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Mega-donor Barbara Stiefel boosts Patricia Sigman campaign

South Florida philanthropist donates $100,000 to help Sigman.

Democrat Patricia Sigman got a huge boost from South Florida philanthropist and Democratic donor Barbara Stiefel, who gave $100,000 to Sigman’s independent political committee for her election to an open seat in Senate District 9.

The donation, received Sept. 11, quickly was forwarded into the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. That committee is essentially running Sigman’s campaign and is currently airing a barrage of TV commercials for her in the Orlando market.

The donation was not the only big check given this month to Sigman’s United For Change. The political committee also received $10,000 checks from both Miami personal injury lawyer Philip Freidin and his wife Ellen Freidin, a lawyer and consultant who had chaired the committee that pushed through the Fair Districts amendment to Florida’s Constitution in 2010.

Sigman is battling with Republican former Rep. Jason Brodeur for the seat opening in SD 9, which represents Seminole County and parts of southern Volusia County.

In addition to the $120,000 total from Stiefel and the Freidins, United For Change picked up $5,000 checks from former Orlando Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy and four other individuals, and $1,500 from the phantom U.S. Senate campaign of former Sen. Bill Nelson. United For Change collected more than $154,000 in the two week period spanning Sept. 5 through Sept. 18, according to the latest reports filed with the Florida Division of Elections.

Stiefel, a Coral Gables soap company heir who has several charitable foundations, previously donated millions of dollars across numerous Democratic campaigns and causes at both the federal and state levels. Her contributions have included $1.5 million to John Morgan‘s efforts to get medical cannabis legalized in Florida, and $400,000 for a PAC supporting Rep. Charlie Crist‘s failed gubernatorial run in 2016. The $100,000 donated to Sigman’s committee represents her largest check to support a state Senate candidate. It equals what Stiefel has donated so far to a PAC supporting Joe Biden‘s presidential run.

The Freidins also have been frequent big donors to Democratic candidates and causes, though on a much smaller scale than Stiefel. Their $10,000 checks to United For Change also represent their largest donations to date for a state Senate campaign.

United For Change sent the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee a check for $100,000 on the same day the check from Stiefel was deposited, and three days after the Freidins’ checks went into the bank.

Still, on Sept. 18 Brodeur appeared to have more money on hand for the stretch run of their election campaigns.

During the same two-week period ending Sept. 18, Brodeur’s political action committee Friends of Jason Brodeur raised $49,500, led by $10,000 from the Dosal Tobacco Corp., $10,000 from the GEO Group private prison operator, and two $5,000 checks from health care groups.

United For Change emerged on Sept. 18 with about $70,000 left.

Friends of Jason Brodeur, which has not been spending as much the past couple of weeks and has been raising money for four years, came forward much stronger, with $330,000 still in the bank.

Meanwhile, Brodeur’s official campaign fund reported raising $31,115 in the period of Sept. 5-18. That committee also has not been spending away much of its assets in recent weeks, and comes forward with about $275,000 left on Sept. 18.

Sigman’s latest official campaign fund report had not yet been posted by the Florida Division of Elections by early afternoon Friday. On Sept. 4, her campaign had about $32,000 in hand.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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