Mike Caruso spends big in June as Primary challenger questions his conservative bona fides

His Republican opponent raised more in cold, hard cash in June, though Caruso has plenty more cash on hand.

Seeking new territory in a newly drawn district, Republican Rep. Mike Caruso had his biggest-spending month yet for this election cycle last month — but his more conservative Primary opponent’s fundraising outpaced his in June.

Caruso spent $28,105 in his quest for a third term last month — after averaging about $1,000 in monthly disbursements over the previous 19 months of this election season.

Meanwhile, Jane Justice, a real estate agent he’s facing in the Primary, outraised the two-term incumbent in her first month as a candidate, if you don’t count Caruso’s in-kind donations from the Republican Party of Florida. She drew $10,506 in donations, in addition to the $9,000 loan she made to her campaign.

Caruso, meanwhile, raised $8,600 in cold, hard cash for his campaign and received $3,750 from the Republican Party through in-kind support. Caruso’s June report also includes a July 1 in-kind donation worth $12,400 from the Republican Party of Florida in polling.

Redistricting renumbered and shifted Caruso’s longtime Delray Beach home into a district that stretched further west, making it lean more Democratic. The new district also included incumbent Democratic Rep. Joe Casello.

In response, Caruso moved north, to the newly drawn House District 87, which had no active incumbent at the time.

Justice calls Caruso a Republican In Name Only (RINO). She also questions whether President Joe Biden’s election win was legitimate and claims she was ahead of the curve for raising the alarm about school governance and parental rights.

Caruso, has stuck with the Republican Party on controversial issues like the prohibition against abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and the law known as the Parental Rights in Education. Critics dub that latter measures the “Don’t Say Gay” law because it more tightly regulates school discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation.

Justice, however, points to Caruso’s censure from the Palm Beach County Republican Executive Committee as evidence that Caruso is not conservative enough. His listing among those endorsing Democratic candidate Katherine Waldron for House District 93 prompted the vote.

Caruso sad his voting record is “100%” in line with Republicans. He said some of his views might be more moderate than Justice’s segment of his party, but he wants to spend the next two years taming property insurance and inflation.

”People over politics, every time,” he said.

Justice’s June donor list is mostly individual donors, with 20 out of the 32 donors listing “retiree” as their occupation. Palm Beach Patriots, a Palm Beach political committee, gave her campaign $800.

Her June expenditures amounted to the qualifying fee and $560 in advertising paid to Florida Weekly newspapers in Fort Myers.

That spending left her with $17,163 to spend on her campaign.

Caruso, meanwhile, has much more to spend after June’s outlays: nearly $70,000.

In June he received support from $1,000 donations from Keeping Florida Red, a political committee in Tampa; Icon Realty Capital LLC in Delray Beach; IRC Equities 512 LLC in Parkland and a smattering of individual donations.

The bigger bills he paid in June included $17,339 to Simwins LLC in Tampa for campaign and consulting services, $2,730 to Mark Graphics in Boca Raton for campaign signs and $2,264 to Delray Offices Inc for campaign services.

The Democratic candidate in the race, Siena Osta, raised $1,590 in June and spent $800. She has $3,289 to spend for her campaign, counting a loan to her campaign for $1,852.

The newly drawn district that had no incumbent until Caruso moved there, stretches along the coast and extends from Lantana to Juno Beach, taking in parts of Lake Worth Beach, West Palm Beach, Riviera Beach, North Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens.

MCI Maps shows that voters in HD 87 were evenly split between Donald Trump and Joe Biden in 2020, with a sliver more favoring Trump.

The campaigns faced a Friday deadline to report all financial activity through July 31.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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