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Matt Gaetz SD 1 money lead evaporates after opponent cuts $500K check

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Shalimar Republican Matt Gaetz built a sizable war chest for his Senate District 1 campaign over the last two years, but that advantage evaporated after challenger George Gainer cut a $500,000 check to his own campaign.

The Bay County Commissioner filed for the seat on Sept. 8 after months of rumors he would enter the race and loaned his campaign the sizable sum that same day. Gainer didn’t bring in much else, however, showing only $4,500 in contributions after three weeks on the trail.

The seat, held by Matt Gaetz’s father, Niceville Republican Don Gaetz, was at one point considered a lock for the third-term House District 4 representative. The Senate landscape has shifted the race into a battle in the ongoing war between Sens. Jack Latvala and Joe Negron, who both aim to be the next senate president.

Gaetz, equal parts Negron ally and Latvala foe, filed for SD1 in mid-2013 and has built up an on-hand total of about $446,000 over the past two years. His campaign hasn’t posted September totals yet, though his recent fundraising numbers pale in comparison to his first couple months after filing, which saw him bring in more than $370,000 in contributions.

Gainer’s loan does a lot to even the odds, but the seat is still Gaetz’s to lose. SD1’s status as one of the most conservative districts in the state means this race will be decided in the Republican Primary.

Gainer should fare well in Bay County, which holds more than a third of the district’s electorate, but getting support in Okaloosa County, which holds most of the Republican Primary voters, is key. Gaetz represents part of Okaloosa in the House and hasn’t faced any opposition since the primary election that preceded his first term in 2010.

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.

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