Tallahassee, FL - As state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis picks up contributions and endorsements, Sen. Tom Lee said he continues to plan a Republican primary challenge for the Cabinet post.
Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican who is prohibited from raising money during the ongoing legislative session, said Wednesday he’s got a campaign team in place for a bid to replace Patronis.
“I’m continuing to work in that direction,” Lee, a former Senate president, said. “I’ve got a campaign team. I’ve got a communications director. I built a team, a fundraising staff, I’ve got a team ready to move forward post-session.”
Lee’s comments came as his political committee, known as The Conservative, was dwarfed in December fundraising by Patronis, a former state lawmaker and Panama City restaurateur who pulled in more than $350,000 during the month.
Patronis, appointed in June by Gov. Rick Scott to replace former Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, raised $120,288 for his campaign account and another $245,400 for his political committee, known as Treasure Florida.
Entering the new year, Patronis sat on a combined campaign war chest topping $1.5 million, after opening the political committee in August and his campaign account in November.
Lee, who served as Senate president in the 2005 and 2006 sessions and ran unsuccessfully for chief financial officer in 2006, raised $13,500 in December for The Conservative. As of Dec. 31, the committee had nearly $2.3 million on hand.
Patronis was recently able to add former Gov. Jeb Bush to his list of endorsements.
Lee said he’s not worried.
“It’s all fair in love and war, we’ll go out and have a conversation with the people of Florida, and typically what happens with Republican primaries in our state is the most conservative candidate wins,” Lee said.
The only announced Democratic candidate for chief financial officer, former Sen. Jeremy Ring, picked up $26,163 in December for his campaign account and $50,000 for his political committee, known as Florida Action Fund. The largest contribution, $20,000, came from a political action committee of the Florida chapter of the International Association of Firefighters.
Ring, a former Yahoo executive, began January with $204,201 on hand in his personal campaign account and $144,986 in the political committee.
The battle for chief financial officer will be one of three Cabinet races on the November ballot. Candidates and committees faced a Wednesday deadline for filing updated finance reports. Here is the activity in the other Cabinet races:
Ashley Moody, a former Hillsborough County circuit judge, picked up a combined total of $142,300 last month for her campaign account and her political committee, Friends of Ashley Moody.
Moody began December with $1.3 million available in the two accounts. But potentially more important, Moody could benefit as she will be able to raise cash the next two months while her three Republican primary opponents --- Rep. Frank White, Rep. Jay Fant and Rep. Ross Spano --- are in the Legislature and required to halt fundraising until the session ends in March.
White, R-Pensacola, had the best December among the lawmakers, picking up $47,057 for his campaign account and $53,000 for his political committee, known as United Conservatives.
White started the year with $1.985 million in the bank through the two accounts. His campaign account is bolstered by $1.5 million of his own money.
Fant, of Jacksonville, raised $13,422 last month for his personal account and $10,000 for his political committee, known as Pledge This Day.
The two accounts started the year with a combined $921,754 on hand. Fant's war chest included $750,000 of his own money, which he put up in September.
Spano, a Dover Republican who was the most recent candidate to enter the contest, started the year with $87,234 in his personal account and a political committee, known as Liberty and Justice for All.
In December, Spano raised a combined $25,745 through the two accounts.
Democrat Ryan Torrens, an attorney from Hillsborough County, picked up $7,373 in December. But while he's raised $65,637 since entering the contest in May, he started the year with less than $3,000 in the bank.
In the contest to replace term-limited Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, state. Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, had the best December in raising money.
His political committee, Friends of Matt Caldwell, raised $59,500 last month, and Caldwell picked up an additional $39,201 for his campaign account.
Overall, Caldwell had slightly more than $1 million as of Dec. 31 in the two accounts.
Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, raised $23,525 in December for her campaign account, while another $66,750 was raised by her political committee, known as Saving Florida's Heartland.
Grimsley's two accounts had just under $900,000 on hand when the year began.
For Caldwell and Grimsley, the largest individual donor was U.S. Sugar Corp., which gave $25,000 to each candidate’s political committee.
Meanwhile, former Rep. Baxter Troutman, who is running against Caldwell and Grimsley in the GOP primary, continues to be buoyed by $2.5 million of his own money that he put into the contest in June. Troutman, R-Winter Haven, raised $7,875 in December for his campaign account, while his committee, known as iGrow, posted no financial activity
On the Democratic side, David Walker of Fort Lauderdale raised $510 in December, putting his overall war chest as 2018 kicked-off at $1,638.
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