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Scott Plakon’s funky fundraiser jazzes campaign in hot contest

Plakon and Tracey Kagan both had big Novembers in a hot contest

In a contest that’s likely to be highly competitive and which is already brutal, Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon gave his reelection campaign a strong jump in November with a $24,000 fundraising month that featured help from The Commodores founder Thomas McClary.

Plakon’s $24,500 haul in November came at a time when he was trading blistering criticisms with his new and old foe, Democrat Tracey Kagan of Longwood.

Kagan, who lost by 2 percentage points to Plakon in the 2018 election in House District 29 in central Seminole County, entered the race on Nov. 1. She also enjoyed a five-figure haul in her first month on the 2020 election campaign trail, depositing $12,467 in checks.

Other big months for Central Florida House of Representatives candidates were reported by Republican state Rep. David Smith in House District 28 in northern Seminole County and Democratic state Rep. Kamia Brown in House District 45,  in western Orange County.

The Plakon-Kagan race began with the pair trading shots after a Washington-based liberal watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against Plakon.

Plakon followed that a couple of weeks later with a fundraiser featuring McClary, the founder and lead guitarist for the legendary funk and R&B band, The Commodores. Plakon cashed more than $20,000 in campaign checks that week, according to his filings with the Florida Division of Elections.

He entered December having raised more than $100,000 overall. Including another $20,000 he had previously lent his campaign, Plakon reported having almost $112,000 in the bank on Dec. 1.

Kagan’s $12,467 haul in November was her first, and she reported spending none of that.

Smith’s November fundraising of $16,860 in November pushed his HD 28 reelection campaign total raised to $146,841. With $25,000 he had previously lent his campaign, Smith, of Winter Springs, entered December with almost $129,000 in the bank.

He now has two Democrats vying to take him on in 2020. Lee Mangold of Casselberry, whom Smith beat by 2 percentage points in the 2018 election, picked up just $729 in November. He has raised about $19,902 to date, and entered December with $9,326 left in the bank. Fairly new candidate Pasha Baker of Sanford raised $3,345 in November. She has raised $17,555 in about two months and had $7,563 in the bank at the end of November.

Brown has no opponents in her reelection bid in HD 45. She raised $11,600 in November. She has now raised $37,850 overall and entered December with $27,294 in the bank.

In other competitive races around Central Florida:

— In the contest for the seat opening up for House District 27 in southern Volusia County, Democrat Dolores Guzman of Deltona had the best of what were across-the-board modest fundraising efforts in November. She raised $3,990 in her first full month of campaigning, bringing her total raised to $6,715 and leaving her with about $2,200 in the bank.

— Three Republicans are vying for that seat, now held by Republican state Rep. David Santiago of Deltona. Webster Barnaby of DeBary raised $1,800 in November. He has raised $63,157 to date and still had more than $62,000 of that in the bank at the end of November. Erika Benfield of DeBary raised just $500. She’s raised $32,837 to date. She also previously lent her campaign $25,000, so she entered December with more than $55,000 in the bank. Zenaida Denizac of Deltona raised $200 in November. She hass raised $15,540 and lent her campaign $2,000. She entered November with $17,000 of that left.

— In House District 31 in northeastern Lake County and northwestern Orange County, Democrat Debra Kaplan of Eustis raised $1,540 in November, while Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Eustis reported collecting no money in the month. Kaplan has raised about $7,000 to date and has about half of that in the bank. Sullivan has raised $42,000 and has about $32,000 of that left.

— In House District 32 in Lake County, Republican state Rep. Anthony Sabatini of Howie In the Hills picked up $3,600 in November. He has raised $25,800 to date and has more than $10,000 of that in the bank. Democrat Ryan Morales of Clermont raised $155 and lent $1,500 to his campaign in November. Yet he still entered December without enough cash to pay a court-ordered judgment against him, unpaid salary for a former campaign communications staffer. Newly filed Democratic candidate Stephanie Dukes of Clermont reported $175 in her opening month.

— In House District 42 in Osceola County, Republican Fred Hawkins Jr. of St. Cloud and Democrat Barbara Cady of Kissimmee continue to distance themselves from the rest of the field in primary battles for that open seat. Hawkins, an Osceola County Commissioner, raised $9,000 in November, bringing his total raised to $163,000. He has $149,000 of that in the bank. Two other Republicans, Dianne Liebnitzky of St. Cloud and Benny Valentin of Kissimmee raised no money between them. Neither has even $1,000 in the bank.

Cady picked up $3,942 in the month bringing her total raised to $22,262. She has more than $20,000 of that in the bank. Democrat Victor Sims reported no campaign activity in November and came into December with less than $700 in the bank.

— In House District 43 in northwestern Osceola County, Alex Barrio continued to run away from most of the other four other Democrats competing for an open seat. Barrio raised $1,515. He has now raised $27,803 and entered December with more than $19,000 in the bank. Only Horng “Andrew” Jeng raised as much money among the others. He picked up the first $1,700 of his campaign. Carlos Irizarry, Tamika Lyles and Anthony Nieves each have less than $1,000. All candidates are from Kissimmee.

— In House District 44 in southwestern Orange County, Democratic state Rep. Geraldine Thompson of Orlando finally put together a modestly significant fundraising month, raising $7,900. That gives her $13,675 raised to date and $10,675 in the bank.

Meanwhile, Republican Bruno Portigliatti of Orlando had a modest November haul of $2,460, yet he remains well ahead in the cash chase. He has collected $75,361 overall and entered December with almost $60,000 of that left. Another Republican, Frank Blanco of Orlando, picked up $100 but has less than $300 overall.

— In House District 46 in west-central Orange County, Democrat Travaris McCurdy collected $2,131 in November, newly filed Democratic candidate Aretha Simons picked up $1,034 [most of it from herself], and Democrat Cynthia Harris raised $770. McCurdy now has raised $8,279 and has about $4,700 of that left. The other two have less than $2,000.

— In House District 49 in northeastern Orange County, Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando reported collecting $1,500 for his campaign in November. He has raised $8,357 to date and had about $3,700 left on Dec. 1. Republican challenger Robert Prater of Orlando raised $1,000. He has raised $3,450 to date and entered December with about $1,100 in the bank.

— In House District 50 in eastern Orange County and northwestern Brevard County, Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia of Orlando raised $9,400 in November while Democratic challenger Nina Wheeler Yoakum of Orlando picked up $1,247. Plasencia has raised $115,016 to date and has about $77,000 left. Wheeler Yoakum has collected $23,520 to date and entered December with more than $19,000 left.

— In House District 53 in southern Brevard County, Republican state Rep. Randy Fine of Palm Bay reported accepting $9,000 in November. He has drawn $139,230 to date and entered December with about $131,000 of that left. Democrat Phil Moore of West Melbourne entered the race in November and reported starting with $500.

Written By

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 scott@floridapolitics.com.

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