Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick has nearly $1.7 million for re-election to CD 20
It's deja vu all over again.

holness mccormick ART
But her Primary rival is outpacing her in fundraising from outside sources.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick’s war chest of nearly $1.7 million to defend her seat representing South Florida dwarfs her rival’s, but he’s outpacing her when it comes to actual donations.

Cherfilus-McCormick added $771,570 in the second quarter of 2022 but only $95,455 came from sources other than her own pocketbook. That compares to the $197,174 that her rival in the Democratic Primary, former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, raised in the last quarter.

The Aug. 23 Primary in Florida’s 20th Congressional District will be a rematch that Holness lost by just five votes last time.

Redistricting did not alter the district’s political landscape much from last November’s Primary, but the replay of two politicians’ rivalry will occur under dramatically different circumstances.

Instead of nine other Democrats running, there’s only one other Democrat in this Primary race, state Rep. Anika Omphroy. And instead of last year’s Special Primary necessitated by Rep. Alcee Hastings’ death, the two will meet in a Midterm Primary which promises substantially greater turnout than the Special Primary last November. About 49,000 voted in their previous contest, compared to the 71,000 CD 20 voters who came out in the 2018 Midterm Primary.

In recent months, questions have arisen about how Cherfilus-McCormick, a health care executive, was able to lend her campaign millions to win her first election.

An examination of Cherfilus-McCormick’s Federal Elections Commission filings shows her campaign bookkeeping is arousing the federal government’s concern. The campaign has blown two deadlines for addressing FEC concerns around accurate reporting this year. And her July 15 report shows that her campaign used $400,000 to pay back a loan from Truist Bank, by far the largest of the $766,856 in second quarter expenses the campaign reported.

Election rules require that a loan from a bank should be reported separately and not included in “loans made or guaranteed by the candidate,” according to an FEC spokesman who declined to address McCormick-Cherfilus’ case specifically.

The campaign did not return a Florida Politics inquiry into the matter.

Repeated violations can result in an FEC audit and fines.

Her donor list shows some star power, however. Madeleine Arison of Coral Gables, married to the chairman of the Carnival Corp. and owner of the NBA team, the Miami Heat, gave the campaign $2,599.

The list of PACs donating also shows she’s attracting support from traditional Democratic sources. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Washington donated $5,000, as did the

American Federation of Teachers, also in Washington. Her largest donation of the quarter came from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which gave her $13,920.

Her July report shows the $676,115 she lent to her campaign this last quarter bringing the total loan to $5,973,764 for this cycle. Reports indicate that $2,019,568 has been repaid, meaning nearly $4 million is still outstanding.

Meanwhile, Holness is running on a more modest scale. He spent $171,943 this past quarter and has $234,467 on hand, including a $40,000 loan he gave his campaign, still outstanding from November.

The names on his donor list are instantly recognizable to those in politics.

Ronald Book, a prominent Florida lobbyist, gave the maximum allowed for an individual, a $5,800 donation.

City officials repeatedly give: Tamarac City Commissioner Mike Gelin gave $500, bringing his total contribution to Holness for this cycle to $3,000. Sharon Ragoonan, assistant city manager at Hallandale Beach, gave $250, bringing her total contribution to Holness to $1,450. Miramar Assistant City Manager Stephen Johnson gave $500. Dwayne Spence, a city of Fort Lauderdale attorney, gave $250.

Empower Democracy Now Political Action, based in Belleview, gave Holness’ campaign $4,900.

For expenses, Holness wrote his biggest check to Prime-time Strategies in Pembroke Pines, which received $38,512 in this period for administrative consulting.   TLE Analytics LLC in Fort Lauderdale was paid $22,323 for political consulting.

After those expenses, Holness reported $234,467 on hand for his campaign.

The third Democrat to get in the race, Omphroy, has not yet filed any FEC reports. And the qualified Republican in the contest to represent CD 20 is far behind the two leading Democrats.

Republican Drew-Montez Clark, an entrepreneur, reports

$27,186, cash on hand, including a $9,525 loan he gave his campaign. He received $24,105 in donations in the second quarter and reports spending nothing.

CD 20 is the state’s 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.

The campaigns were facing a deadline on Friday to report all financial activity through June 30.

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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