DeSantis’ strong debut trails Putnam in Florida governor money chase

Feb 13, 2018
U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis kicks off his campaign for governor at an event in Boca Raton Monday, January 29, 2018. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Backed by President Donald Trump’s Twitter account and a finance team that includes Sheldon Adelson and other national Republican heavyweights, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis turned in an impressive debut fundraising month in his quest for Florida governor.

But DeSantis collected less new money in January than Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, according to reports filed this week.

DeSantis’ campaign advertised a gaudy $3.3 million January haul — but more than $2.4 million of that figure was raised last year by a pro-DeSantis PAC and transferred to a new PAC last month. DeSantis raised $894,020 in new contributions after launching his campaign on Jan. 5.

Putnam, who opened his campaign last May, raised more than $1 million in January.

Republicans Putnam and DeSantis outpaced all the Democratic candidates for governor in January fundraising.

Here’s a look at the latest numbers:

• Putnam collected $379,452 for his main campaign account in January and $654,000 for his Florida Grown political committee. He began February with nearly $16.8 million in cash on hand between the two committees.

• DeSantis raised $131,019 for his main campaign and received $763,001 in new contributions to a new PAC called Friends of Ron DeSantis. The new PAC also received more than $2.4 million from an old PAC, the Fund For Florida’s Future, which was formed by DeSantis supporters last year and raised more than $2.6 million through the end of December. All told, DeSantis began February with more than $3.3 million in cash on hand.

• A third Republican who is expected to join the governor’s race, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, raised $570,175 in January for his Watchdog PAC. The PAC began this month with nearly $5 million in cash on hand. Corcoran is expected to announce his candidacy in March after the legislative session ends.

• Republican Jack Latvala, who resigned from the state Senate in December amid allegations of sexual misconduct, has not formally shuttered his campaign for governor and has more than $4.3 million cash on hand between his campaign committee and Florida Leadership Committee. His January expenditures included $105,100 in legal fees.

• In the race for the Democratic nomination, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine raked in the most January money. His All About Florida PAC collected $647,000 while his main campaign raised $105,894. Levine began February with $4.1 million in cash on hand between the two entities. Levine so far has poured more than $3.6 million of his own money into the race.

• Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham raised a combined $453,906 during January and began February with nearly $3.3 million in cash on hand.

• Winter Park businessman Chris King raised $260,683 in January and started this month with almost $1.7 million in cash on hand.

• Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum started this month with $676,528 in available cash between his campaign and his Forward Florida PAC after raising $148,746 in January.