Election Day showdown

Sep.September 20, 2018 11:00 AM

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As South Florida voters head to the polls this November, they’ll be met with an array of candidates from both sides of the aisle with platforms impacting a variety of real estate issues. Industry professionals are watching closely, opening up their wallets to candidates like former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R), who’s running against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) in the race for governor.

Gillum pulled off a stunning upset in the August primary when he beat out Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, Jeff Greene and Chris King (now Gillum’s running mate), surprising those in South Florida’s real estate community who thought Graham and Levine, who both have strong industry ties, would battle it out for the nomination.

Across the state, candidates drew donations from big names in real estate like Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and Vector Group CEO Howard Lorber, according to data from the Florida Division of Elections and the Federal Election Commission. TRD dug into those databases to learn who South Florida’s most prominent figures in real estate are supporting, considering only contributions of $1,000 or more from figures known in the local industry.

The Real Deal’s list of donors and donations is not comprehensive and includes donations to political action committees and political party committees, which explains why some totals exceed the limits that individuals can contribute. Individuals are maxed out at $2,700 per election to a federal candidate or the candidate’s campaign committee. But they can also give up to $5,000 to a political action committee. In Florida, individuals are capped at $3,000 to a candidate for statewide office, according to the Division of Elections.

In addition to candidates, voters will also decide on the fates of three major real estate projects, which TRD also reviews here.


U.S. Senator
Bill Nelson
Lives in: Orlando
Net worth: Nelson was reportedly worth between $1.3 million and $6 million as of 2015, according to Opensecrets.org. In a financial disclosure report filed in mid-2017, he reported about $51,000 in annual retirement income from the state of Florida and about $23,000 from a Regions Bank IRA. He makes about $174,000 as a senator.
Campaign war chest: Nelson had received contributions totaling $18.2 million as of Aug. 8, according to the most recent information available from the Federal Election Commission. He’s spent more than $5.3 million.
Biggest Donors in Real Estate:

  • American Hotel and Lodging Association Political Action Committee, $10,000
  • American Senior Housing Association, $5,000
  • National Apartment Association Political Action Committee, $10,000
  • Christopher Asaro, president of Holt Construction Corp., $5,400
  • Climis Lascaris, president of Lascaris Design Group, $5,400
  • Wyndham Destinations Inc. Political Action Committee, $5,000
  • Cemex Inc. Employees PAC, $5,000
  • Property Casualty Insurers Association of America Political Action Committee, $3,500
  • Jonathan Tisch, CEO of Loews Hotels, $2,700
  • David M. Solomon, president of Goldman Sachs, $2,700
  • Ram Sundaram, partner at Goldman Sachs, $2,700
  • Chris Korge, partner at the Americas Group, $2,700
  • National Elevator Constructors PAC/International Union of Elevator Constructors, $1,000

Real Estate Issues on the Campaign Trail: Nelson supported increasing spending on affordable housing after tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans evacuated to Florida following Hurricane Maria last year. The Florida Realtors Association pushed lawmakers to fund the effort using real estate sales taxes that are supposed to be set aside for affordable housing but often get used for general costs. 

The U.S. senator also claims he’s working to make it easier for homeowners to invest in solar installations, helping renewable energy companies grow in Florida and supporting infrastructure investment to create “more resilient coastlines,” according to his campaign. 

Nelson has attacked Gov. Rick Scott for not doing enough to address the toxic blue-green algal blooms along the state’s east coast and red tide along the west coast, which he said hurt business and kept some homeowners away. 

U.S. Senator
Rick Scott
Lives in: Tallahassee and Naples, plus a home in Montana
Net worth: $255 million
Campaign War Chest: Scott’s campaign had raised $31.2 million and spent nearly $28 million as of Aug. 8. He’s the biggest donor to his own campaign, spending tens of millions of dollars.
Biggest Donors in Real Estate:

  • Leo Wells III, founder and CEO of Wells Real Estate Funds Inc., $13,500
  • Stephen Ross, chairman of the Related Companies, $13,500
  • Metro Development GrouP, a Tampa development firm, $12,700
  • Phillip and Patricia Frost, Philip is chairman and CEO of Opko Health and Vector Group’s largest shareholder, $10,800
  • Steven Witkoff, chairman and CEO of the Witkoff Group, $8,100
  • David Simon, CEO of Simon Property Group, $8,100
  • Arthur Falcone, chairman and CEO of Falcone Group, $5,400
  • Falcone & Associates, $5,400
  • Donald Soffer, founder and chairman of Turnberry Associates, $5,400
  • Jeffrey Soffer, co-CEO of Turnberry Associates, $5,400
  • Brooke Soffer, retail owner at the Fontainebleau Hotel Miami Beach, $5,400
  • Howard Lorber, chairman of Vector Group, $5,400
  • John Moriarty, owner of John Moriarty & Associates, $5,400
  • Bob Moss, chairman and CEO of Moss & Associates, $5,400
  • Richard LeFrak, chairman and CEO of LeFrak, $5,400
  • James LeFrak, vice chairman at LeFrak, $5,400
  • Harrison LeFrak, managing director at LeFrak, $5,400
  • Andrew Beal, real estate investor and founder and chairman of Beal Bank, $5,400

Real Estate Issues on the Campaign Trail: This year, Scott signed into law a business rent tax reduction to 5.7 percent from 5.8 percent, effective next Jan. 1. The cut reduces the sales tax that tenants pay for their commercial leases. 

The 2018-2019 state budget, which Scott signed in March, included nearly $124 million for affordable housing, according to the Florida Realtors. The budget also set aside up to $500,000 for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to combat unlicensed real estate activity. Additionally, the budget included more than $400 million for Everglades restoration, beach renourishment and springs protection, among other natural resources.

U.S. House of Representatives District 23
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Lives in: Weston
Net worth: $107,000 as of 2015
Campaign war chest: $1.7 million
Biggest Donors in Real Estate:

  • Alan Lieberman, owner of South Beach Hotel Group, $10,400
  • Sheryl Tishman, wife of Daniel Tishman, $5,400
  • Alan Ginsburg of the CED Companies, $5,400
  • Paul Kukuruza, managing director of Paloma Partners, $5,400
  • Charles Abele, chairman and CEO of Gold Coast Florida Regional Center, $5,000
  • Chris Korge, partner at the Americas Group, $2,700
  • Daniel Tishman, principal and vice chairman of Tishman, $2,700

Real Estate Issues on the Campaign Trail: Wasserman Schultz, a moderate Democrat in Congress, voted against the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, legislation that exempts some banks from the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. She also voted against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017.

U.S. House of Representatives District 23
Joe Kaufman
Lives in: Tamarac
Net worth: Not available
Campaign war chest: He’s raised $36,000, but he’s spent about $38,000. He had $387,000 in cash in his campaign account, plus debts of $89,900, primarily from his unsuccessful 2012, 2014 and 2016 campaigns for Congress.
Biggest Donors in Real Estate: No real estate donors
Real Estate Issues on the Campaign Trail: Kaufman’s platform includes his endorsement of downsizing or eliminating the IRS and lowering the corporate tax rate significantly. He supports using federal funding to create new bays and living shorelines and to bolster sea walls.

U.S. House of Representatives District 26
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell
Lives in: Pinecrest
Net worth: Nearly $661,000 as of 2016
Campaign war chest: $1.88 million
Biggest Donors in Real Estate:

  • Mary Wilkie-Ebrahimi, First Solar shareholder, $5,400
  • Farhad Ebrahimi, First Solar shareholder, $5,400
  • Donald Sussman, founder at Paloma Partners, $2,700
  • Kammy Moalemzadeh, founder and managing partner of Arcadia Investment Partners, $2,700
  • Joshua Easterly, CEO of TPG Specialty Lending, $2,700
  • Nicholas Pritzker, co-founder and principal of Tao Capital Management, $2,700
  • Isaac Pritzker, director of venture equities at Tao Capital Management, $2,700
  • James Attwood Jr., managing director of the Carlyle Group, $2,700
  • Jeffrey Sussman, president of Property Group Partners, $2,700
  • Louis Wolfson III, founding partner of Pinnacle Housing Group, $2,000
  • Jill Soffer, interior designer, $2,000
  • Lyle Stern, president of Koniver Stern Group, $1,000
  • Michael Adler, chairman and CEO of Adler Group, $1,000

Real Estate Issues on the Campaign Trail: Mucarsel-Powell’s campaign touches on combating sea level rise through investing in infrastructure.

U.S. House of Representatives District 26
Carlos Curbelo
Lives in: Miami
Net worth: $1.5 million as of 2015
Campaign war chest: $3.76 million
Biggest Donors in Real Estate:

  • Armando Codina, executive chairman of Codina Partners, $10,400
  • Real Estate Roundtable Political Action Committee, $8,500
  • Jose Mas, CEO of MasTec, $8,100
  • Jorge Mas Canosa, chairman of MasTec, $8,100
  • Matthew Rieger, president and CEO, Housing Trust Group, $5,400
  • Daniel Loeb, founder and CEO of Third Point Management, $5,400
  • Florida East Coast Industries LLC/Good Government Committee, $5,000
  • Jose Ferreira de Melo, president of the Melo Group, $2,700
  • Martin Ferreira de Melo, principal at the Melo Group, $2,700
  • Pedro Munilla, principal at MCM, $2,700

Real Estate Issues on the Campaign Trail: Curbelo calls himself a “positive voice on the issues of climate change … even when I have to break from my party to do so,” according to his website. He supports protecting the Everglades and water quality, especially in the Florida Keys. Curbelo has also advocated for alleviating the affordable housing crisis in the Keys.

U.S. House of Representatives District 27
Donna Shalala
Lives in: Coral Gables
Net worth: Between $4.6 million and $13.5 million
Campaign war chest: $2.08 million
Biggest Donors in Real Estate:

  • Jeffrey Krasnoff, founder and CEO of Rialto Capital Management, $5,400
  • Jackie Soffer, co-CEO of Turnberry Associates, $5,400
  • Louise Sunshine, real estate consultant, $5,400
  • Carol Soffer, art consultant at Turnberry Associates, $5,400
  • Rita Soffer, $5,400
  • Marsha Soffer, manager at Turnberry Associates, $5,400
  • Brooke Soffer, Realtor, $5,400
  • Craig Robins, president and CEO of Dacra, $5,400
  • Ed Easton, chairman and CEO of the Easton Group, $5,400
  • Stuart Miller, executive chairman of Lennar Corporation, $5,400
  • Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, $2,700
  • Louis Wolfson III, founding partner of Pinnacle Housing Group, $5,400
  • Arnaud Karsenti, managing principal at 13th Floor Investments, $2,700
  • Jill Soffer, interior designer, $2,700
  • Todd Glaser, developer, $2,700

Real Estate Issues on the Campaign Trail: The former University of Miami president has ties to housing. She was assistant secretary for policy development and research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and before that was on the board of Lennar Corporation. On the environment, her platform includes investing in clean energy infrastructure, encouraging the installation of solar panels in homes and tightening efficiency standards.

Attorney General
Sean Shaw
Lives in: Tampa
Net worth: $745,000
Campaign war chest: $1.49 million
Biggest Donors in Real Estate:

  • Philip Levine, developer and CEO of Royal Media Partners, $1,000
  • 247 Miracle Mile LLC, a Terranova Corp. entity led by Stephen Bittel and Mindy McIlroy, $1,000
  • Better Future LLC, a company led by Terranova’s Bittel and Scott Fitzgerard, $1,000
  • Blue Sky Communities, a multifamily firm based in Tampa, $500

Real Estate Issues on the Campaign Trail: At the Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach in September, Shaw vowed to look into whether Russians used Trump properties to launder money. Shaw compared his competition to “an extension of Pam Bondi” — a reference to the current attorney general’s decision to not investigate Trump University.

Attorney General
Ashley Moody
Lives in: Tampa
Net worth: $3 million
Campaign war chest: $3.72 million
Biggest Donors in Real Estate:

  • Companies tied to Tampa developer Stephen Dibbs, $10,000
  • Companies tied to Cargor Partners, a Bradenton homebuilder, $9,000
  • Continental Pacific, a commercial real estate firm, $3,000
  • Brent Sembler, vice chairman of the Sembler Company, $4,000
  • James Terlizzi, CEO of Peachtree Settlement Funding, $3,000
  • Third Lake Capital, $3,000
  • Barrow Realty, $3,000
  • The St. Joe Company of Watersound, Florida, $3,000
  • Patrick Neal, founder of Neal Communities, $3,000
  • Marta Batsmanian, Palm Beach commercial investor, $3,000
  • Jimmy Tate’s Tate Development Corporation, $3,000
  • Rayonier, timberland real estate investment trust, $3,000
  • Louis Wolfson III, founding partner at Pinnacle Housing Group, $3,000
  • Ron Bergeron, CEO of the Bergeron Family of Companies, $3,000
  • Michael Belisle, office manager of Linda A. Gary Real Estate, $3,000
  • The Celebration Company, $2,500
  • Mel Sembler, founder of the Sembler Company, $2,000
  • Rodney Barreto’s Coral Gables Title and Escrow, $1,000
  • Michael Adler, chairman and CEO of Adler Group, $1,000

Real Estate Issues on the Campaign Trail: Moody won the endorsements of the Florida Home Builders and the Florida Realtors PACs and the Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida. The construction trade group cited her “support of reducing barriers to increase innovation and promote job creation.” Moody also picked up Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s endorsement.

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