In the race for four seats on the Miami Gardens city council, candidates have received donations from developers, friends, family, colleagues, lobbyists and attorneys. And out of 11 candidates one person has raised more than all the other hopefuls combined: Mayor Oliver Gilbert.
Gilbert reported more than $101,000 in contributions to his reelection campaign through June 30, according to his most recent campaign finance report. The next highest fundraiser is former councilman Andre Williams, who is running for seat 5. He has raised $31,000 but most of that is $22,150 in loans to himself. Councilman David Williams Jr., running to keep seat 5, rounds out the top three with about $22,500 in his campaign coffers.
In total the candidates for city council seats 1, 3 and 5 plus Gilbert’s two opponents for mayor have raised about $84,000.
Among the donors are the Miami Dolphins, who contributed $1,000 each to incumbent council members Lillie Odom and Rodney Harris, running for seats 1 and 3 respectively. Harris also received a $1,000 contribution from Christopher Clements, the team’s senior VP and chief financial officer. Gilbert got a $1,000 contribution from Al Dotson Jr., a Bilzin Sumberg attorney who has represented the Miami Dolphins and the ownership of New Miami Stadium.
The contributions from the city’s home team, outside developers and business owners come as the city, the third-largest in Miami-Dade County, has intensified its focus on developing the Northwest 27th Avenue corridor and the area around New Miami Stadium in anticipation of Super Bowl 54.
At least 15 of the contributions to Gilbert are from property management companies and car dealerships including Lehman Mazda and Palmetto 57. The mayor has also received support from other elected officials including a $1,000 contribution from Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and $500 from fellow Councilman Erhabor Ighodaro. Gilbert and Williams Jr. have also received contributions from gas stations including Urbieta Oil, Valero and U-Gas.
Gilbert said much of his support is the result of his successfully pitching the city’s development to businesses, developers and voters.
The combined contributions of Gilbert’s two opponents — former councilman Ulysses Harvard and retired AT&T employee Clara Johnson — don’t reach $6,000 and Johnson’s funding has come exclusively through loaning herself campaign dollars to pay the $620 candidate qualifying fee. Harvard has raised $5,084 and Johnson has loaned herself $695.
Harvard said he’s not surprised by Gilbert’s sizable lead.
“I got to figure that him being an incumbent he’d raise a lot of dollars and a lot of those dollars would come from businesses and developers. Mine comes from residents,” Harvard said.
Harvard has received donations from the Landmark development corporation and from some businesses including Royal Funeral Services, Rasool’s menswear store and Metro Ford.
Money migrates to incumbents.
Susan MacManus, University of South Florida public affairs professor
Susan MacManus, a University of South Florida public affairs professor, said the big money lead isn’t surprising given Gilbert’s status as an incumbent and the city’s size.
“Money migrates to incumbents. It’s name identification, familiarity with the person,” MacManus said. “If you give money you obviously want to have access to the person.”
She added that contributions can also be based on the candidate’s chances of success. Gilbert won his first campaign for mayor in 2012 convincingly with 63 percent of the vote in a field of seven candidates.
“The known is always preferred to the unknown,” MacManus said.
The contribution totals for Gilbert and Williams Jr. can also be attributed in part to major head starts over their competition. Gilbert first received donations last July and Williams Jr.’s fundraising goes back to January 2015.
The Miami Gardens general election will take place Aug. 30. Residents have until Aug. 1 to register to vote. If a runoff election is needed, it will take place Nov. 8.
These are the funds raised by the candidates as of the July 11 campaign report.
Oliver Gilbert: raised $101,225, spent $23,175.96
Ulysses Harvard: raised $5,084, spent $3,735.76
Clara Johnson: raised $695, spent $620
Lillie Odom: raised $4,735, spent $455.95
Nathaniel Miller: raised $2,560, spent $320
Rodney Harris: raised $4,425, spent $1,508.75
John Zeigler: raised $1,140, spent $634.25
David Williams Jr.: raised $22,499.99, spent $5,526.13
Andre Williams: raised $31,000, spent $13,835.25
Raymond Carvil: raised $9,272.07, spent $550.90
Kevin Brown: raised $2,707, spent $2,373.40