Republican staffer turned business owner and political candidate Juan Carlos Porras stacked more than $31,000 in his first month of fundraising for the open seat representing House District 119. Most of it came from the legal, lobbying and government relations sector.
That opening salvo places Porras third in a five-way Republicans-only (so far) fundraising contest for HD 119. He still trails far behind front-running hotelier Ricky Tsay and lawyer Robert Gonzalez, who holds second place in total money accumulated.
Of the 35 people who donated directly to Porras in April, at least half listed “government relations” as their profession. Personal checks ranged from $50 to $1,000.
Some noteworthy individual contributors: lobbyist Ron Book, who donated $2,000 through a personal check and a matching contribution from his eponymous business; Ignacio Zuleta, the founder of for-profit charter school management company Academia, who also gave $2,000 by doing much the same; and St. Thomas University President David Armstrong, who chipped in $500.
Porras gave his campaign $2,000 in April, including a $1,000 self-loan and another $2,000 from Global Eagle Food Corp. and Servicargo Miami Inc., a pair of Miami companies of which he is president, according to the Florida Division of Corporations.
Santiago Porras, who is listed as the CEO of both companies and shares an address with the candidate on his campaign fundraising ledger, contributed $1,000.
Porras, who announced his HD 119 candidacy on March 31, is a self-described lifelong Republican and “principled conservative” whose list of prior bosses includes U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and state Reps. Juan Fernandez-Barquin, Alex Rizo and Spencer Roach.
The connections he made while under their employ appear to be paying off now. Last month, his campaign accepted maxed-out $1,000 donations from law and lobbying firms Miranda Advocacy, Capitol Partners, GrayRobinson, Continental Strategy and Touby Chait & Sicking.
Miami-based government relations firm Pereira Reyes Consulting gave $1,000, as did its president, Manny Reyes.
Fort Lauderdale-based SKB Consulting donated $500.
Porras spent just $644 last month. Most of that went toward covering fundraising fees. He spent $146 on a fundraiser at Beat Culture Brewery in Miami and another $70 on a Miami-Dade Elections Department fee.
Gonzalez, who burst out of the gate with a more than $107,000 first-month haul in March, had a comparatively tepid round of fundraising last month, when his campaign account pulled in about $11,500.
His political committee, America First Florida First, opened April 12 and has yet to report any fundraising.
As of April 30, he had about $110,000 left to spend, including a $17,000 self-loan.
About 20 people donated to Gonzalez’s campaign last month with checks of between $1 and $500. Most were for at least $100.
He enjoyed decent support from established GOP politicians, including Cape Coral Rep. Mike Giallombardo, Dade City Rep. Randy Maggard and Miami-Dade County Public School Board member Christi Fraga, who is running to be the next Mayor of Doral. Each gave $1,000 through their respective political committees.
Gonzalez’s legal practice has a personal injury focus, and he tapped a few related contacts for donations last month. He received $1,000 from Silverman Chiropractic & Rehabilitation and Affiliated Healthcare Centers, which is owned and operated by chiropractor Barry Burak.
Doral Medical Center gave $500.
Most of the nearly $400 Gonzalez spent in April covered shipping costs and a P.O. box rental.
While Tsay still leads the race in terms of fundraising, it appears he took last month off. He added just $25 in April.
Still, he had about $183,000 between his campaign account and political committee, Friends of Ricky Tsay, as of April 30.
Tsay (pronounced “sigh”) works in his family’s real estate and hotel business, Tsay International, which owns and operates the International Inn on Miami Beach and the Parkway Inn in Miami.
He has poured $150,000 of his own money into the race since filing to run in December, not counting donations from family members and the family business. A spokesman for the campaign told Florida Politics in January that Tsay has committed to financing his campaign with up to $500,000.
Tsay’s spending in April was his second-highest since he began campaigning. He spent more than $14,000.
Nearly $8,000 covered campaign materials — campaign costs, postcards and advertising. He spent another $2,000 on an office rental, utility fee and accounting. The remainder went to consulting fees.
Candidate Jose Soto raised $800 in April through six donations of between $50 and $500. His campaign has amassed $2,350 since he filed to run in March.
It’s difficult to say how much of that he has remaining; the Florida Division of Elections has notified him multiple times since April 12 regarding incomplete expense filings. In a final notice on May 11, he was told he could face fines of up to $1,000 per violation until the issue is rectified.
The HD 119 race gained a new entrant May 2, when Miami-Dade Area 11 Community Council Vice-Chair Ashley Alvarez entered the race.
Alvarez’s LinkedIn page lists political work dating back to September 2013. Her past bosses include Rubio, U.S. Rep. Carlos Giménez (when he was Miami-Dade Mayor), former Florida Supreme Court Justice Robert Luck, Sen. Manny Díaz Jr., U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar and the Republican Party of Florida.
Alvarez is also a committeewoman with the Miami-Dade GOP, which is undergoing leadership upheaval.
Post-redistricting, HD 119 covers a strip of unincorporated west Miami-Dade County encompassing West Kendall, Country Walk and The Crossings.
Candidates faced a May 10 deadline to report all campaign finance activity through the end of April.