Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez raised more than $1.2 million for his reelection campaign last month, a muscular debut for a candidacy that only became official on Oct. 1.
Now in his fifth year as the county’s chief executive, Gimenez drew on a wide range of donors with business before the county to post an October fundraising haul that was more than both his rivals have raised all year. School-board member Raquel Regalado joined the race in March and has collected about $512,000 in 2015. County Commissioner Xavier Suarez raised $435,700 while publicly weighing a challenge to Gimenez throughout much of the year.
Suarez posted disappointing results from a long-awaited October fundraiser that he said would be a test of his ability to take on Gimenez, who is running for his second full term as mayor of Florida’s largest county. Suarez had hoped to raise $400,000 from a $200-a-plate banquet on Oct. 10, but the latest report shows he took in far less than that through the end of October.
“It certainly was enough to make me feel good about a political event,” Suarez, a former Miami mayor, said of the banquet. But the overall financial results fell short of the “high end of what I was looking at,” he said. “It's a tough road to hoe for a mayoral campaign, that's for sure.”
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Monthly campaign reports offer a regular scorecard on how well candidates are courting donors, and October brought a decisive win for Gimenez. Though he has raised money all year for his political committee, October was his first official month as a candidate.
Gimenez raised just over $1,202,000 in October, compared to $94,250 for Suarez and $44,275 for Regalado. Since Suarez had to pay for the banquet, he posted about $78,000 in expenses for the month. In the end, Gimenez cleared about $1.17 million for the month, compared to $24,000 for Regalado and $16,500 for Suarez.
Gimenez’s October donor list covers 127 pages, and includes a long list of lobbying firms, developers and county vendors and contractors. Among the prominent donors: Stuart Wyllie, president of the Graham Co., a key landholder in the American Dream Miami mega-mall deal that Gimenez helped bring to Northwest Miami-Dade; the parent company of All Aboard Florida, the private rail company that secured county funding for a Tri-Rail station in its new Miami depot; and Odebrecht, a top contractor at Miami International Airport.
In a statement, Gimenez campaign consultant Jesse Manzano-Plaza said: “We are grateful for the overwhelming response from the hundreds of donors who have shown their generous support to Mayor Carlos Gimenez and stand by his track record of leadership, experience and accomplishments.”
Regalado, the daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, suggested she will use Gimenez’s campaign war chest against him. She said she’s planning a campaign video on Gimenez that will “explain why his fundraising efforts should concern every resident of Miami-Dade County.” Donors to her campaign and political committee include developers and others with business before the city of Miami.
The October totals give Gimenez a war chest of about $2.5 million, compared to $406,000 for Regalado and $144,000 for Suarez, who drew down his political committee’s funds this summer to pay for TV ads critical of Gimenez.
Suarez said he’ll decide whether to join the mayoral race in January. His Oct. 10 banquet was officially to raise money for his own reelection campaign, but he could switch the funds to a mayoral run with donors’ permission. He’s counting on winning union backing should he challenge Gimenez, who has championed spending cuts and privatization efforts as mayor.
“The unions are willing to wait,” Suarez said. “There’s no pressure to decide.”