Mike Zhao’s California fundraiser continues out-of-state support in HD 45 race

Yukong Zhao
An Asian-American rights activist, Zhao is drawing nationally for his campaign.

Republican Mike Zhao, who has a high national profile as an Asian American civil rights activist, added nearly $10,000 to his House District 45 campaign in late June with a fundraiser in San Jose, California.

Zhao is running in a high-stakes Republican Primary Election battle with four other candidates for the open seat representing The Walt Disney World area.

Like Zhao, a businessman and engineer from Windermere, Republican candidates Carolina Amesty of Windermere, Vennia Francois of Windermere and Bruno Portigliatti of Orlando also are running campaigns already flush with more than $100,000 so far. Republican Janet Frevola and Democrat Allie Braswell are running more modest campaigns.

A leader in the national effort to oppose college and university affirmative action programs that work against Asian American students, Zhao has now collected more than three quarters of his $118,000 in contributed money from outside Florida, according to campaign finance reports through July 1.

California, where Zhao now has drawn $32,000 in donations, is his campaign’s top go-to state for cash.

Not including the $100,000 Zhao has lent to his own campaign, he has collected $25,779 in Florida, according to the latest reports posted by the Division of Elections.

California is not the only state offering significant support to Zhao. He’s picked up more than $6,000 from contributors in both New Jersey and New York, and more than $4,000 each from contributors in Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Texas and Virginia.

Zhao characterized his campaign as grassroots, with more than 600 contributors, and defended appealing to people in places like California and New York. In a written statement, he characterized them in two ways:

“Conservative Americans who want to move to Florida for their retirement because they love the freedom and public safety Florida offers. People in California, New Jersey and New York no longer have them. So they expect I will support Governor (Ron) DeSantis to keep Florida free and safe.

“Conservative Asian Americans who appreciate my leadership in fighting liberal education policies — affirmative actions and critical race theory. (It was conservative Asian Americans who recently rose up and successfully recalled three liberal school board members in San Francisco.)”

Zhao’s latest report, covering the two-week period ending July 1, shows pretty much the same kind of activity as his four Republican opponents and Braswell: fairly modest donations and limited spending, mostly on signs, mailers and print advertising.

The Aug. 23 Republican Primary stretch run began in late June with a modest TV buy for Amesty’s first campaign commercial.

HD 45 covers southwestern Orange County including Walt Disney World, and Northwestern Osceola County. Results for the past couple of General Elections suggest it has a slight Democratic lean.

Zhao raised $10,874 for his official campaign, almost entirely from California, and added another $10,000 personal loan. That brought his total raised to $217,999, including his $100,000 in personal loans. His campaign spent $12,250 on advertising in late June, plus about $2,100 for a party venue in San Jose.

His campaign rolled into July with $161,000 still in the bank.

Zhao also has an independent political committee, Defending the American Dream, which reported no activity in the period. It has raised $41,500 and had about $28,525 in the bank.

Portigliatti’s campaign raised $11,725 during the reporting period, and spent $9,861, a lot of it on internet advertising. His campaign now has raised $172,605. He entered July with about $140,000 in the bank.

Portigliatti also has an independent political committee, the Liberty and Prosperity Fund, that reported no activity during the period except to send a $1,000 check to the re-election campaign of Republican Rep. Fred Hawkins in House District 35. The committee has raised about $22,000 and entered July with about $21,000 in the bank.

Democratic HD 45 nominee Braswell had the next-best fundraising effort in late June, bringing in $5,965. His campaign, which doesn’t have to compete until the fall, has raised $41,000 and entered July with about $21,000 in the bank. He didn’t spend much in late June.

Amesty raised $4,651 and spent $21,730 in late June, starting her advertising. Including the $200,000 she lent her campaign, Amesty’s fund had raised $265,000 and had about $207,000 of that in the bank on July 1.

She also has an independent political committee, Friends of Carolina Amesty, which raised no money in late June but spent $8,750 on advertising. That committee has raised $38,410 and had about $28,000 left in the bank on July 1.

Francois’s campaign raised $4,610 in the last couple of weeks of June, and spent very little. It now has raised $115,497, and spent all but $69,000 of that.

She also has an independent political committee, Families for Freedom. It showed no activity in the reporting period. Through July 1, it had raised about $35,000 and entered July with about $27,000 in the bank.

Frevola added $50 to her campaign in late June and spent a few hundred dollars. It now has raised $18,715, including the $4,000 she lent her campaign. She entered July with about $2,700 left.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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