TALLAHASSEE — With candidates setting a record this year for pulling in matching funds, Florida taxpayers contributed $4.2 million to the winning campaigns for governor and three Cabinet seats, according to the final totals for the 2018 elections.
Another $5.65 million in tax dollars went to the campaigns of six unsuccessful statewide candidates, according to numbers posted Friday by the Florida Division of Elections.
Overall matching funds totaled $9,852,606, more than double the $4.34 million from the last midterm election in 2014 and easily topping the nearly $6.07 million in 2010.
Disparaged by critics as welfare for politicians, the program was approved by voters in 1998 as part of a constitutional amendment proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission. It provides matches for individual contributions of $250 or less to statewide candidates' campaigns.
Republican Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis was the biggest recipient of the funds this year, receiving nearly $3.23 million, including $557,554 that rolled in after voters cast their ballots but as campaign finance reports continued to be submitted and individual contributions verified.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum received $2.62 million from the program, including $254,381 after the Nov. 6 election.
DeSantis and Gillum, whose campaigns and political committees collectively spent more than $99 million, each received more matching funds than any other candidate during a single election cycle in the program's history.
Florida's next attorney general, Republican Ashley Moody, drew $478,903 from the matching-funds program, including $29,266 after the election.
In her victory over Tampa Democrat Sean Shaw, Moody spent $8.8 million through her personal account and the political committee Friends of Ashley Moody.
Shaw, who spent an overall total of $4.2 million through his campaign account and political committee, received $365,591 from the matching-funds program.
Republican Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who won a four-year term Nov. 6 after being appointed to the Cabinet post last year, received $334,604 from the matching-funds program. Patronis got a pair of checks after the election worth a combined $6,225.
Overall during the campaign, Patronis spent $6.8 million through his personal account and the political committee Treasure Florida in defeating Democrat Jeremy Ring. Ring, who didn't participate in the matching-funds program, spent a total of $1.6 million through his campaign account and a political committee.
Agriculture Commissioner-elect Nikki Fried, the only Democrat in line to win a statewide post, got $158,507 from the matching-funds program. That included $40,880 after the ballots were cast.
Fried, through her campaign account and the political committee Florida Consumers First, spent a little more than $2 million in narrowly defeating Republican Matt Caldwell.
Caldwell, a critic of the program who didn't take matching funds, spent nearly $5.5 million through his campaign and a political committee in this year's election.