Newcomers in legislative races reap campaign cash

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Led by a Jefferson County Republican who reeled in more than $108,000, newcomers posted some of the top fund-raising totals in legislative races during the first three months of 2012, reports Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.

Monticello businessman Halsey Beshears reported raising $108,268, as he tries to win a largely rural House district that includes all or parts of 10 North Florida counties, according to records posted Tuesday on the state Division of Elections website.

Beshears, the owner of Total Landscape Supply, appeared likely to dwarf the fund-raising totals of the other four candidates planning to run for the House District 7 seat. Three had filed campaign-finance reports as of mid-Tuesday afternoon, with Perry Republican Donald Curtis raising the next highest total at $15,000.

“We will be frugal with these contributions as we deliver our positive message about growing our economy, protecting our state institutions, keeping taxes low and strengthening our education system,” Beshears said in a prepared statement.

Campaign-finance numbers for the year’s first quarter trickled in to the Division of Elections throughout the day, as candidates faced a midnight filing deadline.

Other non-incumbents joined Beshears in reporting many of the largest fund-raising numbers. That likely stemmed, at least in part, from the fact that incumbent lawmakers were barred from raising money during the legislative session that started Jan. 10 and ended March 9.

Beshears and several of the other newcomers are running for open seats, as districts have been shuffled through reapportionment.

Another top fund-raiser during the quarter was Republican House candidate Travis Hutson, who brought in $70,675. A St. Johns County resident, he is running in District 24, which includes parts of St. Johns, Flagler and Volusia counties.

Newcomers from nearby Clay County, meanwhile, also had big quarters. Senate District 7 candidate Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, collected $68,401, while House District 18 candidate Travis Cummings, R-Orange Park, raised $66,226.

Among other Republicans, Heather Fitzenhagen of Fort Myers raised $65,377 as she tries to win House District 78 in Southwest Florida.

Democrats hope that newcomer Joe Saunders will be able to win the Orlando-area House District 49. Saunders raised $55,731 during the quarter.

Other top fund-raisers among Democratic House candidates included Jonah Wolfson, of Miami Beach, who raised $49,625; and David Kerner, of Lake Worth, who raised $46,020.

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.