May 30, 2016

Poll: Carlos Gimenez leads Miami-Dade mayor's race but needs to boost Democratic support

@PatriciaMazzei

Carlos Gimenez holds an 18-percentage-point lead in his re-election bid as Miami-Dade County mayor, according to a new public-opinion poll, but needs to bolster support among traditional Democratic voters to win the non-partisan race outright.

The Republican mayor is ahead of his two rivals who have raised any campaign cash worth noting, found the survey conducted by Associated Industries of Florida, a Tallahassee-based business organization with a premier polling operation.

Gimenez drew 40 percent support in the poll, followed by 22 percent for Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado and 4 percent for political newcomer Alfred Santamaría. The mayor would need 50 percent-plus-1 in the Aug. 30 election to avoid a November run-off.

Gimenez would have to draw support among Democrats, particularly among African Americans, where his support is weakest. While 54 percent of all voters approve of Gimenez's handling of the job, that number falls to 40 percent among African Americans.

"While only slightly underwater there, his more fragile level of support amongst African Americans is a theme that continued throughout this data set," Ryan Tyson, AIF's director of political operations, wrote in a memo to members. He said several members had asked for a survey of the Miami-Dade race.

Continue reading "Poll: Carlos Gimenez leads Miami-Dade mayor's race but needs to boost Democratic support" »

May 16, 2016

Miami-Dade's GOP mayor won't make presidential endorsement

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@PatriciaMazzei

Miami-Dade County’s highest-ranking Republican in office, Mayor Carlos Gimenez, said Monday he’s staying out of the presidential race and won’t publicly endorse a candidate.

“I’m supporting Carlos Gimenez for Miami-Dade mayor,” he said on the Spanish-language Univision network’s Radio Mambí, a local station.

Host Bernadette Pardo reminded Gimenez that there will also be other races on the ballot. But the mayor, who has golfed with presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, still refused to pick a side.

“I’m not going to make a statement about anything,” he said. “I’m the mayor of Miami-Dade County. I’m focused on being the mayor of Miami-Dade County.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

January 28, 2016

Miami-Dade mayor to Chris Matthews: Your 'Cubans' comment showed 'bigotry'

Gimenez letter@PatriciaMazzei

Note to Chris Matthews: When you dismiss two Republican presidential candidates as "Cubans," the largest Cuban-American community in the country might take offense. Starting with its mayor.

Carlos Gimenez, the Cuban-born Republican mayor of Miami-Dade County, wrote the MSNBC anchor Thursday to object to Matthews' comment earlier this week that Thursday night's GOP primary debate would be boring without Donald Trump.

"Who's going to watch a debate between the two Cuban guys?" Matthews said on his Hardball show Tuesday night.

He was referring to Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Neither is Gimenez's candidate -- he's backing Jeb Bush -- but the mayor nevertheless told Matthews he was "deeply offended."

"Your comments displayed bigotry and ignorance about nationality and what it means to be an American in the 21st century," Gimenez wrote. "Politics aside, Senators Cruz and Rubio are both highly qualified Presidential candidates. They are Americans. Period. And your questioning of their heritage (American, Hispanic or otherwise) is unbecoming and frankly unacceptable in this day and age -- especially of someone in your position."

Gimenez, who's running for reelection this fall, didn't ask Matthews to respond. Matthews apologized on air Thursday. ("I'm sorry I said it. I mean it," he said.)

"I don't expect you to retract your commentary or apologize," Gimenez concluded, "but I hope that my words have at least made you reconsider your antiquated and appalling remarks."

This post has been updated to note Matthews' apology.

November 11, 2015

Miami-Dade mayor laps rivals in debut campaign fundraising report

@doug_hanks 

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez raised more than $1.2 million for his reelection campaign last month, a muscular debut for a candidacy that only became official on Oct. 1.

Now in his fifth year as the county’s chief executive, Gimenez drew on a wide range of donors with business before the county to post an October fundraising haul that was more than both his rivals have raised all year. School-board member Raquel Regalado joined the race in March and has collected about $512,000 in 2015. County Commissioner Xavier Suarez raised $435,700 while publicly weighing a challenge to Gimenez throughout much of the year.

Suarez posted disappointing results from a long-awaited October fundraiser that he said would be a test of his ability to take on Gimenez, who is running for his second full term as mayor of Florida’s largest county. Suarez had hoped to raise $400,000 from a $200-a-plate banquet on Oct. 10, but the latest report shows he took in far less than that through the end of October.

“It certainly was enough to make me feel good about a political event,” Suarez, a former Miami mayor, said of the banquet. But the overall financial results fell short of the “high end of what I was looking at,” he said. “It's a tough road to hoe for a mayoral campaign, that's for sure.”

Monthly campaign reports offer a regular scorecard on how well candidates are courting donors, and October brought a decisive win for Gimenez. Though he has raised money all year for his political committee, October was his first official month as a candidate.

Gimenez raised just over $1,202,000 in October, compared to $94,250 for Suarez and $44,275 for Regalado. Since Suarez had to pay for the banquet, he posted about $78,000 in expenses for the month. In the end, Gimenez cleared about $1.17 million for the month, compared to $24,000 for Regalado and $16,500 for Suarez.

More here

October 27, 2015

Union leader helping raise money for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez

@doug_hanks

The head of a local AFSCME union is on the host committee for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez's first mega-fundraiser for his reelection campaign. 

Andy Madtes, who runs one of three local shops for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, is one of 61 committee members listed on the flyer touting Thursday's reception at the Biltmore in Coral Gables.

Gimenez filed his reelection papers Oct. 1, giving him a full 31 days to rack up a large debut fund-raising haul as he fends of a challenge by school board member Raquel Regalado. County Commissioner Xavier Suarez also is considering a run, and has cited fund-raising a top consideration for whether he takes on Gimenez. 

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Continue reading "Union leader helping raise money for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez" »

October 07, 2015

Miami-Dade mayor names new elections supervisor

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami-Dade County has a new elections supervisor.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office said Wednesday the mayor has appointed Christina White to replace Penelope Townsley, who is retiring. White is Townsley’s chief deputy and, as a veteran employee, she has frequently served as the face of the elections department.

“I am confident that Ms. White has the experience and expertise needed to successfully lead the Election Department as we enter into the 2016 Presidential Election year,” Gimenez wrote in a memo to county commissioners informing them of her designation.

Miami-Dade is the only one of Florida’s 67 counties that does not have an elected supervisor. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who oversees elections, had asked Gimenez for a clear succession plan ahead of Townsley’s May 1, 2016, mandatory retirement. White won’t take over until that date, though she will be running day-to-day operations until then, Gimenez’s memo said.

White’s county career began in 2002 as a spokeswoman for what was then the Department of Environmental Resources. She has worked in the elections department since 2006, rising from senior executive assistant to the elections supervisor to chief deputy in 2013.

Townsley was thrown into the spotlight during the 2012 presidential election, which was plagued with voter lines so long that a few people cast ballots after President Barack Obama had already started delivering his victory speech.

The department has since invested in new elections equipment and reorganized its precincts, and Gimenez has become something of a poster child for the Obama administration of a Republican willing to undertake voter reforms.

This post has been updated. 

October 01, 2015

Carlos Gimenez files reelection papers for Miami-Dade mayoral race

@doug_hanks

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez's fund-raiser broke the news Thursday morning that Gimenez had filed his reelection papers for the 2016 mayoral race.

“It's Official! Mayor Gimenez wanted me to make sure you were one of the first to know that 10 minutes ago, he filed his paper work to run for re-election,” Gimenez’s professional fundraiser, Brian Goldmeier, wrote in an email to Gimenez donors and supporters shortly after 9:30 a.m.

“With that said, we are launching our campaign fundraising efforts today! Remember, we are required to file campaign reports monthly now, so we need to make sure we have a great showing for our first report in October. Please mark your calendar! We will have our Fundraising Kickoff event on Thursday, October 29th from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at the Biltmore Hotel."

A spokesman for Gimenez's campaign said it was Goldmeier himself who filed the reelection papers on Gimenez's behalf sometime Thursday morning. 

Gimenez has already said he will seek another four-year term, and Thursday's planned filing was not a secret among local media. By filing his papers, Gimenez officially launches a showdown that so far is between him and Raquel Regalado, a two-term school-board member and daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado.

When this post first went live a little before 10:30 a.m., Gimenez's reelection papers had not been posted to the website of the county Elections Department. 

Read the story here.

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January 09, 2015

New Miami-Dade commission chairman hires top mayoral critic as policy adviser

@PatriciaMazzei

In one of his first moves as chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission, Jean Monestime plans to hire a top critic of Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Terry Murphy, a former aide to ex-Commissioner Natacha Seijas, would serve as policy adviser to the office of the chair, according to a Jan. 7 county intent-to-hire memo. Murphy would start Jan. 19, with an annual salary of $101,000, the memo says.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to serve the Chair, and am grateful for the opportunity," Murphy said in a text message Friday afternoon while he was in meetings.

Monestime's chief of staff, Gerard Philippeaux, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But Murphy's hiring raised eyebrows around County Hall, where insiders wondered whether Monestime, a Democrat, was sending the Republican Gimenez a message. Murphy, who has a doctorate in public affairs and is an adjunct professor at Florida International University, has been working as a government-relations consultant to county labor unions, who have locked heads repeatedly with Gimenez over contracts and employee benefits. 

However, Gimenez's communications director, Mike Hernández, congratulated Murphy in a statement to the Miami Herald and made no mention of those disagreements.

"We look forward to working with Mr. Murphy and the entire commission staff," Hernández said.

January 06, 2015

Miami-Dade mayor attends Gov. Rick Scott's inauguration

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Gov. Rick Scott invited Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez to his inauguration in Tallahassee on Tuesday, and Gimenez went -- by land.

Gimenez and his chief of staff, Alex Ferro, carpooled in one vehicle Monday, according to Mike Hernández, Gimenez's spokesman.

Google Maps lists the drive from County Hall to the Governor's Mansion at 478 miles -- 6 hours and 43 minutes shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday, though anyone who's driven between the two cities knows the drive can be longer than that if there's bad traffic (here's looking at you, Greater Orlando area).

The trip could cost the mayor's office travel budget about $1,800, Hernández said, taking into account the cost of two hotel rooms for one night and a $556.71 mileage reimbursement. (He later said the total would be actually be closer to $1,000.)

But Gimenez might have some relationship-building to do. He toyed with leaving the Republican Party a few days before the Republican Scott was reelected -- an idea that made Scott's campaign less than happy, given that it highlighted the fact that Gimenez had not publicly campaigned with the governor.

Gimenez did fundraise for Scott, though, and said he planned to vote for him.

December 22, 2014

Miami-Dade police union wants to subpoena mayor, county commission chairwoman in labor dispute

@PatriciaMazzei

During a 12-hour Miami-Dade County Commission hearing a year ago, Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa spoke for about five minutes, on the dais but away from the microphones.

That conversation has become a focal point in a legal dispute between the county and its police union, which contends the two elected officials broke the law when they spoke privately during a public meeting.

A hearing officer for Florida's labor appeals board ruled last week that the Dade County Police Benevolent Association could subpoena Sosa and Gimenez to compel them to disclose what they talked about. The Dec. 5, 2013, hearing ended with commissioners voting to eliminate an unpopular worker healthcare contribution.

In her Dec. 18 orderSuzanne M. Choppin of the state's Public Employees Relations Commission, opined that the conversation is relevant to the PBA's case -- and that only the politicians who took part are in a position to disclose what was said.

"It is evident that, in this unusual case in which it is a private off-the-record- conversation between two high-ranking government officials that is at issue, the best and only reliable evidence on that crucial issue is the testimony of the participants in that conversation," Choppin wrote.

The county had argued in an earlier filing that the conversation was irrelevant to the union's complaint because it took place hours after the PBA was addressing the county commission -- and because Sosa ended up voting to eliminate the healthcare concession, as the union wanted.

Miami-Dade also argued the PBA should not be allowed to subpoena elected officials without first exhausting every other option. For example, the union could have compelled the mayor's then-deputy chief of staff, Alex Ferro, who was sitting next to him during the conversation with Sosa, to testify.

"Mr. Ferro is a lower ranking official who appears on the video as a person who may have knowledge of the conversation at issue," Candela wrote Dec. 16. "Notwithstanding, the PBA did not take even the most basic of steps to determine whether Ferro had knowledge of the alleged conversation."

Choppin dismissed that argument, saying Ferro was too far away from Gimenez -- and apparently not paying attention to the mayor's discussion with Sosa -- to be a likely source of accurate information.

The union is pursuing an unfair labor practice complaint against the county over its handling of the collective-bargaining impasse that resulted in last year's vote. 

Miami-Dade plans to appeal last week's order, Assistant County Attorney William Candela said Monday.