Fabián Basabe loans $250K to campaign, while Joe Saunders courts grassroots gains in HD 106 race

The candidates are set for a showdown next November.

It looks like Miami Beach Republican Rep. Fabián Basabe is employing the same financial strategy he used last year to win the seat representing House District 106: self-reliance.

Basabe in August transferred $250,000 of his own money into his campaign account. Aside from that, he collected less than $6,000 in outside funds during the third quarter of 2023.

His Democratic challenger, LGBTQ rights activist and former Rep. Joe Saunders, is employing a more grassroots tack to fundraising, albeit to lesser monetary effect so far.

Between launching his campaign May 1 and the end of last month, Saunders raised $162,000 through more than 500 donors. That includes nearly 200 donors and $61,000 in Q3.

That’s not to say Basabe eschewed personal checks. He received 21 donations between July 1 and Sept. 30. All but two were for $100 or less. Most were for two figures.

Of note, just four were from people living in South Florida.

His biggest personal check was for $3,500 from Jonathan Gilinski, a Dania Beach-based pill capsule and real estate entrepreneur.

Clermont Republican Rep. Taylor Yarkosky gave Basabe $1,000 directly. Miami Republican Rep. Alina Garcia gave the same sum through her political committee, Florida Always First.

Basabe said his mostly self-funded campaign is an investment in the community he represents.

“Those who care about their future recognize the work I’ve begun, and my skin in the game is once again to remind people that I cannot be bought and come to honestly and humbly serve with no strings attached,” he said in a statement.

Notably, self-loans can be returned to a candidate if unspent, and so only represent true “skin in the game” if used. Basabe also infused his campaign coffers with $250,000 from his bank account during his 2022 run at HD 106. After securing a razor-thin victory, he had about $104,000 left, which he transferred back to himself after winning.

Of the 200 personal checks Saunders collected in Q3, close to 70 were from people living in South Florida. Others came from the Greater Orlando area he represented from 2012 to 2014 as one of Florida’s first openly gay state lawmakers.

Miami Beach businessman and civic leader Fred Hochberg, who served as an acting administrator for the Small Business Administration under former President Barack Obama, gave Saunders $2,500. Orlando restaurateur Jason Lambert gave $2,000.

Saunders accepted $1,000 checks from Orange County School Board member Karen Castor Dentel, Wilton Manors Commissioner Paul Rolli and former Senate candidate Janelle Perez.

He also received $250 apiece from Broward County Vice Mayor Rich Nan and Juan-Carlos Planas, a Republican-turned-Democratic former Representative now running for Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections.

Several progressive political organizations chipped in too.

The Florida Leadership Council, a group of more than 200 former elected officials and Democratic activists that endorsed Saunders in August, gave $2,000.

Saunders also took $1,000 from the Florida HIV AIDS PAC and A Love Supreme, a political action committee affiliated with U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost of Orlando.

In a Tuesday statement, Saunders said he is “humbled and overwhelmed” by the support he received and took a jab at Basabe, who has faced no shortage of trouble and controversy since winning in HD 106 last year.

“Residents in House District 106 are stepping up to join our team because they want serious leadership from an advocate who shares their values,” he said. “Together, we’re going to deliver results and bring back balance to the Florida Capitol.”

Basabe raised more but spent less in Q3 — just over $11,000, almost all of it paid to two companies. One was PAC Financial Management, a campaign finance and compliance company based in Tallahassee. The other was Ad Victoriam Strategies, a Nevada-headquartered political consulting firm.

Saunders spent about $15,000. A third went to strategist Michael Worley’s Plantation-based MDW Communications, while $4,000 went to EDGE Communications, a Miami-based firm led by consultant Christian Ulvert.

He also paid $1,150 to the Florida Democratic Party for voter access, $742 to the Renaissance Theatre Company in Orlando for a campaign event, $715 to Miami-based Good Catch Inc. for campaign T-shirts and materials, $260 to Mailchimp for email marketing and $250 to the South Florida AFL-CIO for an event sponsorship.

HD 106 covers a northeastern portion of Miami-Dade, including 10 coastal municipalities from Fisher Island and South Beach to Aventura and Sunny Isles Beach. It is one of the most affluent districts in the state and among the most susceptible to the oceanic effects of climate change.

A May email survey found Basabe, a wealthy socialite and former reality TV personality, holds 3.7% favorability in the district. Asked whom they’d vote for if it was Election Day then, 14% chose Basabe while 33% picked Saunders, who for the last decade has worked as the political director of the LGBTQ advocacy group, Equality Florida.

The Primary Election is on Aug. 20, 2024, followed by the General Election on Nov. 5.

Candidates faced a Tuesday deadline to report all campaign finance activity through Sept. 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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