Facing her first Primary challenger on a ballot, Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book had the strongest fundraising performance of her career in April, raising nearly half a million dollars, and spending even more.
Meanwhile, her Democratic competitor appears ready to self-fund her campaign at a similar level, but Book’s $2.8 million cash on hand is a battleship next to her Primary competitor’s canoe.
It promises to be one of the most-watched Senate primaries.
Donations last month included $100,000 from the Miami Dolphins, the National Football League team, and support from National Basketball Association retiree Alonzo Mourning and Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Heni Koenigsberg, who both gave $1,000.
Book has been a fundraising juggernaut for other Democrats but has never really needed cash at the ready before for her own political survival.
She’s been elected without opposition since she first ran in 2016 to represent western Broward. Redistricting, however, put her in a new spot, where she would have faced fellow incumbent Democratic Sen. Rosalind Osgood. Instead of that Primary fight, she moved to District 35 and now faces a challenge from former Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief, who raised $8,385 from outside donors for her first campaign report.
Book’s other big-ticket donations were $25,000 from Southwest Florida Enterprises, a Miami pari-mutuel company; and American Promotional Events, a Florence, Alabama, fireworks distributor; $20,000 from Michael Wohl, a Coral Gables real estate developer; $15,000 from Vitas Healthcare, a Miramar hospice company.
Book last month posted the most she’s ever spent on record, a total of $548,075. Book’s campaign sent $300,000 to the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and transferred $100,000 to her new political committee, Leadership for Broward. She also paid MDW Communication of Plantation $52,325 on direct mail consulting and another $29,738 for media services. The campaign also spent $29,174 with Clearview Research in Tallahassee for polling.
Sharief’s spending and donations came in on a much smaller scale.
Donors giving the $1,000 maximum allowed to Sharief’s personal campaign account in April were Andy Felix of Tamarac, who works in advertising; Angelo Thrower, a Hollywood skincare doctor; and Bergeron Properties and Investment Corp. of Fort Lauderdale.
Records show Sharief spent $38,548 in April with the largest share, $20,025, going to Fluid Communications in Dover, Delaware, for advertising. The campaign also spent $7,166 with Complete Digital, based in Washington, D.C., for digital advertising and $1,848 with Accurate Business Systems in Miami Gardens for T-shirts.
After those expenses, Sharief’s personal account shows $469,837 on hand — counting the $500,000 Sharief, a health care executive, lent her campaign.
On the question of whether Sharief’s campaign has started a committee to accept larger donations, Florida Politics received a statement: “Dr. Sharief is prepared to raise and spend the amount we will need to be successful in this race. Our campaign is not focused on a ‘who has more money’ contest with our opponent. We have chosen to focus on the issues that are impacting the residents of District 35. Our opponent has already made it abundantly clear during her time in Tallahassee that the big-money special interests come first. “
The newly mapped district that had no active incumbent until Book moved there covers a chunk of unincorporated Broward County south of Interstate 595 and west of Florida’s Turnpike. Pembroke Pines and Miramar account for most of it, but it also includes all or parts of Cooper City, Davie, Fort Lauderdale, Southwest Ranches, Sunrise and Weston.
The area leans heavily Democratic and is unlikely to have a General Election.
Both campaigns faced a deadline Tuesday to report all financial activity through April 30.