Putnam maintains fundraising edge in governor's race

By Lloyd Dunkelberger, News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -  In the Republican race for governor, new financial reports show Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis continue to pursue different strategies in their quest for their party’s nomination.

Putnam, a two-term state agriculture commissioner, raised more than $2 million in April and spent $2.4 million, including more than $1.8 million launching his first television ad, the new filings with the state Division of Elections show.

DeSantis, a three-term congressman from Palm Coast, raised $819,000 in April and spent $570,000, the state records show. DeSantis has yet to run any television advertising but is relying on frequent appearances on Fox News to connect with Republican voters.

With total contributions of $28.85 million, Putnam maintained a solid hold as the strongest fundraiser in the governor’s race, among both Republicans and Democrats.

Even with his expenditures, Putnam had approximately $19 million in cash on hand as he moved into May.

DeSantis has raised nearly $8 million and had more than $7 million in cash heading into May, the reports show.

Putnam’s largest contributions reflect his status as the Tallahassee establishment’s favored candidate.

His political committee, Florida Grown, in April received $375,000 from the business-lobbying group Associated Industries of Florida, as well as $215,000 from a political committee affiliated with the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

The committee's April haul included $100,000 from Publix Super Markets and $100,000 from William Becker, owner of Peace River Citrus Products, last month. And Putnam’s committee received $75,000 from pari-mutuel interests, including $25,000 from Patrick Rooney, president of the Palm Beach Kennel Club.

Phosphate companies contributed $50,000 to Putnam in April. He also received $25,000 from Geo Group, a private prison company, and $25,000 from St. Joe Co., a major developer.

The largest April contribution to DeSantis’ political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, was $100,000 from Ahmad Khawaja, the California-based founder of Allied Wallet, an online payment-processing company.

DeSantis’ committee also received $25,000 from a company affiliated with MCNA Dental Plans, a company that has provided dental care for Medicaid patients in Florida. The state is currently reviewing bids for a new contract that will separate dental services from the main Medicaid managed-care program.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, who announced this week he would not run for governor and endorsed Putnam, raised $49,500 for his Watchdog political committee in April, state records show.

Corcoran raised a total $6.9 million, with about $2 million left at the end of April. He has said he may use some of the money to support Republican efforts to maintain majorities in the state House and Senate.

Among Democrats, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham had the strongest fund-raising month in April, the records show. She raised more than $1 million, with a total of $7.4 million in contributions to her campaign account and Our Florida political committee. Graham had more than $4.7 million in cash in the accounts moving into May, the reports show.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, the first Democratic candidate to run TV spots, spent $1.8 million on ads in April, the latest campaign finance reports show. Levine has raised a combined total of $9 million in his official campaign account and All About Florida political committee, while also loaning $5 million --- including $2.2 million in April --- to his campaign.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum received $445,000 in contributions to his campaign account and political committee, Forward Florida, in April, the records show. He has raised a total of $3 million, and had $1.4 million cash on hand heading into May.

Winter Park businessman Chris King raised $115,000 in April, according to reports reflecting contributions to his campaign account and Rise and Lead political committee. He has raised a total of $3.76 million and has also loaned his campaign $825,000, including $400,000 in April.

News Service of Florida