Ed Montanari’s Q4 fundraising shows he’s still got it, but Lindsay Cross isn’t too shabby either

montinari cross
Cross has raised more overall and has more cash on hand, but Montanari's momentum shows he's likely to pull away during Legislative Session when Cross is barred from raising.

St. Petersburg City Council member Ed Montanari proved himself a prolific fundraiser during his two campaigns for local office. Now that he’s running for a seat in the Legislature, he’s proving it once again.

But the Republican City Council member’s opponent for House District 60, incumbent Rep. Lindsay Cross, is largely keeping pace, particularly considering Democrats in Florida have in recent history had challenges matching their Republican counterparts in fundraising. She raised less in the fourth quarter, but has been campaigning longer so has raised more overall this cycle. And she has more cash on hand than her GOP challenger.

Montanari appears to have the momentum, though. He brought in more than $100,000 in the final three months of 2023, including $83,790 to his campaign account and another $20,800 to his affiliated political committee, Friends of Ed Montanari.

Throughout the course of the campaign, Montanari has raised more than $156,000.

Cross, meanwhile, raised nearly $68,000 to her campaign in the fourth quarter and another $17,900 to her committee, Moving Pinellas Forward. Combined, she brought in about $85,000 from October through December.

Fundraising totals since after the 2022 election show Cross has raised about $210,000 — $34,700 to her committee and nearly $176,000 to her campaign.

Cross retains, between both accounts, about $156,000. Montanari’s cash on hand between both funding sources is about $115,000.

Montanari’s campaign is celebrating its fundraising success, despite Cross’ funding advantage overall.

“Surpassing the $150,000 milestone is a clear statement that our community wants a change,” Montanari said, without mentioning that his opponent has also crossed that milestone.

“We know it’s time to bring a proven leader to the Florida House, someone prepared to confront challenges such as escalating insurance rates, surging crime, and the pressing issue of housing affordability. I am profoundly grateful for the support and am ready to spearhead this mission to address these critical issues facing our families.”

Montanari has another advantage. With the 60-day Legislative Session underway, Cross is barred from raising funds until after the hankie drops. That means Montanari has about two months to raise funds without his opponent being able to keep pace. That will likely mean he surpasses her totals in short order.

It’s an eventuality Cross’ campaign noted Monday just before Session kicked off.

“The stakes are high right now,” Cross noted in an email blast to supporters on the campaign’s “most important fundraising deadline yet.”

“We’re up against an unchecked Republican supermajority that is more focused on culture wars than the needs of everyday Floridians, and my opponent won’t be prevented from raising money for the next two months like I am,” she continued. “I need your help to support our campaign so we can remain competitive throughout these next eight weeks.”

The email was optimistic.

“My opponent may think he can outwork us over these next two months — but with your support, we won’t let that happen,” she wrote.

Unsurprisingly, both candidates’ fundraising reports contain prominent names within their parties, or at least prominent donors.

Several current or former state lawmakers bought into Montanari’s campaign, including checks from former Rep. Chris Latvala, now a Pinellas County Commissioner; former Sen. Jeff Brandes, who cut a check for the maximum $1,000; Sen. Ed Hooper’s political committee; and the political committee for Sen. Nick DiCeglie.

He also took in contributions from GOP consultant Jim Rimes and his firm, Enwright Rimes, as well as Pinellas County Commissioner Brian Scott; prominent GOP donor Bill Edwards; former House candidate Raymond Blacklidge; Pinellas County Commissioner Dave Eggers; former Rep. Seth McKeel; the Associated Industries of Florida; Pinellas GOP Chair and Tax Collector candidate Adam Ross; Berny Jacques’ Florida Values Coalition; Rep. Linda Chaney’s PAC; and more.

In all, his campaign collected 165 checks for an average contribution of about $509.

His committee took in just seven contributions for an average of nearly $3,000 each. Edwards kicked in $5,000, as did DiCeglie’s committee, Bud Risser, and the Associated Industries of Florida.

Cross’ committee brought in 11 contributions, at an average of a little more than $1,600 per donation. Top donors included Risser, who contributed $5,000 to both candidates, and Publix, which also donated $5,000. That donation is notable, as Publix typically contributes to conservative candidates and causes.

ABC Liquors and local physician Neil Bajwa each contributed $2,500.

Cross’ campaign pulled in 208 contributions in the fourth quarter, averaging about $326 per donation. Cash flowed in from several environmental advocacy groups — appropriate considering Cross is an environmental scientist — as well as unions for education interests, plumbers and pipefitters, and more.

Her lower dollar contributions are a mashup of local Democrats who often show up on finance reports, such as St. Pete lawyer Scott Orsini, Joshua Shulman, Sean Shaw and others. Eric Lynn for Congress kicked in $500, while Friends of Gina Driscoll donated $1,000. Driscoll is a City Council colleague of Montanari.

While the next campaign finance reports — due April 10 for the first quarter of 2024 — will likely see Montanari pull ahead on totals, the fundraising battle punctuates the competitive nature of this race.

Democrats carry a slight voter registration advantage in the district, with just under 41,000 voters compared to just over 36,000 Republican voters, according to the most recent voter registration data from the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections.

Cross won’t be an easy incumbent to defeat. She won her seat in the House by 8 percentage points over GOP candidate Audrey Henson in a year where Republicans were overwhelmingly successful in Florida, leading to supermajorities in both legislative chambers. And like Montanari, Henson was a moderate Republican.

Cross has served as a likable lawmaker who, even in disagreements, has maintained good relationships with Republican colleagues.

But Montanari has a GOP machine at his back, one empowered by years of gains within the party statewide, particularly in the last two years.

The Republican Party of Florida offered significant support to Henson two years ago in hopes of flipping the seat red — it was formerly held by Democrat Ben Diamond — and is likely to continue that support with Montanari.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


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