Pushed into a runoff against a rival who has already denounced Donald Trump, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said for the first time Wednesday that he was not planning to vote for the GOP nominee.
Gimenez was forced into a November race Tuesday with challenger Raquel Regalado after no candidate crossed the 50-percent mark in the seven-person primary for county mayor. Both are Republicans, but Regalado, a school board member, said before the primary that supporting Trump “was a non-starter” given his immigration position.
In a round of post-primary interviews Wednesday, Gimenez offered a less definitive statement. But it still was the first time Gimenez had suggested Trump wouldn’t get his vote in November.
“I don’t see myself voting for him,” he said outside his suite of offices on County Hall’s 29th floor in downtown Miami. He declined to say whether he could see himself voting for Hillary Clinton. “The presidential election really is not on my mind right now. It’s on my reelection in November.”
Unlike the low-turnout August primaries, the presidential election in November is sure to bring a flood of Democrats for Clinton. Those dynamics could decide the mayoral contest, the first fall runoff for the county’s top office since Carlos Alvarez beat Jimmy Morales in 2004.
In the final days of the primary campaign, Gimenez recorded a robo-call defending himself against criticism of his past dealings with Trump. The criticism centered on a management deal for a county golf course that Trump pursued for about two years before he joined the Republican presidential race.
The mailer by Miami-Dade Partnership for Prosperity, a committee backing Regalado, declared “Republicans Carlos Gimenez and Donald Trump Must Be Stopped!” Trump is considered enough of a liability in Hispanic-majority Miami-Dade that Regalado was also the subject of a Trump-themed mailer from Leadership for Florida’s Future, a committee opposing Regalado.
Quoting a Miami Herald editorial recommending Gimenez that alleged Regalado stretched the facts “much like” the GOP nominee, the mailer declared the school board member “Miami Dade’s Mini Donald Trump.”
Gimenez said he played Trump with golf twice in the run-up to quiet talks in early 2014 about a possible takeover of Miami-Dade’s Crandon golf course.
The would-be deal fizzled once the proposal became public in early 2015, on the heels of Trump making a $15,000 donation to Gimenez’s re-election effort. Documents released at the time included a March 5, 2014, letter to the mayor in which Trump wrote he would like to pump millions into rehabbing the waterfront course and “MAKE IT GREAT!”
Gimenez returned the donation in June, after Trump launched his presidential bid with controversial comments about illegal Mexican immigrants that brought him an official denunciation from the Miami-Dade County Commission.
C.J. Gimenez, a lawyer and one of Gimenez’s two sons, does lobbying work at the city level for Trump’s organization, which owns a large resort in Doral. At the time, the younger Gimenez said he offered the Trump side advice on potential legal issues with a Crandon takeover but did not speak to county officials beyond brief conversations with his father about the mogul’s interest.
Mayor Gimenez officially recused himself from the Crandon matter once the potential deal became public, saying he was not aware the Trump side had submitted a formal written proposal to his parks director about six months earlier.
On Wednesday, Gimenez said his role in a potential Trump golf deal was a reasonable part of his job as the county’s top executive — well before Trump’s political views or presidential ambitions were brought front and center.
“My dealings with Donald Trump were on a professional basis,” he said. “I deal with a whole bunch of people on a professional basis. It doesn’t mean I’ll vote for them or support them.”
This post was updated to specify the number of times Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he played golf with Donald Trump.