Political candidates and committees face a Monday deadline for filing campaign-finance reports for February. Here are 10 fundraising reports I’ll be keeping an eye on as indicators of how certain candidates may fare in 2014 and beyond.
(Thank goodness On 3 PR’s Christina Johnson will be collecting all of the data for her “bible” of all of the candidates’ fundraising reports.)
1. The campaign accounts of Rick Scott and Charlie Crist — As opposed to the political committees associated with the two gubernatorial candidates, which can raise unlimited dollars, the capped accounts of the candidates are a good indication of the enthusiasm for Scott and Crist. For the first time since he launched his challenge to Scott, Crist’s political committee outraised “Let’s Get To Work,” the committee backing Scott’s re-election. Was Crist’s campaign also able to outraise Scott’s campaign?
2. Democratic AG candidate George Sheldon — Incumbent Pam Bondi continues to raise money at a breakneck pace, but a recent poll showed her just barely leading her two Democratic challengers, George Sheldon and Rep. Perry Thurston. I am convinced Sheldon wins this primary and will be Bondi’s eventual opponent, so it’s intriguing to see if he is raising the kind of money he’ll need to be competitive against Bondi.
3. The political committee’s associated with Sens. Jack Latvala and Joe Negron — Don Gaetz has one foot out the door. Andy Gardiner has been officially designated the next Senate President. Heck, the race for Senate President after Latvala vs. Negron is all but sewn-up. Yet it’s not clear who will wield the gavel beginning in 2016. Perhaps the latest fundraising numbers can offer an indication.
4. Speaking of the Latvala vs. Negron rivalry, the fundraising reports of Reps. Matt Caldwell, Dane Eagle, and Heather Fitzenhagen — technically for their House re-election campaigns — could impact the race for Senate President. Caldwell is reportedly a Negron guy, while Fitzenhagen is presumably tied to Latvala. Both members are suppose to post outsized numbers as some sort of fourth-degree indication of Latvala and Negron’s strength. Before making too much out of Caldwell or Fitzenhagen’s numbers, it would be best to wait to see if Lizbeth Benacquisto wins her congressional bid.
5. It’s fish-or-cut-bait time for any Democratic incumbent facing a serious challenger, as they are in: HD 38, HD 47, HD 63, HD 65, HD 68, and HD 112 (some of these races are discussed below.)
6. An interesting primary is shaping up in House District 5, where former state Rep. Brad Drake was suppose to have the race wrapped up. However, a strong January fundraising effort by Santa Rosa Realtor Jan Hooks has made the HD 5 scrum a must-watch race.
7. House District 25 – Former state Rep. Fred Costello has been touting the support of GOP leaders like Speaker Will Weatherford. Now we’ll know if that support has translated into solid financial assistance.
8. House District 29 – Democrat Mike Clelland and Republican Scott Plakon: Perhaps the most battleground-y of Central Florida battleground seats with Clelland coming off his upset of former Speaker Designate Chris Dorworth and Plakon still smarting from his loss to Karen Castor-Dentel. Are the fightfighters and police unions rallying around Clelland? Has Plakon been able to raise the kind of money he’s had in previous campaigns?
9. House District 31 — Expect this to be one of the most competitive GOP primaries on the House side. Rep. Byron Nelson faces term limits in 2014 and three Republicans — chiropractor Randy Glisson, Terri Seefeldt, and Joseph Stephens – have already filed to run for this seat representing parts of Lake and Orange counties. The chiropractic lobby is desperate to have one of its members back in the Legislature, while Seefeldt has uber fundraiser Beth Babbington shaking the trees for her.
10. House District 40 — John Shannon announced a large number against Colleen Burton, who has been running for 11 months. How will she respond?
11. House District 68 – Democrat Dwight Dudley: The first-termer is now officially being challenged by Bill Young, son of the longtime congressman. This seat — the most competitive House seat in the state over the last two decades — is trending slightly Democrat. But Young should be able to raise, what, a half-million dollars? Maybe more, just from the utility industry, which is already furious with Dudley. For his part, Dudley needs to start raising as much money as soon as possible.
Also keep an eye on: Senate District 22′s Jeff Brandes, SD 34′s Maria Sachs, House District 30′s Bob Cortes, and HD 120 incumbent Holly Raschein.