Belleair businessman and Pinellas GOP chair Nick DiCeglie anted up bigtime ahead of his head-to-head with Seminole attorney Berny Jacques in the Republican primary to succeed term-limited state Rep. Larry Ahern.
DiCeglie pumped $55,000 in loans into his campaign account and added another $22,350 in true fundraising to bring his overall to-date money total to $289,406. His campaign also blew through $57,307 during the reporting period, with nearly $40,000 of that spending heading to media buys.
As of Aug. 23, five days out from primary election day, he had $46,605 in the bank.
DiCeglie, the owner of Solar Sanitation, joined the HD 66 race months after Jacques and has been playing catchup in fundraising ever since. But the latest cash infusion, which makes for $125,000 in loans thus far, put’s him $30,000 ahead Jacques’ combined fundraising total of $259,475.
Jacques, for his part, raised just $325 in hard money during the 13-day reporting period while his political committee, Protect Pinellas, laid an egg.
There was plenty of action on the spending ledger, however, with the two accounts shelling out nearly $48,000 combined. That includes $29,100 in media production and airtime, as well as more than $18,000 in payments to Gainesville-based Data Targeting for direct mail campaigns.
Jacques finished the reporting period with just $469 in his campaign account and less than $5 in his committee, leaving him virtually exhausted moneywise in the twilight hours of the primary contest — state law prohibits candidates who are opposed in an election from raising campaign cash in final five days before voters head to the polls.
If recent public polling holds, DiCeglie primed to win the Tuesday’s election. An Aug. 13 survey of likely Republican primary voters in the coastal Pinellas district showed DiCeglie with a 44-30 percent lead over Jacques. That edge expanded to 51-34 percent among the voters who said they’d already sent in their primary ballot.
The winner of Tuesday’s election will move on to face Democratic nominee Alex Heeren in November. He tacked on $1,400 in his new report and spent nothing, bringing his fundraising total to $33,181 with $11,140 banked on Aug. 23. Unlike his Republican rivals, his fundraising efforts don’t need to pause since he’s unopposed in August.
HD 66 covers part of Clearwater and numerous other communities, including Belleair Bluffs, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores and Seminole.
The district has a Republican lean — Ahern has held the seat since it was redrawn in 2012, when he won re-election by 6 points. His next two re-election bids ended in double-digit wins, and President Donald Trump had similar success in 2016, when he carried the district 55-41.