Andrew Vargas added another $18,500 to his campaign account last month, giving him a commanding lead over Republican primary rival Jose Pazos in the special election for House District 114.
Seven weeks out from the Feb. 20 special primary election, Vargas has raised a total of $154,823 for his campaign while Pazos has a to date total of $16,750 after tacking on $3,050 between Nov. 28 and Dec. 28.
In all, Vargas had $56,947 in his campaign account at the end of the reporting period, while Pazos had about $12,750.
Making Vargas’ donor roll over the holidays were lobbying firms Greenberg Traurig and Becker & Poliakoff as well three regional divisions of hospital company HCA, each of which chipped in $1,000. Another 11 contributions came in for the primary campaign maximum of $1,000, with a handful of $500 checks rounding out the month.
The funds were balanced out by nearly $100,000 worth of expenditures, though the largest of the bunch was a $50,000 check to Vargas to pay back the loan he used to kickstart his campaign in February.
Another $18,450 went to Miami-based Marin and Sons for direct mail campaigns and phone banking, while much of the rest went toward paying Vargas’ stable of campaign staffers.
Pazos’ money came in through 11 contributions with the three largest registering at $500 – one each from Castellanos at Coralway, property manager Julio Robaina and Suncoast Elevator Solutions.
Spending came in at $3,881, with $2,000 of that money heading to Realistic Ideas for canvassing and $1,781 going to the Florida Department of State to pay the qualifying fee to make the ballot.
The winner of the Vargas v. Pazos contest will be up against Democrat Javier Fernandez and no-party candidate Liz de las Cuevas in the May 1 special general election for the Miami-Dade seat.
A second Democrat, Albert Santana, had filed for the special election but failed to qualify, leaving Fernandez unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
Fernandez’ first report showed $78,510 in contributions and only $100 in spending, giving him the most cash on hand among the four candidates, while de las Cuevas raised $5,165 and spent all but $55 in her lone report since filing.
HD 114 was vacated in November by Democratic Rep. Daisy Baez, who stepped down after pleading guilty to perjury charges in a criminal case over her residency in the Coral Gables-based House district.
Vargas and Pazos had already filed to challenger her in 2018, but both quickly switched over to the special election when the seat became open.
HD 114 covers a strip of the Miami-Dade coast including Cutler Bay and Coral Gables, with a nook that extends northward and inland to cover parts of South Miami, West Miami and Coral Terrace.
The seat is a toss-up, with voter registrations fairly even between the two parties.
Baez won the seat in 2016 with 51 percent of the vote, and the previous cycle was nearly as close, with former Republican Rep. Erik Fresen winning with 52 percent of the vote to Baez’ 48 percent in 2014.