First quarter fundraising a mixed-bag for Orlando-area Democrats

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Note: All House Districts referred to in this article reflect the new plan for the 2012 election, not the current House map.

As the business day ends in Tallahassee, and the first quarter fundraising numbers come in, there are some positives as well as some negatives for Orlando-area Democrats.

First, let’s look at the good news, and it is very good news at that. The top Democratic fundraiser in both the House and Senate was Joe Saunders, who is running in Speaker Dean Cannon’s old seat. He pulled in $55,731. Both the old and new seat were marginal seats, but with Dean being the speaker, it was hard for Democrats to pick up the seat. Their last candidate, Amy Mercado, was a good candidate and a decent fundraiser. But this amount raised seven months before the election by a non-incumbent Democrat is almost unheard of in Central Florida politics.

While Saunders’ Republican opponent, Rene Plasencia, raised a respectable $17,976, it was a far cry from Saunders’ total. Don’t be surprised if the Republican Party pumps money into this seat. Also, don’t be surprised if they just give this one a pass after looking at today’s reports. Anything is possible.

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In House District 43, Young Democrat Ricardo Rangel also had a solid showing. While only raising $4,715, this seat, which is located in Osceola County, should go to the Democrats. In addition, nobody else seems to be raising the kind of funds in this race like Rangel has. Hopefully, this will clear the way for Rangel to have an easy primary so he can move onto the general election.

Attorney Mike Clelland, who is challenging Chris Dorworth, also showed steady fundraising in the first quarter, with $10,495 raised, giving him a grand total of $27,890. Dorworth, on the other hand, has a grand total of $250, 995. With this situation, and fighting an uphill batter, maybe Mr. Clelland should consider switching seats. More on that later.

On the Senate side, Darren Soto raised $9.650 this quarter, putting his current campaign total at $31,650 which is, honestly, smaller than it should be for a state senate race. But like Rangel, once the Senate maps are drawn, Soto should be drawn into a strong Democratic seat, much of which includes his current House district. Therefore, while not having a great total number, this quarter showed improvement and he should be on his way to victory in November.

That is the good news for Democrats, now here is some neutral news.

We know in Orlando’s other possible Senate race, Geraldine Thompson, Victoria Siplin and Linda Stewart are set to square off against one another. Both Siplin and Thompson didn’t file their reports today, which puts us in the dark. Stewart did raise $9,029 for the quarter. And while this brings her grand total to $13,462, it is still a distant third to Siplin and Thompson.

In other “neutral” news, in House District 48, the candidates that announced that they are running for this seat, Jacqueline Centeno and Victor M. Torres Jr., have not submitted campaign finance reports either. Therefore, we are in the dark yet again and really don’t know about their fundraising ability.

Now, it is time for the bad news for Democrats.

In House District 47, Scott Randolph, who is also considering a run for Florida Democratic Party Chair in which he talks about the Party’s focus on fundraising, only raised $4,239 for his state House seat this quarter, making his total funds raised for the seat at $49.483. As of right now, we don’t know who will be his opponent. But there is a possibility that Eric Eisnaugle might run for the seat, and his 1st quarter numbers are $9,325, putting his current total at $115,950.

What Democrats might be gaining in Cannon’s old seat with Saunders, they might lose in Randolph’s race. After today’s numbers, Randolph might be the one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent candidates in the State House, along with Pinellas County’s Rick Kriseman and North Florida’s Leonard L. Bembry and Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda. All of these candidates were out-raised by their Republican opponents and in some cases by staggering amounts.

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Another issue that is of rising concern is the lack of candidates and fundraising in State House District 46. Nobody has raised money, and while there are some decent candidates, nobody really stands out. The biggest fear that I personally have is that Gary Siplin decides to run for this seat. He can win it, and, honestly, it is his for the taking. Don’t be surprised if something crazy happens in this seat, as it usually does.

But the biggest tragedy has to be the lack of any candidate in State House District 45. The only Democratic candidate for this seat is Randolph Bracy III, who has, again, waived his financial report for this quarter. This seat is diverse, and has a good mixture of whites, blacks and Hispanics, and is highly Democratic. Yet, nobody has stood up and decided to be a quality candidate for this race.

This is where I feel that Mr. Clelland should run. It is only one district over from the one he is currently in. He is a well financed Democratic candidate. This is a Democratic seat. And, honestly, if he wants to be in the House, running for this seat increases his chances by nearly 1000% (yes, I added the extra zero) compared to running against Chris Dorworth. So, while taking on Dorworth might be a nice battle, having a good, and qualified, Democratic member in the House is crucial. And looking at Mr. Clelland’s resume, he is easily qualified to be in the House, and could be a Democratic leader in the near future. So, Mr. Clelland, if you are reading this blog, please consider running for this seat.

In House District 44, Republicans continue to be strong with lack-luster progress from the Democratic candidates. And in Seminole and Osceola County’s other seats, everything is pretty much going as expected.

So yes, there is some good and bad news, and it is dished out about equally. But hopefully that trend will change in the next quarter.

Cross-posted with permission by Dave Trotter of the Political Hurricane.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.