With nearly 18 months still to go until Miami elects a new mayor, Commissioner Francis Suarez is already on a path to shatter fundraising records for city elections, campaign records show.
Filings submitted Friday to the Florida Division of Elections show Suarez’s political committee, Miami’s Future, reported $591,000 in donations last month, just about doubling the cash on hand in that account to more than $1.2 million. Most the newly contributed money came from a May 24 soirée at the Coconut Grove home of personal injury attorney Mike Eidson, held the night Suarez made his campaign official.
The massive haul all but guarantees Suarez will surpass the fundraising record set when former Mayor Manny Diaz raised $1.44 million in 2005. Of course, Suarez had a head start: About half the money already in the account rolled over from Suarez’s aborted 2013 mayoral campaign and a 2015 commission re-election campaign that ended when he drew no opposition.
The largest contributions last month, at $25,000, came from companies affiliated with developer Moishe Mana, real estate investor Mitchell Newman, and from philanthropist Daniel Lewis. Mana is currently pursuing special zoning approvals from the City Commission for a massive Wynwood complex, and Newman’s RNG Overtown holds a group of undeveloped properties briefly considered by soccer star David Beckham as the site for his Miami stadium.
Other notable contributors in May included SkyRise Miami developer Jeff Berkowitz at $12,500, and Astor Development, the owner of a trolley garage the city may try to purchase, which contributed $10,000. But most of the checks cut for his campaign were of the $1,000 and $500 variety and down, which Suarez attributed to the attention he has paid to all the city’s interests, including residents and activists.
“I don’t think you have to be a candidate that fits only into one silo,” he said. “The qualities that make me a strong fundraiser are the same qualities that make me a good elected official.”
But Suarez wasn’t the one doing most of the soliciting last month. Eidson, firm president of Colson Hicks Eidson, said he teamed up with professional fundraiser Brian Goldmeier to promote the event, during which more than 100 people gathered in his upstairs living room overlooking the bay in a sort of get-to-know-you session with the candidate.
“Brian and I met at my office and other places, two, three, four days a week, constantly going back and forth and introducing Francis to people,” said Eidson, who contributed $12,500 and reported $2,200 in expenses for the event. “It wasn’t just calling up people to say ‘Would you like to make a contribution?’ It was ‘Would you like to meet him? Talk to him?’ We think he’s going to make a very good leader for our community.”
Suarez, who disclosed his donations to the Miami Herald before submitting them to the state, said contributors know they’re not currying favor by giving to his campaign.
“I’m a straight shooter, and people know I’m fair to both sides,” he said. Contributors “shouldn’t want or expect an outcome. They should want transparency and fairness. I call it like I see it.”
So far, Suarez has only raised funds in his political committee, which can accept donations of unlimited size but is restricted in how it spends its funds. Suarez said he now plans to focus more on smaller hard campaign donations from residents and activists. He can probably afford to take his foot off the gas. Right now, the only other official mayoral candidate, Robert Ingram Burke, has yet to report a single contribution in his campaign account.