Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick has amassed more than $1.6 million to defend her seat representing South Florida in Congress for an upcoming rematch with Dale Holness, who has just a fraction of that funding.
Holness, a former Broward County Commissioner, lost to the Congresswoman by just five votes in the Special Primary Election last fall. For the rematch, he will be up against the power of Cherfilus-McCormick’s incumbency. But he’ll come to the battle with more elected leaders’ support and more donations from individuals, first-quarter campaign finance reports show.
Cherfilus-McCormick and Holness are battling to represent Florida’s 20th Congressional District, the bluest congressional seat in Florida, covering a constituency that elected President Joe Biden with nearly 76% support. The inland district spans Broward and Palm Beach counties, taking in Black neighborhoods from Pembroke Pines to Belle Glade.
Campaign reports from the first quarter of 2022 show Cherfilus-McCormick has continued self-funding her campaign as she did in the last contest, when she competed to succeed Rep. Alcee Hastings, who died in office in April 2021. In that bid, the health care executive loaned her campaign nearly $6 million and repaid $2 million.
For the latest campaign, redistricting has left the district’s territory mostly unchanged, but the nature of the race has shifted notably even if Cherfilus-McCormick and Holness are headed for a rematch.
The Midterms generally have exponentially higher turnout than Special Elections do. And, unlike the last campaign, the votes are unlikely to be split among 11 candidates, as they were in the Special Democratic Primary last November. So far, Cherfilus-McCormick and Holness are the only Democrats in the race.
This time, Cherfilus-McCormick is drawing a few donations from sources that often support Democratic politicians, first-quarter reports show.
Larger donations also came from Hans Ottinot of Miami, a former Tamarac City Attorney, who gave her $2,900. His law associate at the same firm, Pamela Ryan of Riviera Beach, gave $2,000. On the whole, though, Cherfilus-McCormick raised a paltry amount from outside sources: $30,700.
Reports show Cherfilus-McCormick spent $199,951 in the first quarter, most of it going toward individuals’ wages. Her campaign committee also donated $5,500 to the Broward Democratic Party and $2,000 to the Palm Beach Democratic Party.
That spending, and the $1.67 million she has on hand, dwarfs the amount that Holness spent and has on hand. As of the end of the first quarter, Holness has a total of $208,236 on hand, after spending just $40,610.
But his donor list shows elected leaders are falling into his camp. And Holness topped Cherfilus-McCormick by more than $114,000 in money raised from outside sources, taking in $144,891.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis gave Holness $2,900 in the first quarter. Margate Mayor Antonio Arserio chipped in $500. Tamarac Commissioner Marlon Bolton gave $1,000. And North Lauderdale City Commissioner Regina Martin donated $1,000.
A host of local business owners are represented in Holness’ donations as well, many of them giving the maximum allowed for one election. They range from an Indian music company to protection services.
Records show most of Holness’ spending focused on administrative consulting and canvassing. A total of $8,000 went to Primetime Strategies in Pembroke Pines for consulting. He paid $4,500 to M & M Signman in Fort Lauderdale for canvassing
Republicans who have filed for the seat include Drew-Montez Clark, who hasn’t been running long enough to file a report, and Vic DeGrammont, who also ran in the 2021 Special Election. DeGrammont ended the first quarter with $624 on hand. During the quarter, he collected $93 and spent $1,153.
The campaigns were facing a deadline on April 15 to report all financial activity through the first quarter.