Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Campaign Cash Offers Picture Of Legislative Races

TALLAHASSEE (The News Service of Florida) — Sandwiched between the end of the legislative session and the start of formal qualifying, May was a relatively calm month for fundraising in state House and Senate races.But with candidates meeting a Tuesday deadline for filing campaign-finance reports, the updated numbers offer glimpses of a few story lines to watch during the coming months.

The next big development in legislative races will come Monday, when qualifying starts. And by the time qualifying ends June 20, the campaign picture will become clearer — with some candidates getting elected unopposed and others facing tough races.

But here are five takeaways from the May campaign-finance reports:

Drake gets a big thank you

When he was drawn into the same Panhandle district as Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, during the 2012 reapportionment process, then-Rep. Brad Drake, R-DeFuniak Springs, stepped aside instead of running again. That allowed Coley to serve her final term in the House and earned goodwill for Drake.

Now, Drake is feeling the Republican love as he seeks to return to Tallahassee in House District 5, which includes Holmes, Jackson, Walton, Washington and part of Bay counties.

Drake reported raising $25,450 in May, with $24,000 of that amount coming from the Republican Party of Florida. Bigger picture, Drake has raised a total of $256,855, giving him the third-highest total among all House candidates.

District 5 should be a safe GOP seat, and Drake is expected to face a primary race against Santa Rosa Beach Republican Jan Hooks, who had raised $60,925 through May.

Rumble on Jacksonville's Westside

Rep. Daniel Davis' decision to not seek re-election this year in Jacksonville's House District 15 has created a big-money race between Republicans Paul Renner and Jay Fant.

The two newcomers continued piling up money in May, with Renner raising $22,245 and reporting an overall total of $178,795. Fant, meanwhile, raised only $12,570 but also loaned his campaign $12,550. In all, Fant has raised $203,253 and loaned his campaign $199,050.

Bottom line, the two candidates have combined to raise slightly more than $382,000, not counting Fant's loans. Not bad for a relatively compact district on Jacksonville's Westside.

Thompson gets ready for another Siplin

As she was elected to the Senate in 2012, Orlando Democrat Geraldine Thompson won a primary battle against Victoria Siplin, the wife of former Sen. Gary Siplin.

But Thompson isn't done yet with the Siplin family. Gary Siplin, who was term-limited in 2012, plans to challenge Thompson this year in Orange County's Senate District 12.

Maybe with that in mind, Thompson raised $26,255 in May, by far the most she has raised in recent months, and giving her an overall total of $118,800. Thompson also received nearly $12,000 in in-kind contributions in May, with the Florida Democratic Party helping cover expenses such as research and staff.

Siplin, D-Orlando, raised only $1,500 during May, his first full month in the campaign. Two Republicans, Edward DeAguilera and Fritz Jackson Seide, also have opened campaign accounts, with DeAguilera leading the way with $21,396 in total contributions.

Eagle not flying away

Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, had a rough end to the legislative session after he was arrested in April on suspicion of driving under the influence.

But with his May campaign-finance totals, Eagle sent a signal that he is prepared to battle for another term in Lee County's House District 77. Eagle collected $31,200 in May and reported an overall total of $147,040. Eagle raised more in May than during any other month since opening a campaign account.

Southwest Florida is a Republican stronghold, and three other GOP candidates — Terry Bowen Cramer III, Brandon Ivey and Jim Roach — have filed paperwork to run against Eagle. Cramer and Roach have raised little money, and Ivey only opened his account last week.

Miami Republicans ready for a fight

Miami-Dade County Democrats last week touted a push for "new leaders" as they announced a slate of candidates to try to wrestle away state House seats from Republicans.

But finance numbers indicate Republicans will have the money to fight back. As an example, Rep. Michael Bileca, a Miami Republican who last week drew one of the Democratic challengers, reported that he put $35,000 of his own money into the District 115 campaign in May. That check helped raise Bileca's overall total to more than $102,069 as he prepares to run against Democrat Kristopher Decossard.

Meanwhile, Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr., a Hialeah Republican who earlier had drawn a Democratic challenger, raised $18,400 in May as he defends his House District 103 seat. That brought Diaz's overall total to $123,700. Democrat Benjamin De Yurre had raised a total of $2,675.

Also, Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, raised a relatively small $9,000 in May, but he has collected an overall total of $266,389, making him the second-larges fundraiser among House candidates. Fresen has drawn challenges in House District 114 from Democrats Ross Hancock and Daisy Baez and Republican Amory Bodin.