With Coral Gables elections taking place Tuesday, some University of Miami administrators have made it clear that they are happy with the incumbents already in place.
Mayor Jim Cason and Group IV Commissioner Frank Quesada have served in their positions since 2011 and are running against challengers Ralph Cabrera and Enrique Lopez, respectively.
According to campaign finance reports, the UM administrators who decided to donate their own personal money to campaigns are happy to keep the two in office.
The third race for Group V Commissioner doesn’t have an incumbent running in the election, and while some professors donated to different candidates in the Group V Commissioner race, there were no donations from the sort of high-ranking administrators who donated to Cason and Quesada.
The reports show that Cason’s campaign received donations from UM President Donna E. Shalala; Joseph T. Natoli, CFO and senior vice president for business and finance; and David Lawrence Jr., president of The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation and Education and Community Leadership Scholar at the School of Education and Human Development.
Shalala and Natoli donated $500 each, while Lawrence Jr. donated $100.
Natoli declined to comment, and Shalala could not be reached for comment. Lawrence Jr. said that he is content with the work done by Cason, but added that he doesn’t consider himself a UM administrator.
“I was given a three-year scholar appointment; I don’t consider myself an administrator at UM, not in the slightest,” Lawrence said over the phone.
Cason said in an email that he and the Coral Gables government “have a great relationship with UM – couldn’t be better.”
“I’m very happy they recognize my leadership and support me, as have at least five trustees,” he said.
Quesada’s campaign received more significant support from UM’s administrators. In addition to donations from Shalala and Natoli, donations to Quesada’s reelection campaign came from Rudy Fernandez, chief of staff and vice president for government and community relations; Richard Jones, associate vice president of facilities design and construction; and Richard Ballard, CEO of UM Hospital and Clinics and the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. All five donated $500 dollars to the campaign.
Shalala and Natoli are both Coral Gables residents, but Fernandez, Jones and Ballard listed their residences as being outside of the city of Coral Gables. Jones and Fernandez both listed addresses in the neighboring city of South Miami, while Ballard listed the city of Weston, in Broward County, as his place of residence. Jones and Fernandez are UM alumni.
None of these administrators returned a request for comment, while Natoli said in an email that he had no comment.
“I’m honored that some of UM’s administrators have supported my campaign, and I think it stems from the great relationship that we have been able to foster over the last four years,” Quesada said in the email.
Quesada also said that the high number of UM alumni who live in the city and the university’s location in the center of the city make the relationship with the university important.
The reports include contributions up to March 28. Cason and Quesada had more than doubled their challengers in total monetary contributions up to that point.
Cason reported $137,140 in total contributions to that point, while his opponent Cabrera had just $56,520. Quesada had $91,700 in total contributions while his opponent, Lopez, had just $8,500.
Neither Cabrera’s nor Lopez’s reports showed any donors who listed themselves as UM administrators.
UM’s media relations department also declined to comment on the story, because the administrators made the donations as private citizens.
Featured image courtesy Phillip Pessar via Flickr