Contest for open HD 115 seat draws $300K in Q1 for candidates with political, firefighter union support

Alian Collazo Omar Blanco
3 Republicans and 1 Democrat are competing for the seat freshman Rep. Alina García is vacating to run for Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections.

A contest for the open seat representing House District 115 in Miami-Dade County attracted more than $307,000 in just a month and a half. The money went to two candidates: a GOP-backed Pinellas County transplant and a Republican former firefighters union head.

Both benefited greatly, fundraising-wise, from their respective affiliations.

Cuban Freedom March Executive Director Alian Collazo, a longtime Tampa Bay Area resident, amassed $196,000 in just 20 days before the first quarter’s closure on March 31.

About a quarter of that sum went into his campaign account. The rest went into his political committee, Protecting the American Dream PC.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Capt. Omar Blanco, who previously served as President of Metro-Dade Firefighters Local 1403, collected $111,000 through his campaign account and political committee, Let’s Get Back to Basics.

Much of it came from groups representing fellow first responders.

Close to 50 people donated to Collazo last quarter. He also gave his campaign $4,000.

His biggest donor was his mother, Linet Alvarado Hernandez, who runs an elder care business in St. Petersburg. She gave Collazo $56,500 directly and $5,000 through her company, Horizons Adult Day Care Inc.

His father, Lemis Nectalier Collazo Ruiz, chipped in $1,000 as well.

Collazo’s second biggest benefactor was Miami Republican Sen. Alexis Calatayud. Collazo worked as Calatayud’s Chief of Staff. The two also attended Florida International University concurrently and attained international relations degrees.

Calatayud gave Collazo’s campaign $51,000 through her political committee, Vision & Integrity for Florida.

Collazo, a relationship manager at Bank of America, received $5,000 from Building a Better Florida PC, a political committee chaired by lobbyist Michael Corcoran whose brother, Richard, is a former House Speaker and the current New College of Florida President.

The political committees of several GOP state lawmakers — including Sens. Bryan Ávila of Hialeah Gardens, Colleen Burton of Lakeland, Ana Maria Rodriguez of Doral, Jay Trumbull of Panama City, Clay Yarborough of Jacksonville; Miami Rep. Juan Porras; and former Miami Rep. Vance Aloupis — each gave $1,000.

Collazo spent $176, all of it on donation-processing fees.

Blanco, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress four years ago, kicked $1,200 from his bank account into his campaign.

About 150 people, an overwhelming majority of them from Miami-Dade, donated to him. A few dozen businesses of various types gave too.

He leaned heavily on fellow firefighters and first responders, with more than half of his total gains coming from first responders or the unions representing them. That included $16,000 from Metro-Dade Firefighters Local 1403, $7,000 from Broward County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Local 4321, $7,000 from Miami Firefighters PAC and $4,000 from the Dade County Police Benevolent Association.

He spent about $1,500. About half went to Tampa-based webElect for mass mailing. Another $425 paid for marketing services from Constant Contact’s Gainesville office.

The rest covered donation processing and bank fees.

Two other candidates are competing for the HD 115 seat freshman Miami Republican Rep. Alina García is vacating to run for Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections.

One is Republican Moises Benhabib, a U.S. State Department former foreign affairs officer who filed March 27 but announced his candidacy in early April. He reported no fundraising or spending in Q1.

The other is Norma Perez-Schwartz, a Director at national early education nonprofit She is the lone Democrat in the race and filed to run Monday, meaning she won’t have to report any financial activity until July 10.

HD 115 covers Cutler Bay, Palmetto Bay, Pinecrest, and the unincorporated neighborhoods of The Falls, Kendall, and Westchester.

Candidates faced an April 10 deadline to report all campaign finance activity through March 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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