Miami-Dade County

Incumbency rules in money race for Miami-Dade mayor

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez gives a speech in this file photo from December 2014.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez gives a speech in this file photo from December 2014.

Carlos Gimenez probably set a record in Miami-Dade County this fall by raising more than $1 million in political contributions in just 31 days. His top contributor: Duty Free Americas, a major retailer at the county-owned airport that has given $149,000 to Gimenez’s reelection effort since January.

This Dade Data takes a look at the dollars that have thrust Gimenez well ahead on the fundraising front as he fends off a challenge from Raquel Regalado, the two-term Miami-Dade School Board member who is also the daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado. Between January and October, Regalado has raised about $510,000. Gimenez raised that much in three weeks during October, and finished the month with a fundraising total of $2.8 million for all of 2015.

Reports with November results are due Thursday, but the broad picture isn’t likely to change. Well before Gimenez began raising money for his actual reelection campaign in October, he was ahead of Regalado in fundraising. He began personally calling donors in January for his political committee, Miami-Dade Residents First, and has been well ahead of Regalado on the dollars front every month this year.

The gap captures one of the biggest challenges facing Regalado as she tries to unseat an incumbent mayor whose position is often described locally as the second most powerful in Florida, behind the governor. In office since 2011, Gimenez wields significant fundraising ability, with big dollars coming from companies and developers with business interests before the county. So far, the Regalado political and donor network hasn’t been enough to even approach Gimenez’s cash influx.

His second-largest donor, Turnberry, gave $141,000 since July. The Fontainebleau owner is one of Miami-Dade’s largest developers, which had pursued a change in county building rules for a large commercial parcel near Doral and is asking for a $5 million county economic-development grant for an airplane hangar it owns.

The LeFrak Organization is Turnberry’s partner in a development being built on the old Biscayne Landing landfill, which is subject to county environmental regulation. The LeFrak group finished a distance third on Gimenez’s donor list, with $50,000 in contributions.

Many of Regalado’s top donors do business within the city of Miami, highlighting the fundraising potential that comes with being the daughter and a top adviser to Miami’s mayor. Running to succeed her term-limited father in 2017 is also seen as a Plan B for Regalado if her bid for county mayor fails next year.

Norman Braman remains Regalado’s top donor so far with $56,000 in donations to her campaign and a political committee used by her and her father, Serving Miamians. Braman owns an auto dealership in Miami that also participates in an apprenticeship program with the county school system. He’s best known for being one of Marco Rubio’s top backers in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Corigin Real Estate, a New York firm building a high-rise in Miami’s Brickell neighborhood, holds the No. 2 slot on Regalado’s donor list with $35,000 in contributions. Optimum Asset Management, a development firm with holdings in Brickell that’s run by Ricardo Tabet, took the No. 3 slot with $25,000 in donations.