Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez raised $500,000 in just four weeks for his reelection effort, flexing the fund-raising muscles of an incumbent by securing big checks from county contractors, lobbyists and even Donald Trump
The mayor’s impressive haul of $500,202, disclosed Tuesday afternoon in a campaign filing, sets Gimenez up for a record total by the time he actually faces reelection in August 2016. He raised about $2.7 million to win his first full term in 2012, and now has nearly 20 percent of that in the bank with 19 more months to go.
It was the debut report from Miami-Dade Residents First, the Gimenez political action committee formed in early January to get a jump start on raising the campaign cash needed for 2016.
So far, only two elected officials have publicly announced their interest in challenging Gimenez: school board member Raquel Regalado, daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, and Xavier Suarez, the former Miami mayor who now holds Gimenez’s old seat on the county commission. Suarez recently launched a petition drive to cap county salaries at about $162,000, and Regalado is joining billionaire activist Norman Braman in suing Gimenez over the $9 million subsidy Gimenez secured for the SkyRise Miami observation tower.
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A quick scan of the Miami-Dade Residents First report shows the biggest checks came from companies and individuals with business before the county, and from large developers. Odebrecht USA, a major contractor at MIA recently awarded a $65 million no-bid contract extension, gave $15,000 on Jan. 29. A company tied to condo king Jorge Pérez, who is also a vice chairman of the Miami Dolphins, gave $10,000 on Jan. 15. Trump, the namesake owner of the Doral golf resort who now has his eyes on a management contract for a county golf course in Key Biscayne, gave $15,000 on Jan. 26.
Brian Goldmeier, Gimenez’s professional fundraiser, headed the operation, which brought in 143 recorded donations between Jan. 15 and Jan. 30. Donors say they’ve received thank-you calls from Gimenez for pledging donations, and the mayor was part of a small dinner at Rodney Barreto’s home last month for large donors.
Barreto is an owner of Floridian Partners, the firm that represented the Dolphins in the subsidy package Gimenez negotiated last year in exchange for owner Stephen Ross launching a $425 million renovation of Sun Life Stadium.
Ralph Garcia-Toledo, Gimenez’s finance chair, said there was a push for donors who made pledges to get their money in before the end of January in order to make the debut report particularly impressive. But Garcia-Toledo said there’s momentum from donors to keep up the big tallies, noting donors were told not to give more than $15,000. “If we had opened that up, we could raise even more money,” he said.