After slowing down a bit over the holidays, Francis Suarez’s campaign money machine kicked back into high gear last month, raising more than $250,000 to boost his quest to become Miami’s next mayor.
Campaign records for February show that Suarez — who has yet to draw an opponent with a single dollar to his name — has cracked the $2 million mark. Despite the lack of moneyed competition, he says he’ll keep raising money, continuing Monday with a $1,000-a-plate breakfast at the Riviera Country Club with Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
“We’re going to have a very strong March, a very strong April, and it’s looking like we’ll have a very strong May, as well,” he said.
$270,000 The amount raised in February by the Suarez campaign
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During the last month, Suarez picked up hundreds of contributions to his official campaign account and a political committee called Miami’s Future. Donations to the political committee by energy contractor MasTec ($25,000), the Del Rey family behind Executive Fantasy Hotels ($20,000), and art dealer Gary Nader ($10,000) topped the list. Suarez also received bundled contributions of $15,000 from companies linked to Miami Innovation Tower developer Michael Simkins, and $12,000 from developer Sergio Rok.
Adler Group, which needs commission approval to seal an agreement to purchase Miami’s Riverside Center and design a new administrative headquarters, gave Suarez $10,000 in bundled contributions.
Suarez’s two opponents, Christian Canache and Robert Ingram Burke, have yet to report any contributions. Still, Suarez, who is working with political rainmaker Brian Goldmeier, said he’ll keep to his game plan since the qualifying deadline isn’t until Sept. 23.
“You have to campaign under the assumption that things will be the worst-case scenario,” he said.
On the other hand, without an opponent to push him, Commission Chairman Keon Hardemon has raised only $4,000 into his official campaign account since November. He now sits on $178,000 as he seeks reelection in District 5.
Meanwhile, in District 3, which includes Little Havana, former mayor Joe Carollo and Zoraida Barreiro, the wife of Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, have quickly amassed the largest war chests amid a crowded field of seven as major donors begin lining up.
Both have right around $65,000 in their campaign accounts. Barreiro said she has also launched a political committee called Government With Transparency.
Last month, Carollo received $5,000 from developer Sergio Pino, and another $11,000 from auto magnate Norman Braman. Barreiro brought in bundled $5,000 donations from developers Related Group, Crescent Heights, and Jeff Berkowitz.
Carollo, by far the more seasoned politician, says his opponent’s husband is using his clout as a Miami-Dade commissioner to raise dollars for his wife and keep supporters from embracing Carollo’s campaign.
“People are afraid to help me and contribute to my campaign because if they have any business in the county, they have to go before him for a vote,” Carollo said. “This is why his wife has been able to raise $66,000.”
Zoraida Barreiro said that’s not true.
“I’m actually making phone calls myself asking for money, which isn’t the easiest thing to do. But I’m glad to report I’m doing it all myself,” she said, adding that her donors are “people who’ve known me for over 25 years. And they’re happy to help.”
Barreiro and Carollo are running against Alex Dominguez, Olidia “Lee” Hernandez, Alfonso Leon, Daniel Suarez and Miguel Soliman.
A fourth race for Miami’s District 4, while officially slated for 2019, looms earlier as well if and when Suarez resigns his commission seat to run for mayor. The race features Tony Diaz, Manuel Reyes and Ralph Rosado.
This article has been updated to correct the value of bundled donations give to Joe Carollo’s campaign by companies related to Sergio Pino and Norman Braman.