Campaign money flows in to incumbents

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With the boundaries of their districts still remaining to be set in stone, and the slate of possible challengers in the 2022 midterm elections not yet final, the prospects of re-election of the incumbent Florida legislators serving the Forgotten Coast, at least based on finances, is looking pretty good.

As of the end of 2021, according to the Florida Department of State Division of Elections, State Sen. Loranne Ausley (D-Tallahassee) had a hefty $162,000 in the bank, a blend of $1,000 donations from political action committees, private sector groups, family members and her own personal contribution, as well as smaller donations from supporters throughout District 3.

State Rep. Jason Shoaf (R-Port St. Joe) had banked close to $104,000, most all of that coming from $1,000 donations from political action committees and various business interests from around the state, as well as about $7,500 of his own money.

As of yet, Shoaf has not drawn any opponents, while Ausley so far has attracted a Republican challenger in Tallahassee’s Virginia Fuller, a former candidate for state representative who is active in the anti-vaccination movement. Fuller’s fundraising totals have not yet been filed.

The boundaries of both Shoaf’s District 7 and Ausley’s District 3 will be redrawn at the end of the Florida legislative sessions.

While it awaits a final determination, State Senate District 3 appears likely to no longer include Calhoun County and be composed of Dixie, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor and Wakulla counties.

Also awaiting final approval, Shoaf’s Florida House district is likely to keep Franklin, Gulf, Lafayette, Liberty, Taylor, and Wakulla counties, and part of Jefferson (not including Monticello) and Leon counties. It would remove Madison and Calhoun counties, and add Hamilton, Suwannee and Dixie counties.

Redistricting is also in the offing for U.S. Congressional District 2, the seat now held by Republican Neal Dunn.

The proposed boundary changes are modest, nowhere near as dramatic as those drawn up after the 2000 census, which had the effect of helping transform a seat held by Democrat Allen Boyd until 2010 into one that, with the exception of one term by Democrat Gwen Graham, has been in the hands of the GOP ever since. 

District 2 is likely to be composed of Bay, Calhoun, Dixie, Franklin, Gilchrist, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Lafayette, Levy, Liberty, Suwannee, Taylor, Wakulla and Washington counties, along with portions of Columbia, Jefferson, Leon, Marion, and Walton counties.

As of Sept. 30, Dunn’s campaign had about $730,000 in cash on hand, according to the Federal Elections Commission, with about $312,000 in debt and loan obligations.

Three candidates have emerged to challenge Dunn, including Democrat Karen Stripling, and two without party affiliation, Mark Christopher Garrett and Aaron Frank Rutherford. No financial data is yet available on these challengers.

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