TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Former state lawmaker Baxter Troutman has reached $3 million in self-funding in the Republican contest for agriculture commissioner.
One of his competitors said he’s trying to “buy a seat.”
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side of the race, attorney Nikki Fried submitted paperwork Tuesday to run for the Cabinet post, joining Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter and biological scientist David Walker, who loaned $100,089 to his campaign last month, according to newly filed finance reports with the state Division of Elections.
Troutman, a former House member from Winter Haven and grandson of the late citrus and cattle magnate Ben Hill Griffin, Jr., added $200,000 of his own money last month into the contest to replace term-limited Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is running for governor.
The contribution was Troutman’s fifth since last June, when he put $2.5 million into the race. Including the money he contributed, Troutman brought in $263,201 in May for his campaign account and the closely aligned iGrow political committee.
Troutman, who started running a digital ad Monday about his positions on water quality and supply, began June with a combined $1.5 million in his campaign account and in the political committee.
Republican opponent Matt Caldwell, a state House member from North Fort Myers, raised $200,620 in May for his campaign account and the committee Friends of Matt Caldwell. The campaign and committee had a combined total of about $1.26 million in cash on hand as of May 31.
In a news release Tuesday, Caldwell noted he is ahead in terms of “actual funds raised from supporters across the state.”
“While ‘self-funders’ may try to buy a seat and avoid the hard work of a campaign trail, we are running the only true, statewide campaign for commissioner,” Caldwell said in the release. “We will raise the funds needed for this campaign from Floridians that believe in my track record and conservative message.”
Troutman spokesman Carlo Fassi fired back that self-funding has allowed Troutman to travel and meet with various groups and called Caldwell’s comments a “desperate attempt to bring Baxter down.”
“We’re building a grassroots campaign without the help of any special interests,” Fassi said.
Caldwell’s monthly numbers included $73,359 in contributions tied to agriculture and real estate interests, including $50,000 from the Alico-owned Conservation and Environmental Resources, which is involved in cattle production, sod and native plant sales and recreational and conservation land leasing.
Caldwell also picked up $25,000 from the Florida Prosperity Fund, which is tied to the business advocacy group Associated Industries of Florida; $15,000 from the Florida Jobs PAC, a political arm of the Florida Chamber of Commerce; and $15,000 from Friends of Jason Brodeur, the political committee of state Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford.
Brodeur’s committee has now given $200,000 to Caldwell.
Troutman’s largest contributions were $30,000 from the Associated Industries of Florida-linked Floridians for a Stronger Democracy and $15,000 from Florida Jobs PAC.
Another Republican candidate, Denise Grimsley, a state senator from Sebring, raised $136,252 in May for her campaign account and the political committee Saving Florida’s Heartland. Her combined total cash on hand as June started was just under $1.04 million.
Her contributions included $36,550 from people and interests tied to agriculture and real estate. Grimsley also received $15,000 from Florida Jobs PAC and $10,000 from the Voice of Florida Business PAC, another group tied to Associated Industries of Florida.
Republican candidate Mike McCalister, a Plant City businessman and retired Army National Guard and Reserves colonel who opened his campaign account on March 13, posted $1,819 in contributions in May.
In the Democratic contest, Walker has altered the race with his self-funding, which grew to a total of $159,882 with the May loan. Walker began June with $148,551 on hand.
Porter, meanwhile, collected $6,100 in May for his campaign account and the political committee Friends of Jeff Porter. The money included $5,000 from Homestead-based New Aquarius Corp. a mobile home developer.
Joining the race on Tuesday, Fried, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, is a lobbyist and lawyer who once served as an assistant public defender and who has worked on issues related to medical marijuana.