Sara Baxter loans campaign $15K, Michelle Oyola McGovern raises $26K in Palm Beach Commission race

Sara Baxter Michelle Oyola McGovern
Rules prohibited the lawmaker in the race from raising money during the Legislative Session.

The distant No. 3 in fundraising in a four-way race to represent District 6 on the Palm Beach County Commission last month added her biggest monthly total during this election cycle.

But real estate agent and Republican Sara Baxter’s addition to her campaign was almost entirely because of a $15,000 loan to her campaign. After refunding two $1,000 checks and bringing in small amounts from other donors, Baxter ended the month by raising around $14,300.

Still, Baxter has just $18,369 on hand, well behind Rep. Matt Willhite and Michelle Oyola McGovern. Those Democratic candidates have hundreds of thousands in cash on hand as they seek to fill the seat held by Commissioner Melissa McKinlay. McKinlay is vacating her heart because of term limits.

Willhite and McGovern ran neck and neck in the money race to represent District 6. The district accounts for the most significant swath of land among the county districts, encompassing the western agricultural part of the county. The district covers Belle Glade, Loxahatchee Groves, Pahokee, Royal Palm Beach, South Bay, Westlake and Wellington.

Right now, McGovern has a bigger campaign coffer.

Rules prohibited Willhite from raising money while the Legislative Session was in progress. And McGovern, an administrator for a health care company, raised $10,963 for her personal account last month, and her political committee, Team McGovern, shows $15,000 raised in February.

She shares the account with her husband, John McGovern, who is running for the Wellington Village Council. That means the committee funds could be used for his campaign as well.

Team McGovern received $14,000 from the insurance industry, with the most significant donation, a $6,000 check, coming from Onetech Benefits LLC, a Palm Beach Gardens insurance agency. The political committee also collected $4,000 from both Beecher Carlson Holdings, an Atlanta insurance agency, and Public Risk Insurance Advisors, another insurance agency in Daytona Beach. A consultant, Michael Wood of Boca Raton, gave her committee $1,000.

Her personal campaign account also received support from insurance agencies. Records show her campaign collected $1,000 checks from Brown & Brown Inc., a Daytona Beach insurance agency; Peachtree Special Risk Brokers, an Atlanta insurance agency; Beecher Carlson Holdings Inc., an Atlanta insurance agency; and Public Risk Insurance Advisers, a Daytona Beach insurance agency. The agriculture industry also showed their support for her campaign: Star Farms Corp. and Wedgeworth Farms Inc., both of Belle Glade, sent her campaign $1,000 each. Individuals who also sent the maximum $1,000 donation: Homer Hand, a retired Belle Glade resident, and Pamela Goodman of Ocean Ridge, a senior advisor to a law firm.

Neither of McGovern’s accounts showed any spending in February, leaving her with $252,725 cash on hand for her campaign.

Willhite, who has $222,072 available between his personal campaign and political committee, Floridians for Public Safety, spent $6,000 in February.

Willhite spent $2,500 putting MDW Communications in Plantation on retainer, another $2,500 to that company for consulting, and $1,000 to Silver Productions in Tallahassee for video production.

Baxter spent $993 in February and refunded a $2,000 donation from the Deborah Adeimy for Congress campaign. Adeimy is a Republican, running for the right to face Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel in the General Election for Florida’s 21st Congressional District this fall.

A third Democrat in the race, Sylvia Sharps, raised $675 in February and spent $235. She has a total of $7,887 on hand.

The campaigns were facing a deadline of March 10 for reporting all February financial activity.

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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