With less than two months until Election Day, Sen. Loranne Ausley is beginning to open up the spending tap in defense of her North Florida Senate district.
Ausley, a Tallahassee Democrat who is fending off a challenge from former football star Corey Simon, spent more than $110,000 in the latest finance period, taking her campaign to the airwaves and people’s doorsteps. Meanwhile, Simon, a Tallahassee Republican, spent less than $7,000 in the two-week period.
Ausley is considered perhaps the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent. She has been named one of two key incumbent “frontline” seats for Senate Victory, Senate Democrats’ campaign arm.
Holding Ausley’s seat in Senate District 3 is vital for Democrats, who deny Senate Republicans a three-fifths majority by just one seat. According to current Senate rules, by three-fifths votes, the Senate can approve additional measures like proposing constitutional amendments, which have become battlegrounds for policy in recent years.
While Ausley’s spending suggests she is sitting comfortably, the campaign expenditures don’t tell the full story. As one of the most important Senatorial contests, each candidate has benefited from the thousands staked by committees representing the Senate Republican and Democratic caucuses.
Ausley’s expenditures include a $43,000 contribution from her political committee, Florida 2020, to the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which has run “three-pack” ads spotlighting Ausley. Three-packs allow state party operations to run ads that technically support three candidates but functionally support only one. Meanwhile, the party gets to skirt contributions limits and pay at the nonprofit rate.
Ausley’s spending in the two-week period between Aug. 27 and Sept. 9 include a $31,000 expenditure on media production, more than $10,000 on radio advertising and more than $8,000 on door hangers. The bulk of Simon’s recent expenditures have gone to printing services and contract labor.
In that time, Ausley raised $27,000 in her campaign account and nothing in her political committees. Meanwhile, Simon raised close to $8,500 in his campaign account plus $20,000 in his political committee, Friends of Corey Simon.
Recent contributions to Ausley include a $1,000 diffusion from Ruth’s List Florida, an organization focused on electing Democratic women to support abortion rights.
The Florida Credit Union Political Action Committee donated $10,000 to Simon’s effort, and he received $2,000 from companies associated with the private prison firm The GEO Group. The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee (FRSCC) also spotted Simon $14,900 on polling.
In total, Ausley’s campaign efforts have a shared $384,000 on hand while Simon’s have $145,000 on hand. However, the FRSCC’s pockets are nearly 40 times deeper than that of its Democratic counterpart.
Ausley served eight years in the House from 2000 to 2008 and another four years from 2016 to 2020. She was then elected to the Senate in a race that was closer than Democrats would have preferred.
In 2020, Ausley defeated Republican Marva Preston by 7 points. But redistricting turned SD 3 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. On top of her relative underperformance compared to Biden, the party controlling the White House and Congress historically performs worse during Midterm years.
With the new lines this year, the district picked up Dixie, Lafayette and Suwannee counties after losing Calhoun County and Blountstown to Senate District 2. The new SD 3 covers Dixie, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor and Wakulla counties.
Simon, a Broward County native, played football for Florida State University on a scholarship and was an All-American the year FSU won the 1999 BCS National Champions. He was later selected by the Philadelphia Eagles as the sixth overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft and was named to that year’s All-Rookie Team.
Simon’s 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.
After his football career, he devoted himself to philanthropy. Simon created Corey’s Kids, a nonprofit that provided mentorship to kids within North Florida’s foster care system. He also partnered with Big Bend Community Based Care, coached high school football at Maclay School in Tallahassee and played an active role at a local church.
Similarly, Ausley has focused her legislative career in part on child services, including early education and health care.
Simon previously served as CEO of Volunteer Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed him to that position and endorsed his Senate campaign.