Newly released campaign finance reports show long-entrenched Miami-Dade commissioners in auto magnate Norman Bramans crosshairs are facing unprecedented fundraising pressure, and County Mayor Carlos Gimenez enjoys an enormous financial edge over chief rival Joe Martinez for the August election.
The four incumbent commissioners up for reelection Bruno Barreiro, Audrey Edmonson, Barbara Jordan and Dennis Moss still enjoy large fundraising leads. But that money is being countered by Bramans two political groups: an electioneering communications organization called Change for Miami-Dade Now, and a political action committee called Vote For a New Miami-Dade. The two fundraising tools created by the billionaire businessman so far have collected a combined $440,000.
Though the groups must follow different rules than campaigns an ECO is not allowed to endorse a candidate, for example, but it can attack one both groups can do something campaigns cannot: solicit unlimited donations.
Were trying to even the playing field, said Braman, who hopes his spending will draw a larger turnout than typical for the traditionally slow August primary, and who has promised more ads are on the way. Braman believes the larger the turnout, the better the chance of unseating an incumbent. Were not throwing away money, what were trying to do is get people to come out and vote, he said.
Braman also has donated $6,000 or so in individual, $500 contributions from himself and his companies to his slate of challengers: state Rep. Luis Garcia against Barreiro, Belafonte Tacolcy Center Chief Executive Alison Austin against Edmonson, Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson against Jordan, and former Dade County Farm Bureau President Alice Pena against Moss.
Despite Bramans support, Austin has been outraised by another Edmonson challenger, attorney Keon Hardemon, who has taken in $25,437.
Still, the new fundraising balance of power was evident last weekend when Braman began airing ads urging voters to say no to the pack of four during the Sunday morning local news programs on WFOR-CBS 4 and WPLG-ABC 10. A version of the spot is also running on Spanish-language radio.
After engineering last years successful recall of Mayor Carlos Alvarez, Braman is targeting the four commissioners up for reelection who voted for the Miami Marlins $634 million Little Havana stadium a fact that is duly noted in the ads.
The spot also ties the four incumbents to a property-tax rate increase two years ago that helped lead to Alvarezs downfall. Once-powerful Commissioner Natacha Seijas was also recalled from office.
With the exception of Hardemon, other candidates who are also challenging the incumbents without Bramans support raised far less in the quarter that ended June 30. Those candidates are: Wade Jones against Jordan; Michael Jackson Joseph, Eddie Lewis and Nadia Pierre against Edmonson; Calixto Garcia (no relation to Luis Garcia) and Carlos E. Muñoz Fontanills against Barreiro; and Darrin McGillis against Moss.
Another Moss challenger, Loretta Riley, has yet to file a report, according to the county elections website, though it was due last Friday.
If no one wins more than 50 percent of the vote in the Aug. 14 primary, a runoff would be held between the top two vote-getters on Nov. 6.