With incumbents limited by the legislative session, political contributions poured into the campaigns of new House candidates during the first three months of 2012, reports Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.
But make no mistake: Most of the big money still sits in the campaign accounts of House leaders and other incumbents, as candidates prepare to plant yard signs, send out mailers and run advertisements in this fall’s elections.
Of the 10 House candidates who raised the most contributions from Jan. 1 through March 31, only Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, is an incumbent, according to records filed this week with the state Division of Elections.
House and Senate members cannot raise money during the legislative session, which this year ran from Jan. 10 to March 9. But no such restrictions bar non-incumbents from holding fund-raising events and trying to gather checks from supporters.
The quarter’s top fund-raiser was Monticello Republican Halsey Beshears, who collected $108,268 as he tries to win the redrawn House District 7, which includes all or parts of 10 North Florida counties.
Beshears was followed by two Republicans seeking House seats from Northeast Florida. District 24 candidate Travis Hutson, who lives in St. Johns County, raised $70,675, while District 18 candidate Travis Cummings of Orange Park raised $66,226.
Other Republican candidates in the top 10 were Heather Fitzenhagen of Fort Myers, with $65,377; Plakon, with $53,511; and Dane Eagle of Cape Coral, with $50,570.
Among Democrats, the top fund-raisers were District 49 candidate Joe Saunders of Orlando, with $55,731, and District 21 candidate Aaron Bosshardt of Gainesville, with $54,845.
Other Democrats in the top 10 were Jonah Wolfson of Miami Beach, with $49,625, and David Kerner of Lake Worth, with $46,020.
With the exception of Plakon and Eagle, none of the quarter’s top fund-raisers had reported receiving earlier contributions. That leaves them far behind many incumbents, who raised money throughout 2011.
The top overall House fund-raiser is incoming Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who collected $24,650 during the quarter and brought his total to $421,800.
Two other Republicans in line to become future speakers, Chris Dorworth of Lake Mary and Richard Corcoran of New Port Richey, also are among the top House fund-raisers. Dorworth has raised a total of $250,995, while Corcoran has raised $201,062.
Other top overall fund-raisers include Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, with $264,414, and Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, with $200,763.
In all, 11 House incumbents have raised more than $170,000 to help fuel their reelection campaigns. All are Republicans. The comparisons reflect only monetary contributions and do not include in-kind contributions.