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Republicans boast financial edge in every SWFL legislative contest

The pandemic has limited fundraising, cementing a GOP resource edge.

A rush of Democratic candidates means more Southwest Florida races will appear on the ballot this year. But Republicans continue to hold a money edge in Senate and House contests throughout. And with a pandemic limiting all fundraising, the minority party faces obstacles as it wages challenges.

Senate District 21

Bradenton Republican Jim Boyd raised $4,800 in his campaign committee in April, but has now pulled in $250,025 overall. His campaign started May with $170,074 in cash on hand. That doesn’t include the $453,208 in cash his Building On Your Dreams Political Committee had despite taking March and February off of fundraising completely.

Meanwhile, Brandon Democrat Amanda Linton pulled in $545 in April, and closed the month with $5,912 in cash. In May, another Democrat, Timothy Frie of Lakewood Ranch, also emerged in the race to succeed Senate President Bill Galvano.

Senate District 23

Sen. Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, only pulled in $1,075 in April, but has a total of $218,191 despite not drawing any opposition until late March. He closed the month with $151,890 in cash.

He’s picked up multiple opponents in recent weeks. Independent Robert Kaplan filed in late March, but has not reported raising or spending any money as of yet. Democrat Katherine Norman filed last week and boasts support from 90 For 90 and the local Democratic environmental caucus.

Senate District 27

Rep. Ray Rodrigues remains unopposed in his bid for an open seat vacated by term-limited Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto. The progressive groups who recruited Norman say they will field a Democrat against Rodrigues as well.

Whenever anyone jumps in, Rodrigues has a war chest waiting. He only cashed in $500 in donations to his campaign account in April, but has raised $408,666 to date and has $199,590 in cash on hand. His Free Markets For Florida committee shifted $150,000 in April to the Friends of Ray Rodrigues committee, which is now sits on $771,273 in cash.

House District 55

Republican Ned Hancock raised $5,325 in April for the open House seat, and closed the month with $157,451 in cash on hand. That’s a lead still on Republican opponent Kaylee Tuck, who raised $1,150 in April and has $51,227 left after spending.

Democrat Tony Munnings reported a 12th consecutive month on no financial activity.

House District 72

Democrat Margaret Good, a candidate for Congress, holds the seat now. But the Republicans aiming to succeed her are the ones holding the most cash. Republican Fiona McFarland pulled in $17,000 in April, and wrapped the month with $194,878 in the bank. Republican Donna Barcomb raised $520 in April, and now has $78,915 cash. The final GOP candidate, Jason Miller, posted a second month of no fundraising, and has spent more than he has raised absent a candidate loan.

Democrat Drake Buckman raised $1,233 in April, and finished the month with $19,467 in the bank.

House District 73

Incumbent Rep. Tommy Gregory, a Sarasota Republican, only collected $605 in April, but Democrat David Fairey pulled in just $205. Gregory has $64,703 in cash on hand as of the start of May, while Fairey had $11,361 in the bank.

House District 75

Rep. Michael Grant, a Charlotte County Republican, meanwhile, raised only $85 and finished the month with $39,811. Democrat David Jones, of Englewood, pulled in $1,039 for his campaign, but has just $2,042 in cash on hand.

House District 76

The fundraising action in this open seat, vacated by Rodrigues, remains in the Republican primary, scant as it is. Bonita Republican Adam Botana raised $2,150 in April, and has $125,779. He also received $27,500 in his political committee, Conservatives For Clean Water. Sanibel Republican Jason Maughan reported $1,000 in April donations to his campaign, where he has $112,352 cash left after spending. Friends of Jason Maughan raised $25,000 in April, bringing totals there to $61,500.

Progressive groups just recruited Democrat Anselm Weber into the contest, with his paperwork only processed this week.

House District 77

In another open House with all the heat on the right, Cape Coral Republican Bryan Blackwell raised $2,875 in April and closed the month with $49,543. Republican Mike Giallombardo collected only $120 for the month but has a cash advantage with $52,636 in the bank. But then, Friends of Bryan Blackwell has $121,332 in cash on hand.

Democrat Josh Lopez raised $427 in April, and started May with $1,245 available.

House District 78

Another already heated primary in the region, the open seat saw typical limited action. Republican Jenna Persons collected $2,275 in April and wrapped the month with $165,120 in cash. Republican Roger Lolly reported $250 in new donations and holds $159,886 in the bank. Far behind, Republican Charles Lynch raised $169 for the month and has $2,570 available.

Democrat Shawn Williams received just $68 in April and has $4,300 cash as of the beginning of May.

House District 106

Incumbent Bob Rommel didn’t raise a dollar in April but still closed the month with six figure in the bank, where he still has $117,774. Democratic challenger Sara McFadden collected $2,264 in April, but has just $42,692 cash on hand. Rommel’s Florida Conservative Committee boasts $244,531 in the bank as of the beginning of May.

Uncontested?

Rep. James Buchanan, a Venice Republican, looked to be escaping a challenge in District 74 until Democrat Lisa Stortstrom filed last week. But he closed April with $84,835 cash on hand.

Activists say they will also run Democrats in Districts 71 and 80. In the former, Rep. Will Robinson, a Bradenton Republican, has $88,594 in cash as of the end of April.

In District 80, recently opened as incumbent Byron Donalds shifted attention to a Congressional run, Republican Lauren Melo remains unopposed for now. She only raised $50 in April, but has $52,555 in cash available.

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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