Ex-union head John Rivera joins crowded Miami-Dade sheriff race — here’s who else is running

DORAL, Fla. – Former Miami-Dade police officers’ union head John Rivera has joined nearly a dozen other candidates vying for the position of Miami-Dade County sheriff in 2024 — an office that hasn’t existed in decades.

Formally announcing his candidacy at a rally outside police headquarters in Doral, the former longtime law enforcement official, whose time as the head of the union came to a contentious end in 2017, is running as a Republican. He joins eight other members of the GOP, along with three Democrats, in the race.

Democrat Freddy Ramirez, the director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, was widely considered to be the favorite in the race. But he dropped out of the race after being hospitalized for a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head following an incident at a Tampa hotel in July.

Speaking at his campaign rally Wednesday, Rivera touted his experience and reputation as a fighter.

This office needs a sheriff who isn’t afraid to stand up and fight for both our community and our officers,” he said. “I have the right stuff.”

Rivera added that the new sheriff will have “tremendous responsibilities,” which he said “can only be shouldered by someone who has my diverse 40 years-plus of inclusive experience inside and outside of a patrol vehicle.”

Rivera moved from Miami-Dade to Broward County after he said his family was threatened — then to the Florida Keys.

A few weeks ago, he moved back to Miami-Dade as he embarks on an effort to become the county’s top cop. He said some of his priorities are investigating homeowners association fraud and public corruption. He spoke briefly about what he will do if elected.

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“As I always have, I will welcome the scrutiny of the public and the media regarding public safety matters in order to provide accountability,” he said.

Rivera joins a long list of candidates with MDPD connections.

That includes Republicans Ignacio Alvarez, a lawyer and retired major with the department; former reserve officer Alexander Fornet; retired Maj. Mario Knapp; current Sgt. Orlando Lopez; current Sgt. Rolando Riera and current Lt. Ernesto Rodriguez.

It also includes two Democrats: current MDPD Maj. John Barrow and retired Lt. Rickey Mitchell.

Other candidates also have law enforcement experience outside MDPD. That includes Democrat Susan Khoury, a former federal agent, and Republican Ruamen De La Rua, a Miami police officer.

Homestead resident Jaspen Bishop is also running as a Republican.

Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Joe Sanchez, a former Miami city commissioner, is openly mulling a bid for sheriff.

There’s plenty of time for more candidates to emerge: prospective officeholders have until June of 2024 to enter the race.