New committee dumps six figures on ads attacking ‘Sugar’ Ray Rodrigues
Screencap from In Florida We Trust ad.

Sugar Ray
The committee continues to report more expenditures than support.

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.

Jacob Ogles

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 [email protected].


  • Florida Voice for the Unborn

    July 20, 2020 at 12:14 pm

    RINO Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen and her allies lie – and cannot be trusted. Just last week, Rep. Fitzenhagen issued a BLATANTLY FALSE video advertisement in which she characterizes herself as “strongly pro-life” and in favor of “parental consent.” Of course, nothing could be further from the truth! During her nearly eight years in office as a state representative serving Lee County/Fort Myers, Fitzenhagen has NEVER voted for legislation that advances the rights of the unborn. In fact, just this passed February, Fitzenhagen voted AGAINST parental-consent-for-abortion legislation. She is radically pro-abortion – not pro-life! To find out the truth about Rep. Fitzenhagen, google “Florida Voice for the Unborn” and go to our website where you can sign a petition to Rep. Fitzenhagen, asking her to take-down her false video advertisement!

  • Bob Lloyd

    July 20, 2020 at 1:18 pm

    Ray Rodrigues has been at the forefront of clean water for Sanibel and surrounding communities. Fitzenhagen has been invisible.

    Seems like “Big Sugar” has a much better friend in Heather Fitzenhagen!!

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn