The county’s biggest fundraisers in the last quarter hold seats in the Florida Senate, with top honors going to Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, who brought in over $300,000. The highest total for the year was raised by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, who pulled in nearly $485,000. Negron is currently unopposed, but Benacquisto is being challenged by Fort Myers businesswoman Trudi Williams, who reported raising just over $85,000 through the end of last year. Also reporting a substantial war chest was Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, who has raised over $250,000.
While Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, showed the lowest total raised for an incumbent senator with just over $78,000, she also reported an in-kind contribution from the Florida Democratic Party of $58,500 to compensate her campaign staff.
Florida House candidates boasted a good quarter as well, with Rep. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington, ranking as the top fundraiser with over $36,000. Rumors that Abruzzo will likely run for a Senate seat after redistricting may very well have helped put him over the top. The House’s highest fundraising total for the year — over $75,000 — went to Rep. George Moraitis, R-Fort Lauderdale. Neither Abruzzo nor Moraitis currently has opposition.
The open seat held by outgoing Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, has generated the most fundraising activity, with five candidates vying to represent District 82. MaryLynn Magar of Tequesta came out ahead of her four opponents, reporting nearly $22,000 raised. The other four candidates raised just over $13,000 combined. The only one who didn’t turn in a financial report for 2011 was former state Rep. Carl Domino, who filed to run for the seat just after the reporting deadline.
On the county level, Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits and Clerk & Comptroller Sharon Bock also filed after the reporting deadline and have yet to turn in their first financial reports. Public Defender Carey Houghwout is off to a slow start, with just under $7,000 raised, while Tax Collector Anne Gannon reported raising a modest $25,000. Sheriff Ric Bradshaw raised over $72,000, according to filed reports, and State Attorney Michael McAuliffe had amassed nearly $139,000 before withdrawing from the race on Tuesday.
With term limits kicking in for the County Commission, Karen Marcus’ District 1 seat and Burt Aaronson’s District 5 seat are up for grabs. Five Republicans have filed to vie for District 1, with Hal Valeche leading the pack in fundraising with over $86,000 in his campaign account. David Levy, the lone Democrat, reported just over $30,000 raised.
Commissioners Priscilla Taylor and Shelley Vana also are up for reelection. Taylor has raised nearly $11,000, while Vana has yet to file.
Three School Board members face the ballot this year, too: Monroe Benaim in District 1, Chuck Shaw in District 2 and Frank Barbieri in District 5. There has been little activity there so far. Benaim has not yet filed, Shaw has no opponents, and Barbieri currently faces one challenger.
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