All told, Denise Grimsley, Aaron Bean, Ellyn Bogdanoff top three fundraisers for State Senate

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House Appropriations Chairwoman Denise Grimsley’s campaign for a Senate seat this year has received relatively little attention.

Except in one way: Grimsley, R-Sebring, collected $914,348 in contributions, making her the top fund-raiser in Tuesday’s legislative elections.

Candidates faced a Friday deadline for filing finance reports that offer the final snapshot of how much money has been flying into campaigns.

The reports show powerful lawmakers raking in money during the 2012 election cycle — whether they had much competition or not. They also show the financial dominance of Republican candidates across the state and detail high-profile Senate races in which candidates combined to collect more than $1 million.

BULGING BANK ACCOUNTS: A dozen Republican Senate candidates, many of them in powerful positions, topped $500,000 in contributions for this year’s elections.

In a few cases, those candidates collected cash to try to win highly competitive races, such as in Senate District 4 in Duval and Nassau counties. Former Rep. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, reported $761,507 in contributions, which helped fuel his primary-election victory over Rep. Mike Weinstein, R-Jacksonville, before he turned attention to a general-election campaign against Jacksonville Beach Democrat Nancy Soderberg.

Similarly, Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, raised a total of $737,080 for her fierce election fight against fellow incumbent Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Boca Raton, in District 34 in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

But other major fund-raisers are like Grimsley, whose Democratic opponent in Senate District 21, Stacy Anderson McCland, raised only $7,800.

Following Grimsley, Bean and Bogdanoff, the next-highest fund-raiser was incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who has only a no-party opponent in Tuesday’s election but collected $716,775 in contributions. Rounding out the top five was Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican who raised $698,165 in another low-profile race in Senate District 30.

Among House candidates, the top fund-raiser was Lake Mary Republican Chris Dorworth, who is in line to become House speaker in 2014. Dorworth collected $544,072 for his House District 29 campaign, which has included knocking off two primary opponents and facing Maitland Democrat Mike Clelland on Tuesday.

The next-highest total was posted by incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who did not draw an opponent this year but raised $427,900. Rep. Michael Bileca, R-Miami, was next at $422,080. He was followed by two incumbents in tough election fights: Rep. Scott Plakon, a Longwood Republican who collected $403,946, and Rep. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican who raised $389,631.

MILLION-DOLLAR RUMBLES: The candidates’ campaign-finance reports reflect only a fraction of the millions of dollars that the political parties and outside groups have heaped into legislative races this year. Nevertheless, the reports are a good indicator of the hottest races in the state.

The Senate District 4 and District 34 races, for example, have each involved candidates topping $1 million in combined contributions. In the northeast Florida race, Soderberg has raised $279,059 to go along with the $761,507 collected by Bean. Also, Weinstein, who lost the Republican primary, raised another $244,906.

In District 34, Sachs raised $343,566, which combined with Bogdanoff’s haul, brings the overall total to $1.08 million.

Meanwhile in Senate District 8, Rep. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, and Democrat Frank Bruno topped $900,000. Hukill totaled $541,531 in her run for the seat in Volusia, Marion and Lake counties. Bruno, the longtime chairman of the Volusia County Council, raised $377,958.

DEMOCRATS TRY TO DO MORE WITH LESS: In competitive races across the state this year, Republican legislative candidates have swamped their Democratic opponents in raising money.

Bruno raised the most money among Democratic Senate candidates, followed by Tallahassee Democrat Bill Montford, who raised $344,967 for a District 3 race that has drawn little attention. Sachs and Soderberg had the next-highest totals, followed by Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, at $278,011.

Soto is an exception in that he has out-raised Republican Will McBride, of Orlando, in District 14 in Orange, Osceola and Polk counties. McBride reported raising $103,517 — though he also loaned his campaign $220,000, which has allowed him to spend more than Soto.

Among House Democratic candidates, the biggest bucks have gone to two newcomers trying to win in Orlando-area districts. Joe Saunders raised $221,574 in his race for an open seat in District 49. His Republican opponent, Marco Pena, reported raising a total of $238,545.

In nearby District 30, Maitland Democrat Karen Castor Dentel raised $198,614 as she tries to deny Plakon another term in Tallahassee.

THE DISTRICTS THAT BIG MONEY FORGOT: With millions of dollars pouring into legislative races, maybe someone forgot House District 45 in western Orange County.

Democrat Randolph Bracy, of Orlando, is the top-fund raiser in the race, with $26,635. Republican Ronney Roger Oliveira, of Ocoee, reported raising $8,155. And write-in Heinie Heinzelman? A cool $1,050. Grand total: $35,840.

Bracy won the Democratic primary against Shannon Currie, who had raised $26,595. The latest campaign-finance reports, however, show District 45 — and Bracy — getting a little love. Bracy got checks from Tallahassee players such as the Service Employees International Union, AT&T and Walt Disney Parks & Resorts.

In the Senate, perhaps the lowest-budget race is in Broward County’s District 29, where incumbent Jeremy Ring has raised $101,950. Ring’s Republican opponent, Soren Swensen, reported raising a total of $3,300.

Via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.