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As Cabinet races heat up, money flows to ag commissioner candidates

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The end of session last month brought the first chance for some of the highest-power candidates for the Florida Cabinet to raise funds.

With all three Cabinet seats open in the 2018 election, would-be attorneys general, commissioners of agriculture and chief financial officers posted May fundraising numbers meant to intimidate.

Though the full field of candidates are still forming, here’s a rundown of May numbers for those who have declared.

Commissioner of agriculture

Republican Sen. Denise Grimsley raised $71,390 last month to her campaign and her political committee, Saving Florida's Heartland. That brings her total since the November election to $876,795.

That includes a $20,000 transfer from her old campaign account. Grimsley’s top donors are:

* Associated Industries of Florida, through various political committees: $80,000

* Florida Leadership Committee, the political committee run by Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala: $53,000

* Innovate Florida, the political committee run by future Senate President Joe Negron: $50,000

* Florida Chamber of Commerce: $26,000

* U.S. Sugar: $25,000

Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell brought in $111,915 last month between his campaign and a political committee called Friends of Matt Caldwell to bring his total to $822,764 since his reelection to the Florida House last November.

That includes a $170,000 donation from fellow Rep. Jason Brodeur’s political committee in February that looks to have been funded by a separate transfer from an older Caldwell account. Ignoring the Brodeur contribution, Caldwell’s top donors since November are:

* Associated Industries of Florida, through various committees: $101,000

* Florida Jobs PAC, run by the Florida Chamber of Commerce: $40,000

* U.S. Sugar: $25,000

* Six Ls Packing Company: $25,000

* Free Markets for Florida, a political committee run by state Reps. Ray Rodrigues, Travis Cummings and Manny Diaz: $23,000

Former Republican state Rep. Baxter Troutman just filed to run Monday, so he has not reported any donations yet. But he did say he plans to kickstart his campaign with a $2.5 million contribution from his own deep pockets.

Michael Christine, a University of Miami law student and newcomer to Democratic Party politics, raised $3,183 last month, bringing his total since declaring in April to $3,559. His top donors are all individuals and all donated to his campaign, capping them at $3,000. 

Onetime Orlando mayoral candidate and businessman Paul Paulson, a Republican, raised $273,023 last month. But nearly all of that — $250,080 was a loan from the candidate himself. He also lent $120,000 to his campaign in April.

Attorney general

Republican state Rep. Jay Fant raised $88,575 last month between his campaign and a political committee, Pledge This Day. Since essentially being reelected to the House last June, he has raised 173,475. Fant’s top donors — excluding $5,000 from himself:

* JB Coxwell Contracting: $9,000

* Petropac, an oilfield services company: $6,000

* U.S. Sugar: $5,000

* Quintin Kendall, an executive at CSX Transportation: $5,000

* Committee of Florida Agents, a real estate group: $5,000

Fellow Republican Ashley Moody, a former judge in Hillsborough County, announced in June and has not had to publish campaign finance.

Ryan Torrens, a Democrat and Tampa foreclosure lawyer, raised $3,618 in May, all from individuals.

Chief financial officer

The lone declared candidate, former Democratic Sen. Jeremy Ring declared at the very end of May but raised $18,500 last month in a political committee, Florida Action Fund PC. Since 2015, that committee has raised $289,871. His top donors:

* Law firm Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart and Shipley: $25,000

* Private equity investor Jeff Roschman: $25,000

* Tech executive Alvaro Monserrat: $25,000

* Florida Chamber of Commerce: $25,000

* Florida Fire PAC, an arm of the Florida Professional Firefighters: $15,000

Note: This post has been updated to correct numbers reported for Sen. Denise Grimsley.

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