On August 18th, incumbent Katherine Fernandez Rundle and criminal and civil rights attorney Melba Pearson will face off for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.
The office is one of the largest of its kind in the nation, and is chiefly responsible for criminal prosecutions in the county. Incumbent, Fernandez, is the state’s first Cuban-American state attorney and has held the seat for twenty-seven years. Pearson has worked in the office as an assistant state-attorney for sixteen years.
As the State Attorney, Fernandez helped launch a program to help restore voting rights for felons who’ve served their sentences. She also pioneered the state’s only Truancy Intervention Program (TIP), an effort that is often criticized as the program partners with prosecutors and school administrators to sanction chronic absences. Critics of prosecutorial truancy programs believe that such efforts can increase the chances of incarceration for low-income, Black and Brown parents.
Fernandez also faces fierce criticism for her failure to ever charge a cop for a fatal shooting while on duty.
According to the Miami Herald, seventy-three police shootings, fatal and non-fatal, have come up for review before her office since her re-election in 2016. While history shows that incumbents – people currently in the office – usually win re-election, demands for progressive government leadership could open up a path to victory for Pearson.
In an interview with NBC South Florida, Pearson stated, “At the end of the day you can’t be afraid to make the tough decisions. Sometimes you have to go forward so the community knows you care about the issue and you have an interest in holding people accountable.” She has worked to change police practices, expand voting rights, and reform the criminal justice system. She is a proponent of eliminating racial disparities in the criminal justice system and safely reducing the number of incarcerated Floridians.
Her campaign platform, “A Movement for Equal Justice,” seeks to enforce “common sense” reforms that focus on rehabilitation, reduce racial disparities, and reduce pre-trial jail populations.
If elected, Pearson will become the county’s first Black state attorney. Both candidates are Democrats. Since there are no other Republicans or write-in candidates on the ballot, there will be no November election. Whoever wins the election on August 18th will be the next State Attorney. Miami-Dade County voters are able to vote by mail by submitting an absentee ballot on Election Day by 7 p.m. Polls will be open on Election Day, from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.