A political committee blasting Estero Republican Ray Rodrigues spent six figures on ad buys in early June.
Since forming in mid-June, In Florida We Trust spent $188,969 between June 26 and July 10. Most of that went to reserving air time for ads describing “Sugar Ray Rodrigues” as a Big Sugar stooge.
The organization put far more into the Senate District 27 contest than Rodrigues’ primary opponent, Heather Fitzenhagen, has yet raised.
Moreover, the group has spent considerably more money that it has reported. To date, just $157,000 has come into committee coffers, $100,000 of that from the Everglades Water Trust.
But the high expenditures put further obstacles in the way of what seemed mere months ago an effortless walk for Rodrigues into the upper chamber.
For TV viewers in Southwest Florida, the blitz has been hard to miss.
“Big Sugar has spent big money buying Florida politicians like Sugar Ray Rodrigues,” a narrator states.
The ad then suggests Rodrigues was complicit in preventing the House for years from taking up E-Verify legislation. The House considered and passed a bill this year, one Fitzenhagen co-introduced. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law in June.
The ad also slams Rodrigues for supporting drivers’ licenses for undocumented workers. Curiously, an attack ad from the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee attacks Fitzenhagen for holding the same position.
Both pols assert they have a tough record on the issue.
Catamaran Consulting managed Fitzenhagen’s latest ad buy, finance records show. The company donated $50,000 to the committee.
The new committee is just one spending big on the race. Rodrigues controls two.
Friends of Ray Rodrigues, which raised another $30,000 in the last fundraising period, didn’t spend anything in early July but had $115,519 on hand. Free Markets For Florida reported no financial activity in the last period but has $16,027 on hand.
Fitzenhagen’s For A Better Florida political committee, meanwhile, raised $1,000 in the last period and has about $83,469 available. Since Fitzenhagen’s entry into the Senate race, the committee has only spent about $500 on accounting services.
Then there’s the candidates themselves.
Concerns Rodrigues spent his resources before drawing an opponent likely dimmed a bit in early June. The Estero Republican saw $52,450 in new donations supporting his Senate bid directly.
Fitzenhagen collected $37,460 in the reporting period, much of which was spent repaying a $13,500 candidate loan.
With less than a month until the Aug. 18 GOP primary, that means FItzenhagen holds $39,517 cash on hand to Rodrigues’ $99,572.
At the same time, Rodrigues has massively dipped into his already sizable war chest. In the two-week period, he dropped $102,210 on the race. Fitzenhagen’s campaign over the same period only spent $17,641.
Among notable donations to Fitzenhagen, the former Morgan & Morgan attorney received $1,000 from the firm and another $1,000 from Fort Myers attorney Jack Morgan. The Florida Speaks political committee also made a $1,000 donation to the campaign, as did a number local professionals.
New support for Rodrigues included $10,000 from a number of companies associated with Collier Enterprises. The Realtors PAC and associated entities chipped in another $3,000, as did business interests from across Florida.