Democrat Andrew Learned will start his General Election campaign with $87,200 cash on hand — about $76,300 more than Republican opponent Michael Owen — as the two battle for House District 59.
The Democrat’s lead comes after a big spending spree by Owen leading up to the Aug. 18 primary. While Owen won the GOP Primary Election against Danny Kushmer, he spent nearly $192,000 in the process.
Learned, on the other hand, faced no primary challenger, letting him save up for the November election.
Now, as the two face off in the General Election, Learned will have a financial advantage; however, Owen has shown aggressive efforts in financing his campaign, so far putting $85,900 of his own cash into the campaign.
Owen is entering the General Election with about $10,900 cash on hand, after only raising $100 the week of his primary win. Learned raised $10,456 in the same period, which spanned Aug. 14 through Aug. 21.
Owen has raised a total of $119,813, and added to his funding with loans — the Republican candidate loaned his campaign $12,500 in the week before the Primary Election. Learned has raised $161,670 since the start of his campaign.
The open race in Florida House District 59 is an important one for both Florida Democrats and Republicans this November.
The seat opened when incumbent Rep. Adam Hattersley opted to run instead for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, which he lost to investigative reporter Alan Cohn in the Aug. 18 Democratic primary.
His departure leaves the door open for Republicans to reclaim the seat Hattersley flipped blue just two years ago. And, it’s a must-win for Democrats looking to retake the Florida House.
The race will likely be competitive, with Learned leaning on his military record and experience as a small business owner to wage a moderate campaign that can reach voters from both parties.
Owen, meanwhile, ran a conservative primary campaign, touting endorsements from Christian groups and the anti-abortion Florida Right to Life PAC. He has also spoken out against policies he says would “erase our history” and efforts to “demonize our men and women” in law enforcement, subtle nods against removing Confederate statues and the Defund the Police movement, respectively.
But he has a solid platform on which he can moderate his message. His top campaign priorities include improving local infrastructure and expanding education opportunities to promote more vocational skills and occupational licenses. Both are issues attractive on both sides of the aisle.
This is Owen’s first political campaign, potentially putting him at a strategic disadvantage against Learned, who ran unsuccessfully for CD 15 in 2018, losing to Kristen Carlson in that year’s Democratic primary.
The once conservative stronghold district also now favors Democrats.
Democrats have 6,393 more registered voters than Republicans, a narrow margin considering there are a total of 118,906 registered voters in the Hillsborough County district.
Hattersley won the district by fewer than 2,000 votes in 2018. Two years prior, the district went for President Donald Trump by less than a percentage point, meaning it’s a seat in play for both parties.