Orlando-area House incumbents enter general election with big money leads

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It should come as no surprise that in any given election, incumbents usually have the upper hand, at least when it comes to fundraising, and especially when they have no primary opposition.

Nowhere is political fact truer than in the four competitive races in the Orlando region, where challengers – particularly Republican challengers — burned through much of their war chests to get a shot at the General Elections.

Here are the latest campaign finance numbers, courtesy of the Florida Division of Elections:

House District 29

The closest of the four races is House District 29, which covers much of Seminole County and the cities of Lake Mary, Longwood and parts of Sanford.

Former state Rep. Scott Plakon led the fundraising race by $235 in the first post-primary reporting period from Aug. 22-29. Plakon brought in $6,410 — with another $6,000 in support from the Republican Party of Florida — to bring his total to $147,273. After spending nearly $39K in expenditures to date, Plakon has $108,400 cash on hand.

Plakon faces freshman Democrat state Rep. Mike Clelland, who seeks re-election to the Republican-leaning region that covers the Orlando suburbs.

Clelland raised $6,175 in the weeklong reporting period and leads the race overall with a total of just under $156K. So far, the Maitland resident spent $21,198 in expenditures and has $134,766 on hand.

House District 30

After winning the Aug. 26 Republican primary, Longwood Mayor and business executive Bob Cortes has a new challenge, to step up his fundraising efforts and catch up to the large head start of incumbent Democrat Rep. Karen Castor-Dentel in House District 30.

Castor, facing no primary challenge, added another $9,675, as well as nearly $5,000 in-kind from the Florida Democratic Party, from Aug. 22-29, bringing her total to $175,783. Spending only $38,000 in expenditures, Castor has a healthy war chest of $137,569.

Meanwhile, Cortes, who defeated Seminole County Soil & Water Conservation Commissioner Scott Sturgill in the primary, only raised $80 in the weeklong reporting period, for a total of $104,630. After $25K in loans and spending almost $129K to secure his primary win, has only $952 on hand.

House District 30 covers sections of Seminole and Orange counties.

House District 47

Republican candidate Mike Miller faces a similar challenge, where he spent much of his war chest to ward off opponent Ed Rodriguez in the GOP primary for House District 47. Miller, who serves as Director of Marketing and Corporate Sponsorship for Athletics for Rollins College, raised $6,025 from Aug. 22-29 and spent $12,316.

Although Miller’s total fundraising stands at $103,811, he spent almost $100K in expenditures to defeat “Mo” Pearson, and is now looking at only $4,540 to start the General Election against incumbent Democratic state Rep. Linda Stewart.

During the same reporting period, Stewart raised $4,000, with another $2,900 in support from the FDP, for a total of $97,869 in contributions. Facing no primary challenge, Stewart spent $14,826 in expenditures and has more than $83K on hand.

HD 47 contains much of Orlando’s downtown business district.

House District 49

Colonial High School teacher Rene “Coach P” Plasencia, after winning the GOP primary to challenge Democratic state Rep. Joe Saunders, also has a long road ahead to catch the incumbent in fundraising.

Plasencia, who did not post any donations for the Aug. 22-29 reporting period, did receive a $7,000 boost from the RPOF, bringing his overall total to $38,000. However, after spending $18,532 on the primaries, the popular track coach enters the race against Saunders with $19,468.

On the other hand, Saunders raised $6,750 in the same weeklong period, with another $1,900 in-kind support from the FDP, for a total of $168K. Only spending $8,000 more than his General Election opponent, Saunders now has almost $142,000 cash on hand.

HD 49, a borderline Democratic district with a slender Republican registration edge, includes the area between Lake Pickett and Semoran Boulevard and Colonial Drive up to the Seminole County line.

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 [email protected] and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.