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Tough primary drains Matt Caldwell’s coffers

A fierce four-way primary for Agriculture Commissioner left Republican nominee Matt Caldwell running low on funds as the general-election campaign got underway, according to numbers posted on the state Division of Elections website.

Meanwhile, his Democratic opponent, attorney and medical-marijuana lobbyist Nikki Fried, had a little more than $220,000 on hand as September began, even as she once again had to find a new bank for her campaign account.

Caldwell, a state House member from North Fort Myers, started September with about $72,000 in cash on hand in his personal campaign account and the political committee Friends of Matt Caldwell, finance reports show.

As of Aug. 31, Friends of Matt Caldwell had raised $1,794,744, while spending $1,788,846. The spending included $763,808 on advertising between Aug. 11 and the Aug. 28 primary. Caldwell’s personal campaign account had raised $833,881 and spent $767,352 as of Aug. 31, including $178,500 for advertising in the final weeks of the campaign.

Caldwell received nearly 37 percent of the 1.5 million votes cast in the GOP primary.

Meanwhile, Fried, who handily defeated two other Democrats in the primary, started September with $112,844 available in her campaign account. Fried’s political committee, Florida Consumers First, had $111,823 on hand as of Aug. 31.

Fried drew attention last month after Wells Fargo announced it was closing her campaign account because of her ties to the medical-marijuana industry. Wells Fargo issued a statement that it had to “comply with federal law on the topic of marijuana, even in instances where state laws may differ.”

Fried said Monday during a media conference call that she also was informed Aug. 29 by BB&T that an account she had opened was being closed.

Fried said BB&T singled her out for her “political views and my advocacy to expand patient access to medical marijuana in Florida.” She said she’s been approached by a state bank about handling her finances.

The News Service of Florida provides journalists, lobbyists, government officials and other civic leaders with comprehensive, objective information about the activities of state government year-round.

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