Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade mayor’s son joins firm run by Trump’s former campaign manager

Corey Lewandowski, seen Nov. 28 at Trump Tower in New York, has launched a lobbying and consulting firm that now includes a son of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Corey Lewandowski, seen Nov. 28 at Trump Tower in New York, has launched a lobbying and consulting firm that now includes a son of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. Bloomberg

A son of Miami-Dade’s mayor has joined the lobbying firm of Corey Lewandowski, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Politico reported Friday, extending the ties between the county’s chief executive and the nation’s commander-in-chief.

C.J. Gimenez’s new role at Lewandowski’s Avenue Strategies extends his efforts to capitalize on his own work as a lobbyist for Trump before the real estate mogul, with properties in the Miami area, joined the presidential race. And it comes as Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a Republican who backed Hillary Clinton in 2016, is fending off criticism that he is too eager to appease Trump on the issue of detaining local inmates sought for deportation.

The younger Gimenez, a Coral Gables lawyer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Politico reports Lewandowski’s firm is trying to “drum up business” in the Miami area. Gimenez told the news site that he would focus on business development in Florida and Latin America, rather than lobbying.

We’re not just representing any client. We represent those who would further the interests of the Trump Administration and the American people.”

Carlos J. Gimenez, son of Miami-Dade’s mayor, on lobbying firm he joined run by President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager.

“We’re not just representing any client,” Gimenez, 40, told Politico. “We represent those who would further the interests of the Trump Administration and the American people.” Gimenez said he meant interests that overlap with “bringing back jobs and manufacturing to the United States.”

In an interview with the Miami Herald, Gimenez added: “My intent is not to register as a lobbyist. That’s not where my time is best spent.” Instead, Gimenez said he’ll be working on expanding business for clients, and campaign consulting — including in Latin America. He said Avenue Strategies is pursuing clients in the Miami area, but also across the country and beyond. “Obviously, I’m in Miami,” Gimenez said, adding he has been flying frequently to Washington. “I’m not limited to Miami.”

The mayor’s office issued a statement Friday dismissing any link between son Carlos J. Gimenez’s professional pursuits and father Carlos A. Gimenez’s administration.

“Mayor Gimenez is proud of his son C.J. Gimenez’s professional accomplishments,” spokesman Michael Hernández said. “However, C.J.’s business relationships are independent of Miami-Dade County’s government and Mayor Gimenez’s role as the highest-ranking elected official.”

Trump fired Lewandowski last June but remains on friendly terms with the longtime political operative, according to news reports. Joining Lewandowski’s company follows a January announcement from the younger Gimenez that he was launching his own firm, Hemispheric Consulting, to focus on “advocacy before the Federal government” under the incoming Trump administration. He described Trump’s election as “a great opportunity for the entire hemisphere, not just our country.”

Gimenez said he would maintain Hemispheric Consulting while becoming a partner in Lewandowski’s Avenue Strategies. Until recently, the younger Gimenez was general counsel at Balsera Communications, a public-relations and lobbying firm founded by one of Miami’s top Democratic political consultants, Freddy Balsera.

C.J. Gimenez still keeps an office in Balsera’s Coral Gables firm, but Balsera said the two have no financial ties between them. “I wish him the best,” Balsera said of his firm’s former top lawyer. “He’s my very good friend.”

The younger Gimenez also served as a volunteer political adviser to his father during the 2016 mayoral campaign, participating in strategy sessions and debate prep, insiders said. That included whether Gimenez should endorse a presidential candidate, with both the younger Gimenez and Balsera urging him to back Clinton, according to two people involved in the discussions.

C.J. Gimenez denied encouraging his father to back Clinton, but said he lobbied for both sides of the argument to be weighed. “I said: ‘Let Freddy make his case,’’ Gimenez said in an interview. “I didn’t advocate for endorsing anyone.”

Balsera declined to discuss internal deliberations during the campaign. But on Friday, he said the younger Gimenez was in touch with the Trump campaign throughout the 2016 general election — including telephone discussions with the candidate.

“Corey would call him for advice all the time,” Balsera said. “And Trump himself, several times during the campaign, would call him.”

Forced into a run-off by challenger Raquel Regalado in heavily Democratic Miami-Dade, Mayor Gimenez last October denounced Trump for lewd comments about women during an “Access Hollywood” taping in 2005. Gimenez said he would vote for Clinton and called on Trump to drop out of the race.

The break was all the more notable given Trump and Gimenez’s past ties: the two golfed together twice in the run-up to Trump launching negotiations with the Gimenez administration about taking over the Crandon Park golf course. The younger Gimenez was on Trump’s payroll as a lobbyist during the talks, and said he advised a Trump aide on how to approach the deal but never discussed it with county officials. Once the talks became public in 2015, the potential deal fizzled in the face of opposition from the County Commission.

Following Fidel Castro’s death on Nov. 25, President-elect Trump called Cuban-born Gimenez “to express solidarity” with Cuban-Americans. In January, Gimenez attended his first presidential inauguration as Trump took the oath of office.

Gimenez ran on a promise for an historic expansion of transit across Miami-Dade, and is counting on billions in federal dollars to build new rail tracks. The mayor cited that effort in defending a decision that thrust Miami-Dade into the center of a national debate over Trump’s promised crackdown on illegal immigration.

Shortly after taking office, Trump issued an executive order aimed at withholding federal funds from local jurisdictions offering “sanctuary” to immigration violators. Miami-Dade had been considered a “sanctuary” community because county jails routinely declined requests from Immigration authorities to extend detentions for people held on local charges while being sought by federal authorities for possible deportation.

The day after Trump’s Jan. 25 order, Gimenez reversed a 2013 county policy and instructed Miami-Dade jails to begin honoring all detention requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Shortly after the news broke, Trump praised the decision with a Twitter post that read: “Miami-Dade Mayor drops sanctuary policy. Right decision. Strong!”

As of Friday, it remains the only time Trump has tweeted the word “mayor” as president. While Gimenez’s move set off protests and criticism in Miami-Dade, the 13-member County Commission ratified his new policy in February.