Former football star Corey Simon is quickly raising money in his bid to flip Tallahassee’s Senate seat red in November, but not as fast as Sen. Loranne Ausley.
Through his first three weeks of campaigning, the Republican nominee for Senate District 3 raised $67,000 in his bid to deny Ausley a second term in the Florida Senate. However, the Democratic incumbent remains one of the strongest fundraisers running for the state office and grew her cash on hand by six digits in that period.
While Ausley leads the money game, Senate District 3 is even more competitive for Republicans than in 2020, when Ausley won by 7 percentage points. In addition to this year’s decennial redistricting, which shifted the seat an estimated 6 points toward Republicans, Simon brings name recognition and political ties as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent CEO of Volunteer Florida.
At the very least, Simon’s campaign could stretch Democrats’ resources thin as the party hopes to stave off a red wave and keep Republicans from growing their legislative majority in November.
Through July 1, Simon has raised $46,000 in his campaign account and $21,000 in his political committee, Friends of Corey Simon. In total, he has $62,000 cash on hand.
Meanwhile, Ausley has raised $332,000 in her campaign account and has $253,000 on hand there. That amount is bolstered by the $170,000 on hand across her two political committees, Florida 2020 and Floridians for Early Education, which have been collecting funds since at least 2015.
Despite Simon’s significant fundraising, Ausley has grown her money lead. In the weeks after Simon entered the race, Ausley raised $123,000. The bulk of those funds came in the form of a pair of $50,000 installments from Democratic Sen. Jason PIzzo’s political committee and the political committee for the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest union.
Simon has been endorsed by DeSantis, Senate President Wilton Simpson, Senate President-designate Kathleen Passidomo and Sen. Ben Albritton, who is expected to lead the Senate beginning in 2024. In addition to Republican and conservative organizations, the Northwest Florida Chamber Alliance, the Florida Transportation Builders’ Associate’s committee and the Florida Association of Health Plans PC have contributed to Simon’s campaign.
Simon, a Broward County native, was an All-American defensive tackle at Florida State University and National Football League pro-bowler. At FSU, he played football on a scholarship and was a 1999 BCS National Champion before entering the NFL. The following year, the Philadelphia Eagles picked him sixth overall in the NFL draft.
Simon’s professional career spanned eight NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans. One of those seasons he did not play, but he still earned a Super Bowl ring as a member of the winning Colts.
DeSantis drafted Simon in 2020 to be the CEO of Volunteer Florida, which administers AmeriCorps in Florida and joins Floridians looking to volunteer with organizations that need their help.
Ausley, who served 12 years in the House between 2000 and 2020, won her first Senate election in 2020, but not without a significant challenge from Republican Marva Preston. Re-election could be harder still, as redistricting added rural land to SD 3 that turned it from a district that went for President Joe Biden by 9 points in 2020 into one that would have only broken his way by 3 points. Additionally, Ausley underperformed Biden by about half a percentage point.
SD 3 currently contains Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Taylor and Wakulla counties. Beginning in November, Calhoun County and Blountstown will join neighboring Senate District 2. In return, SD 3 will pick up Dixie, Lafayette and Suwannee counties in the East.
If elected, Simon could potentially serve in the Senate until 2032 before being term-limited.