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For Miami-Dade commission challengers, Norman Braman's political groups provide financial boost

Newly released campaign finance reports show long-entrenched Miami-Dade commissioners in auto magnate Norman Braman’s crosshairs are facing unprecedented fundraising pressure, and County Mayor Carlos Gimenez enjoys an enormous financial edge over chief rival Joe Martinez for the August election.

The four incumbent commissioners up for reelection — Bruno Barreiro, Audrey Edmonson, Barbara Jordan and Dennis Moss — still enjoy large fundraising leads. But that money is being countered by Braman’s two political groups: an electioneering communications organization called Change for Miami-Dade Now, and a political action committee called Vote For a New Miami-Dade. The two fundraising tools created by the billionaire businessman so far have collected a combined $440,000.

Though the groups must follow different rules than campaigns — an ECO is not allowed to endorse a candidate, for example, but it can attack one — both groups can do something campaigns cannot: solicit unlimited donations.

“We’re trying to even the playing field,” said Braman, who hopes his spending will draw a larger turnout than typical for the traditionally slow August primary, and who has promised more ads are on the way. Braman believes the larger the turnout, the better the chance of unseating an incumbent. “We’re not throwing away money, what we’re trying to do is get people to come out and vote,” he said.

Braman also has donated $6,000 or so in individual, $500 contributions from himself and his companies to his slate of challengers: state Rep. Luis Garcia against Barreiro, Belafonte Tacolcy Center Chief Executive Alison Austin against Edmonson, Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson against Jordan, and Miami-Dade Farm Bureau President Alice Pena against Moss. More here.