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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

$1.9M raised since Feb. 1 in contested Miami-Dade Senate races



Miami-Dade County is proving more and more why it's a battleground for the Florida Legislature this year.

Candidates for the four competitive Florida Senate seats in Miami-Dade have raised about $1.9 million over the past four months, an analysis of newly filed campaign finance reports showed.

Current Miami Republican Sens. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Anitere Flores raised almost $600,000 between them in May alone in their bids for re-election in newly redrawn districts.

And that's not counting lucrative help that's starting to pour in from an arm of the state party, which would like to keep as many Republicans in the Senate as possible.

Because of redistricting, several Miami-Dade County seats are in play in November. Democrats see an opening to win potentially a few more seats in the Senate and narrow the Republican's 26-14 majority.

But despite fielding competitive candidates, Democrats are falling behind in the fundraising game.

From Feb. 1 -- after which time most candidates filed for their current races once the redrawn districts were set -- through May, Republican state Senate candidates together have raised three times as much as the Democrats across three of Miami-Dade's four competitive races. That's a valuable advantage because the cost to advertise on radio and TV in Miami is among the most expensive in the state.

Diaz de la Portilla raised the most money among Miami-Dade candidates last month. Between his campaign committee and two political committees in his name, he took in $307,500 for the District 37 race and entered June with $559,000 in the bank.

His Democratic opponent, state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, also of Miami, raised $54,300 in May and had $177,000 on hand, as of May 31. On Friday -- the day candidates' monthly campaign finance reports were due to the state -- Democrats aimed to show the competitiveness of Rodriguez by releasing an internal party poll that had him in a statistical tie with Diaz de la Portilla five months ahead of the general election.

In District 39, both Flores and Democrat Andrew Korge continued a pattern of strong fundraising, but Flores raised almost 2.5 times more than Korge in May. She raised more than $267,000 last month between her campaign and political committees, compared to the $108,100 Korge raised through his committees. Flores entered June with $693,000 in the bank, while Korge had $550,000.

Diaz de la Portilla's and Flores' fundraising numbers don't count $51,300 Diaz de la Portilla got and $85,500 Flores got in "in-kind" support from the Florida Republican Senatorial Committee, an arm of the party focused on electing and re-electing Republicans to the state Senate. Flores' help included $19,500 for polling in May, her report showed.

The Democrats are also starting to help out some of their strongest candidates, too, including Rodriguez. He received about $16,000 in "in-kind" support from the Florida Democratic Party over the past two months, including about $11,600 in May.

Meanwhile, the most recent dynamic in the District 40 contest isn't clear yet. Miami Republican state Rep. Frank Artiles continues to build up his war chest in District 40, but Democrats now have a primary to worry about in August.

Artiles raised almost $135,000 in May and had $345,300 in cash on hand, as of May 31.

By comparison, current Democratic Sen. Dwight Bullard, of Cutler Bay, continued a trend of meager fundraising. He raised just $9,900 in May and entered June with less than $31,000 in the bank.

Bullard's low fundraising hauls earlier this spring prompted a primary challenger: former state representative and Miami-Dade School Board member Ana Rivas Logan. She joined the race on June 1, so her initial fundraising won't be reported until next month. 

In Miami-Dade's fourth competitive race -- for District 38, a strongly Democratic district -- not much money had been raised by the six Democrats who had declared as of May 31: Only $37,400 altogether. But expect that to change, since sitting Sen. Gwen Margolis dropped out last week.

The long-time legislator announced her retirement a couple of days after disparaging her opponents during a candidate forum. Her departure from the contest will likely make it more appealing and competitive for other Democrats eager for the now-open seat.

Among the five other candidates who had filed for the seat by the end of May, Democratic state Rep. Daphne Campbell had raised the most: $12,300 -- including $2,700 in May. She reported $13,700 in cash on hand. Of note, though: attorney Jason Pizzo -- who filed on May 24 -- kicked off his campaign with a personal $200,000 loan toward his race, although he didn't report any donations during his first week in the race.

[Last modified: Monday, June 13, 2016 4:43pm]


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