It has been said that money is the lifeblood of politics. If so, many members of the Florida congressional delegation are very healthy, while others are on life support.
This is based on second quarter financial reports covering funds raised, funds spent and cash on hand. In contrast to the general assumption, money does not guarantee political success. Just ask Jeb Bush, who quickly raised over $100 million in his quest for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. The money produced no primary wins and only three delegates.
Candidates who raise large sums of money do so either to scare off political opponents, to prepare for a serious challenger, or to stockpile funds to run for higher office. The biggest war chests among the Florida congressional delegation are held by incumbent Republicans who are considered safe.
Small campaign accounts do not necessarily signal a political problem. In many cases, a small campaign account is a sign that the incumbent faces no serious opposition. Democrat Alcee Hastings, representing District 20 in Miami, only has $92,074 in his campaign account. That signals that Hastings has never faced a serious challenge since winning a congressional seat in 1992.
Those with the largest campaign accounts include Republican Vern Buchanan in District 16 ($1,982,876), Republican Ron DeSantis in District 6 ($1,674,185), Republican Carlos Curbelo in District 26 ($1,078,588) and Democrat Charlie Crist in District 13 ($1,121,494).
Crist, serving his first term in Congress, is perhaps Florida’s best-known member of Congress and a prodigious fundraiser. Curbelo represents one of two Florida congressional districts held by a Republican that has a large Democratic advantage. Curbelo is more threatened than most members of Congress. Both Buchanan and DeSantis represent districts with a marginal Republican electorate. DeSantis’ district has a +4 Republican advantage and Buchanan’s district has a +6 Republican advantage.
Only one challenger taking on an incumbent has raised over $50,000. Louis Sola made a personal loan of $99,000 to his campaign account.
Two former members of the Florida congressional delegation filed campaign reports, signaling their hopes to keep their options open to another congressional run.
Former Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns raised $51,704 and has $1,579,227 in his campaign account, more than all but two of the current members of the delegation.
Democrat Alan Grayson, who represented District 9, filed paperwork in District 11. Grayson raised $68,532 and has $455,584 in the bank.
It is still very early with 19 months to go before the 2018 congressional elections. Some candidates have not announced and still have plenty of time to do so. What we do know, based on past history, is that two-thirds of the delegation face no serious threat. The other third who are in marginal districts or who have angered their constituents are going to raise as much money as they can to retain their seat.
There is one truism in Congress: Every member of Congress thinks they are indispensable.
Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.