Laurel Lee has drawn plenty of challengers. But do any of them have money?

laurel lee
Only 1 challenger at the end of March has enough cash to even qualify for the ballot.

A call by President Donald Trump for someone to primary U.S. Rep. Laurel Lee seemed to rush candidates to file. But to date, it’s unclear who has the resources to challenge the incumbent in a swing district.

Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican, raised nearly $411,690 from the start of the year until the end of March. That brings her total fundraising for the cycle to nearly $1.01 million.

She also sent nearly $69,000 this quarter. With all things together, she closed March with more than $781,000 in cash on hand, nearly 29 times as much as any challenger.

But she is drawing opponents. Since Trump in late March called for someone to take on Lee — seemingly for being the only Florida GOP U.S. Representative to endorse Gov. Ron DeSantis for President — more candidates have filed on both sides of the aisle.

On the Republican side, two candidates that had been challenging U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Palm Harbor Republican, shifted to Florida’s 15th Congressional District to compete with Lee.

Podcaster Brian Perras, who has espoused conspiracy theories about the Baltimore bridge collapse and accused President Joe Biden of being a pedophile, has filed. But the Pasco County Republican has yet to report any fundraising. That makes it a personal challenge to cover the $10,440 qualification fee for partisan congressional candidates in Florida, and it’s due by noon on April 26.

But Coast Guard veteran James Judge has more in the bank. He raised more than $60,000 just in the first quarter of the year while still challenging Bilirakis. But he also spent $39,000 in the quarter.

The bottom line, he closed with more than $27,000 in cash on hand. That means he has the money to qualify, but it’s still unclear if other resources will kick in anytime soon.

Democrat Pat Kemp just filed as a candidate in CD 15 in late March but before the end of the quarter reported just $970 in fundraising. Meanwhile, former Lake Wales City Commissioner Kris Fitzgerald has yet to report any fundraising activity in the quarter, and closed 2023 with $733 in cash on hand.

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].


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