps for the commission

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If the commission appoints a replacement, that person would serve for about one year until the November 2023 general election. The winner of that election would then serve out the remainder of the term.

If the commission decides to call a special election for this November to determine Samuelian’s successor, the winner would also serve for the remainder of the term.

Commissioner Ricky Arriola told the Herald that Dominguez called him Monday to ask for his support to appoint her to Samuelian’s seat. Arriola, who said he considered Samuelian a friend, said he thought it was too soon to discuss replacing him.

“I told her it’s a little too early to be making those decisions, I myself am still overwhelmed by his passing and haven’t thought through the process yet,” he said.

Arriola said he would consider appointing a replacement for Samuelian if the prospective commissioner does not seek reelection.

He said he will interview Dominguez and review her qualifications, but wants to make sure whoever is selected has some community support.

Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, who considered Samuelian a friend and an ally on the commission, said Dominguez expressed her interest in the position to her during a brief conversation. Rosen Gonzalez said she would support Dominguez if she ran for the commission seat in the election but did not want to make an appointment.

“Laura is a great choice and she has my full support,” Rosen Gonzalez said in a text message to the Herald.

The city will hold a Celebration of Life event for Samuelian on July 11 at the New World Center. The commission has a meeting scheduled July 20.

Mayor Dan Gelber said he did not want to discuss the vacancy on the commission while the community is still grieving Samuelian’s death.

“Right now I feel a lot of people are still in shock and still thinking about him, and not thinking about replacing him,” Gelber said.

Resident Jo Manning, who supported Samuelian’s campaign last year, has advocated for the commission to appoint Dominguez to her late partner’s seat.

“It is the right thing to do in the opinion of many, many people in Miami Beach,” Manning wrote in an email to the commission on Saturday. “Please fight for this and honor everything this terrific, caring commissioner stood for.”

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