Democrat Nina Yoakum makes big first splash in HD 50 race

Nina Wheeler Yoakum
In HD 28, David Smith raises $25K; in HD 29, Scott Plakon, $16K

Democratic Florida House of Representatives candidate Nina Wheeler Yoakum posted a big fundraising start for her challenge in Florida House District 50, attracting more than $13,000 in her first month of the 2020 election campaign.

That’s nearly as much as either of Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia‘s previous two Democratic challengers managed to raise for their entire election campaigns in Florida House District 50, in 2018 and 2016.

Yoakum’s haul in July, $13,027, includes $4,000 she donated to her own campaign. Across Central Florida, perhaps only incumbent Republican state Reps. David Smith of Winter Springs and Scott Plakon of Longwood had more successful fundraising efforts for the month.

A handful of candidates’ campaign finance reports still have not been posted in House districts in Orange, Osceola, Lake Seminole, Brevard, and southwestern Volusia counties. But all the incumbents’ reports are in.

Smith, who faces a 2020 rematch of his 2018 contest with Democrat Lee Mangold in House District 28 in northeastern Seminole, raised $25,825, the most of any Florida House candidate in the Central Florida region for July. Plakon, who is unopposed in House District 29 in central Seminole, reported collecting $16,900. Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani reported receiving $50,000 in her independent political committee; but her official campaign for reelection in House District 47 in northern and central Orange reported raising only $5,343 during the month. She also is unopposed so far.

Plasencia did not do any fundraising in July, though his campaign spent almost $1,500. Consequently, he entered August, after seven months on the campaign trail, with $27,682 in the bank, while Yoakum, after her first month, entered August with $12,734.

HD 50 covers eastern Orange County and northwestern Brevard County.

Yoakum, who, like Plasencia is a former teacher, picked up 64 individual donations in August, including two maximum-contribution $1,000 checks, from lawyer Christina Green and sitEX Properties of Avalon Park.

“Really I’ve just been taking it a step at a time and trying to reach out to friends old and new. I’m just using any time I have, and going door to door to get petitions signed. We’ve also been going to some events, too,” she said. “Really I’ve had very, very few ‘no’s, which is really encouraging.

“People are ready for a change,” Yoakum added. “And some people are saying to me, ‘What took you so long?'”

Mangold’s report is among a handful that still had not been posted on the Florida Secretary of State’s website by late Monday.

In other races in Central Florida:

— In House District 31 in northeastern Lake and northwestern Orange, Republican incumbent state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora reported raising $2,250, while Democratic challenger Debra Kaplan of Eustis reported raising $1,075 in July. Sullivan has about $32,000 in the bank, and Kaplan about $1,500.

— For a seat opening up in House District 42, in northwestern Osceola and eastern Polk County, Republican Osceola County Commissioner Fred Hawkins of Saint Cloud reported raising $5,500; Democrat Barbara Cady of Kissimmee, $2,700; Republican Dianne Liebnitzky of Saint Cloud, $150; Republican Bienvenido Valentin, of Kissimmee, $150; and Republican Zane Matter of Saint Cloud, $40. Hawkins entered August with a war chest of more than $127,000. Cady had with more than $11,000. None of the other candidates had even $1,000 in hand.

— There are four Democrats running for the open seat in House District 43, and only Alex Barrio of Kissimmee reported raising any money in July. He collected $2,865 and finished the month with about $11,500 in the bank. Carlos Irizarry, Horng “Andrew” Jeng, and Anthony Nieves, all of Kissimmee, have raised no money to date, though Irizarry started his campaign with a $500 loan.

— In House District 44 in southwestern Orange, neither Democratic incumbent state Rep. Geraldine Thompson of Orlando nor Republican challenger Frank Blanco of Orlando raised any money in July, and neither has much money yet. Blanco entered August with $140, Thompson with $100. A second Republican, Bruno Portigliatti of Orlando, entered the race on August 1.

— For the seat opening up in House District 46 in western Orange, Democrat Travaris McCurdy posted a strong first month on the campaign trail, picking up $2,330, and finishing the month with about $2,000 of that in the bank. Democrat Cynthia Harris of Orlando raised $170, and entered August with about $500 in the bank.

Other unopposed candidates around Central Florida besides Plakon and Eskamani include:

— Democratic state Rep. Kamia Brown of House District 45 in western Orange, reported raising $6,000 in July and entered August with just under $10,000 in the bank.

— Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando did not raise any money in July and came into August with about $500 in the bank for his reelection bid in House District 49 in northeastern Orange.

— Republican state Rep. Tyler Sirois of Merritt Island collected $1,000 in July and finished the month with about $6,000 in the bank in House District 51 in central Brevard.

— Republican state Rep. Thad Altman of Indialantic did not raise any money in July and entered August with about $7,000 for his next election try in House District 52 in northeastern Brevard.

— Republican state Rep. Randy Fine of Palm Bay reported raising $5,500, topping $100,000 for the election cycle. He entered August with just under $100,000 in the bank for his reelection bid in House District 53 in southern Brevard.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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