Republicans enjoy heavy money advantages in all Senate contests in Southwest Florida this cycle.
Estero Republican Ray Rodrigues and Bradenton Republican Jim Boyd head to November as heavy favorites for open seats. Incumbent Sen. Joe Gruters, meanwhile, appears to be in a comfortable position as he seeks reelection to a second term.
Senate District 27
Following a bruising, expensive and largely unexpected primary, Rodrigues emerged victorious as the GOP nominee and now faces Democrat Rachel Brown. He’s spent more than a half million dollars to get here. After raising $3,050 between Aug. 22 and Sept. 4, his total contributions sit at $556,485. But the costly August race leaves him with just $17,261 on hand.
That’s still a solid advantage over Brown, who raised $10,449 since jumping into the race in May. She reported no additional contributions in the last filing period. Subtract spending and the Fort Myers environmental activist still has $3,183 in the bank. Brown was one of the last Democrats who filed for office as part of a statewide effort by progressive groups to field candidates in every legislative race. Brown has worked closely with other Democrats in the region to boost collective enthusiasm around the races, but will almost certainly be outspent.
It’s not just the remaining cash in Rodrigues’ campaign account. He controls two political committees. Free Markets For Florida raised another $7,500 in the latest filing period and maintains $38,216 on hand. Friends of Ray Rodrigues, meanwhile, reported another $5,000 in its coffers and has $134,704 ready to burn.
As of book closing ahead of the August primary, the GOP held an advantage in the number of voters in Senate District 27, with 153,944 registered Republicans compared to 99,798 Democrats. There are another 103,444 voters registered without any party affiliation.
Senate District 21
Boyd won the Republican primary over perennial candidate John “Mr. Manners” Houman with more than 90% of the vote. While that margin shows there may not have been much need, he spent more than $200,000 doing so.
He’s continued to add to his campaign coffers as he eyes November. In the last reporting period, Boyd collected $7,250 in new donations. That brings his total monetary contributions to $312,400. But subtract some ample spending and he’s got around $75,168 in cash on hand.
That should be plenty, especially considering there’s been a recast on the Democratic side of the ticket. While educator Amanda Linton for more than a year planned to be the Democratic nominee, life changes brought by a coronavirus-driven recession forced her late withdrawal.
Now social media influencer Tony Eldon has come in as a replacement nominee. The Bradenton Democrat has raised $2,825 since entering the race on Aug. 19, much of which has been spent on administrative costs. As of Sept. 4, he reported $248 in cash as he pulls together a Senate campaign on a ticking clock.
Meanwhile, Boyd’s Building On Your Dreams political committee collected another $6,000 last period and has another $228,819 available to spend.
The two candidates look to succeed Senate President Bill Galvano in his district seat. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district 165,332 to 119,508, without about 99,667 unaffiliated voters.
Senate District 23
The only incumbent Senator running in the region this year, Gruters enjoyed solid fundraising for the last reporting period, collecting another $12,275 in donations, bringing his grand total to $279,385. Without any primary this year, the Sarasota Republican still has much of that in the bank, with about $133,025 cash on hand. As chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, he’s seen reports roll in from political committees around the state and country.
Democrat Katherine Norman, meanwhile, collected $6,980 since joining the race in May. She’s saved most of it, reporting $5,624 in cash as of Aug. 4. But that means Gruters boasts greater than a 20-to-1 cash advantage.
Meanwhile, independent Robert Kaplan has filed no contributions since jumping into the race in March. His only expenditure, outside some small banking fees, has been his qualifying check.
Gruters’ district is home to 177,051 GOP voters, 127,668 Democrats, and 104,430 without a party.