North Miami candidates put out big bucks to win seats in coming election

05/02/2013 3:51 PM

05/02/2013 3:52 PM

The 15 candidates running for North Miami mayor and two council seats are revving up their messages to voters with nine days left until the election.

A look at the candidates’ finance reports show some council hopefuls are tapping into their own pocketbooks while others rely on contributions from residents, supporters and business owners.

To grab voters’ attention, the candidates are getting creative . So far, there have been a fashion show, Facebook advertising and jingles.

In all, the candidates have raised more than $430,000.

In the mayoral race, seven candidates are pushing for the top spot. The current mayor Andre Pierre is term limited and cannot seek reelection.

Dr. Smith Joseph, a political newcomer, outguns his opponents with a war chest of $156, 610, of which $105,000 is a loan to himself.

Joseph, a physician, mostly tapped into his circle of friends in the medical field for contributions. To stand out on radio advertisements, he paid $500 to produce a jingle about his candidacy.

His closest competitor, Gwendolyn Boyd, raised $51,380 of which she loaned to herself $27,500.

Boyd, a former North Miami police chief, said she does not expect money to determine the outcome of the race.

“I have seen in the past where people have huge billboards and signs, but we do know that it’s not the signs,” she said. “It’s what I’ve been doing, the one-on-one contact, meeting the people face to face.”

Anna Pierre, raised the least in the mayor’s race – with $12, 825.

“I don’t have money. I have volunteers who are standing with me,” said Pierre, who has never run for office before. “I have to scrape to find food for them, but they believe in me.”

Popularity and name recognition also will be factors to consider in the outcome of the race, Pierre said. At her kickoff , which cost $2,700, she hosted a fashion show. .

“It’s not only money,” said Pierre. “Money helps, but the work I have done in this community will speak for itself.”

In the District 2 race, community activist Carol Keys leads the pack with $37, 024, including a $10,000 loan to herself.

Keys said she started campaigning later than her opponents. The extra cash helped pay for mailers to residents she otherwise might not get a change to meet in person.

“A lot of my money was raised by local people in our city,” she said. “I think it shows residents are putting money behind me because they believe in me.”

Joseph Haber, a candidate for District 2, raised $14,305. He has loaned himself $155. To reach more voters he has taken to social media. According to finance reports, he spent about $280 promoting his elections page on Facebook. He also maintains a presence on Twitter.

In District 3, Philippe Bien-Aime outraised his opponents with $27,640, of which $26,200 is a loan to himself.

Bien-Aime said he is self funding his campaign because he knows residents in North Miami are facing financial hardships and he didn’t want to burden them by asking for contributions.

“Personally, I know the community, especially the Haitian-American community,” he said. “I know economically, residents have a lot of problems, that’s why I did not go to ask them for money.”

Jacques Despinosse, a former city councilman, who is also running for the District 3 seat raised $12, 325.

“The money is not a factor. If it was for money, Mitt Romney would be president today,” he said. “I have my name recognition, my experience and my integrity. The voters know me.”

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