The Republican Party of Florida had a strong first quarter of 2019, bringing in $5.1 million to open the year and the 2020 election cycle.
The haul, the first mostly under new Chair Joe Gruters, swamps what the Florida Democratic Party did during the same three-month period.
And perhaps more importantly for Gruters’ status, it returns the Republicans to a pattern of strong starts to election cycles after an unusually low performance, for the Florida GOP, in the first quarter of 2017.
In January, February, and March of 2019 the party collected checks totaling $5,102,175, and also received another $234,236 in in-kind contributions, mostly theme park admissions and hotel rooms for the annual getaways to Walt Disney World in January and Universal Orlando in February.
In the same period, the Florida Democratic Party reported raising $895,055 in cash. However, that’s a pretty typical start for Democrats in the first quarters of new election cycles.
The latest GOP haul compares with just $2.5 million in cash that the party took in the first quarter of 2017, at the beginning of the 2018 election cycle. The latest quarter returns the party to the pattern of strong starts to election cycles that the party had before that: $5 million in the first quarter of 2011, $6 million in the first quarter of 2013, and $5.4 million in the first quarter of 2015.
According to the latest report posted by the Florida Division of Elections, the state Republican Party brought in four checks of at least $100,000, another 18 in the $50,000-$99,000 range, and another 180 of at least $10,000 and less than $50,000. Almost all came from businesses, business groups, law firms, and Republican leadership political committees.
By contrast, the Democrats accepted only one check over $50,000 and 32 checks of between $10,000 and $50,000, also almost all from businesses, business groups, law firms, and political committees.
Leading contributors to the Republican Party of Florida included the private-prison company The Geo Group Inc., which sent in three checks totalling $160,000; Disney Worldwide Services Inc., which provided five checks totaling $135,000; the Florida Justice Political Committee, with two checks adding up to $125,000; Heritage Insurance Holdings Inc., $125,000; Blue Cross Blue Shield, which donated $105,000 through eight checks; the Floridians for Economic Advancement, which provided $100,000; and Florida Power & Light Co., which contributed $100,000.
Other top contributors to the Republicans included Duke Energy, $85,000; TECO Energy, $75,000; the Morgan & Morgan law firm, $75,000;, and the Jacksonville Kennel Club Inc., $75,000.
The Democrats’ top contributors included the United States Sugar Corp., $40,000; Florida Justice Association Political Action Committee, $40,000; Florida Power & Light, $30,096; former Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw‘s political committee, $25,000; Blue Cross and Blue Shield, $20,069; Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits, $20,000; and Centene Management Co., $20,000.