Republican candidates build money edge in Central Florida House races

Will that be enough to win Joe Biden districts if a red wave kicks in strong?

The Interstate 4 corridor didn’t earn a storied place in Florida politics for nothing. A look at voter performance in numerous state House districts shows a plethora of swing seats. But Republican candidates hold a dominating fundraising edge in many.

House District 29

Rep. Webster Barnaby may have only won his Republican Primary by a scant 30 votes. But he holds much more sizable cash lead on his General Election foe. The DeBary Republican holds about $56,103 in cash-on-hand as of Oct. 7, having raised $58,095 since the Aug. 23 GOP Primary.

Meanwhile, Democrat Rick Karl has about $16,294 in the bank. That includes about $10,000 put in the port through a candidate loan.

Karl just spent $23,151 between Sept. 27 and Oct. 7, including $4,850 with And You Video Productions, and thousands in digital marketing. But Barnaby is also spending, and has outside support including a recent $9,500 poll courtesy the Republican Party of Florida. The incumbent also just dropped $7,175 with Data Targeting, a Gainesville political advertising provider.

Barnaby should have the edge even without the economic advantage, as 52.99% of voters in HD 29 cast ballots for Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 election, compared to 45.75% who went for Democrat Joe Biden.

House District 33

Rep. Randy Fine, a Palm Bay Republican, holds a 12-fold cash advantage on his Democratic opponent, Anthony Yantz. The incumbent sits on some $97,760 in cash on hand, having gathered $15,775 just in the last two-week reporting period. He’s notably spent some of his money on communications outside his district, fueling some speculation he’s as interested in a coming Senate fight in two years as he is in the Nov. 8 election.

Yantz, meanwhile, holds only $7,139 in the bank, having spent some $9,268 since jumping into the race late last year.

It’s a lopsided affair financially in a district Trump would have won with 52.14% of the vote in 2020 to Biden’s 46.34%.

House District 35

Redistricting landed Rep. Fred Hawkins in a jurisdiction Biden won with 51.8% to Trump’s 46.8%. But the Saint Cloud Republican doesn’t look like an underdog based on his bank account. He held $40,497 in cash on hand as of Oct. 7, while Democratic opponent Rishi Bagga had around $9,167 in the bank. That’s after both candidates spent generously in the last reporting period.

But even there, Hawkins has spent more, dropping 18,112 in a two-week time frame, of which $15,290 went to SimWins for data services, printing and consulting. Bagga, meanwhile, spent $15,088 in the same time, with $8,175 going to canvassing services from Door-to-Door I-4 and $6,597 funding printing services with Orlando-based J & Washington.

Bagga notably has poured $18,000 in candidate loans into the race, or nearly twice what he still has left in the bank. That may make the race a game of chicken on how deep he’s willing to reach into his own pockets.

House District 36

Voter performance might suggest Republican Rachel Plakon should be an underdog. But running in an area now partially represented by husband and outgoing Rep. Scott Plakon, landing the endorsement of a Democrat eliminated in the Primary and holding a major cash advantage all suggest otherwise. As of Nov. 8, she held a sizable $90,124 stash of cash, while Democrat Deborah Poulalion held $17,026.

That’s after Plakon put a modest $3,504 toward her efforts in the past two weeks, the biggest expense being a sign purchase from Delivery Signs worth $2,450.

Poulalion spent a touch more in the reporting period, around $5,526, including $2,696 on printing and mail from Lawton Connect. So both seem to be holding some money back for the final month of spending. Over the course of the entire campaign, Primary season included, Poulalion dropped just $20,677 to Plakon’s $233,021.

Meanwhile, about 51.42% of voters under the new lines went for Biden and 47.34% for Trump. But in a year many believe will provide boons to Republicans, that difference may not be difficult to erase with the resources Plakon has at hand.

House District 38

Rep. David Smith, a Winter Springs Republican also landed in a Biden district, but has every reason to be confident in his re-election effort. He holds $142,605 in cash, while Democrat Sarah Henry has only about $9,674 in the bank. And Smith long ago got back $10,000 for a candidate loan this cycle.

But that’s only part of the story. The Florida Democratic Party continues to support Henry’s campaign, providing $3,321 in free staff time just in the last reporting period and $20,305 in in-kind support over the course of the campaign.

Smith, however, had party support as well. That includes $25,000 in cold hard cash from the Republican Party of Florida and $24,000 from the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee (FHRCC), with both entities offering tens of thousands worth of support otherwise. Just in the two-week reporting period, the state party provided $4,500 in staff time and the FHRCC delivered $10,218 worth of in-kind backup.

Meanwhile, Smith massively stepped his own spending, pouring $39,507 into media through SimWins over just two weeks. Henry spent $483 in the same time, most of that on costs of a single event.

The huge disparity in resources comes in a district where Biden won 53.04% of the vote to Trump’s 45.44%, more than a 7-percentage-point disparity.

House District 39

Republican Douglas Bankson spent a lot to secure the Republican nomination, but has made up much of it quickly. He reported another $14,002 in contributions in the period ending Oct. 7, and now sits on $77,380 in cash on hand. The Republican Party of Florida provided an $18,000 poll to Bankson, along with $2,000 in other in-kind staffing.

Democrat Tiffany Hughes avoided a Primary but has just $22,919 ready to spend. Hughes also has some party support, and on Oct. 7 reported $2,160 in staff support from the Florida Democratic Party. That’s a consistent level of support she’s had over reporting periods now since April.

The Longwood Democrat also spent $49,731 over the two-week time frame getting her own message to the world, including $32,939 with Deliver Strategies in Arlington, Virginia and another $11,167 with 76 Words in Washington. Democrats hope that kind of spending throttle helps as voters cast mail ballots and the election draws near, and Bankson did face a heated battle for the nomination.

Meanwhile, the district is one of the most closely divided in Florida. About 50.21% of voters there supported Biden in 2020 while 48.55% backed Trump.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Tom

    October 19, 2022 at 3:25 pm

    Vote for Val Demings…

  • Impeach Biden

    October 19, 2022 at 4:19 pm

    I can’t wait until DeSantis legalizes human/animal intimate relationships. I have a goat on my property that I have my eye on, but DeSantis says it’s still a sin. 🙁

Comments are closed.


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