In January 2017, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez became nationally known as the first big-city official in the nation to comply voluntarily with President Donald Trump’s demands to ban so-called sanctuary cities, which limit their cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Trump had been in office only five days when he filed the executive order. The next morning, Gimenez rolled over, sparking protests and a hunger strike and forever staining his reputation.
Now it appears at least one candidate to replace the outgoing mayor wants that trend to continue. According to a photograph published on a little-followed Twitter account, Miami-Dade County Commission Chair Esteban Bovo — one of the stronger candidates in the 2020 county mayoral race — gave former White House Communications Director Sarah Huckabee Sanders a plaque welcoming her to Miami-Dade and listing the infamous liar as a “distinguished visitor.”
Neither Bovo nor members of his staff responded to a message from New Times yesterday. But Bovo posted photos of the welcome plaque on his personal Twitter account, @SteveBovo, which has fewer than 300 followers. (In comparison, more than 6,000 people follow Bovo’s official account, @CommBovo.) So few people spotted the post that even the Miami Herald‘s county hall reporter, Doug Hanks, noted online last week he’d missed the proclamation:
Bovo, a longtime Republican politician who holds a nonpartisan seat on the county dais, handed out the plaque at an event tied to the American Priority Conference — a convention for pro-Trump politicians and #MAGA superfans held at Trump National Doral Miami earlier this month. The conference made national headlines thanks to an incident in which organizers showed a video depiction of Trump’s head crudely superimposed onto the body of a man shooting journalists to death. The conference otherwise included appearances by Donald Trump Jr., Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, and the pro-Trump EDM duo Milk N Cooks.
Sanders — who took over after fellow liars Sean Spicer and Anthony Scaramucci flamed out in the gig — became internationally known for defending pretty much whatever inane and bizarre collection of words escaped the president’s mouth for nearly two years. Among a never-ending series of Trump gaffes and scandals, she was caught lying about whether Trump paid hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels; claimed it was “biblical” to deny immigrant children the right to flee violence and poverty in their home countries and find safe refuge on American soil; and shared a doctored video in order to attack CNN reporter Jim Acosta. She also at one point said with a straight face that Trump had never “promoted or encouraged violence,” a statement PolitiFact labeled flatly “false.”
In a June writeup, the New Yorker reported Sanders “stayed on the job through some of the Administration’s most alarming realities: the President’s defense of white nationalists in Charlottesville; the separation of migrant children from their families; the more than ten thousand false or misleading statements the President has made since taking office.” She also became an oft-ridiculed recurring character on Saturday Night Live and late-night talk shows.
Since leaving the post in July, Sanders has somehow already begun to rehabilitate her image. She’s become a paid Fox News contributor and is garnering plaques like the one from Bovo. (Similarly, her failed predecessor Spicer landed a brief teaching role at Harvard and competed against actor James Van Der Beek on Dancing With the Stars.)
Bovo is a former state legislator and longtime ally of Sen. Marco Rubio. As the Herald noted at the end of last month, Bovo is a veteran political operative in Miami and is as well connected as local candidates come, giving the Republican a sizable shot at becoming county mayor next year. But he’s running against a handful of other veterans, including Democrats Alex Penelas and Daniella Levine Cava. It’s unclear how grinning alongside one of Trump’s most notorious propagandists and defenders will win Bovo new fans among anyone outside of the reddest sectors of Miami-Dade County.
In the meantime, Bovo has apparently muted a few Twitter comments about the photo. According to reply posts listed on Twitter’s “hidden” tab, Bovo hid one comment calling him “disgraceful”; another claiming he showed a lack of “ethics, morals, and common sense”; and another simply labeling him “Steve Bobo.”