Michael Gongora, Mark Samuelian lead Miami Beach commission money race

Michael Gongora, Mark Samuelian lead Miami Beach commission money race
  • Sumo

While it is not the only reason they are the frontrunners in the November election, it helps that former Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Gongora and comeback candidate Mark Samuelian have each raised more than $170,000, leading the pack in their respective commission races, according to the latest campaign reports filed last week.

And leading by quite a distance.

Gongora, who enjoys the most name recognition as a former commissioner and one-time mayoral candidate, has the most of any of this year’s commission hopefuls, with $188,785 raised since March. Or actually $168,785 since $20K is reported as a loan to himself. Also, a quarter of last month’s $40K, or $10,000, comes from Adam Walker of Boardwalk Properties, a real estate investor who owns several small apartment buildings in South Beach and who bundled $40,000 in contributions to Commissioner Michael Grieco, who is running for mayor. Maybe Gongora saw the Political Cortadito story about it in May and hit Mr. Walker up the next month.

Read related story: Michael Grieco its $500K, with help from real estate investor

Nobody else in the Group 3 race even comes close to Gongora’s bank. Adrian Gonzalez, the owner of David’s Cafe and Gongora’s most serious challenge, has raised just over $55,000 and Zachary Eisner has raised $17,250.

In the Group 2 race, Samuelian has raised $170,747, an impressive amount in two months. Until you read the fine print and realize that more than half of that — or $91,000 — is in loans from the candidate to himself. He loaned himself $56,000 in the first report for May, to make it a total of $105,472, and then made another $35,000 loan to the campaign in June, so he could report a total of $62,275. Without the loans, he would be reporting only $79,472 in the same two months — which is not really “more cash on hand than all our opponents combined,” as he claims in one of his email blasts.

Attorney Joshua Levy has reported raising $76,070, but $24,700 is on loan from himself. Rafael Velazquez has managed to resist loaning himself anything to artificially pump up his numbers, even though he has only raised $31,476 so far.

Is Samuelian trying to scare more challengers away? Already, Eisner switched to the Group 3 race against Gongora and Robert Lansburgh (who had loaned himself $50K) withdrew completely, giving Samuelian his endorsement. One of many.

Samuelian boasts basically everybody’s endorsement. Former Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower, former Beach Commissioners Jorge Esposito, Saul Gross, Nancy Liebman, Ed Tobin and Deede Weithorn and former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson have all given him their nod. So have a number of community activists like Daniel Ciraldo, Frank and Marian Del Vecchio, Brad Bonessi, Carla Probus and Michael DeFilippi, to name a few.

And as the former president of Miami Beach United (he resigned last month), Samuelian not only built a track record opposing the “train to nowhere” and fighting Watson Island development, but he also doubled the group’s membership and increased its influence, which means he made a lot of friends and gained a lot of supporters along the way. Add that to the name recognition he built in 2015 with the 4,999 people who voted for him against John Elizabeth Aleman and you have all the makings of a winner winner, chicken dinner.

Read related story: Mark Samuelian runs for Miami Beach commission, part II

Name I.D. and wall of endorsements are those other reasons that Samuelian is the one to beat, because money alone doe not always do it. After all, Samuelian spent $416,560 in is first bid against Aleman and he came real close — there was a 77 vote difference — but he spent way more than Aleman, who only spent $274,045. In fact, Samuelian also significantly bankrolled that race, too, loaning himself a whopping $216,247,  or more than half his total bank, in installments of $25,000 loans every month, $50K the last month and a little more than $16,000 that he apparently needed at the very end to make ends meet.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that Mayor Philip Levine is not running for re-election and will no longer be there to pull the strings, so he’s not going to back any puppet candidate against anyone — at least so far.

Oh, that and there are still four full months to raise funds for the November election.

11 Responses to "Michael Gongora, Mark Samuelian lead Miami Beach commission money race"

  1. Steve Kester   July 16, 2017 at 11:38 am

    I’ve known Mark for 35 years and I can tell you that you won’t find a more honorable and thoughtful candidate. My family loves to visit your fine community, so we’re happy to support the candidate whose advocacy for a livable Miami Beach is so evident. That he believes and invests in his own campaign is icing on the cake.

  2. Jo Manning   July 16, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Add me to the list of community activists supporting Mark Samuelian. Mark has paid his dues — and more! — in this city and deserves a seat on the City Commission! He should have won the first time around — but am not commenting on that here 🙁 Suffice it to say he was, in the opinion of many whose opinions counted, the much, much better candidate. But he was running against the Levine Slate and they were determined to sweep the field. (Except, of course for the mistake of backing Betsy Perez against Kristen Rosen Gonzalez… )

  3. Miami Bich   July 17, 2017 at 10:07 am

    Mark my words Samuelian will in the best case for him win in a runoff.
    But in worst case hit his high water Mark in his first attempt.

  4. Deanna Dhristwnsen   July 17, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    Mark is by far the best candidate in Seat #2. Him entering the race after the other candidates, after a loss in the last election, leading Miami Beach United shows his tenacity and commitment to the City of Miami Beach. We need more of his character, vision and determination serving in elected positions in our city.

  5. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz   July 19, 2017 at 5:03 am

    Jo Manning n Frank del Vecchio – boy have they supported good candidates n projects over the years -NOT

  6. Beach Future   July 19, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    Mark Samuelian is very well qualified. Very knowledgeable too, Mark should win his race easily.

  7. Jim Deland   July 19, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    Jo and Frank are upstanding pillars of the community, not like Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz.

  8. Pingback: Miami Beach candidate who served on board of ill-fated OutGames forgot when he quit | Fort Lauderdale News

  9. Pingback: Miami Beach candidate who served on board of ill-fated OutGames forgot when he quit | Miami News & Search

  10. Rogerabramson   July 20, 2017 at 11:46 am

    I am always hopeful for a new era in MB politics . We need Mark and Michael to provide a new awareness and direction in our city commissions. Mark and Michael have my support.

  11. Gongora's a dirty politician   July 20, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Michael Góngora, a former Beach commissioner who lost a 2013 bid for mayor, said in June that he had not been on OutGames’ board of directors since 2015. But in a May 2016 YouTube video posted by the official OutGames account, Góngora promotes the games and identifies himself as a board member.

    “Michael Góngora brought the OutGames to Miami Beach, served on the OutGames board, appeared in their promotional material and when it turned into a disaster for the city left the residents holding the bag,” said Gonzalez in an email blast Tuesday.

    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/miami-beach/article162596333.html#storylink=cpy

    Is ethically challenged Gongora being investigated for fraud? At this point, all we know for sure is that Gongora’s version of events shifted to significantly minimize his involvement with the OutGames after law enforcement announced a fraud investigation.

    Is Gongora criminally confused or criminally corrupt?



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