No clear leader among top spending, fundraising Dems in CD 20 race

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It's a tight money race as candidates vie to replace the late Alcee Hastings.

Fundraising activity often provides reasonable indications of who’s gaining traction and who isn’t. But in the crowded race to replace the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings in Florida’s 20th Congressional District, things aren’t as clear.

Some candidates are raising big, but remain in debt. Others are relying heavily on self-funding. And for some, dollars in aren’t necessarily translating to the type of campaign activity that typically yields success.

Health care executive Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, whose campaign is largely self-funded, has spent the most of 11 Democrats running — $1.4 million in the last three months. But the excitement she’s generated from individual donors is negligible.

Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness raised the most from contributors during the period that covers July 1 to Oct. 13, but his campaign reports show the effort is in the red.

The exposure that money can’t buy is split among the candidates in the field. Rep. Omari Hardy, for instance, landed an endorsement from the Sun Sentinel, while Barbara Sharief earned The Palm Beach Post’s nod.

How they perform matters. The winner of the Nov. 2 Primary Election is largely expected to win the January General Election, as the area leans heavily Democratic.

Candidates faced a deadline last week to report all spending and fundraising between July 1 and Oct. 13. Here’s a rundown of how their coffers are faring as the clock ticks down.

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick

The report this month brings Cherfilus-McCormick’s loans to her campaign to an eye-popping $3.7 million. But her campaign repaid $2 million of that during this period. She spent the most among all the candidates during this period, with $1.4 million out the door, according to federal election reports.

“TV buys” account for the single biggest category of her spending, however. EffecTV, a Coral Gables-based ad solutions company, received $130,100 from the campaign for TV buys. The campaign spent $89,713 with WFOR, based in Chicago, $75,028 with NBC 6 in Miami and $57,731 with WPBF in West Palm Beach.

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Her campaign report stands out from her competitors in the number of people she has on the payroll. The campaign lists a number of political consultants. Sky Administrations account for the biggest proportion of staff and consultant spending, receiving $41,689 from the campaign.

The health care executive’s campaign raised $18,248 during the period that covers July 1 to Oct. 13, bringing the total she raised for her maverick campaign to $117,649. The largest individual donor to the Cherfilus-McCormick campaign for the latest reporting period appears to be a relative: Marjorie Cherfilus, a nurse supervisor who lives in Maryland, contributed $2,500.

Barbara Sharief

The Broward County Commissioner collected $72,325 in donations from individual and political committees; $51,768 of it from 72 individuals. Sharief, a business owner, also loaned her campaign $526,000 this period, bringing total loans to her campaign to $756,000, federal election reports show.

Sharief’s campaign spent $545,836 this period on 135 different transactions, spending the second-most among the candidates during this period. The campaign’s biggest vendor was Sage Media Planning & Placement Inc., based in Washington, to which the campaign paid $232,401 for advertising. The campaign also hired a New York City research and public affairs firm, Global Strategy Group, for $43,500. Patriot Games in West Palm Beach, also provided $26,375 worth of consulting, Facebook ads and signature-gathering.

Donors to Sharief’s campaign this period show two Broward County Commission colleagues: Mark Bogen, who gave $500; and Lamar Fisher, who gave $1,000. Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper gave $1,000. Her biggest donors this period, who all chipped in $2,900 to Sharief’s campaign, were Ellen Goodman, a Hollywood retiree; Raymond Gonzalez, a Miami transportation executive; Kevin Rowe, a California finance manager; and Louis Wolfson III, a Miami real estate developer.

Sharief’s biggest committee donation was $5,000, coming from the 314 Action Fund, a Washington-based political committee dedicated to electing more science-oriented leaders.

The campaign ended the reporting period with $205,539 cash on hand.

Dale Holness

Holness, also a Broward County Commissioner, raised the most of any candidate from donors during the last three months: $276,433. But his campaign is $52,612 in the hole.

Holness’ committee spent a total of $330,773 during the latest reporting period, federal election records show.

Holness lists 91 expenditures. Right HR Staffing Solutions LLC is the largest payee listed. The Delray Beach company was paid $60,239 for a range of services, including staffing, consulting, and canvassing. Primetime Strategies LLC of Pembroke Pines was paid the most for consulting, receiving $15,829 from the campaign. The campaign does not list any TV expenditures, but shows Holness paid $2,000 each to WPBR Radio in Boynton Beach and WZOP Radio in Lauderdale Lakes, either on direct radio time, or sponsorships.

Renata Castro, a Margate lawyer; Jesse Dalen, a Plantation real estate company president; Camilio Isaza, a Miami consultant; Rudy Ortiz, a Davie engineer; and William Arrmstrong, a Maryland retiree, were his top donors this period, each giving $5,800, the maximum individuals are allowed to contribute. Holness also received support from Tamarac City Commissioner Marlon Bolton, who gave the campaign $1,250 during the reporting period.

Perry Thurston Jr.

Thurston, who resigned his Senate District 33 seat to run for Congress, reported his most active fundraising period over the last three months, collecting $105,053. The Democrat also loaned his campaign $70,000, bringing his personal loans to $170,500.

Over the last three months, Thurston’s campaign reports spending $414,431. The big-ticket items include $97,286 on canvassing in West Palm Beach with Greenwood Marketing Solutions, and $95,600 on TV advertising buys with Randi Gold PR & Strategic Media of Davie.

His campaign received $5,000 each from four unions, including the American Federation of Teachers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Office and Professional Employees International Union, and the International Union of Operating Engineers.

The biggest individual donors to Thurston’s campaign included Christine Marcellino Forman, a Davie retiree who gave the $5,800 maximum; Miles Austin Forman, a Davie real estate investor who gave $2,900; Juliana Cerquiera of Grassy Key, who gave $2,900; and Charles Hemphill, a Grassy Key insurance agent who also gave $2,900.

This campaign report shows Thurston is near broke heading into the final days of campaigning for the high-stakes Primary, with just $13,143 remaining on hand.

Bobby DuBose

DuBose, who resigned from his state House seat to run for Congress, raised $192,160 during the latest reporting period, bringing the Democrat’s campaign fundraising total to $419,082.

Donors of note include Sen. Bobby Powell Jr, who represents Senate District 30 in Palm Beach County, and gave $250; former Sen. Jeremy Ring, who retired in 2016 from representing Senate District 32 in Broward County, and gave $500; and David Bogenschutz, a well-known Broward County defense lawyer who gave the campaign $1,000.

Dubose spent $276,005 during the latest period, none of it on television air time. But there was plenty of ad spending broadly.

C&I Advertising in Fort Lauderdale accounted for the largest share, with $86,125. National Campaign Branding Company in Hollywood was the second-largest vendor for the campaign, receiving $70,556 for various services, including campaign consulting, advertising, phone calls, research, and a fundraising event. The campaign also spent $54,138 with a Miami-based company, Solustions LLC, for what get out the vote efforts.

Records show DuBose, who has representing House District 94 since 2020, still has $118,810 on hand.

Omari Hardy

Hardy raised $77,564 for the latest reporting period, bringing his total raised to $172,405. The campaign spent $87,405 in the last reporting period, leaving the Democrat with $57,836 left to spend. Unlike many of the major candidates in the race, the Representative for House District 88 has not loaned his campaign any cash. He resigned his state House seat to run for Congress.

CateComm received $17,980 from the campaign for advertising production. The campaign lists a number of political consultants who received money, with MB Strategies LLC topping the list with $11,250 worth of services.

Hardy’s campaign drew 91 itemized contributions, including $2,900 donations from two people: Sonia Jones of Palm Beach and Tarra Pressey of Pressey Enterprises in Palm Beach Gardens. Kevin Cate, a former President Barrack Obama campaign spokesman who heads CateComm, rounded out the list along with various lawyers and doctors.

Other Democrats:

— Priscilla Taylor raised $32,200 this period, bringing her campaign fundraising to $56,010. That does not include the $23,100 Taylor loaned her campaign. Her campaign spent a total of $64,444 this period and now has $11,800 on hand, federal records show. The biggest expense listed on her campaign finance report shows $13,000 to Clear Channel Outdoor for billboards.

— Phil Jackson raised $31,665 this reporting period, his only fundraising activity this year, according to federal election records. That does not include $36,900 Jackson has loaned his campaign. The campaign spent $28,493 this period and now has $40,071 on hand. The largest share of his campaign spending went to The Political Group in San Antonio, Texas, which received $10,286.

Elvin Dowling’s campaign for CD 20 raised $925 during the last reporting period and just $250 of it was large enough to be itemized, a donation from Jonathan Hunt, a lawyer in Mableton, Georgia. Dowling loaned his campaign $27,566.

Two other Democrats who qualified for the race, Emmanuel Morel and Dr. Imran Siddiqui, do not have any reports filed with the FEC.

Two Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination in the race. Jason Mariner raised $22,553 in the last three months, the total for his entire campaign. Greg Musselwhite raised $200 in the latest reporting period, bringing his cash on hand to $1,675.

Mike ter Maat, a candidate with no party affiliation, raised $3,186, $2,894 of which the candidate, a Hallandale police officer, loaned to his campaign committee.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination on Nov. 2 will be the heavy favorite to win in the General Election on Jan. 11, however.

The Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter Index shows CD 20 leans Democratic by 28 percentage points. The district spans Broward and Palm Beach counties, crossing several majority-Black areas near major cities such as Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected]



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