Nadia Combs, one of Ron DeSantis’ 2024 School Board targets, faces well-funded Senator’s wife
Image via Layla Collins, Facebook

Layla and Jay Collins
Layla Collins has brought in dozens of top donations from conservative donors and interests.

Hillsborough County School Board Chair Nadia Combs may have a tough fight on her hands this election cycle as she faces a well-funded conservative candidate.

Combs, seeking re-election to the District 1 seat, is being challenged by Layla Collins, wife of first-term Sen. Jay Collins. Recently filed quarterly financial reports show Collins has heavy buy-in from conservative donors and interests.

She brought in nearly $37,000 in the third quarter, which covers July 1 through Sept. 30. Combs, meanwhile, posted just $100, a loan from herself to the re-election campaign. Combs has said she expects her challenger to raise big funds, “an obscene amount of money,” she told the Tampa Bay Times.

While School Board races are nonpartisan, Combs has typically received support from Democrats, and Collins is heavily backed by conservatives.

Of her contributions to date, $25,000 were maximum of $1,000 contributions, and most of those came from frequent Republican donors or conservative political committees or interests.

Collins received $1,000 each from two political committees chaired by Stafford Jones, a conservative megadonor known for creating a host of political committees. He and his committees have faced accusations that they are used as shells to hide contributions and expenditures and, in some cases, to fund spoiler candidates meant to tank Democrats’ election bids.

The two Jones-run committees are A Bold Florida Future and Good Government for Florida. A Bold Florida Future has over the years spent hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting conservative candidates throughout the state, including nearly $500,000 to the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

As recently as last September, the PC cut a check to Collins’ husband for his Senate bid against former Sen. Janet Cruz. Its contributions come from a mix of conservative groups, including $250,000 checks in 2020 from the Conservative Leadership Committee and Americans for Liberty and Prosperity. The Conservative Leadership Committee gave another $70,000 last year.

Good Government for Florida likewise gave $1,000 to Jay Collins last year and has consistently donated to conservative candidates and causes since its inception in 2014. It’s funded by a variety of conservative groups and real estate interests.

Collins also took $1,000 from A Stronger Florida, a political committee headed by Steve Ross of The Related Companies, who previously fundraised for former President Donald Trump.

Dade First PC was also among the maxed-out contributions. That committee is run by Jaime Figueras, a former state director for Trump. The committee supports Miami-Dade Commissioner Kevin Marino Cabrera.

The consultant class also bought in, including Slater Bayliss of conservative government and public affairs firm The Advocacy Partners; Stuart Lasher of Quantum Capital Partners; Nick Iarossi of Capital City Consulting; and R. Paul Mitchell of The Southern Group.

Bernadette and Chris Pello, who operate private schools, including the Christian school Livingstone Academy, each gave top donations.

Other high-profile top donors include Jennifer and Peter Collins. Peter Collins is the President of Florida State University tapped by Gov. Ron DeSantis, and is the founder of Forge Capital Partners, a private real estate firm.

Sen. Blaise Ingoglia also bought in with top donations from his Government Gone Wild and Friends of Blaise Ingoglia committees. Rep. Danny Alvarez did the same, using his Friends of Danny Alvarez committee pen a $1,000 check.

Heather Turnbull of Rubin Turnbull & Associates kicked in $1,000, as did her firm.

Other donors at the $1,000 level include Clifton Curry, a Brandon lawyer and prominent conservative donor; former Republican congressional candidate Jerry Torres; retired Air Force Lt. Col. Jerry Lavely; and civil engineer Hung Mai, among others.

Combs is one of 14 incumbent School Board members across the state who DeSantis is targeting to oust in the 2024 elections because he says they don’t adequately protect parental rights or effectively block “woke” ideologies from being taught in schools.

Combs isn’t alone on the list. Her colleague, Jessica Vaughn, is also a target. Vaughn faces several challengers. But the most well-funded so far, Bonnie Sue Lambert, is a registered Democrat and isn’t drawing her support from the same conservative sources.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


  • My Take

    October 23, 2023 at 1:38 pm

    The ŕightwing indoctrinators are coming for your children.

  • Joe

    October 23, 2023 at 2:31 pm

    RepubliQan groomers and right-wing special-interest dollars, a match made somewhere significantly south of heaven. Gross!

  • Ocean Joe

    October 23, 2023 at 2:41 pm

    They want to replace our public schools with rightwing madrassa.
    They want the voucher money to go into their pockets.
    Bet she runs a private school, like Corcoran’s wife.

Comments are closed.


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