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No drama: John Rutherford, Al Lawson dominate cash race against longshot challengers

Q3 continued a narrative trend for Jacksonville’s Congressmen, as they continued to dominate their longshot challengers in the cash race.

First-term Reps. John Rutherford, a Republican and Al Lawson, a Democrat, each of whom have districts that are favorable in terms of voter profile, also connected with donors in the period leading up to Sept. 30.

Rutherford, who represents Northeast Florida’s 4th Congressional District, ended Q3 with $430,130 on hand (of $730,000 raised), well above the $4,444 Democratic challenger Ges Selmont had.

The political action committees of corporations such as Boeing and Google ponied up, as did local powerbrokers like Gary Chartrand and Peter Rummell, and old friends like former State Attorney Angela Corey.

Rutherford, who said he wouldn’t bother debating Selmont because there was no point in giving him a platform, raised $132,930 on the quarter, spending just $20,123 of it.

Republicans comprise 281,000, or 49.8 percent of the district’s voters. There are now 150,237 Democratic voters, or 26.6 percent of district voters. NPAs and third-party voters comprise the balance.

The money race in the majority-Democrat Jacksonville-to-Tallahassee Congressional District 5 likewise seems to reflect where voters will go, with Lawson holding a strong lead over Republican Virginia Fuller.

Lawson exited September with $60,303 on hand (he spent heavily in a competitive primary against Jacksonville’s Alvin Brown). Fuller, who had previously said that she wasn’t fundraising, had just $1,864 at her disposal.

The quarter reflected an active August: receipts of $80,522 were exceeded by $151,379 of spending.

In a reflection of the realities of the district, with Lawson a Democrat comfortable with Republicans and their issues, he got donations from GOP interests, such as the Charter School Action PAC.

Lawson and Rutherford both do things that irk their bases, as recently as last week.

Many groaned when Lawson lauded Gov. Rick Scott for his efforts to save lives after hurricanes.

Likewise, word from the Duval GOP Victory Dinner was that Rutherford’s own party was trying to give him the hook after he spoke longer than organizers apparently hoped.

But what’s clear is that neither of these incumbents is going anywhere, but back to D.C., in 2018.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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