Sophia Lacayo leads Miami-Dade Commission fundraising in April as potential lawsuit looms
Sophia Lacayo kicks off her campaign with a major self-funding boost. Image via Facebook.

Sophia Lacayo
The lawsuit stems from election-related perjury charges to which Lacayo pleaded guilty in 2020.

Former Sweetwater Commissioner Sophia Lacayo raised nearly $117,000 in April toward her bid to take the District 12 seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission later this year. As was the case in prior months, much of that came from her own bank account, which could be further depleted if Sweetwater follows through on a potential lawsuit its Mayor hinted at this month.

About 200 people and more than 100 businesses also donated to Lacayo’s campaign in April. The overwhelming majority of the checks she received were for just $25.

But the majority of her gains were self-given. Lacayo, who runs a tax services business in private life, poured nearly $104,000 into her campaign account last month.

To date, she’s given her campaign about $390,000, which accounts for 93% of the funds she’s raised since filing for the race in February.

She’s not just bulking up her campaign coffers for show, either. According to her campaign reporting with the Miami-Dade Elections Department, Lacayo spent more than $115,000 in April.

Of that, $90,000 went toward advertising and another $20,000 covered community event costs. She paid more than $7,000 to campaign staffers. She spent the remainder on upkeep, including a campaign phone, postage and banking fees.

But she may soon have fewer personal funds from which to draw, if the city of Sweetwater gets its way.

Lacayo unseated incumbent Sweetwater Commissioner Manuel Duasso in 2019. She resigned and pleaded guilty to perjury charges the following year for falsely claiming that she lived in the city during her campaign.

Her sentence: a year of probation, a $3,750 fee to cover investigative costs, enrollment in an ethics course and a one-year ban from running for office.

This month, Sweetwater Mayor Orlando Lopez said she still owes the city recompense for the $69,000 in salary and benefits she received during her short stint on the Commission. If she fails to do so, he said, the city will “seek alternative measures in the next couple of months.”

So far, Lacayo has maintained that the payment she received from the city “was all donated to the residents” and, as such, she owes nothing more.

Her opponent in the Miami-Dade Commission race is founding and current Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez, who added a comparatively modest $61,000 to his campaign war chest in April through a blend of corporate donations that relied heavily on the real estate sector.

As of April 30, he held $430,000 between his campaign account and Committee for Responsibility in Government, the political committee he’s maintained since 2010.

Four people donated to Bermudez’s campaign last month. Personal checks ranged from $25 to $1,000.

His largest donation was $7,500 from several companies owned by CPF Investment Group, a real estate development company whose holdings include AVE Aviation and Commerce Center near Opa-locka Executive Airport.

Bermudez received donations from two companies amounting to $5,000 apiece. One came from CDR Maguire, a multifaceted company headquartered in the county’s unincorporated Kendall neighborhood that led state-funded COVID-19 testing during the height of the pandemic.

The other came through companies owned by the Munilla family, whose business underwent restructuring and rebranding after 2018 the bridge collapse by Florida International University that killed six people.

He accepted $2,500 contributions from Fisher Island property manager FIH LLC, construction materials conglomerate CEMEX, Opa-locka-based Lanzo Construction, Cottage Cove Apartments in Miami and New York-based Outfront Media, an outdoor advertisement business.

Bermudez spent close to $156,000 in April, almost all of it on advertising.

He paid about $109,000 to The G Media Group, a Doral-based advertising, media buying and strategy company. Another $41,000 went to Miami-headquartered Influence Communications.

He and Lacayo are running to succeed Jose “Pepe” Diaz, a former Mayor of Sweetwater now serving as Chair of the 13-member County Commission. Diaz must leave office this year due to term limits Miami-Dade voters approved in 2012.

In March, Diaz confirmed with Florida Politics that upon leaving office, he plans to again seek the Sweetwater mayoralty.

“If Sweetwater accepts me back, I would love to be their Mayor again,” he said.

District 12 covers parts of west Miami-Dade, including Doral and the municipalities of Hialeah, Hialeah Gardens, Medley, Sweetwater, Virginia Gardens and a large portion of the county’s unincorporated area.

Candidates faced a May 10 deadline to report all campaign finance activity through the end of April.

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] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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