Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez tapped large donors to bring in more than $200,000 last month for his reelection effort.
The donations to a Gimenez political committee brings his first-quarter tally to just shy of $880,000, a record pace for an election whose primary is still 17 months away. And while there was early talk within the Gimenez camp of raising $1 million in the first quarter, the March report clearly demonstrates the financial advantage the incumbent brings to the 2016 mayoral race.
Gimenez's committee, Miami-Dade Residents First, raised more in one day ($66,500 on March 30) than challenger Raquel Regalado, a school board member, posted for all of March ($48,310). Of the 53 checks Miami-Dade Residents First received in March, 21 were for at least $5,000.
With the help of professional fund-raiser Brian Goldmeier, whose firm is so far earning $3,000 a week, Miami-Dade Residents First has collected $879,952 since the mayor began personally soliciting donors in mid-January, according to committee reports. In March, the committee brought in $208,000.
Gimenez, in office since 2011, is running for his second full four-year term. He faces his first test in August 2016, a primary that would be the final vote if it remains a two-candidate race. Should any candidate not top 50 percent in the primary, the top two vote-getters head for a November run-off on Election Day. (In a two-person primary, the winner will have at least 50 percent of the vote.)
The Gimenez camp is touting its candidate's fund-raising success as evidence of the uphill task ahead of Regalado as she tries to unseat a popular incumbent. Regalado, the daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, is highlighting the money gap as proof of her grass-roots support, since she collected a string of $5 checks from residents after jumping into the race while Gimenez is soliciting companies doing business with the county.
For March, donations to Miami-Dade Residents First topped out at $15,000 – the informal cap Gimenez’s finance team said they set for donors when fund-raising began in January. Three donors gave $15,000 in March, either with a single check or with smaller checks through related corporate entities, according to a Naked Politics review of the committee’s report.
Of the top three, two have lobbyists registered with Miami-Dade: developer Chateau Group and Sunshine Gasoline Distributors, the company behind a large fuel operation in the county.
The third $15,000 donor in March was a company linked to Miami's Capo family, which owns the Bimini resort where Genting operates a casino. The company, RJH Investments, does not employ county lobbyists, according to Miami-Dade records. Genting, a Malaysian conglomerate, has multiple lobbyists registered in Miami-Dade, where it hopes to build a waterfront Miami casino.