Jeff Brandes piles on cash as Florida Democrats scramble to replace Carrie Pilon - Florida Politics

Jeff Brandes piles on cash as Florida Democrats scramble to replace Carrie Pilon

Jeff Brandes

St. Petersburg Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes doesn’t know who he’ll be up against come Election Day, but that hasn’t stopped donors from pouring beaucoup bucks into his political committee.

A newly filed campaign finance report for Liberty Florida shows the Senate District 24 incumbent reeled in a six-figure haul from a crop of well-known donors in the last week of June.

Naples Republican Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a candidate for Senate President in 2022, chipped in $15,000 via her Working Together For Florida political committee and Miami-based air cargo company Florida Cargo Fresh matched her while U.S. Sugar and AIF-affiliated Floridians for a Stronger Democracy each showed up at the $10,000 level.

AT&T, Allstate and GEICO also made the donor sheet with smaller contributions.

In all, Liberty Florida cashed 17 checks worth a combined $103,500 during the week and now has more than $350,000 in the bank. Brandes’ campaign account is even more flush with cash — he had $467,250 in hard money three-quarters of the way through June.

The committee cash came a week before one-time challenger Carrie Pilon’s announcement that she would abdicate her spot on the ballot due to serious and unexpected health problems of a close family member.

SD 24 has a slight Republican lean. It voted for Barack Obama twice before going plus-7 for Donald Trump two years ago, and 2018 polling has consistently shown it was possible for a Democratic candidate to flip it — a recent survey conducted by St. Pete Polls put Pilon within five points of Brandes.

With Pilon’s exit, however, the Florida Democratic Party must now recruit another nominee to pick up the baton for the last four months of the 2018 cycle — a tough task only made tougher by Brandes’ prolific fundraising.

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.
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