Republican Rep. Ray Pilon narrowly topped his Democratic challenger Edward James in October fundraising, amid what has become a hotly contested race for a moderate-leaning swing seat in Sarasota ahead of 2016 statehouse elections.
Pilon, elected to the House in 2010 when he ousted then-incumbent Keith Fitzgerald, raised $8,000 during last month’s fundraising reporting period in HD 72.
The former Sarasota County commissioner’s contributions were highlighted by three $1,000 donations from Florida Hospital Association affiliates and a $1,000 check from Publix Supermarkets.
Democrat James – who has outraised Pilon most months since he entered over the summer – put up $6,003 in October including in-kind contributions, plus another $1,000 into an affiliated political committee supporting James.
The haul leaves James with some $69,998 on hand, versus Pilon’s $60,063.
The Florida Hospital Association’s heavy support for Pilon is no surprise – the Sarasota representative was one of just a handful of Republicans to break ranks with House leadership and vote in favor of the Senate’s “FHIX 2.0” plan to accept increase federal Medicaid dollars in the state budget earlier this year.
That move, as well as recent stances against gun rights expansions popular with conservatives, has led observers to wonder whether the door is still open for a possible Pilon run for the state Senate.
Pilon had previously announced his interest in running to replace the locally popular Sen. Nancy Detert, who is retiring early to run for the Sarasota Commission. But county party chair Joe Gruters, himself a candidate in neighboring HD 73, took to the airwaves this summer and said Pilon would not run.
Pilon’s October windfall came from 14 contributors. James saw checks from 42 donors, to surpass Pilon for total number of contributors overall for the first time.