Ken Russell leads pre-Primary spending spree in CD 27

He also launched a virtual phone bank initiative this week on the social media platform, TikTok.

With the Primary Election fast approaching, former Democratic Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell dropped more than $325,000 in the last month toward his bid to unseat incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

That sum is more than half the combined spending he and five other candidates vying for CD 27 spent in July, according to their Federal Election Commission filings.

He also raised $102,000 since July 1, thanks to a wave of individual donors, including Alain Perez, CEO of modular and tent structure company EventStar, and lawyer Roland Sanchez-Medina, who Chairs the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The Miami Association of Firefighters was Russell’s sole organizational donor last month, giving $5,000 to double its prior contribution to his campaign.

Russell’s July spending went heavily to consulting firms for the handling of various campaign advertising and outreach efforts. He paid $57,000 for digital consulting, $24,000 for general media consulting and $20,000 for communications consulting.

Collectively, his largest consulting-related earmarks were for “field consulting.” Of $88,000 he set aside for such services, most went to Miami-based firm JG Strategies and Boca Raton-based Mi Vecino Strategies.

Another $24,000 went to financial consulting.

Russell also spent $50,000 on TV advertising, $30,000 on mailing expenses and about $3,000 on campaign paraphernalia like signage and apparel.

He made three contributions to local groups: $2,000 to the Key Biscayne Community Foundation, $500 to Hey Florida and $200 Believers of Authority Ministries, which is headquartered in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood roughly a seven-minute drive from City Hall.

Russell won election to the Miami City Commission in 2015 and served in public office through June this year, when he vacated his seat in accordance with Florida’s resign-to-run law.

This week, he launched a virtual phone bank initiative on the social media platform TikTok. He’s raised more than $1.8 million since filing to run for federal office in June 2021.

His closest opponent in the Democratic Primary, state Sen. Annette Taddeo, also spent big, throwing down $223,000 in just over a month’s time.

More than 38% of that went to campaign mailers and other printed advertising. Taddeo spent more than $6,000 on digital ads and $3,000 on video production. She also paid public survey firm SEA Polling about $23,500. In June, Taddeo’s campaign released results from an SEA poll showing her with a commanding lead over Russell in the Primary.

Taddeo raised nearly $204,000 in July thanks to scores of personal checks, including donations from Pinecrest Councilwoman Anna Hockhammer, former Broward County Mayor Dale Holness, former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson, former Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, and Janelle Perez, a Democratic candidate for Senate District 38.

She also scored $10,000 contributions from House Majority PAC, SEIU Cope and PAC to the Future, a political committee tied to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who also gave Taddeo another $2,000 through another PAC she operates.

Democrats Win Seats, a PAC run by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, gave $5,000.

Also running in the Primary is “100% grassroots” candidate Angel Montalvo, a self-described Democratic socialist.

July was not a particularly fruitful month for Montalvo, who reported raising just $455. Nor was it active; Montalvo told the FEC he spent only $18.

Montalvo has raised $27,000 this election cycle. He had less than $3,000 of that left as of Aug. 3.

Salazar, meanwhile, spent a little more than $95,000 to defend the seat she won in 2020. More than half went to various consulting services.

Of the $50,000 she paid to consulting firms and professionals, 74% went to finance and fundraising consulting, 10% went to compliance and shipping consulting, another 10% paid for political strategy consulting and 6% covered digital communications consulting.

Salazar also spent $9,000 on direct mail.

She was far more active on the fundraising side, amassing close to $202,000 in July through hundreds of personal checks and a passel or organization donations.

Micky Arison, Chair of Miami-based cruise company Carnival Corp., donated another $1,800 to Salazar’s campaign. He’s chipped in $5,800 this election cycle.

His wife, Madeleine, gave $3,000, increasing her total giving to $4,800.

Salazar also took $10,000 apiece from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and American Israeli Public Affairs Committee.

The National Multifamily Housing Council gave $5,000 doubling its prior donation. The National Association of Realtors did the same with a $2,000 check.

Salazar’s opponent in the Primary, Frank Polo, is a Donald Trump-inspired candidate who has repeatedly attacked her with charges that she is “Republican in name only” for sometimes voting with her Democratic colleagues in Congress.

Last month, he raised about $4,500 through checks from two donors. One was a Realtor Sean Regina, according to Polo’s filings, though a Google search for a person with that name in the real estate industry yielded no results.

Polo spent about $8,000, roughly half of which he attributed to database service costs. He also reported spending $2,000 on advertising and printing, plus another $1,800 to acquire a list of likely voters in the area.

Altogether, Polo raised about $27,000 since filing to run in January. His most recent report shows he has about $1,400 left.

CD 27 covers a large portion of Miami-Dade County, including the municipalities of Miami, Coral Gables, Cutler Bay, Key Biscayne, Palmetto Bay, Pinecrest, North Bay Village, South Miami, West Miami and the unincorporated neighborhoods of Coral Terrace, Fisher Island, Glenvar Heights, Kendall, Olympia Heights, Richmond Heights, Sunset, The Crossings, Three Lakes, Westchester and Westwood Lakes.

Analyses of the district, as redrawn by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration, show it is safer than before for Republicans but still the most closely divided congressional district in Florida.

It’s also 74% Hispanic, the highest percentage for the voting age population anywhere in the state.

Early voting is now underway for the Aug. 23 Primary Election. The General Election is on Nov. 8.

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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