Florida Cabinet race drawing biggest bucks is one for Attorney General

Ashley Moody, a former Hillsborough County circuit judge, has crossed the $1 million mark in contributions for her run to be Florida’s next attorney general, according to new campaign-finance numbers.

But her Republican primary opponent, Rep. Jay Fant of Jacksonville, nearly matched Moody’s total by infusing his campaign with $750,000 of his own money on Sept. 30, the last day of the most recent reporting period.

READ: Fund-raising in governor’s race

“We are currently 13 months away from the election, and our campaign’s funds are at nearly $1,000,000 to carry our conservative message across the state,” Fant said in a prepared statement.

With $28,775 in contributions in September, Fant had raised a total of $208,075 for his campaign account and loaned the $750,000. He had spent $31,523 as of Sept. 30.

A Fant political committee, “Pledge This Day,” had $54,364 in the bank.

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Moody in a news release, played up that she outpaced Fant in contributors and contributions “by a margin of over 5 to 1.”

“Our campaign’s success also reflects the voters’ desire for an attorney general who has real experience prosecuting crimes and upholding the rule of law,” Moody said in a prepared statement.

Moody reported her campaign account picked up $108,150 in September, bringing the overall contribution total to $864,146. The campaign had spent $43,183.

Meanwhile, Moody’s political committee, “Friends of Ashley Moody,” pulled in $62,500 in September and had raised a total of $200,000. The committee had spent $35,246 as of Sept. 30.

Democratic candidate Ryan Torrens, an attorney from Hillsborough County, picked up $4,853 in September. Since entering the contest on May 22, Torrens had raised a total of $39,172, while spending $31,198.

State candidates, political committees and parties faced a Tuesday deadline for filing reports showing finance activity through September. But the statewide races for attorney general and other Cabinet posts could get more crowded as the 2018 elections draw closer.

For example, The Tampa Bay Times reported Wednesday that state Rep. Frank White, R-Pensacola, is expected to decide within days about a possible bid for attorney general.

Here is a look at fundraising in the other Cabinet races:

Agriculture Commissioner

Fundraising appeared to slow down in September in the race for agriculture commissioner, as the state — and the agriculture industry — got hammered by Hurricane Irma.

State Sen. Denise Grimsley produced the best numbers in a four-way Republican contest to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is running for governor in 2018.

Grimsley, of Sebring, raised $51,869 in September for her campaign account, with another $27,500 raised for her political committee known as “Saving Florida’s Heartland.” Overall, Grimsley’s campaign and the committee had a combined total of about $873,000 on hand to begin October.

Rep. Matt Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican running for agriculture commissioner, brought in $5,000 for his political committee “Friends of Matt Caldwell” last month, with another $10,275 raised for his campaign account.

Caldwell’s two accounts had nearly $877,000 on hand when September came to a close.

The overall money leader in the contest remains former Rep. Baxter Troutman of Winter Haven.

While Troutman pulled in $8,950 for his campaign account in September and reported no new cash in his political committee, “iGrow,” his campaign accounts collectively stood at about $2.55 million, in large part due to $2.5 million that Troutman put into the race in June.

The fourth Republican seeking to replace Putnam, Orlando businessman Paul Paulson, reported raising $123 in September. Paulson has also been putting his own money it the contest, with $642,748 of the $651,999 that has gone into his campaign this year coming from the candidate.

Democrat David Walker of Fort Lauderdale posted $750 in contributions in September. His campaign totaled $14,040, which included $9,500 of his own money.

Chief Financial Officer

In the 2018 contest for the third state Cabinet office, chief financial officer, former Democratic Sen. Jeremy Ring picked up $35,139 in his campaign account during September and another $23,500 through his political committee, “Florida Action Fund PC.”

Ring, from Broward County, had raised a total of $159,373 and loaned $100,000 to his campaign account, of which $61,802 had been spent. His political committee had $115,173 on hand at the end of September.

Meanwhile, a Republican field is expected to soon take shape.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis has not formally announced a campaign but is expected to run and is raising money through a political committee.

Appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in June to replace Jeff Atwater, who left the Cabinet for a post at Florida Atlantic University, Patronis’ political committee “Treasure Florida,” pulled in $82.750 in contributions in September, bringing the overall total since Aug. 6 to $222,750.

Also expected to enter the race, Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, raised $253,250 in September for his political committee, The Conservative. The committee had nearly $2.1 million in cash on hand.

Another Republican candidate, Antoanet Iotova, opened a campaign account but no financial report for September had been posted as of early Wednesday.

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