Miami Lakes Councilman Ceasar Mestre, who collected nearly $60,000 in campaign contributions from dozens of Hialeah real-estate interests and other outsiders, easily won a second term Tuesday to the Miami Lakes Council.
Mestre, a lawyer who was first elected to the council in 2010, bested Xiomara Pazos for the Seat 6 position. His campaign contributions were 15 times that of his little-known opponent.
“I want to thank everyone, but a special thanks to the Miami Lakes team,” said Mestre from his victory party at Trattoria Pampered Chef in Miami Lakes. He then invited the council, who had backed him in his bid, to stand with him as he addressed a small crowd. “These guys showed me what a team really is about.”
Mestre’s campaign drew controversy because of the large sums of money he collected and because some of his contributors have been linked to the development of 154 acres of land east of I-75 in Miami Lakes. Miami-based Lennar Corp. wants to build a residential and commercial project on the site. In the fall, Mestre and other town council members expressed support for the project.
Mestre collected more that $58,000 in campaign contributions, compared with Pazos’ $13,666, according to campaign finance reports. To move the project along, Lennar retained Mestre's friend and colleague, former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina, as well as real estate broker Wayne Rinehart, both contributors to Mestre's campaign.
Additionally, at least 10 companies owned by the Cayon family's Hialeah-based real estate enterprise contributed a total of $5,000 to Mestre, according to campaign finance reports.
After two-term mayor Michael Pizzi was indicted on bribery charges in August 2013, but before his acquittal at trial, Pizzi's longtime foe, Wayne Slaton, won a special election to replace him. Last November, the town council approved raising the general campaign contribution limit from $250 to $1,000 and also allowed corporations to make donations.
Meanwhile, Pizzi has sued Gov. Rick Scott to get his mayoral post back.
In addition to Mestre securing Seat 6, Councilman Tim Daubert (Seat 2) and Councilman Frank Mingo (Seat 4) were automatically re-elected as neither drew opponents. All three will serve four-year terms.
In addition to the Seat 6 race, Miami Lakes voters supported three questions on the ballot:
▪ A non-binding straw ballot measure that allows the town to continue to pursue an independent, townwide ZIP code from the U.S. Postal Service.
▪ A charter amendment that asked whether each member of the Town Council, including the mayor, should have an equal number of appointments to town committees, and that appointments to committees should be subject to the council’s approval.
▪ A charter amendment that asked whether voters would like to amend the town's charter to provide that annexation, consolidation or changes to the town's boundaries would not be submitted by the town to the county, until voters approved such changes.
A swearing-in ceremony for the candidates will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday at Town Hall, 6601 Main St.