A hot money race is developing in the Tampa-based state Senate seat held by Democrat Janet Cruz, with Republican challenger Jay Collins using a fundraising technique that has drawn criticism nationally.
The district was the scene of a 2018 race that featured then-unprecedented levels of spending by Cruz and Republican Dana Young.
Collins switched into this year’s race with the backing of Gov. Ron DeSantis after initially challenging U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa.
He is using online fundraising forms in email solicitations that include pre-checked boxes that convert a one-time donation into a monthly donation, a technique used by Donald Trump. Unless the donor manually unchecks the fine-print box, the credit card charge is repeated monthly. A New York Times investigation last year found many donors were unaware they were authorizing repeated contributions. After receiving complaints, the Federal Election Commission recommended the practice be banned.
Collins didn’t respond to a request for comment relayed through a campaign spokesperson.
He also is beginning to get heavy financial support from Republican legislative leaders.
Those same Republicans formerly gave heavily to former state Rep. Shawn Harrison in the race against Cruz. Harrison dropped out when DeSantis waded into the race backing Collins.
Neither Collins nor Cruz has a primary opponent.
Cruz has raised about $1.1 million in her campaign account and a separate political committee and has about $717, 000 in cash heading into the general election.
Since entering the Senate race in mid-June, Collins has raised $320,549 in his campaign and separate committee, including $50,000 left over from his congressional race.
That includes $17,629 from the Republican Senate leadership committee, $30,000 from a committee linked to incoming state Sen. Bryan Avila, and thousands more from other Republican senators and their political committees.
Previously, the leadership committee had given $47,805 to Harrison, along with contributions from the senators.
In 2018, Cruz and Young spent an estimated $12 million battling for the seat.