Charlie Crist, Nikki Fried in tight fundraising race as Annette Taddeo plays catch-up

Crist, Fried, Taddeo 1
None holds a candle to what Gov. Ron DeSantis has amassed.

With less than a year to go before Election Day, the Democratic race to unseat Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is a three-way fundraising contest, with U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fred running neck-and-neck for the lead and new entry Sen. Annette Taddeo working to close the gap.

In alphabetical order, here’s how each are doing:

Charlie Crist

Crist, whose May campaign launch made him the first of the three to enter the race, had the most significant gain in October. The former Republican Governor raked in $625,000 between his campaign and political committee, Friends of Charlie Crist. That brings his total war chest to nearly $3.18 million.

Crist pulled some 6,500 individual donations last month, ranging from $1 to $25,000. The real estate and construction sector was particularly generous.

Noteworthy individual donors include Sarasota-based radio innovator and philanthropist Andrew Economos, who gave $20,000. St. Petersburg clothier-turned-philanthropist Jim Aresty, real estate developer and former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Adolphus Busch IV of Marathon, a former shareholder of the Anheuser-Busch beer company his great-great-grandfather founded, each gave $10,000.

Joan Nestor, vice president of Winter Park-based Charles Rutenberg Realty, donated $25,000. Southwest Florida real estate broker Kris Lawrence gave $15,000. Miami Beach-based ASR Construction and District South St. Pete MPA, a subsidiary of Miami real estate development firm Royal Palm Companies — one of several firms behind the $4 billion Miami Worldcenter downtown project, one of the largest urban developments in the nation — gave $10,000 apiece. A subsidiary of Tampa-based property management company Casa Ybor chipped in $5,000.

Media, sports and hospitality businesses also showed up. James Ansin, co-president of Sunbeam Television, which runs Fox affiliate WSVN in Miami, as well as WHDH and WLVI in Boston, gave $22,000.

Winning Florida, a political committee that recently got a $55,000 infusion from Miami Beach nightclub Mango’s Tropical Café, which went to war with Mayor Dan Gelber and other elected officials over a proposed 2 a.m. curfew in the city’s entertainment district, donated $9,500.

Fort Lauderdale-based Warriors Boxing Promotions gave $500.

Ronald Abramson of Washington-based Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney contributed $25,000, the most last month any law or lobbying firm gave Crist. Fort Lauderdale-headquartered personal injury law firm Schlesinger Law Offices gave $10,000, as did Tampa-based injury and accident lawyer Vincent Pawlowski.

Crist also received $10,000 checks from Joseph Patt, head trader at New York City-based banking firm Capital Management LLC and Fort Lauderdale-based financial software company International Payout Systems, also known as i-payout.

Last month, Crist spent nearly $318,000, including almost $4,700 on travel and another $12,000 on insurance. His biggest single payout was $83,500 to Washington digital advertising firm Rising Tide Interactive.

Other campaigning expenditures included more than $34,000 to Madison, Wisconsin-based digital firm Run the World for mail fees, $1,100 to St. Petersburg-based Good Guy Signs for printing, $1,000 to Facebook for web ads, and a $150 event sponsorship payment to the Democratic Club of St. Petersburg.

He also spent heavily on consulting and legal fees. Crist gave Seattle-based law firm Perkins Coie $60,000. Washington consulting groups Berger Hirschberg Strategies and MBA Consulting Group got $13,000 and $10,000, respectively.

Other consulting costs included $8,500 for Silver Springs, Maryland-based communications firm Hone Strategies, $3,000 to digital analytics company MJV Technology & Innovation, $2,500 to former Tampa Bay Times editor Tim Nickens, and $500 to Sarasota-based Grossman Public Relations.

Nikki Fried

Fried, who launched her campaign in June, leads the pack in fundraising with about $3.26 million on hand. That includes more than $414,000 she collected last month between her campaign and political committee, Florida Consumers First.

“We are going to win this race by mobilizing Democrats, Independents, and moderate Republicans across the state who are sick and tired of the chaos, corruption, and dysfunction that Ron DeSantis has brought to our state,” Fried said in a statement Thursday. “Our fundraising proves that our message is working, and Floridians are ready for a new generation of leadership.”

She welcomed 2,700 individual donations ranging from $1 to a $100,000 check from Miguel Fernandez, chairman of Coral Gables-based health care private equity group MBF Healthcare Partners.

As is common in Florida fundraising pushes, several donors from the real estate sector contributed. Panama City property management firm Hunters Run Apartments gave $5,000. Southern Coastal Homes and Stanford Pointe PH each gave the same, as did their parent company, shipping company Southern Coastal Containers.

California Cannabis company DJK Industries also gave $5,000.

Matthew Garfield, CEO of Philadelphia precious metals company Garfield Refining Co., gave $10,000.

Law firm Greenspoon Marder, with Florida offices in Tallahassee, Tampa, Orlando, Naples, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, gave $7,000.

Lawyers Jason Haber and Jason Blank of law firm Haber Blank gave $11,500 through three political committees they chair.

Public Service, a North Miami Beach political committee led by Evan Ross, the founder of public affairs firm Public Communications Group, gave $11,000.

Fried spent more than $195,000 last month, the preponderance of which — $105,000 — was a donation to the Florida Democratic Party.

Her other expenditures were split mainly between consulting and campaigning costs. She paid $13,000 to Miami-based Pardo Consulting Group for fundraising services. The company’s principal, Alicia Pardo, boasted raising $55 million for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

Fried also paid $7,500 to Tallahassee-based CateComm, $6,500 to Bethesda-headquartered The Gold Standard LLC, $6,000 to Jacksonville-based Umunna Legal Group, and $1,600 to Weston-based We are Mas LLC.

Paction Data Inc., an Arlington-based firm, received $25,000. Beat Abbott, a political committee trying to oust Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, has also used the company.

Other campaign expenses included $2,500 to Winter Haven-based Frequent Films for advertising and marketing, $873 to Hialeah-based Southeast Printing Co. for campaign materials, $400 to North Miami Beach-based Accurate Business Systems for printing, and a $350 sponsorship payment to Florida A&M University.

Annette Taddeo

Pulling up the rear, Taddeo added nearly $350,000 last month through her campaign and political committee, Fight Back Florida. That’s about $300,000 short of what her campaign reported she raised before monthly fundraising reports were due at the Florida Division of Elections.

Taddeo, who announced her candidacy for Governor Oct. 18, holds $627,000 altogether — roughly 20% of what Fried and Crist each have.

While about 2,500 individual donations ranging from $3 to $25,000 flowed into Taddeo’s campaign and political committee in October, roughly half her gains came thanks to her political consultant, Christian Ulvert, who moved money into her bank account from other political committees he controls.

Two such PCs, New Leadership for Florida and Engaged Florida PC, gave $75,000 each. Our Democracy and Rebranding Politics kicked in $3,000 and $1,500, respectively.

Ulvert also donated $6,000 of his own money, Taddeo’s ledger shows. Another Ulvert client, Florida Senate candidate Janelle Perez, gave $2,000. So did her wife, Monica Perez.

Tallahassee-based political committee Florida Alliance for Better Government contributed $10,000.

Noteworthy individual donations included $25,000 from personal injury attorney Joseph Howard Shaugnessy of Orlando-based firm Morgan & Morgan, $10,000 from Shelly Rubin, co-founder and chair of New the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City, and $3,500 from influential lobbyist Ron Book.

Miami-based engineering, design, emergency management, construction management, disaster relief, and health and infectious disease aid company CDR Maguire — which received a significant chunk of federally funded state contracts for COVID-19 response in Florida — gave $25,000.

The lobbying arm of the Transport Workers Union gave $5,000.

The Florida AFL-CIO gave $2,000.

Compared to her competitors, Taddeo spent modestly last month at less than $22,000. More than a third went to Orlando-based finance consulting firm Spotlight Strategies, led by financial consultant Samantha Pollara for help with an August fundraiser.

Taddeo paid political strategist Jackie Lee’s firm, JLee Strategies, a $6,000 retainer fee. She also paid $3,000 to progressive marketing agency Compete Digital LLC for website domain creation and Edge Communications, Ulvert’s Miami-based company.

Endnotes

Crist, Fried and Taddeo are hardly the only Democrats in the Governor’s race — David Nelson Freeman, Ivan Graham, Jonathan Karns, Amaro Lionheart, Alexander Lundmark, Timothy Mosley, and Robert Lee Willis, as well as Independent David Wayne Gizmo Wexler and no-party candidate Kyle Gibson, are also running — but they’re the only ones to have done any substantial fundraising and campaigning.

Neither Crist, Fried nor Taddeo have come close to raising what DeSantis has amassed. As of last month, he held a jaw-dropping $58.3 million between his campaign and political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.



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