Jeff Brandes bolsters re-election bid with $300K of own money - Florida Politics

Jeff Brandes bolsters re-election bid with $300K of own money

Jeff Brandes

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes made a statement with his March fundraising report, which comes one week after Democratic trial lawyer Carrie Pilon filed to run against him in Senate District 24.

Brandes’ report saw the longtime lawmaker plunk down $300,000 of his own money just days after Pilon’s candidacy was leaked by the Florida Democratic Party’s Senate campaign arm.

The single self-contribution equals Brandes’ total fundraising for the 2012 campaign that sent him to the Senate.

The report also shows 13 other contributions, including four checks for the maximum campaign donation of $1,000.

Those max checks came in from government relations firms Johnson & Associates, Johnson & Blanton, Abbianna and Tallahassee real estate group 537. A trio of $500 checks came from St. Pete real estate group Echelon, the Cable Television PAC for Florida and Fla. Cable Telecommunications, while another half-dozen individuals showed up on the report with contributions of $100 or less.

The Republican Party of Florida’s Senate campaign arm also chipped in via an $16,204 “in-kind” contribution for polling in the last week of the month.

Spending came in at $12,684 for the month and mainly paid for consulting contracts.

St. Pete-based Poli Solutions Consulting received $7,000 across three checks, while Jacksonville-based Political Capital received $2,500 and Tallahassee-based firm Supernova Digital Communications received $1,365 for social media work.

Robert Watkins & Company was also paid $3,000 for accounting services.

The report puts Brandes’ 2018 campaign at $545,910 in total fundraising with $417,195 on hand heading into April.

In addition to piling onto his money lead, Brandes sought to deflate Pilon’s announcement day by announcing an endorsement from former Republican Rep. Ray Pilon, Carrie Pilon’s father-in-law.

Pilon, who filed April 2, will not release her first campaign report until the middle of next month.

SD 24 is considered competitive on paper.

Republicans have a 4-point advantage over Democrats, 37-33, when it comes to voter registrations in SD 24. The seat would have voted for Barack Obama by about a point in 2012 and 2.5 points in 2008, though the seat went plus-7 for Donald Trump in 2016.

Pilon’s candidacy indicates Florida Democrats’ optimism of a “blue wave” of anti-Trump and anti-GOP sentiment in November, and SD 24 is not the only Tampa Bay area seat on their wish list.

The party is currently trying to recruit former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy to run against former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper in SD 16, the Pinellas seat vacated Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala, who resigned in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal. In SD 18, Democratic Rep. Janet Cruz is eyeing a run against incumbent Republican Sen. Dana Young.

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and FloridaPolitics.com. While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.
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