Matching money keeps adding up for DeSantis, Gillum

Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum speak at their victory parties Tuesday night. (Associated Press)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s gubernatorial candidates might be able to catch Bill McCollum, but the amount of state matching funds Charlie Crist received in 2014 could remain out of reach.

Statewide candidates Friday got five more checks for matching funds totaling $448,517, with the bulk going to the gubernatorial campaigns of Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum, according to numbers posted online by the Florida Division of Elections.

DeSantis received a check for $153,470 on Friday to bring his overall state matching-funds total to just over $1.52 million.

Gillum got a check for $266,838 --- his third straight weekly check of more than $230,000 --- and has received nearly $1.37 million from the controversial program, which provides matches for individual contributions of $250 or less to candidates’ campaign accounts.

To draw down matching money, statewide candidates must apply for the funding and reach contribution benchmarks --- $100,000 in such relatively small-dollar contributions for Cabinet candidates and $150,000 for gubernatorial candidates. But the program has been controversial because some Republican leaders contend the state shouldn’t help fund campaigns.

Only two candidates in past elections have received more from the program than DeSantis and Gillum have collected this year.

McCollum, the former state attorney general, got about $1.82 million in his unsuccessful bid to be the Republican candidate for governor in 2010. Meanwhile, Crist, the unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2014, drew $2.58 million from the matching-funds program.

Gov. Rick Scott, who used much of his own money to defeat the establishment-backed McCollum in the 2010 GOP primary and Crist in the 2014 governor’s contest, did not tap into the matching-funds program.

This year, the state has handed out more than $6.53 million to nine candidates, including four that failed to get through the primaries. In 2010, the state put out $6.065 million in matching funds. In 2014, the program sent out $4.3 million.

The governor’s race has accounted for the bulk of this year’s money, at $5.2 million.

Of the $897,754 DeSantis raised for his campaign account between Sept. 22 and Sept. 28, $185,157, or 20.6 percent, came through 3,194 different contributions of $250 or less.

Out-of-state donors accounted for 17.6 percent of the small-dollar contributions.

A week earlier, when DeSantis raised $726,649 for his campaign account, 23.2 percent of small-dollar donations were from out-of-state.

Each of the past two weeks have been the best in terms of weekly contributions for DeSantis since July. Those totals --- and the matching funds --- also do not reflect contributions to Friends of Ron DeSantis, a closely aligned political committee.

Of the $1.72 million Gillum raised for his campaign account between Sept. 22 and Sept. 28, $407,509 came through 11,653 contributions of $250 or less. Of those small-dollar contributions, just over 30 percent of the money came from out-of-state.

In the race for attorney general, Republican Ashley Moody received $13,375 in matching funds on Friday and has received $397,401 from the state. Democrat Sean Shaw got a check for $11,338 on Friday and has received $262,917 from the program.

In the race for state chief financial officer, incumbent Republican Jimmy Patronis received a check for $3,495 on Friday. Patronis has received $314,095 through the program. Democratic CFO candidate Jeremy Ring has not taken part in the program.

The two remaining candidates in the race for agriculture commissioner, Republican Matt Caldwell and Democrat Nikki Fried, have not tapped the program.