Florida Senate Democrats are stacking cash ahead of a pivotal November showdown for Senate seats

Book, Lauren
'Our campaigns have built great momentum.'

Four Democrats vying to either retain or win seats in the Florida Senate have collectively stacked more than $1.5 million heading into the Legislative Session.

Their strong fundraising could prove pivotal to the party’s goal of gaining seats in November, said Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book. Book leads Senate Victory, a political and fundraising apparatus of Florida’s Senate Democratic Caucus.

“As we work to defend our Senate Democratic Caucus and grow our numbers, our candidates are committed to raising the funds needed to run effective and competitive races,” Book said in a statement. “Our campaigns have built great momentum behind a strong, diverse slate of Democratic candidates across the state who are fighting for the values, causes and issues that matter most to everyday Floridians, like the freedom to earn a fair living, access to affordable healthcare, a clean environment and strong public schools.”

Leading the pack is Sen. Janet Cruz of Hillsborough County, who has raised about $370,000 this election cycle — including close to $120,000 in December — between her campaign and political committee, Building the Bay PC.

Cruz, who is prioritizing a bill this Legislative Session that would cap insulin copay costs — a repeat of legislation she’s filed several times before — now has roughly $400,000 on hand to defend Senate District 18 in November, her campaign reports.

No one has yet filed to challenge her.

Another incumbent, Sen. Loranne Ausley of Tallahassee, has amassed more than $294,000 this cycle, her campaign reports. That includes more than $100,000 she’s accepted in the last 10 days through her campaign and political committee, Florida 2020.

A 12-year veteran of the House who won her Senate District 3 seat in 2020, Ausley this Legislative Session seeks to ensure a proportional distribution of Florida’s developing broadband infrastructure and establish an early learning scholarship program for young children, among other things.

Her sole November opponent is Republican Virginia Fuller, who since 2012 has unsuccessfully run for federal and state office several times. The Florida Division of Elections shows Fuller filed Dec. 9 to challenge Ausley but has yet to report any fundraising.

Hoping to successfully leap between chambers in November, Rep. Michael Grieco of Miami Beach enjoyed an excellent round of fundraising last month, when he raised more than $153,000 toward his Senate District 37 bid.

He now holds about $220,000 between his campaign account and political committee, Strong Leadership for South Florida.

A self-described moderate Democrat who first won state office in 2018 after years on the Miami Beach Commission, Grieco announced last year he would forgo a third House term to instead vie for the seat representing SD 37, which is expected to be vacant post-redistricting.

Should he win, he’ll surely continue to file compelling bills similar to legislation he’s sponsoring this Session, from a proposal to allow psychedelics in mental health therapy to a bill that would broaden protections of children in cases of domestic abuse.

Then there is 34-year-old local business owner Janelle Perez of Miami-Dade County, a first-time political candidate who is running to unseat Republican Sen. Ileana Garcia in what is likely to be a remapped Senate District 40.

Perez’s campaign reports she’s raised more than $335,000 through Jan. 10 between her campaign and political committee, Democracy and Freedom. Of that, she still has about $314,000, much of it from grassroots contributions.

Perez’s personal story should resonate with voters. The daughter of Cuban exiles and an active member of the LGBTQ community who has served on two local advisory boards, Perez is also a cancer survivor, having beaten stage 4 follicular lymphoma.

She originally filed to run against U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar in August but quickly reset her sights on flipping back to blue the seat Garcia won in November 2020 by a mere 34 votes.

Along the way, Perez has scooped up valuable endorsements from Book, Sen. Annette Taddeo, former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel Powell, former state Rep. Javier Fernández and Ruth’s List Florida.

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 Jess[email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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