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Eggplant parmesan and fundraising go hand-in-hand for Kathleen Passidomo

Senate’s GOP leader acted as host, head chef for February fundraiser.

When she’s not building up the Florida Senate’s Republican caucus, Kathleen Passidomo loves to cook.

Shortly before the start of Session, she found a way to do both.

The Senate Republican Leader on Feb. 18 served as host and chef for a Tallahassee fundraiser at Fifth and Thomas. There, 45 guests noshed on Italian delicacies prepared by the state senator from Naples.

A menu included charcuterie, octopus salad and baked stuffed shells.

Oh, and don’t forget an eggplant parmesan that Passidomo describes with humility typical of chamber leadership.

“If I dare say so myself, it was the best I ever had,” she says.

It was a meal days in the making. Passidomo recalls shopping at farmer’s markets in her district for perfect ingredients, then still stopping on the drive from Naples to Tallahassee to pick up extra goodies in Tampa. Then she slaved over a tiny oven in her apartment near the Capitol to finish the Italian feast.

So why cater one’s own event in a city routinely hosting events?

“I find it relaxing and I’m good at it,” Passidomo notes first and foremost. “Some play golf. Some fish. I cook.”

Beyond that, she also suggests politicians need to show some fiscal conservatism in their campaign efforts as well as their budget making.

“We’re asking people to contribute a lot of money to campaigns, and on our various committees,” she says. “It’s a way to give them value for their money.”

As for the event’s success, Passidomo can now add strong fundraising to her kitchen chops. Quite a few big hitters feasted upon the senator’s culinary labors.

From the start of 2019 through the day before the legislative session, Passidomo raised some $474,000 for her campaign and the Working Together For Florida political committee.

That includes big corporate players like Disney, Comcast and Florida Blue, as well as some powerful interests like the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Realtors and Florida Home Builders.

Firms like Greenburg Traurig appear on the donor list, as does the Florida Police Benevolent Association.

Passidomo, who doesn’t need to stand for re-election in 2020, wants to see dollars first spent to keep Republican senators in their seats.

“I think it’s going to be a tough election,” she predicts. “I want as much as I can raise to help my colleagues.”

From there, she wants to keep any open seats now held by the GOP to stay marinara red through the election cycle. But she will leave the political strategy to Sen. Wilton Simpson regarding how committee money gets dispatched.

Now, she’s just looking forward to cooking her next meal.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at

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