U.S. Rep. Al Lawson‘s primary challenge from former FAMU quarterback Albert Chester has felt like a training camp challenge from an upstart rookie to a time-tested veteran.
Lawson, also a former college athlete with a portfolio, has offered Chester ahead of the primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District a look into the veteran playbook, regarding campaign messaging, political infrastructure, and the realities of running a campaign over a sprawling. incongruous district. The map is characterized by numerous splits in media markets and mindsets and not much to bind it together in comparison.
Chester, along with second-time candidate and fellow Jacksonville resident LaShonda Holloway. are seeing what an incumbent’s campaign can do at the end: raise tens of thousands of dollars from friends spanning a variety of sectors, deep institutional roots that can’t be faked.
The incumbent carried roughly $200,000 cash on hand in the pre-primary report filed last week, covering the period through July 29.
But in the days since, the Tallahassee Democrat has continued to raise cash, bringing in $69,200 from that date to August 8.
The donors read like a who’s who of connected interests, with U.S. Sugar and Boeing PACS rubbing shoulders with former Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant, Ron Sachs and Sean Pittman, and Florida State University coach Leonard Hamilton, along with more traditional Republican donors, such as John Kirtley and Jacksonville donor class member John Baker.
The Longshoremen’s Union also backs Lawson.
The incumbent has stressed the value of his experience and ability to negotiate the process in Congress in candidate forums in the district, saying people have been “pleased with the money we’ve put in their pocket through this pandemic.”
While both Holloway and Chester have made their cases that a more progressive vision is necessary, it’s hard to see where it has connected with donors. Chester had just over $31,000 on hand as of the end of March, the last filing the Federal Elections Commission has for him. Holloway’s fundraising, meanwhile, is not on the site at all.
The winner of the Democratic primary will likely win this seat outright given the strong Democratic plurality and donor comfort with Lawson. Two Republicans are running, however.
As of July 29, Jacksonville’s Gary Adler had just over $18,000 on hand, while Roger Wagoner had $883 on hand.