Miami Lakes’ founding mayor, Wayne Slaton, is struggling to keep up with the wide political net cast by well-connected incumbent Mayor Michael Pizzi.
With almost $77,000 for his campaign, Pizzi, who also is the town attorney for Medley, has raised more than four times as much as his opponent. Only a third of his contributors are Miami Lakes residents, and a few have sent checks from as far as Chicago. Pizzi said many of his donors have businesses or other interests in town. He had also been endorsed by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Slaton, an electrician, got a late start on fundraising after jumping into the race in August, when Roberto Alonso dropped out for health reasons. Almost all of Slaton’s donors, while far fewer in number, live in Miami Lakes.
Two of Pizzi’s campaign checks came from the owner of a company that was subcontracted to work on the new government center. Pizzi said the owner and his wife are long-time friends and free to donate since they are not a vendor directly hired by the town. A spokesperson for KVC constructors, the company that oversaw the construction, said the contract was awarded in open bidding.
Pizzi’s coffers were also bolstered by a campaign fundraiser thrown by Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez, Miami Lakes Town Council members Ceasar Mestre and Nick Perdomo, and Javier Vazquez, a local land-use attorney who sometimes represents clients before the Town Council. Vazquez has also helped host fundraisers for Nelson Rodriguez, who is running for residential Council Seat 1, and Mary Collins, who is trying to hang on to the at-large council seat she has held since the town was incorporated in 2000.
With far less money to plaster the town with his picture, Miami Lakes’ first mayor, Wayne Slaton, is counting on volunteers to help him knock on doors and upload videos to youtube.com. The most popular video, with 1,314 views, is “Dave’s Top 10: Reasons to Vote for Wayne Slaton,” featuring local radio host Dave Graveline of the technology-themed broadcast “Into Tomorrow.”
Pizzi alleges that Graveline’s help in the production of the video should be listed as an in kind contribution under with state law, but Graveline says he was just a volunteer. Emails exchanged between Graveline and the mayor’s office suggest that part of Graveline’s support for Slaton is retribution for being snubbed earlier this year when he suggested a “Mayor’s Update” program that could be recorded at his radio studio on Main Street. In one email, sent after Pizzi spoke at this month’s chamber of commerce meeting, Graveline said, with a smiley face icon, “Remember how I said that you should have kept me in YOUR corner?”
Three other videos pick apart incumbent Mayor Michael Pizzi’s record on town maintenance, his plans to open 87th Avenue and the new $8 million government center. Pizzi describes the videos as “slander” and untrue.
Some candidates also have received support from an organization that has been filling resident mailboxes in Miami Lakes with fliers. “Floridians for Ethical and Responsible Government” was a registered Electioneering Communication Organization with the Miami-Dade Elections Department in 2011, but is now listed as “disbanded” due to inactivity. The expired Miami Dade election registration for the ECO lists Charles Safdie as the treasurer, who is also the owner of the Campaign Super Store, a printing business in North Miami Beach. The mailers that were sent to Miami Lakes came from the same address as the store.
This supposedly inactive ECO has sent mailers in support of Mayor Pizzi, Nelson Rodriguez and Mary Collins and in criticism of Slaton’s record as Miami Lake’s first mayor.
Collins’ campaign, with $8,100, has raised about half as much money as her challenger, Manny Cid, whose strong out-of-town support has helped him raise more than $17,000. Vying for the residential Council Seat 1 vacated by Nick Perdomo, Rodriguez, with $8,700 lags far behind the $42,100 for David Bennett’s campaign, most of which came from Bennett’s own pocket. Current councilman Richard Pulido, with $29,100 has a slight lead over Tony Lama, who has raised $21,000 to contest residential Council Seat 3.