Central Florida Republicans start House general campaigns with strong financial edges - Florida Politics

Central Florida Republicans start House general campaigns with strong financial edges

Several Central Florida Republican Florida House candidates entered the fall general election with solid financial advantages over their Democratic challengers.

That was the case with several House incumbent members seeking re-election and also is the case for David Smith who is running to win an open seat for Florida’s House District 28. It’s not the case with Democrats, excepting Anna Eskamani.

Neither Smith, a Winter Springs business consultant, nor Democratic nominee Lee Mangold, a Casselberry cyber-security business owner, had a primary challenge in HD 28 in northeast Seminole County. So both enter the fall stretch without having had to spend much, and Smith enters with a decided advantage in campaign cash.

Smith, who lent his campaign $85,000 to start, also had raised $146,000 through more than 1,300 contributions. Even though he spent considerably this year he still came through last Tuesday’s primary season with $136,118 left in the bank, according to the most recent campaign finance reports available through the Florida Division of Elections, covering activity through Aug. 23, the final report before the primary.

Mangold entered the general election campaign season with $15,265, built from a fairly robust 367 donations, plus $10,000 he lent his own campaign, minus more than $21,000 he has spent so far on his campaign.

Smith’s $120,000 campaign finance advantage was the third-best cushion heading into the fall election of any Central Florida Florida House candidates, behind only Democrat Eskamani and Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes, who also did not have primary challengers.

In House District 47 race in Orange County, first-time candidate Eskamani of Orlando reported having raised more than $309,000 in her official campaign fund and another $36,000 in an independent political campaign, putting her about $300,000 ahead of Republican nominee Stockton Reeves VI of Winter Park, who had to win a primary to enter the fall campaign. On Tuesday she reported that her next reports will put her over $350,000 raised. Reeves, who had to win a tough Republican primary, entered the fall with about $41,000 in his account.

Cortes, of Altamonte Springs, enters the fall campaign with $135,081 in the bank for the HD 30 race in south Seminole and north Orange counties. His Democratic opponent, Maitland City Councilwoman Joy Goff-Marcil, emerged from a highly competitive three-way Democratic primary with just $3,657 left in her campaign account.

Republican state Reps. Scott Plakon of Sanford in Seminole County’s House District 29 and Bobby Olszewski of Winter Garden in Orange County’s House District 44, who also had no primary challenges while their Democratic opponents did, also emerged into the fall with sizable money advantages.

That wasn’t the case across the board. Several incumbent Florida House members who had primary challengers enter the fall campaign a bit financially spent, including state Rep. Thad Altman of Indialantic in District 52 in Brevard County, who spent so much to win his primary that his autumn opponent, Democrat Seeta Begui of Melbourne, a first-time candidate, actually starts the fall campaign with more than a $3,000 campaign money advantage in the bank, according to reports through Aug. 23.

None of the Democratic members of the Florida House seeking re-election enter the fall with much financial advantage.

First-time Republican candidate Ben Griffin of Orlando was given $50,000 by the Republican Party of Florida to run against Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando in House District 49 in Orange County, and Griffin raised only another $3,260 on his own. Still, Smith starts the fall campaign with only a $15,476 advantage.

In House District 48 in Orange County, Democratic state Rep. Amy Mercado‘s Republican opponent has raised no money, but she hasn’t raised much either. So Mercado, of Orlando, enters the fall campaign with a $17,262 campaign finance advantage over George Chandler of Orlando.

Among the other Central Florida races for the Florida House:

— Plakon entered the fall HD 29 campaign in Seminole County with $98,541 in the bank, compared with $8,582 for Democrat Tracey Kagan of Longwood.

— Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mout Dora entered the fall campaign for HD 30 with $53,827 in the bank in the House District 31 race in Lake and Orange counties, compared with $6,264 for Democrat Debra Kaplan of Eustis.

— Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud had $81,894 in his campaign account entering the fall House District 42 race in Osceola County, compared with $25,392 for Democratic challenger Barbara Cady of Kissimmee.

— Olszewski came into the fall with $120,166 in the HD 44 contest, while former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson of Orlando, who had to win a Democratic primary, enters with $9,532, according to reports through Aug. 23.

— Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia of Orlando had to spend big to stave off a primary challenger, and so he entered the fall with just $36,309 to defend his House District 50 seat in east Orange County and north Brevard County, while Democrat Pam Dirschka of Titusville came into the fall campaign with $7,745 in the bank.

Tyler Sirois of Merritt Island, who also had to spend big to win a Republican primary. He came into the fall House District 51 race in north Brevard County with just $12,460 in the bank, compared with $7,152 for Democrat Mike Blake of Cocoa.

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.
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