Miami, Fla. – A special election to fill a vacancy on the City of Miami Commission has been set following a marathon meeting that lasted two days when commissioners wrangled over whether the vacancy should be filled by a vote of the residents or appointment by commissioners.

Residents in District 2 will vote on February 27 and choose among five candidates to succeed Ken Russell, who was forced to resign because he unsuccessfully ran for Congress last year, according to state law.

The district spans Miami’s coast from Coconut Grove north through Brickell and also covers areas separated by the Rickenbacker Causeway including Virginia Key Beach, Miami’s only Colored Beach.

Miami Commission Chairwoman Christine King and Commissioner Manolo Reyes supported a special election while Vice Chair Joe Carollo and Alex Diaz de la Portilla wanted the commission to appoint someone to fill the seat.

The issue wasn’t resolved during the first meeting on Saturday, January 7 with a 2-2 tie vote and commissioners had to continue the meeting the following day to beat the 5 p.m. deadline on their decision.

Carollo and Diaz de la Portilla said a special election will be too costly while King and Reyes said they support allowing residents to pick who should serve with them on the dais.

Eventually, Carollo and Diaz de la Portilla sided with King and Reyes.

“I believe the community should elect the person who represents them," King said. "It is not my decision to make. Therefore, it is my recommendation to go with a special election.”

Among the four candidates in the special election, non-profit executive Michael Hepburn is the only Black in the race.

The other candidates are media veteran Sabina Covo, wealth manager Michael Goggins, real estate agent June Savage and digital marketer Lior Halabi.

They also submitted their names to the City of Miami to be appointed if commissioners were headed in that direction.

Whoever wins will only fill the vacancy until the city’s next regular election in November when Russell’s four-year term was due to end.

Hepburn, who unsuccessfully ran for state representative in 2020, was also a candidate for the City of Miami Commission District 5 seat, which King won in 2021.

Hepburn’s campaign priorities include improving education, creating sustainable neighborhoods, developing affordable housing and fostering safe, sustainable neighborhoods.

Hepburn is also a graduate of the Black Campaign School, a joint initiative of The Collective PAC and Washington-based consulting firm Three Point Strategies that teaches Black candidates how to run successful campaigns.

"Just creating more housing supply is old-school thinking towards ending homelessness," he said. "We must become built for zero by creating a unified system laser-focused on consistently making homelessness rare overall and brief when it occurs. Develop a county-wide plan to rehab & preserve structures that can be used for permanent extremely low-income housing residents.

"And ensure our $3.1 million allocation of federal funds issued to increase homeless shelters beds, job training and mental health treatment is properly used."

Covo, who worked for a year as the director of Hispanic media relations and communications at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services under former Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, is a Colombian-American former TV reporter and program host.

Since late 2014, she has run her own public relations firm.

Covo said she has lived in District two for the past 22 years and is familiar with the issues impacting Miami as a resident and years covering City Hall.

Priority issues she plans to target include public safety, access to resources, affordable housing, supporting arts and entertainment, and helping to boost the city’s economic development and tourism.

Another top priority is investing in Miami’s infrastructure to improve the city’s resilience and better prepare it for tropical storms and rising sea levels, a press note from her campaign said.

“Miami deserves a representative who will work to enhance our community,” she said in a statement.

“I have lived in Brickell, Edgewater, Coconut Grove and Downtown. I have reported on City Hall issues for over 15 years and I can see why it’s time for a trusted voice to represent the residents of District 2. … We have to be creative in our approach, and our solutions need to be all-encompassing."

The other candidates couldn’t be reached for comments.