Annette Taddeo nearly laps María Elvira Salazar in spending for CD 27

Salazar had nine times more left to spend at the beginning of this month.

In the 57 days leading up to Oct. 1, Democratic Miami state Sen. Annette Taddeo paid out more than $831,000 — nearly double what her Republican opponent for Congressional District 27 spent over the same period.

That’s despite raising roughly 33% less than incumbent U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar, whom Taddeo hopes to unseat next month.

Getting the word out

The majority of Taddeo’s spending covered marketing expenditures. An enormous chunk — $607,000 — went to Chicago-based strategy firm AL Media for campaign advertising costs.

She also paid Washington-headquartered digital ad agency Break Something almost $19,000 and Google another $350 for similar services.

For print ads and mailers, Taddeo paid Arlington-based Deliver Strategies $49,000, Virginia-based RWT Marketing $4,800 and Goodcatch, a Miami company, $900.

Earlier this month, Taddeo’s campaign released survey results showing her in a “statistical tie” with Salazar for the pivotal CD 27 seat. Taddeo paid $13,000 to the Tampa-based firm that conducted the survey, SEA Polling & Strategic Design, according to her filings with the Federal Election Commission.

She also paid a little over $14,000 to several consulting firms and about $82,000 to campaign staff. That includes $20,000 to Campaign Manager Nick Merlino; $17,000 to Finance Director Jennifer Khosla; $12,000 to Deputy Finance Director Adrian Delgado; and roughly the same sum to Deputy Campaign Manager Veronica Sandoval.

The remainder of Taddeo’s spending covered travel, event space rentals, lodging, donation processing and general upkeep, including office space rent and accounting.

An onrush of political support

Well over 100 people donated to Taddeo between Aug. 4 and Sept. 30, many of them fellow politicians. She received direct donations of $2,900 from former Florida U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, Miami state Sen. Jason Pizzo, and Al Dotson, a prominent lobbyist in Miami-Dade County who serves as managing partner of Bilzin Sumberg.

Al Cárdenas, a former Chair of the Republican Party of Florida who crossed political lines early this month to endorse Taddeo over Salazar, donated $1,400.

Architect and international airport manager turned philanthropic tech entrepreneur Rodrigo Arboleda donated $1,000. Author Judy Blume, philanthropist Tracy Mourning, former congressional candidate Rudy Moise and former state Rep. Javier Fernández — who is now running for South Miami Mayor — each gave $1,000.

So did U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas, who also chipped in another $2,000 through his political committee.

North Miami Mayor Alix Desulme, gave $500. Actor and activist George Takei, Pinecrest Councilwoman Anna Hochkammer, former South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard and former Miami Herald publisher David Lawrence, who now chairs The Children’s Movement, donated $250 apiece.

Many politicians also donated indirectly through affiliated political committees. None gave more than U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who contributed $12,000 through a pair of organizations.

U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona gave $6,000. Jeff Denham, a Congressman from Arizona, gave $5,000. Debbie Wasserman Schulz, who has represented Florida in Washington for close to 15 consecutive years, donated $4,000.

Other contributions came through political committees associated with U.S. Reps. Peter Aguilar of California, Don Beyer of Virginia, Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Veronica Escobar of Texas, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Adam Schiff of California and Paul Tonko of New York.

Committees linked to former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, Democratic activist and Florida’s 10th Congressional District candidate Maxwell Frost, and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who is also running for Congress, gave between $2,000 and $1,000 each.

Taddeo also welcomed donations of between $1,000 and $5,000 from a host of organizations, including MoveOn, the National Education Association, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, New Democratic Coalition Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Defend the Vote, Latino Victory Fund, Planned Parenthood, Democratic Conservation Alliance, Democratic Majority for Israel, Equality PAC, Human Rights Campaign and Poder PAC, which backs Democratic Latina candidates who support women’s reproductive rights.

Several unions and trade groups showed up too. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — the largest trade union of public employees in the nation — gave $10,000. So did the American Federation of Teachers and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Rail and Transportation Workers.

The American Association for Justice, Transport Workers Union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, and the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry gave about $5,000 each.

Through Oct. 1, Taddeo had raised more than $1.3 million since early June, when she dropped her campaign for Governor to instead focus on CD 27. As of Sept. 30, she had $226,000 left to spend.

On Aug. 23, she defeated Miami Commissioner Ken Russell and “100% grassroots” candidate Angel Montalvo in a Democratic Primary for CD 27. Taddeo captured 68% of the vote compared to 26% for Russell and 6% for Montalvo.

Russell filed for CD 27 on May 1. By Primary Election Day, he’d amassed close to $2 million and spent $1.8 million.

Montalvo, a self-described Democratic socialist, raised a fraction of that amount.

Salazar’s post-Primary pol-focused fundraising push

Salazar, meanwhile, has collected more than $4.8 million since winning her U.S. House seat in November 2020. That includes almost $838,000 added between Aug. 4 and Sept. 30.

Several hundred people donated to Salazar’s campaign during the period, many of them retirees. Among her noteworthy donors of between $2,900 and $5,800: OPKO Health CEO Phillip Frost, a namesake of the Frost Museum of Science in Miami; Brian Ballard, CEO of Tallahassee-based lobbying firm Ballard Partners; Tom Morrison, senior managing director of private wealth solutions for private equity firm Blackstone; and Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a former state Representative who served as Florida’s 19th Lieutenant Governor alongside Governor turned U.S. Sen. Rick Scott.

Salazar also received $1,000 donations from former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart, lobbyist and Miami-Dade Commissioner Candidate Kevin Marino Cabrera, whom Salazar endorsed in mid-May, and West Miami Mayor Eric Diaz-Padron.

As was the case with Taddeo, many political committees tied to congressional candidates turned out for Salazar between Aug. 4 and Sept. 30. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC tied to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that reserved nearly $1.7 million worth of broadcast space in CD 27, gave Salazar $7,100 last quarter.

McCarthy’s own political committee, Kevin McCarthy for Congress, added another $4,000.

Two political committees tied to U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio gave Salazar $9,000. A pair connected to U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood of Illinois gave $6,500. Political committees associated with Scott and fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina donated $5,000.

Salazar’s campaign coffers further benefited from donations of between $2,000 and $4,000 from the political committees of U.S. Reps. Stephen Bice of Oklahoma, Kevin Calvert of California, Randy Feenstra of Iowa, Darin LaHood of Illinois, Blaine Luetkemeyer of Ohio, Brian Mast of Florida, Carol Miller of West Virginia, John Rutherford of Florida and William Timmons of South Carolina.

Other political committees that gave to Salazar during the period included America Forever, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Champion American Values, the Hispanic Leadership Trust and SunPAC, a nonpartisan organization that supports federal legislative candidates “who demonstrate a genuine commitment to the strength, security, and survival of Israel.”

Conglomerates and unions

Large companies from several business sectors continued to show support for Salazar’s re-election effort.

Several telecom and technology companies paid out. Comcast Corp. gave $6,500. Intel Corp. wrote Salazar $5,000. An AT&T political committee donated $2,000.

Charter Communications, better known to many as Spectrum, contributed $1,500. T-Mobile and Verizon each gave $1,000.

Transportation and transport companies helped too. Delta Air Lines and UPS each gave $2,500. United Airlines gave $2,000. And CSX Corp., which operates rail-based freight transportation across the country, including in Florida, gave $1,000.

Other contributions included $5,000 from New York Life Insurance, $5,000 from Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits — the largest distributor of its type in America — $4,000 from Amazon and $2,500 from Walmart.

A passel of union and trade groups showed support as well. The American Property Casualty Insurance Association donated $6,000. The National Automotive Dealership Association, National Association of Realtors and National Beer Wholesalers Association each gave $5,000.

Salazar also received between $2,000 and $2,500 from the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, American Sportfishing Association, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, American Council of Engineering Companies, National Association of Broadcasters, North America’s Building Trades Unions, Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America and NCTA — The Internet & Television Association.

Getting out the mail

Salazar spent $428,000 between Aug. 4 and Sept. 30, and her spending went primarily to two expenditure types: campaign mailers and consulting.

All in all, she spent roughly $181,500 on direct mail advertising, printing, production and postage, with her biggest payouts going to Tennessee-based limited liability company Storytellers Group and Port Orange-based direct marketing firm Response America.

Salazar also paid $19,000 to Miami-based Smart Voters USA for yard signs, T-shirts, printing and event catering costs.

The preponderance of Salazar’s consulting spending was for finance and fundraising-related issues. In total, she spent close to $94,000 on various consulting services. Her top payee was Apex Strategies, a Miami-headquartered firm helmed by Eileen Piñeiro, a former deputy finance and office manager during Marco Rubio’s successful 2010 run for U.S. Senate.

The rest of Salazar’s spending went to list rentals, travel, subscriptions, food, data processing services and general upkeep, including bank fees, rent and internet service.

Taddeo, who walloped challenger Frank Polo in the Republican Primary Aug. 23 with 81% of the vote, has spent nearly $3 million this election cycle to hold onto office.

As of Sept. 30, she had more than $1.9 million left to spend in defending her seat through the Nov. 8 election.

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.

The district has alternated blue and red since 2019, when former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen retired.

Analyses of CD 27, as redrawn by the Gov. Ron DeSantis administration, show it is now safer than before for Republicans but still the most closely divided congressional district in Florida.

Republicans hold a nearly 3,000 voter registration advantage, with 148,204 GOP voters to 145,613 Democrats. There are nearly 142,000 voters with no party affiliation, according to the most recent L2 voter data.

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

Early voting runs from Oct. 24 through Nov. 6.

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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