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Money flows in Southwest Florida House races

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Money is flowing in Southwest Florida, with Republican state Reps. Jim Boyd, Ray Pilon and Greg Steube each posting their best fundraising reports since the start of the 2015 session.

Boyd, currently running unopposed in House District 71, added $39,000 in contributions last month, raising his on-hand cash to $56,246 for his fourth and final House campaign. The total includes 23 maximum checks of $1,000, four of which came from insurance company GEICO and its subsidiaries.

Steube raised $23,465, bringing his on-hand total to nearly $130,000. When Sarasota Republican opens a campaign account to take over exiting House District 28 state Sen. Nancy Detert, he’ll have a sizable financial advantage over former state Rep. Doug Holder and former Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson. Through September, Holder had $101,423 on-hand and Patterson had $42,000.

The candidates eyeing Steube’s House seat didn’t fare as well. Republican Joe Gruters is still the odds-on favorite in the race with $93,714 on-hand despite only raising $854 during the reporting period. Challenger Steve Vernon, who filed as a Republican in late July, has about $4,500 in his campaign account after bringing in just $500 in September.

The situation is a bit more competitive in neighboring House District 72. After months of no signs of life, Ray Pilon’s campaign outraised Democratic challenger Edward James with a September total of $14,154. The numbers are good enough to win the month, but Ray is still ahead overall.

James only brought in $2,210 through his campaign account, which sits with about $36,500 on-hand, but his political committee, New Direction Florida, had another $10,000 month. Campaign and committee combined, James has more than $66,000 on-hand compared to Pilon’s $57,500 total.

District 72 should be one of the more interesting races come Election Day. Republicans account for about 43 percent of the district’s electorate, compared with a 22 percent share for Democrats. Election results for the past two cycles haven’t worked out that way. Democrat Liz Alpert took 46 percent of the vote in 2012 and in 2014 Greg Para got 42 percent despite both candidates working with severely limited campaign funds.

James has already raised more than Alpert and Para combined, and if he can keep up the pace over the next 13 months the district has a slim chance to tilt in his favor.

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and FloridaPolitics.com. 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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