Sara Baxter bets $20K on her PBC Commission bid

Sara Baxter Michelle Oyola McGovern
Her General Election opponent won a three-way Primary, which was among the costliest ever in Palm Beach County.

After one of the costliest Primary elections in Palm Beach County history — with spending reaching over $1 million — Republican Sara Baxter is putting her money down in her bid to represent District 6 on the Commission.

Baxter, a real estate agent, added and spent more money in the last month than she has any other month in this election cycle as she prepares to take on Democrat Michelle Oyola McGovern. McGovern spent hundreds of thousands defeating state Rep. Matt Willhite and Sylvia Sharps in the Democratic Primary contest to fill the open seat representing the agricultural swath of Palm Beach County.

The General Election promises to be a more modest affair.

Baxter, a real estate agent, contributed $20,000 to her campaign, accounting for the majority of the $21,875 added to her campaign between Aug. 6 to Sept. 9. In contrast, McGovern added $82,422 to her campaign in the same period, including the $10,000 she gave her campaign.

Between her personal account and her campaign committee she shares with her husband, Team McGovern, the Democrat holds $100,192 for her campaign. That compares to the $37,123 Baxter has on hand.

This is the first bid for office for both McGovern and Baxter, but McGovern is no stranger to politics. She was a longtime aide to former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, working as a liaison between his office and the community.

McGovern’s biggest check between Aug. 6 and Sept. 9 came from Delaware North Companies, a Buffalo, New York hospitality company, which contributed $5,000 to her campaign. Her biggest source of support came from real estate and land development interests, which chipped in $12,500.

Law firms and lawyers accounted for her next-biggest source of support; that sector collectively donated $9,500 to McGovern’s campaign.

McGovern’s spending has slowed dramatically since the Aug. 23 Primary. Before then, in August, she spent $120,000 with Cornerstone Solutions in West Palm Beach for the phone banks, mailers and other printing costs. Post-Primary McGovern’s campaign has spent a total of $4,250, with $4,000 of it going to Patriot Games in West Palm Beach for consulting services.

Baxter, who also received $500 from Keep Florida Red, a Tampa political committee, spent $19,377 from Aug. 6 to Sept. 9. The campaign’s biggest bills were $7,750 with Melissa Moore, a Temple Terrace political consultant; $4,000 in radio advertising with Sinclair Broadcast Group; $2,148 in flyers, signs and advertisements; and $1,950 with Google for Google ads and marketing.

Geographically, District 6 is the largest of the county’s seven districts. It covers the area from the western suburbs of West Palm Beach to the sugar cane fields of Glades.

The campaigns faced a deadline last week to report all financial activity through Sept. 9.

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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