Locked in competitive primaries for Senate seats, House Minority Leader Ron Saunders and former Senate President Tom Lee were among the state’s top campaign fund-raisers during the latest reporting period.
Saunders, a Key West Democrat, collected $40,770 between July 7 and July 20, as he readies for an Aug. 14 primary against four other Democrats in Senate District 39. Newly filed reports show Saunders has received backing from major industry groups and businesses, such as the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, U.S. Sugar Corp. and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida.
Lee, a Brandon Republican who is trying to return to the Senate after six years out of the Legislature, collected $35,050 during the two-week period and has an overall total of $234,635. His primary opponent in District 24, Rep. Rachel Burgin of Riverview, raised $6,005 during the reporting period and has gathered $127,978 in all.
Candidates and political committees faced a Friday deadline for filing campaign-finance information, which reflected an abbreviated reporting period as the primary elections near. Many reports had not been posted on the state Division of Elections website as of mid-afternoon.
While candidates chase contributions in $500 increments, the reports show that some political committees reeled in far-larger amounts of cash during the period. As an example, a group called Alliance for a Strong Economy, which is headed by some Republican senators, collected $162,000 during the period, including $60,000 from Disney Worldwide Services and $50,000 from The Geo Group.
As another example, a group called the Florida Leadership Fund, which is associated with Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, collected $123,700. Meanwhile, the Let’s Get To Work committee, which is closely allied with Gov. Rick Scott, raised $175,100, with $150,000 of that total coming from a Realtors group.
Though the reporting period was abbreviated, the totals show money continuing to flow to some hotly contested races, such as the Senate District 4 Republican primary in Northeast Florida. Rep. Mike Weinstein, R-Jacksonville, reported raising $27,301 in that race, while his primary opponent, former Rep. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, reported raising $26,975.
In the House, meanwhile, at least a few of the top fund-raisers had their totals bolstered by contributions from the state Republican Party.
Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, reported receiving $28,620 in contributions for her primary race in District 11 against Jacksonville Beach Republican Cord Byrd. That total included $19,500 from the Republican Party, which also provided an additional $8,400 in in-kind polling and consulting services.
Similarly, Rep. Ronald “Doc” Renuart, a Ponte Vedra Republican in a three-way primary in District 17, reported receiving $25,850 in contributions during the period. That total included $19,500 from the Republican Party.
Among Democrats, one of the top fund-raisers was Miami Beach House candidate Mark Weithorn, who reported collecting $23,597 during the two-week period. One of Weithorn’s opponents in the District 113 Democratic primary, David Richardson of Miami Beach, reported $154,025 in contributions, but that total included $150,000 of Richardson’s own money.