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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Competitive South Florida Senate seats bring in more big bucks

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami

Kristen M. Clark / Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami

Three contested state Senate seats in Miami-Dade County are continuing to attract a lot of cash, new campaign finance reports released this week show.

The fierce battle between current Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and Democrat Andrew Korge in District 39 -- already the most expensive Senate race in the state by March -- continued to produce significant fundraising for both candidates in April.

But it was Miami Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla who had the strongest fundraising among the county's most competitive races last month.

Diaz de la Portilla, who's running in the newly redrawn District 37, brought in $128,600 in April. All but $3,000 of that came through his individual campaign account, where donations are capped at $1,000 under state law. The other $3,000 was donated through Diaz de la Portilla's political committee, "Floridians for Ethics in Judicial Elections."

By comparison, his Democratic rival -- state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, of Miami -- took in almost $20,000 for the month. (Rodriguez's proceeds from a special campaign kick-off and fundraiser in Miami last week that featured Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy won't be reflected until next month's disclosure report.)

Headed into May, Diaz de la Portilla had about $40,000 more in the bank to spend than Rodriguez: $158,000 compared to Rodriguez's $120,000.

Reports show Diaz de la Portilla's March donations included $7,000 from various Braman auto dealerships in Miami and $9,000 from fellow senators -- including $5,000 from people, businesses or political committees affiliated with Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, who's in line to be Senate president in 2020.

Back in District 39, Korge raised more money than Flores in April -- thanks to a $25,000 donation from his father, Chris Korge, a well-known Democratic fundraiser who is also the chairman of Korge's political committee, "Friends of Andrew Korge."

Between his campaign account and the political committee, Korge raised about $102,000 in April, compared to $90,000 raised by Flores through her committees. Korge also got a boost of $25,000 from Miami activist Barbara Stiefel, records show.

Heading into May, Flores and Korge are nearly even in cash on hand, with about $485,000 each.

A third closely-watched race in Miami-Dade County is much more lopsided when it comes to fundraising.

State Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, took in about $93,000 last month in his bid for Senate District 40 through his campaign and political committees. That haul included $14,000 in donations from Frontline insurance in Lake Mary and $13,500 from the opthalmologists political committee.

By comparison, Cutler Bay Democratic Sen. Dwight Bullard, who's seeking re-election in that district, raised about $2,600 in April. That low figure is one of the reasons former state lawmaker and Miami-Dade School Board member Ana Rivas Logan is considering challenging Bullard in the August Democratic primary.

As of May 1, Artiles had more than 13 times the amount of cash in the bank than Bullard did: $296,000, compared to Bullard's $21,700.

Independent candidates running for all three seats -- Mercedes Christian in District 37, Sheila Lucas George in District 39, and Mario Jimenez in District 40 -- raised little to no money last month. Christian and Lucas George reported no contributions; Jimenez reported $350 raised with $754 in cash on hand.

The court-ordered redrawing of all 40 Senate districts in Florida has spurred the contentious races in Miami-Dade, where Democrats -- like Rodriguez and Korge -- are hoping to pick up a couple seats to narrow the Republican majority in the chamber.

Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau chief Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 10:30pm]


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