Jay Fant, in his bid for Attorney General, collected three endorsements this week, coming on the heels his $750,000 campaign loan.
For Fant, a Republican state representative from Jacksonville, the capital infusion was a big deal; it brought him closer, in cash on hand, to Ashley Moody — the retired Hillsborough judge who already collected $850,000 in her campaign coffers, as well as an additional $200,000 into her Friends of Ashley Moody committee.
Fant’s campaign notes this money brings him to $958K in total fundraising, and the hope the capital brings forward more endorsements.
A Jacksonville native, Fant scored one local endorsement (state Sen. Aaron Bean) and two endorsements from House colleagues (Sam Killebrew of Winter Haven, and North Florida’s Elizabeth Porter).
Other endorsements, we understand, are banked.
So far, Fant has collected over a dozen House endorsements — a combination of locals, such as Paul Renner, Bobby Payne, Clay Yarborough and Jason Fischer, and other colleagues, such as Mike Miller.
Fant’s team frames these endorsements as proof of the candidate’s conservative bona fides — a key selling point in a compare/contrast with the less-ideological Moody.
However, as POLITICO reported Friday morning, there will be competition on the right — and from the Florida House.
Per Marc Caputo: “First-term state Rep. Frank White of Pensacola will officially enter the race for attorney general today. After filing, he is expected to address the state Fraternal Order of Police Board Meeting in Jacksonville. Last night, he joined fellow panhandle Republicans at the Walton County Lincoln Dinner. White works as general counsel and CFO for a chain of auto dealerships in Northwest Florida.”
White all but confirmed he was already in, of course, per the Pensacola News-Journal.
And his talking points sound a lot like Fant’s.
“I would manage the attorney general’s office in a way that protects consumers, especially seniors, defends the constitution from liberal attacks and respects that every dollar the office has come from the hard work of taxpayers,” White said.
Fant’s campaign has been looking for votes in the Panhandle. They may prove more difficult to find now that Pensacola has a candidate in the race.
White has a strong resume.
Per the News-Journal: “White said his private sector experience as the chief financial officer and general counsel for Sandy Sansing Dealerships and his work as an attorney at the international law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld, LLP has made him ready for the attorney general’s office.”
And, if 2016 is any guide, White is smart enough to bring in the big guns: Data Targeting Research, with Tim Baker and Brian Hughes — who ran that 2016 campaign — playing a pivotal role.
Worth noting: Baker and Hughes have a significant presence in White’s Jacksonville market, running the political operations for a number of City Council candidates, State Attorney Melissa Nelson (who is sitting out this race), Sheriff Mike Williams (who backed Moody early, at a fundraiser in Fant’s own district), and Mayor Lenny Curry (who is very aware that Fant, in a visit to the Duval Republican Party meeting, maligned Curry’s handling of a Human Rights Ordinance expansion — one that the City Council passed with a veto-proof supermajority).
White’s visit to the Jacksonville FOP will be just the first of many forays into this market, where the voters skew more conservative than almost every other metro area in the state.
Fant is in a tough place: He has competition, both on the right and in the center and he is struggling to consolidate the local base.
Fant is crisscrossing the state for support; he addressed Republicans in Starke just last night, right after the House Committee Week.
But what’s clear is that White wouldn’t be in this race if he didn’t see an opening — one that couldn’t be closed with a $750,000 loan.