As Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado coasts toward his second term in office, he’s finding time to inform voters on the other issues on the Nov. 5 ballot, such as a project that could reinvent a chunk of Coconut Grove’s waterfront and a large bond offering that would pave the way for major improvements at Miami-Dade’s largest public hospital.
Despite the withdrawal of Commissioner Francis Suarez from the mayoral contest — the only real threat to Regalado’s reelection — the mayor continues to spend money and says he has no intention of abandoning the campaign trail.
In the past few weeks, his campaign has spent more than $100,000 on a radio advertising blitz in both English and Spanish. Tony Crapp Jr., a former city manager and former Regalado chief of staff, has lent his voice to bits on WMBM-1490, a gospel station with a large audience in the black community.
The mayor — who still faces three little-known opponents — says his key objective is getting out the vote. “I’m pushing for myself, looking for a mandate. I’m telling the people they need to vote. I don’t want to be seen as the mayor of the minority,” said Regalado.
As the mayor’s fundraising effort catapults past $1 million, it has allowed friends and family to prosper.
Through mid-October, when the most recent campaign finance report was due at the city clerk’s office, Regalado had raised $591,257. His Electioneering Communications Organization, registered with the state, collected another $456,455 over the same period.
Major beneficiaries have included Regalado’s daughter and campaign manager Raquel Regalado, who has been paid $30,000, and the mayor’s son, Jose Regalado, who has been paid $11,270 for photography and for creating a website.
The campaign has also paid Creative Ideas Advertising $143,758 for advertising and printing.
The company is owned by Maritza Gutierrez, the husband of lobbyist Armando Gutierrez, one of the mayor’s oldest and closest friends.
“We have a small group of people running the campaign. It’s friends and family. I’ve always done it. My wife used to be the treasurer and she was paid,” said Regalado.
Regalado’s late wife Raquel, who died shortly before his mayoral victory in 2009, handled the books during her husband’s earlier campaigns for city commissioner.
Her absence even caused an embarrassing flap last election go-round, as Regalado and his daughter — stepping in as campaign treasurer for her departed mother — accepted responsibility for sloppy bookkeeping and agreed to pay a $10,000 fine.
One of Regalado’s challengers, hospital consultant Jeff Benjamin, calls it “disingenuous” for the mayor to portray a local political campaign that has raised more than $1 million as small.
“Accountability becomes a factor. It’s nepotism,” said Benjamin. “That’s not small.”
The absence of Suarez, who was raising more money than the mayor, has allowed Regalado, 66, to take time to inform voters about other items on Tuesday’s ballot, though he’s not giving them his opinion. Though he has strong views on the issues, he says he has refrained from voicing them because he doesn’t want to inject controversy into the campaign.