Democrats running for Florida governor may be thankful for Donald Trump energizing their party activists and turning off swing voters, but their Republican gubernatorial rivals are still crushing them in fundraising. Money is crucial in a state where it costs more than $1 million a week to regularly air TV ads statewide.
Here’s the latest rundown for November:
Adam Putnam continued to blow away the field with another strong fundraising month. The Republican frontrunner brought in about $683,000 more in monetary contributions than he spent between his campaign and political committee. The agriculture commissioner will have a substantial war chest — $15 million and counting — that will be tough for anyone to compete with come fall 2018.
Jack Latvala surged out of the gate with strong fundraising numbers during his first month on the campaign trail. But recent weeks have not been so kind to the Florida senator, as sexual harassment allegations have caused donations to dry up. Latvala’s campaign and committee spent about $237,000 more than they received in November monetary contributions. With a burn rate like that — and the weight of Tallahassee on Latvala’s shoulders — it’s fair to wonder how much longer Latvala will last in the race.
Richard Corcoran, the speaker of the Florida House who has yet to declare his candidacy, quietly raised a net $647,000 for his political committee, Watchdog PAC — which is sitting on about $4.7 million.
Ron DeSantis, the congressman who is widely expected to take a run at governor — but has yet to officially announce — raised almost $349,000 for his political committee, which has a little over $2 million cash on hand.
Gwen Graham raised about $130,000 more than she spent between her campaign and political committee, leaving her with $2.78 million cash on hand. Even if Graham couldn’t compete with deeper-pocketed rivals in November, her campaign touted Graham’s large number of donors in a release.
Andrew Gillum had his worst fundraising month yet, raising $51,000 less than he spent between his campaign and a related committee. The Tallahassee mayor has around $483,000 cash on hand. Like Graham, Gillum has claimed the broad support of his 11,000 donors would lead him to victory. But as PolitiFact noted when he made a similar claim in June, Gillum has been known to confuse donors with donations— and double count in the process.
Philip Levine was the big Democratic winner in November, kicking off his official campaign fundraising with a solid $440,000 in net campaign contributions. Add that to the $5 million cash on hand from his campaign committee, and the wealthy Levine might be able to give a Republican a run for his money in 2018.
Chris King’s fundraising numbers were down from October, with the Orlando entrepreneur pulling in less than he spent between his campaign and political committee. Still, King is sitting on about $1.6 million cash on hand.
Secret side job
Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran is usually a pretty outspoken guy, but he had little to say about revelations that his communications director, Fred Piccolo, was secretly working for a controversial company that assists and is funded by lobbying firms.
The Associated Press reported that Piccolo, 39, worked for Peter Schorsch, who runs a website about Florida politics and publishes a magazine celebrating Tallahassee lobbyists. "In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms," his website says, though Schorsch declined to reveal the firms.
The AP story prompted Schorsch to attack Republican consultant and onetime Schorsch friend Brian Hughes, saying Hughes "snitched" on him and Piccolo. Piccolo earns $110,000 working for the Florida House, and Schorsch wrote on his site that he paid Hughes a few hundred dollars a month "so that he and his wife could pay for an adoption."
Schorsch is a controversial political player often accused of running a pay-for-positive-coverage operation. For years, he has refused to pay at least $67,000 in outstanding fines to the Florida Elections Commission and once pleaded no contest to charges of grand theft and scheming to defraud.
His dispute with Hughes is intertwined with the allegations of sexual harassment against state Sen. Jack Latvala by Hughes’ wife.
Schorsch has been paid for years by Latvala as well as by ardent Latvala critic Corcoran. (The speaker this year dramatically increased his advertising payments to Schorsch, sending him $20,000 shortly before Schorsch named him "biggest winner" of the legislative session and gushed about his leadership.)
Corcoran declined to comment on Piccolo’s secret moonlighting for a special interests cheerleader or say whether he would be disciplined. Instead, the speaker forwarded a statement from the Florida House’s deputy chief of staff for administration, Celeste Lewis:
"An employee with no previous experience working for the Legislature failed to comply with long-standing House policy to obtain written authorization for outside employment. This has been addressed and corrected with the employee. Going forward, the employee will not be engaging in outside employment."
Get the Buzz daily
Stay on top of the latest news in Florida politics by signing up for the Daily Buzz newsletter. Our first-rate political reporters send out the top five stories every Monday-Friday at 3 p.m. Sign up at www.tampabay.com/enews.