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Latest haul pushes matching funds over $8 million

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum drew nearly $500,000 on Friday as Florida’s matching-funds program has doled out nearly $8.4 million this year to statewide candidates.

The release of the latest weekly checks also showed that Democratic Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried has qualified for the taxpayer-funded program, which provides matches for individual contributions of $250 or less to candidates’ campaigns.

Candidates for Cabinet offices — Agriculture Commissioner, Attorney General and Chief Financial Officer — must amass $100,000 in such relatively small-dollar donations to qualify. Gubernatorial candidates must first raise $150,000 worth of contributions of $250 or less to be eligible. Contributions to candidates’ political committees are not matched.

Fried, an attorney and lobbyist from Fort Lauderdale, got a check for $117,627 on Friday. She became the 10th statewide candidate this year to participate in the program — though four of those candidates lost in primaries. Fried’s Republican opponent, state Rep. Matt Caldwell, has decried the program as “campaign welfare.”

The program gave candidates $6.065 million in 2010 and $4.3 million in 2014.

The biggest user of the program this year has been Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, who drew a check for $279,046 on Friday and has now received just over $2.3 million from the state.

In the past, the most any candidate has drawn from the program was the $2.58 million received by Democrat Charlie Crist in 2014 for his unsuccessful gubernatorial run.

Gillum, who received a check for $499,442 on Friday, has received nearly $2.23 million from the state. Overall, Gillum, DeSantis and their political committees have raised a combined total of more than $96 million for the contest.

Gillum’s check Friday was not the largest single amount going to a candidate this year.

When the program opened July 27 for the current election cycle, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, who was defeated by Gillum in the Aug. 28 Democratic gubernatorial primary, received a check for $991,598.

The same week, $932,471 went out to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who eventually lost to DeSantis in the Republican primary, and $643,226 was sent to DeSantis.

In the race to replace term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi, Democratic state Rep. Sean Shaw of Tampa received $11,808 from the state on Friday and Republican Ashley Moody, a former Hillsborough County circuit judge, got $11,223.

Moody has now received $428,737 from the state, which Shaw has pulled in $302,535.

Republican state CFO Jimmy Patronis got a matching-funds check for $7,284 on Friday. He has now drawn $324,279 from the state.

Caldwell, a property appraiser from North Fort Myers, and former state Sen. Jeremy Ring, the Democratic candidate for CFO, are the only major-party candidates for Governor or Cabinet seats on the November ballot not participating in the program.

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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