Jose "Pepe" Cancio has announced that he will jump into the already crowded special election to replace the recalled county mayor, but Ladra thinks he's been preparing for a bit, judging by his internet activity and reaching out to old friends.
And the race gets even more interesting now: Cancio might be an attractive alternative for voters who may be having a hard time choosing between the three front runners: District 7 Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, who some see as part of the establishment that has to go, Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina, who says he is cooperating with federal prosecutors, the IRS and local Miami-Dade Police in his own tax evasion investigation, after getting interest payments made to him by a convicted ponzi schemer, and Marcelo Llorente, whose $300,000 in contributions reads like a who's who of lobbyists and special interests.
Cancio, a former county commissioner and owner of Central Concrete Supermix (a company with 225 employees), announced last week that he would also be on the crowded May 24 ballot. Along with the three front runners, the group has some fun, if longshot candidates that include rapper Luther "Luke" Campbell, Cutler Bay's Darrin G. Ellis (not to be confused with...), several professional candidates -- concert promoter/producer Darrin McGillis and economist Farid Khavari, who ran for governor, and concert producer Joshua Larose, founder of the Florida Billionaires Political Committee, who was disqualified from the 2009 Miami Beach mayoral election after his filing fee check bounced -- Coral Gables retiree Lazaro Gonzalez (who may be the same guy who started the first mayoral recall and then helped Norman Braman with this one), urban planner Tony Garcia, who filed to run Friday, former Miami-Dade Transit Director Roosevelt Bradley, who filed early last week, someone named Saturnino Polon and someone named Santiago Portal. Ladra doesn't know, though, how many of those others plan to run May 24 and how many plan to run in 2012, when the current mayoral term ends. Doral Mayor JC Bermudez, who also filed to run for the mayoral post this year, has indicated he intends to run next year.
But it's still gonna one long ballot.
Gimenez told Ladra Tuesday in a telephone interview that Cancio -- who lives in Key Biscayne -- and runs in the same circles as Gimenez, could draw from his group of supporters. But while he may not have a stronghold in Hialeah, the Bay of Pigs veteran and local GOP staple will likely appeal to older Cuban voters that Robaina was counting on.
"He may hurt me. He may hurt him. He may take votes from both of us," said Gimenez, who got a courtesy call voice mail message from Cancio the night before he filed. The two are not friends, Gimenez said, but are certainly friendly and cordial with each other. "He's a good man," the commissioner told Ladra. "If he became the mayor, he would do a good job."
Cancio has said he does not want the permanent post and will not run for office in 2012 (which Ladra thinks also helps him with voters). He also promised that his children will not run for the office. (Daughter Marili Cancio lost the Repubican primary in U.S. Senate District 25 to David Rivera last year). He has experience as a stand-in. Cancio was appointed to the commission in 2002 by former Gov. Jeb Bush to finish Miriam Alonso's term after her arrest.
Of the 14 candidates, he is also the one with the second biggest campaign war chest. Cancio loaned himself $160,000 to jump start his race. That is more than half of the funds in campaign coffers belonging to Llorente, leader of the money race, who only loaned himself $7,500 and began collecting in January 2009. His last report, as of Dec. 31, reported just over $300,000 so far (in 468 checks). Llorente had to return about $6,000 of that in contribution refunds, according to his reports. The rest of the $33,000 or so he has spent so far on Coral Gables office space ($2,350), meals, catering and office-related supplies like postage and computers (about $10,000), printing and photos for campaign materials through consultant David Ruskin ($2,200) and "professional services" from Riesco & Company ($6,500 or so). Jose "Pepe" Riesco, former vice chair of the local GOP, is Llorente's treasurer and Jeannine Riesco is deputy treasurer and Ladra wonders if they work on a .02 percent commission or if those are fees for preparing the financial documents.
Lazaro Gonzalez is the only other candidate to report any fundraising, with $5,200 collected as of December 2010.
Ladra can't wait to see the next reports -- the first filed by Gimenez and Robaina -- which will reflect campaign funding through March 31 and are due Monday. Llorente's might not be the biggest bag after that.