As dominoes fall in NE Florida politics, campaign cash starts moving

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As the political dominoes fall in Northeast Florida, the campaign cash begins piling up.

St. Augustine Republican state Sen. John Thrasher left the Legislature in November to become Florida State University president, leading to not one, but three special elections set for early 2015.

Almost immediately, donors in both Tallahassee and Northwest Florida started writing checks, according to the latest finance reports on the state Division of Elections website.

Palm Coast Republican Paul Renner arrived in Flagler County soon after losing an August GOP primary – by two votes — in Jacksonville House District 15. Renner seeks another House seat vacated by Elkton Republican state Rep. Travis Hutson, who is now running for Thrasher’s Senate District 6.

Renner took in $76,500 from Nov. 1-30 for the House District 24 special election, which covers Flagler and portions of St. Johns and Volusia counties. Supporters include entrepreneur Tom Petway, developer John Rood, lobbyist Marty Fiorentino and companies led by developer Mori Hosseini.

Compared to Renner, the three other candidates in HD 24 raised very little in November. Republican Sheamus McNeeley raised $175; Ron Sanchez loaned his campaign $300.

Democrat Adam Morley took in $180. Republican Danielle Anderson filed a waiver of report.

The first of the legislative dominoes to fall from Thrasher’s departure was  a special election called in District 6, the region covering St. Johns, Flagler, Putnam and part of Volusia counties. Next came Hutson leaving House District 24.

Another is Ponte Vedra Beach Republican state Rep. Ronald “Doc” Renuart, who is also vying for Thrasher’s seat, choosing to leave House District 17 in St. Johns County.

Special primaries in all three races are Jan. 27, with the general election April 7.

Since Florida Senate races typically draw the most money, the District 6 contest between Hutson and Renuart –  battling for a solid Republican seat – will be the one to watch.

In November, Renuart took in $51,100 for a total of $53,850, not including $50,000 in loans.

Hutson lagged behind with only $26,350 in the same period, for a total of $156,200. Also, he had a substantial head start, transferring money from his House re-election campaign account, which Hutson began fundraising for in July.  In addition, Hutson loaned the campaign $150,000.

Each of the two major SD 6 candidates is a professional — Renuart a physician and Hutson in real estate – and the donors reflect their respective industries.

Hutson collected $56,160 through Nov. 30; many of his donors reported occupations as “real estate.” Conversely, Renuart took in $18,800 from individuals listing professions as “physician.”

As for the remaining field in District 6, Democrat David Cox reported $150 in November; the report for Republican Dennis McDonald is pending as of Thursday.

Another GOP stronghold is House District 17 covering St. Augustine through the southern border of Duval County.

Republican Cyndi Stevenson, a St. Johns county commissioner, took in $49,076 through Nov. 30, as well as loaning the campaign $25,000.

Stevenson faces two other Republicans: Michael Davis, president of A.D. Davis Construction Corp., raised $17,775 during the reporting period, for a total of $47,900. He also loaned his campaign $22,000. Attorney Jack Capra raised $7,750 for $14,850 in all. He also loaned himself $5,000.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.