Joe Saunders crosses $100K raised toward ousting Fabián Basabe in HD 106
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 3/2/22-Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, left, is joined by Joe Saunders of Equality Florida, Laura Goodhue, Executive Director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates and Mutaqee Akbar, President of the Tallahassee NAACP Branch, during a news conference against the bills moving through the Legislature that they say are attacking individual freedoms, Wednesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

Around 140 people last month gave money to help Saunders supplant the embattled Republican incumbent.

Former Rep. Joe Saunders collected close to $28,000 in June toward his bid to reclaim House District 106 for Democrats next year.

Nearly all his gains came through personal checks, some as low as $1. Most fell into the $100 and $500 range.

Through the end of last month, Saunders raised about $102,000 since announcing his candidacy for HD 106 in May. He had about $88,000 left in his campaign account and political committee, Friends of Joe Saunders, by June 30.

Around 140 people gave money to help Saunders in his effort to supplant embattled Republican Rep. Fabián Basabe, who faces ample negative attention and calls to resign over his alleged misconduct and legislative record.

The organization for which Saunders serves as political director, LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida, has been among those most critical of Basabe.

Noteworthy donations to Saunders’ campaign last month include $1,000 from former Miami Beach Rep. Mike Grieco, $600 from Miami Beach Commission candidate Tanya Bhatt, $200 from former Senate and Miami Beach Commission candidate Raquel Pacheco and $100 apiece from Sen. Eleanor Sobel, Rep. Kelly Skidmore and Pinecrest Council member Anna Hochkammer.

Paul Pellerin, CEO of Miami-based digital marketing agency WMX, gave $2,000. Andrew Stewart, the company’s president, chipped in $500, while WMX Director of Electric Customer Relationship Management Scott Young contributed $100.

He accepted two corporate contributions: $1,000 from Guerra Strategies, an Arizona-registered limited liability company, and Miami Beach-based law firm Switkes & Zappala PA.

Saunders also received $1,000 from consultant Michael Worley, whose MDW Communications consulting firm received nearly $10,000 in retainer, web development, web hosting, digital advertising consulting and “campaign collateral production” fees from Saunders’ campaign last month.

Saunders also spent $260 on “marketing” through Mailchimp. Another $1,000 went to the purchase of office supplies and general upkeep, including check purchases, donation-processing fees and bank fees.

Basabe, meanwhile, largely took June off from fundraising. He reported raising just over $1,100 through his campaign account and no gains by his political committee, Common Sense for Florida.

Whether that changes as a House probe, his second, gets underway into sexually harassed accusations by a pair of former staffers — something for which the two men in question are also suing him — remains to be seen.

A related inquiry into whether he slapped one of the two men in the face at a January post-inauguration party in Tallahassee ended last month, with investigators finding “inconclusive” evidence Basabe was guilty of wrongdoing.

Basabe last month received seven personal checks of between $1 and $50. His campaign listed five as retirees, none of whom live in HD 106 and only one of whom resides in Florida.

Of the two $1 checks he accepted, one came from Joey Mannarino, a social media influencer, podcaster and self-described political strategist whose Twitter profile lists his pronouns as “shut/up.”

In late May, Mannarino urged Twitter users to follow Basabe, whom he described as “the real deal.”

“The Left fears him and are trying to do a number on him,” Mannarino wrote. “He was the first Republican to EVER win this district in 2022 and the Left wants their seat back. Let’s make sure they don’t!”

A tweet of Mannarino’s showing a man twerking in nothing but white briefs, white socks and rainbow garters during a Minneapolis Pride parade went viral last month, sparking outrage among conservative users on the platform.

Basabe, who ran last year as a moderate and has described himself as a member of the LGBTQ community, has voted for legislation restricting drag shows and LGBTQ-inclusive instruction in public school. He also supported a new law allowing the concealed carry of a firearm without a permit and abstained from voting on Florida’s pending ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, among other culture war measures.

He gave himself $215 in June, a small sum compared to the $250,750 of his own money he spent to win election last year.

He spent $4,500 in June. Most of that — more than $3,500 — went to Nevada-based Ad Victoriam Strategies for “communications consulting.”

He also paid $675 to New York-based artist Charles Cohen for “advertising,” gave district aide Adrian Gonzalez $144 for food and beverage reimbursements and gave himself $123 to cover promotional materials he initially bought out-of-pocket.

The rest covered general upkeep.

Altogether, Basabe has raised just shy of $21,400 since winning his HD 106 seat in November by 240 votes. As of June 30, he had about $6,600.

HD 106 covers a coastal portion of Miami-Dade County, including all or part of the municipalities of Aventura, Bay Harbor Islands, Miami Beach, North Bay Village, North Miami Beach and Sunny Isles.

Candidates faced a Monday deadline to report all campaign finance activity through June 30.

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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