Federal fundraising reports show that Republican Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is at a major cash disadvantage in Miami’s most competitive U.S. House race against incumbent Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in the final weeks before the Nov. 3 election.
Gimenez, running in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, trails Mucarsel-Powell by a roughly 3-to-1 margin in fundraising during the most recent quarter, from July 30 to Sept. 30. Mucarsel-Powell raised $2.1 million — a Florida record for a U.S. House candidate in a fundraising quarter — to Gimenez’s $668,000.
Mucarsel-Powell also has more cash in her campaign account, just over $1 million, while Gimenez has $640,000 to spend, as both candidates pay for TV ads to reach voters before Election Day. The fundraising figures were released Thursday night by the Federal Election Commission and included funds for the general election raised before the Aug. 18 primary.
In Miami’s neighboring 27th Congressional District, Republican former TV journalist Maria Elvira Salazar slightly outraised incumbent Rep. Donna Shalala. Federal reports filed by the candidates show that Salazar raised $1.1 million compared to Shalala’s $834,000 in the latest fundraising quarter, which covers August and September.
Initial fundraising totals reported to the Federal Election Commission on Thursday showed Salazar raising a smaller amount, $968,000, despite her previously sending out a press release touting a “record-breaking” $1.1 million haul. Salazar said her “compliance accountant made a mistake” and filed an amended report on Friday afternoon for the corrected amount.
Shalala enters October with a cash advantage over her opponent. Shalala has nearly $1.3 million in her account while Salazar has about $1.06 million.
J.C. Planas, a former Republican state representative and election lawyer who decided on Friday to support Mucarsel-Powell over Gimenez, said he believes the fundraising totals are an indication that donors think Democrats have an advantage, as millions of Americans begin casting ballots.
“I think that races like this are very reflective of where the donor class believes this election is headed,” Planas said.
The trends in Miami align with nationwide trends of Democrats outraising Republicans. President Donald Trump and the national Republican Party raised $247.8 million in September, significantly trailing Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s $383 million raised during the same time period. Biden’s campaign has $432 million to spend while Trump’s campaign has $251.4 million to spend.
“Anybody who wants to do business in Washington is hedging their bets,” Planas said. “If Debbie’s outraising Carlos, it clearly shows not just that people believe she’s going to win, it goes to show there’s no way Republicans are going to take back the House and take the Senate and win the presidency.”
But Gimenez’s Republican allies say they have no plans to abandon him even as other Republican U.S. House challengers who trail in fundraising see outside support dry up.
“All the money in the world won’t help Debbie Mucarsel-Powell outrun her record of being one of the most partisan members of Congress … which is why Floridians will vote her out of office in three weeks,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson Camille Gallo.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC that seeks to elect Republicans to the House of Representatives, added $500,000 in TV ad reservations last week for Gimenez’s race in the Miami market. The group has spent $4.3 million on the race so far.
But Mucarsel-Powell’s campaign said its fundraising haul, which is a state record for a single quarter in a U.S. House race, is evidence that she has an edge in a race that’s considered by political analysts to be a toss-up.
“Carlos Gimenez is not raising the resources required to win this race,” Mucarsel-Powell campaign manager Andrew Markoff said in a statement. “That’s just a fact, and that’s why we’ve seen well-funded Washington Republican groups spend millions on sexist negative attack ads to bail out his failing campaign.”
Nicole Rapanos, Gimenez’s campaign manager, said in a text message the Miami-Dade mayor has the resources to finance an effective campaign, adding that he’s been busy leading the county response to the pandemic.
“Debbie Mucarsel-Powell’s millions raised from far-left groups the last two years gave her a huge fundraising advantage but she’s blown it,” Rapanos said in a text message. “Mayor Gimenez has been leading our community’s response to the greatest challenge we have faced in a generation, and while that has been his focus, we’ll have financial parity in these critical last few weeks.”
Gimenez and Mucarsel-Powell are seeking to represent a district that stretches from Miami’s western suburbs across South Dade and the Florida Keys. Despite the district backing Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by double digits in 2016, Republicans think they can compete with Gimenez on the ticket because of his high name recognition from his time as mayor and polling that shows Trump performing better with Cuban-American voters.
In Florida’s 27th Congressional District, which includes most of coastal Miami-Dade County and Miami Beach, Salazar managed to outraise Shalala in August and September, the previous quarter, and then sent out the press release saying she had “shattered the incumbent’s efforts” on fundraising in the most recent quarter.
A Shalala supporter filed a complaint with the FEC this week, saying Salazar’s campaign violated federal election law by not reporting the occupation and employer information of some her donors.
Outside groups that spend millions on TV ads from both parties haven’t spent money in Shalala and Salazar’s race, a sign that they think the incumbent is a safe bet for reelection.
The final fundraising reports before Election Day will be released next week, and cover the first two weeks of October.
This story was updated to reflect Maria Elvira Salazar’s amended fundraising report.