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Ray Rodrigues drops half-million and counting, outspending Heather Fitzenhagen nearly sixfold

And that’s before you look at committee spending.

Estero Republican Ray Rodrigues has spent more than a half-million dollars running for the Florida Senate.

The $503,425 dropped on the race by his campaign represents nearly six times the reported expenditures of primary opponent Heather Fitzenhagen.

While a good chunk of that spending was before Fitzenhagen’s last-minute entry, Rodrigues spent $285,047 between June 13 and the end of July. Fitzenhagen spent $86,042.12 at the same time.

Of course, the spending by a candidate’s campaign represents just part of the story. Hundreds of thousands have poured into the race through political committees. It’s all contributed to making the Senate District 27 primary one of the most watchable in Florida.

The Everglades Water Trust-backed In Florida We Trust, formed a day after FItzenhagen qualified, spent $888,306 through the end of July. Much of that went into television ads and mailers painting Rodrigues as ‘Sugar Ray,’ a pawn of agricultural special interests.

Meanwhile, the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee also blitzed the district with ads attacking Fitzenhagen’s vote against a parental consent bill, labeling her “Planned Parenthood’s Favorite Politician.”

Both candidates also control political committees as well.

Fitzenhagen’s For a Better Florida spent $63,962 in the same period. The committee started August with $27,807.19 in the bank.

Tracking money through Rodrigues-connected committees proves a more complicated affair. Friends of Ray Rodrigues has moved $581,684, and Free Markets for Florida reported $100,050 since the primary with Fitzenhagen materialized. But the bulk of that has gone to another committee, Americans for Liberty and Prosperity, which has somehow spent just $4,000 at the same time but sat on $714,863 at the start of August.

As the month began, Rodrigues had $11,496 in cash on hand. There, Fitzenhagen has the edge with $21,957 left in the bank. But it seems like outside spending, whether by candidate-associated committees of other groups, will be where the real cash flow happens.

The contest has been among the most expensive and confrontational in Florida’s primary season. Despite being colleagues in the Florida House serving together on the Lee County Delegation, Rodrigues and Fitzenhagen have each been put on blast by negative ads.

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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