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Florida House candidate Jenna Persons greets individuals at Lee County Republican Federated Women's Club. Photo by Jacob Ogles.

SW Florida

Jenna Persons holds onto significant fundraising lead

Fort Myers Republican looks to succeed Heather Fitzenhagen.

Republican Jenna Persons continues to maintain a heavy cash lead in the race to succeed state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen.

The Fort Myers attorney raised another $9,500 in April, bringing her total contributions to $130,435.

She’s the only candidate in the House District 78 district race, posting significant outside contributions so far.

Meanwhile, GOP opponent and local foundation leader Roger Lolly raised just $800 in April and about $6,175 in total.

Democrat Shawn Michael Williams raised nothing in April, his first reporting period since entering the race April 8.

Persons exploded onto the scene with a $110,000-plus haul in February. She’s since enjoyed steady fundraising.

“Local support is my primary support,” she said. “My goal is to ensure we raise enough to run a strong campaign that reaches and communicates with all the voters.”

And the bulk of money added to her account comes from local sources, including former Fort Myers Mayor Wilbur Smith.

She also picked up checks from corporations like Comcast, and notably spent time in Tallahassee during the session.

“Being engaged early in Tallahassee and knowing the different people involved in the process is important,” she said.

Lolly, founder of the If I Can Dream Foundation, filed in February as well. A former professional baseball player with the South Florida Braves, he said he plans to amp up fundraising further into the cycle.

All of his money comes from Southwest Florida individuals so far.

Fitzenhagen cannot pursue another term in 2020 because term limits.

The candidates are running in a deeply conservative district.

Fitzenhagen in November won re-election with 59 percent of the vote over Democrat Parisima Taeb. Through most of her legislative career, Fitzenhagen faced no Democratic opposition.

With the open seat, there’s still plenty of time for new candidates to jump into the race. And Southwest Florida will have a number of open seats on the ballot this fall.

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 jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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