Daniella Levine Cava stacks $452K in May to defend Miami-Dade Mayor job

She faces one fellow Democratic challenger and a Republican influencer backed by Roger Stone.

Democratic Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava added more than $452,000 to her campaign war chest last month through a blend of personal checks, sizable contributions from real estate businesses and deep-pocketed donors, and a national labor union.

She also spent more than $73,000, most of it for consulting.

As of May 31, she held more than $1.79 million between her campaign account and political committee to stave off challenges from two candidates running to unseat her next year in the technically nonpartisan race.

Roughly 205 people donated directly to Levine Cava last month, some giving as little as $10.

She received $25,000 from Miami Beach retiree Patricia Kennedy and $10,000 apiece from banker Leonard Abess and Justin Dangel, a health care entrepreneur and executive.

Auto dealer William Lehman Jr. gave $5,000, as did real estate executives Ryan Shear and Frank Mackle III. Miami Heat Vice President Andrew Elisburg chipped in $4,000, while former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and his wife, Carolina Murciano, gave half that.

Former Miami Shores Village Mayor Crystal Wagar and David Lawrence, a former publisher of the Miami Herald and current chair of The Children’s Movement of Florida, gave $500 each.

Real estate companies again turned out for the Mayor. Dacra, a real estate management company based in Aventura, gave $25,000. So did developer Turnberry. Miami-based real estate investment firm Florida Value Partners contributed $14,000 through 14 subsidiaries. Atlantic Pacific Companies and Neology Development Group, which owns Pier19 on the Miami River, each donated $10,000. So did Victoria & Isabella Real Estate Investment Inc.

Levine Cava also received $7,000 through donations from SF Partners President Daniel Perez, his relatives and related family trusts. Checks of $5,000 came from The TREO Group, Doral-based engineering firm Nova Consulting, a real estate-focused subsidiary of Miami-based private equity firm BAS Holdings and Rickenbacker Marina, the operator of a Miami-owned marina on Virginia Key.

Other real estate-related contributions included $4,000 from Hollywood-based apartment management firm The Cornerstone Group, $3,000 from New York-based Legacy Real Estate Development, $2,500 from KTMB Development Services LLC and 13th Floor Management LLC, $2,000 from Florida East Coast Realty, and $1,000 from engineering firm WSP USA, a frequent Miami-Dade consultant that in February 2021 lured then-county Transportation Director Alice Bravo into its ranks.

Levine Cava’s largest single contribution was a $50,000 check from the political donations arm of Unite Here, a union that according to its website represents more than 300,000 workers across the country.

A local branch of the Teamsters gave $1,000.

From the legal and lobbying sector, the Mayor got $20,000 from government relations specialist Ron Book, $10,000 from LSN Partners in Miami and $2,500 from the law firm of former state Rep. José Félix Díaz.

Other donations included $11,000 from the Greater Miami Health and Training Center, $10,000 from Miami-based airline cargo-handling business Alliance Ground International, $5,000 from Fort Lauderdale-based internet service provider Fision Fiber Optics, $2,000 from political committee Alliance for a Stronger Miami and $1,000 from New Leadership Network PC, which Miami lobbyist Jorge Luis Lopez chairs.

Nearly 60% of Levine Cava’s May spending — $42,500 — went to veteran Democratic consultant Christian Ulvert’s firm, EDGE Communications. About $6,000 of that was reimbursements, her filings said. She also paid another $5,000 to WIN Canvass, a limited liability company Ulvert also owns.

She also paid $10,000 to Miami Shores consultant Gregory Goddard’s firm, GW Strategies, $6,000 to her campaign’s communications director, Claire VanSusteren, about $2,500 to Chef De’Broyna Hodges’ Empty Plates Catering and $1,000 to Plantation-based political strategist Michael Worley’s MDW Communications for digital advertising consulting.

Levine Cava’s second-closest fundraising competitor is Alex Otaola, a Republican influencer and Donald Trump loyalist who raised more than $36,000 last month.

Otaola’s gains came through more than 3,400 personal checks, 40% of which were for just $1. Only three were for $1,000.

He enjoys the support of Miami-Dade a Communist Free Zone, an electioneering communications organization (ECO) that registered with the county in March.

Luis Leon, the organization’s Chair, told Florida Politics Otoala so far is “the only person whose campaign fits our agenda, which as our name says is to make Miami-Dade a communist-free zone.”

“As Mayor, he will dig in, investigate and stop all the businesses in South Florida and especially Miami-Dade that are supported or financed by communist regimes such as Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. And he will prevent the communist agenda from getting into the education system and indoctrinating students in South Florida.”

The ECO last month collected more than $13,000 in contributions, nearly all of it from Miami plastic surgery center CG Cosmetic Surgery.

Otaola’s campaign spent lightly last month, with just $2,000 going toward covering upkeep costs, half of which was paid to his Hialeah-based treasurer.

The same could not be said for the ECO, which paid more than $12,000 to Drake Ventures, the Fort Lauderdale-based consulting firm of convicted political operative Roger Stone.

Stone urged Otaola to run for Mayor during an online video broadcast in late February, calling the popular Cuban American social media personality and political activist “a strong, America-first proponent” whose candidacy presents “an intriguing idea.”

“Like Donald Trump, Alex Otaola is not a politician, and he’s also a man who absolutely speaks his mind,” Stone said. “I think that is what people are looking for.”

By May 31, Otaola held $52,000 and the ECO had $18,000.

Also running is Democratic trapeze artist and self-described First Amendment auditor Miguel “el Skipper” Quintero, who told Florida Politics he plans to sue Miami-Dade over permitting issues related to his home circus business.

He’s yet to report any fundraising or spending since adding $1,000 of his own money to his campaign coffers upon filing for the contest in March.

Candidates faced a Monday deadline to report all campaign finance activity through May 31.

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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