TALLAHASSEE (NSF) – In the halls of the Florida Capitol, the names Gaetz and Book are almost universally recognized.READ MORE: Teen Seriously Hurt in Major Car Crash in Lauderhill
And as the 2016 legislative elections take shape, money is pouring into Senate campaigns involving candidates with those last names.
State Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican seeking to succeed his father, former Senate President Don Gaetz, in a Northwest Florida Senate district, raised slightly more than $90,000 in September and had collected an overall total of about $694,000 for his campaign, according to newly filed finance reports.
Meanwhile, Lauren Book, daughter of prominent lobbyist Ron Book and a leading advocate for children who are victims of sexual abuse, raised about $355,000 during her first month formally running for a Broward County Senate seat. Coupled with $705,000 raised by a political committee she leads, Lauren Book was approaching $1.1 million at the end of September.
“I know we have a very long way to go … and a lot of doors to knock on, but receiving this kind of support early on from so many dear friends and supporters is both humbling and inspiring,” Lauren Book, who is seeking to succeed term-limited Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, said in a prepared statement about the $354,974 raised for her campaign account.
State candidates, political committees and parties face a Tuesday night deadline for filing updated reports showing their finance activity through Sept. 30.
Reports steadily appeared on the state Division of Elections website in recent days, with Book and Gaetz easily topping other candidates in the amounts of money raised.READ MORE: Stimulus Check Latest: Is A Fourth Relief Payment Coming?
But despite his haul, Gaetz is headed toward a Republican primary against another well-financed candidate. Bay County Commissioner George Gainer, an auto dealer, loaned $500,000 to his campaign in September, as he seeks to defeat Gaetz in Senate District 1, which includes all or parts of six counties.
While legislative candidates tried to scoop up checks in September, large chunks of money went to political committees that don’t face the same contribution limits as typical campaign accounts. In many cases, those committees are led — or at least closely aligned — with incumbent politicians.
As an example, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, have been engaged in a long-running contest to become Senate president after the 2016 elections. They have political committees that can raise and spend money to help their bids and to back Senate candidates who are their allies.
Negron’s committee, known as the Treasure Coast Alliance, raised $525,550 in September and had about $1.63 million in available cash, according to the reports. Latvala, meanwhile, is linked with the
Florida Leadership Committee, which raised almost $415,000 in September and had about $1.61 million in available cash.
As another example, a committee known as Florida Grown, which is tied to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, reported raising nearly $324,000 in September, bringing its total to about $2.4 million since the beginning of March. Putnam is widely expected to run for governor in 2018.MORE NEWS: COVID In Florida: 3,231 New Cases, 33 Additional Deaths Reported Sunday
The News Service Of Florida’s Jim Saunders contributed to this report.