Philippe Bien-Aime charges to front of six-way fundraising race for Miami-Dade Commission
Image via Twitter.

Philippe Bien-Aime
He leapt to the head of the pack after his best single month of fundraising this cycle.

A crowded race to decide who will replace Miami-Dade Commissioner Jean Monestime has a new fundraising frontrunner: North Miami Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime, whose donations haul last month catapulted him to the head of the pack.

As of Feb. 28, Bien-Aime had nearly $214,000 between his campaign account and political committee, Progressive Advocates for Change. About $73,500 of that came in February, his best single month of fundraising this cycle.

He now leads five other candidates in the contest — Wallace Aristide, Marleine Bastien, Monique Barley-Mayo, William Clark and Josaphat “Joe” Celestin — whose campaign finance holdings vary almost as much as their professional and political backgrounds.

The preponderance of Bien-Aime’s February gains came from real estate businesses. Israeli investor Yoram Izhak, owner and CEO of IMC Equity Group, donated $20,000 through 10 businesses, nine of them in the real estate sector.

Aventura-based Oletta Partners gave $10,000. Square Park 2174 LLC, 14340 Biscayne Blvd. LLC and BH 3 Oceans LLC each donated $5,000.

SBJ Investments contributed $3,000. 1175 Office Building Corporation, which the Florida Division of Corporations shows as being owned by 93-year-old Miami real estate mogul Stanley Tate, who created the Florida Prepaid College Tuition Program, gave $2,500.

Other noteworthy February donations to Bien-Aime, a real estate agent and tax preparer in private life, included $5,000 from Paradise Funeral Chapel (which also gave him $5,000 in January) and $2,000 from Providence Community Center.

Bien-Aime spent just $1,000 last month, all of it on a donation to the Global Innovative Foundation, a South Florida nonprofit focused on empowering survivors and victims of human trafficking, domestic violence and gun violence.

He and North Miami were the target of a pair of lawsuits a former staffer filed in 2018 and 2019 alleging sexual assault, battery, false imprisonment, harassment and gender discrimination, among other things.

North Miami settled both cases out of court, according to the Biscayne Times. Bien-Aime, a North Miami Council member and Vice Mayor at the time of the alleged incidents, has consistently maintained his innocence of the accusations. He was elected Mayor in May 2019 and won re-election with nearly 64% of the vote two years later.

With more than $161,000 in her war chest by the end of February — nearly $12,000 of which she raised last month — Bastien fell to second place after months of leading the pack in the race for District 2.

Most of her gains in February came through grassroots contribution. Eighteen people donated, with some checks as low as $50.

Bastien, the founder and director of the Family Action Network Movement, a low-income community advocacy organization, accepted two $1,000 donations from a pair of real estate companies.

Other donations included $1,000 from Primary Medical Care Center for Seniors, $500 from Pinel Medical Center, $500 from professional services and accounting company Trimerge Consulting and $200 from Inteam Financial Services.

Bastien spent more than $7,500 in February, the most of any District 2 candidate. Of that, $3,000 went to Miami-based Sinal Consulting Group and $2,000 was a “rent” payment to 2911 Prosper Properties.

She also paid $1,000 apiece to Miramar consultant Anthony Boneamy and Justin Porter of Pembroke Pines-based Primetime Strategies.

Aristide, a former principal at Miami Northwestern High, is nipping at Bastien’s heels after his greatest month of fundraising by far.

In just 28 days, the longtime educator stacked $64,500 between his campaign proper and political committee, Miami Dade District 2 United, bringing his total holdings to about $143,000.

His largest donations were three $10,000 checks. One came from A Bolder Florida, a political committee run by Republican Rep. Anthony Rodriguez, who is running to succeed Javier Souto on the Miami-Dade Commission. Another was from New Leadership Florida, a political committee whose chair, Christian Ulvert, is a veteran Democratic consultant with a plethora of clients at all levels of government.

Holding company Florida East Coast Industries gave the third big check, topping a wealth of donations from real estate and construction businesses.

Construction company Downrite Engineering Corp. gave Aristide $5,000. So did OPG UPH B LLC.

Related Realty, a subsidiary of billionaire developer Jorge Pérez’s Related Group, donated $1,000, as did four other linked companies.

Stephen Ross, a fellow billionaire real estate developer who owns the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium, gave $5,000 through a limited liability company called South Florida Stadium.

Ross last month scored a state-approved allowance for tax-free tickets for a Formula One Grand Prix event to be held later this year at Hard Rock Stadium. Residents from the surrounding city of Miami Gardens opposed the event being held at the stadium, complaining it would bring noise, pollution and traffic disruptions. The Miami-Dade Commission nonetheless approved the stadium as host in 2020.

Aristide spent almost $6,000 in February. He paid $2,000 to Ulvert’s Edge Communications and $1,000 to North Miami CPA Aland Pierre-Canel — who is the treasurer of Bien-Aime’s political committee.

The remainder went to campaign costs, including nearly $1,200 for petitions and $500 for a “meeting” at Westview Baptist Church.

Holding onto fourth place, Clark raised $720 and spent just over $1,300 last month to bring his campaign balance to about $53,000.

Twelve people gave the retired firefighter and paramedic donations of between $20 and $150. He received no corporate contributions.

His expenditures were primarily for campaign costs, with less than $100 going toward banking and website upkeep fees.

Clark, who worked as a teacher in Miami-Dade Public Schools before becoming a county firefighter, spent more than $950 on campaign postcards and envelopes. Another $238 covered food and meeting costs.

He told The Miami Times in August he doesn’t consider Bastien and Aristide enemies, adding: “If they win, I will support them 1000%.”

Celestin, a former North Miami Mayor, hasn’t raised anything since May 2021. He’s reported zero spending since December.

As of Feb. 28, he had about $5,700 in his campaign account.

Pulling up the rear is Barley-Mayo, a past Miami-Dade mayoral candidate who if elected would join her cousin, Keon Hardemon, on the county dais.

Barley-Mayo has neither raised nor spent a cent since entering the race in July. And though she hasn’t filed a campaign finance activity report since September, the county elections website still lists her as active.

District 2 spans portions of Miami, North Miami, North Miami Beach, Opa-locka, Hialeah and the unincorporated neighborhoods of Liberty City, North Dade Central and Biscayne Gardens.

Candidates faced a March 10 deadline to report all campaign finance activities.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected]FloridaPolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.



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