The invitation to an event backing Miami-Dade mayoral challenger Raquel Regalado hinted at her first star-studded endorsement: a hotel stay donated by Gloria Estefan. But the singer's office said the gift wasn't meant to help a candidate.
The Animal Power Party, a spin-off of the Pets Trust political group, is hosting an Oct. 14 event for Regalado, the two-term school board member who is challenging incumbent Carlos Gimenez. Animal Power has been running ads for Regalado since the primary, and the effort is continuing into the general election.
"Please join us on Oct. 14, 2016 as we work to raise funds to help Raquel Regalado become the next mayor of Miami-Dade County," the invitation for evening event at a furniture galley in the Falls shopping center.
The invitation suggests guests can participate in an auction "featuring items donated by Gloria Estefan." It offers a stay for an unspecified duration at Costa D'Este, an Estefan hotel in Vero Beach (which the invitation mistakenly identifies as Estefan's home.) The invitation doesn't actually mention the auction, but Animal Power co-founder Michael Rosenberg confirmed that is what's planned.
In a statement, Estefan's office said the singer gave the donation to support animal-rights causes in general, and did not intend to have the gift help raise money for a candidate. "The auction item was donated to support Pets Trust and not as any political fundraiser," the statement read.
County politics are particularly sensitive for Estefan and her husband, Emilio. The celebrity couple's restaurant arm in 2015 won a Miami International Airport contract from the Gimenez administration that later proved controversial.
Rita Schwartz, also a co-founder of the Animal Power Party, said the donation did not come from Estefan directly, but from a local music professor who helped found the Estefans' famous band, later called the Miami Sound Machine, in the 1970s. Raul Murciano Jr., an associate dean at the University of Miami's Frost Music School, secured the gift, Schwartz said.
"I don't even know if Gloria is aware of where the donation is going," Schwartz said.
Murciano confirmed that speculation, saying the donation was to support the Pets Trust's original cause of more tax funding for animal sterilization in Miami-Dade. "The intent was specifically for the pets initiative," he said. "It's not a political endorsement of a candidate. When I spoke to Gloria's people on this, i did not make any kind of mention of this being political or anything with Regalado."