Donald Trump has become fodder in the Miami-Dade County mayor's race, where a political committee backing chief challenger Raquel Regalado is attacking incumbent Carlos Gimenez by linking him to the Republican presidential nominee.
Gimenez is a Republican. So is Regalado. But neither supports Trump. And in blue, Hispanic Miami-Dade, tying a politician to Trump could be politically toxic.
A flier mailed by the pro-Regalado group shows a photograph of a baseball-cap-clad Gimenez walking next to Trump.
"Republicans Carlos Gimenez and Donald Trump must be stopped!" it says. "While Gimenez and Trump were golfing, they schemed a sweetheart deal to give away the county owned Crandon golf course to Trump."
Gimenez and Trump once golfed the county-owned Crandon Park course on Key Biscayne. The New York developer inquired about buying the property. Gimenez said no but suggested a management deal was possible. Trump briefly tried to take over golf course but, facing local political resistance, dropped the attempt before launching his presidential candidacy.
The other side of the flier shows a campaign-finance report record of Trump's $15,000 contribution, on Jan. 26, 2015, to the political committee backing Gimenez, Miami-Dade Residents First.
"Donald Trump knew to get what he wanted he had to 'pay to play' with Carlos Gimenez," the flier says. "According to Official Records Trump gave Carlos Gimenez a $15,000 check! And hired Carlos Gimenez Jr., to work in Miami-Dade County where his father is the Mayor to push Trump's sleazy deals."
Miami-Dade Residents First returned the check after Trump launched his campaign last June and said some Mexicans crossing the U.S. border are "rapists." The mayor's son, Carlos J. Gimenez, is a registered lobbyist in Doral for Trump National Doral golf resort.
Gimenez, who attended a Miami Zika-clinic tour Tuesday with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, told reporters at Borinquen Health Care Center that returning the check was "a really strong statement."
"I returned it as soon as he made some statements about Mexican Americans," he said of Trump. "I didn't think it was appropriate."
Gimenez's campaign manager, Jesse Manzano-Plaza, issued a statement to the Miami Herald in response to the Trump flier.
"Our opponent's campaign is dropping in the polls and lacks a platform, which is why she is resorting to these type of desperate and false attacks," he said. "What the community needs to know now is who are the parties funding this attack and why our opponent is afraid of disclosing where the money is coming from."
The political committee behind the mailer, Miami-Dade Partnership for Prosperity, supports Regalado's candidacy. She told the Herald in April she sends donors who don't want to make their contributions public to the committee, which is a political nonprofit that can keep its "dark money" secret.
Neither Regalado nor Roland Sanchez-Medina, the group's chairman, responded to requests for comment Tuesday.
Regalado has told the Herald she won't back Trump because of his hardline immigration stance.
"Donald Trump's position on DACA and the deportation of our DREAMers, which I have unconditionally supported for years, makes supporting him a non-starter," she said in a text message over the weekend.
--with Douglas Hanks