Key Legislative Races a Magnet for Money
With Republicans and Democrats battling for control of a relatively limited number of seats this year, campaign cash has poured into targeted legislative races in South Florida, the Orlando area and the Tampa Bay region.
In many key races, Republican candidates are trying to unseat Democratic incumbents and expand the GOP's already-large majorities in the state House and Senate.
Among the most-expensive races has been in Miami-Dade County's House District 112, where freshman Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, is trying to fend off a challenge from Republican Daniel Diaz Leyva. As of Oct. 17, the latest figures available, Diaz Leyva had raised $366,107 in cash, while Rodriguez had brought in $308,345, according to reports filed with the state Division of Elections.
Those totals don't include money that outside groups might be pouring into the race or the in-kind contributions that candidates often receive to help defray expenses such as campaign staffing.
Another big-ticket legislative race is in Broward and Palm Beach counties, where former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, is trying to unseat Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, in a rematch of a 2012 contest won by Sachs. As of Oct. 17, Bogdanoff had raised $550,285 --- and loaned $50,000 to her campaign --- while Sachs had raised $321,552.
In the Tampa Bay area, meanwhile, Republican challengers Chris Sprowls and Shawn Harrison had raised $272,096 and $217,081, respectively, as they seek to unseat incumbent first-term Democrats Carl Zimmermann and Mark Danish in House districts 65 and 63. Zimmermann, D-Palm Harbor, had raised $125,726 as of Oct. 17, while Danish, D-Tampa, had raised $143,507.
In the Orlando area, one of the Legislature's top Democratic fundraisers, first-term Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, D-Maitland, had brought in $299,823 as she defends her District 30 seat in Seminole and Orange counties. Her GOP challenger, Bob Cortes, had raised $177,600.
But not all of the costly races involve Republicans trying to unseat Democrats. In Miami-Dade's District 114, for example, Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, had raised $500,594 --- making him one of the top House fundraisers of the election cycle. His Democratic challenger, Daisy Baez, had raised $226,915.
Somewhat similarly, Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, had raised $745,176 in cash as he seeks another term in Senate District 22 in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. His challenger, Madeira Beach Democrat Judithanne McLauchlan, had raised $283,847.
Heading into the Nov. 4 elections, the vast majority of legislative races likely will not be competitive or were already decided in the primaries. That is particularly true in regions such as the northern part of the state.
Nevertheless, some of the top House and Senate fundraisers are legislative leaders who appear likely to cruise to re-election.
Among them is Rep. Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican who is slated to become House speaker if he wins re-election in Brevard County's House District 51. Crisafulli had raised $610,323 as of Oct. 17, while his opponent, Democrat Joe Murray, had raised $1,355.
On the Senate side, Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, had raised $814,249 in his District 32 re-election bid. Negron's opponent in the Treasure Coast district, Democrat Bruno Moore, had raised $8,661.