Michelle Oyola McGovern remains fundraising front-runner in Palm Beach Commission contest
Image via TechToday Newspaper.

Carrie Bradburn/CAPEHART
She had $287,000 as of March 31.

Baptist Health Government and Community Relations Director Michelle Oyola McGovern, a Democrat and longtime head staffer for former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, is holding onto a $12,000 cash-on-hand lead in the District 6 Palm Beach County Commission contest.

McGovern amassed $34,000 in March between her campaign account and Team McGovern, a political committee she shares with her husband, Wellington Village Councilman John McGovern, who won re-election March 8.

Since launching her campaign last April, she has raised more than $300,000. She still had $287,000 as of March 31.

State Rep. Matt Willhite hauled in $54,000 in March, getting him closer to retaking first place in the four-way race. But though he topped the field in March, he remains in second place behind McGovern in available cash. He held $275,000 between his campaign account and political committee, Floridians for Public Safety, as of March 31.

They face Primary opponent Sylvia Sharps, a county water utility grant writer and prior Palm Beach Commission candidate. Sharps trails a distant third in overall available cash.

The winner of that contest will square off against real estate agent Sara Baxter, the sole Republican in the race, to determine who will replace Commissioner Melissa McKinlay on the county dais. McKinlay, who has endorsed McGovern as her preferred successor, must leave office in November due to term limits.

McGovern last month accepted $10,000 through a pair of donations from the Associated Industries of Florida, a powerful lobbying group mostly funded by six companies: Sugar giants Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar, for-profit hospital operator HCA Healthcare, health insurer Florida Blue, utility company Florida Power & Light and Walt Disney World.

The group itself donated $5,000. Another donation of equal value came from Voice of Florida Business, a political committee chaired by Associated Industries of Florida President and CEO Brewster Bevis.

McGovern also took numerous donations from real estate- and construction-related businesses.

Highland Beach Real Estate Holdings gave $5,000. Boca Raton-based university real estate consulting firm Barbar & Associates and Pompano Beach-based Jackson Land Development each gave $1,000.

Boynton Beach-based companies Heritage Carpet & Tile and CSCI LLC, Boca Raton-based Caulfield & Wheeler and Distinctive Kitchens & Baths, and Delray Beach-based The BG Group donated $500 apiece.

Other contributions to McGovern included $2,500 from insurance giant Cigna and $1,000 from law firms Weiss Handler & Cornwell, Sachs Sax Caplan and Pike & Lustig LLP.  

McGovern spent just $150 in March, all of it on donation processing fees.

Baxter took a distant third place in fundraising last month with just $2,400, roughly half of what she spent that period. She held just shy of $16,000 as of March 31.

Sharps’ campaign has raised nearly $13,000 since its onset, including $1,300 collected in March. She had about $8,500 left after spending $580 last month.

The Palm Beach County Commission in December approved a new map for the 2022 election. District 6 underwent minor changes, but boundaries remained largely similar to the current setup.

Candidates faced a Monday deadline to report all campaign finance activity through March 31.

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.


  • Comment

    April 15, 2022 at 7:29 pm

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  • Comment

    April 21, 2022 at 2:40 pm

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