Considered by most to be the Sunshine State’s “new” congressional seat, both sides are spending heavily in Florida’s 15th Congressional District. But Republican Laurel Lee is the only candidate who still holds six figures in the bank as the clock winds down.
She reported $257,132 in cash-on-hand in her most recent fundraising update, compared to Democrat Alan Cohn’s $35,503. Notably, Lee’s total includes $165,000 in loans.
A Secretary of State under Gov. Ron DeSantis, Lee has held an advantage financially since winning a heated Republican Primary in August. Cohn, who ran for different configurations of CD 15 twice before, was able to enter his Democratic Primary late and still win.
But he hasn’t been able to catch up to his Republican rival in the money game. In total, Lee has collected $1,382,124 for the contest, while Cohn has raised $641,347.
Cohn has spent much of his money on mailers, dropping more than $177,000 with AMHC to fill district mailboxes in one week in October, and has also polled the district in recent days.
Lee, meanwhile, has chunked money down on placed media through Mentzer Media, more than $86,000 on Oct. 14 alone. She entered the final weeks of the race prepared to step up spending as voters began in-person early voting.
Meanwhile, outside groups also provided a greater lift to Lee, who had $1,048,107 in positive spending. Much of that came from the Conservative Action Fund, a super PAC financially tied to Lee’s husband former Florida Senate President Tom Lee, and by the conservative Americans For Prosperity’s political arm.
About $70,853 in negative ads was funded by Engineering America’s Future, a super PAC connected to Primary opponent Jackie Toledo, but which delivered that small bit of mudslinging before the August election.
One sign the race may be fizzling is that no outside spending was ever reported to either boost or bust Cohn.
Of note, the redistricting process at various staged plotted a future for this district that could have been more competitive. The Florida Senate even passed a map that would have crafted a seat Joe Biden won in 2020. But the ultimate product signed by DeSantis made this a Donald Trump seat — though barely. About 50.86% of voters under the new lines went Republican in the Presidential Election, with 47.74% favoring Biden.
At the same time, Democrats felt bolstered when voter registration tightened, leaving this one of the most closely divided congressional seats in Florida. But it’s also one arguably split between both the Orlando and Tampa media markets, so it will never be a cheap place to campaign.