Florida Democrats Outraise Republicans for First Time Since 1996
For the first time since former President Bill Clinton was running for re-election, Florida Democrats raised more money in the second fundraising quarter of the year than state Republicans did.
Democrats continued the momentum they built in 2008 when they registered more voters and won the state’s Electoral College votes by raising $36,000 more than the Republicans did between April 1 and June 30 of this year. In previous second quarters after presidential elections since 1996, Republicans had an average fundraising advantage of $1.5 million, though this year, the Democrats turned that around.
Each party spent more than they brought in, however, with Democrats spending $1,302,059 and raising $1,196,529 and Republicans spending $1,612,571, while raising $1,160,064.
But that did not stop the Florida Democratic Party from touting its first fundraising quarterly victory in years. The Democrats attributed the reversal of the decade-long trend to small donations from 1,740 contributors, compared to the Republican Party of Florida’s 224 donations.
“As part of our commitment to building the grassroots movement to bring change to Florida in 2010, we are thrilled that over 1,700 Floridians contributed to the Florida Democratic Party over the past several months,” Democratic Party chairwoman Karen Thurman said in a statement. “The outpouring of support from grassroots donors once again shows that Democrats are organized and energized to elect proven leaders such as Alex Sink as our next Governor, as well as electing Democrats up and down the ticket.”
Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff gleefully celebrated the fundraising advantage tilting in his party’s direction as well, pointing out that the GOP’s 2009 total was 62 percent less than their second quarter average since 1996 and raising the specter of Republican contributors who have run afoul of the law.
“Worth asking if the Republican fundraising crashed because the millions in tainted money from Harry Sargent and Jay Odom isn’t pouring in anymore,” Jotkoff wrote in a weekend E-mail to Democratic supporters. “Can't wait to tune in next week to ‘How the RPOF Crashes and Burns.’”
However, while RPOF spokeswoman Katie Gordon acknowledged the Democrats had a good fundraising quarter, she said the GOP was confident with its fundraising haul in a three-month period that included a month of session, during which lawmakers cannot raise money. She added that state Democrats had national help to pad their numbers.
“While they certainly brought in a lot of money, if you look at their report, there are a lot of line items from the Democratic National Committee,” she told the News Service of Florida. “If you look at ours, you won’t see any contributions from the RNC.”
Gordon also said that statewide Republican candidates like Gov. Charlie Crist and Attorney General Bill McCollum, who are running for U.S. Senate and governor respectively, did not have trouble keeping up with their likely Democratic opponents.
“The governor had a very successful quarter in his race for U.S. Senate and General McCollum had one too,” Gordon said. “Right there between those two candidates, that’s $5 million that was given to Republicans.”
But former state Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller said that in a down economy, Crist and McCollum’s robust fundraising may have helped the Democratic Party out-raise the GOP.
“Normally in a time like this, when you have a governor that’s enormously popular – especially with Republicans – he would be raising soft money through the party,” Geller said. “But (Crist) can’t raise soft money for a federal race. Times are hard and Republicans don’t have that much more money than we do, so that’s probably the biggest single reason (for the Democrat’s second quarter advantage).”
The national headwind that Republicans have encountered in the last two major election cycles may have played a role too, Geller added.
“Republicans in general are kind of disheartened,” Geller said. “You’ve got John Ensign, Sarah Palin and Mark Sanford. A lot of the energy is out of the Republican Party right now.”
But even Geller said the scales are likely to tip back in the RPOF’s favor eventually, at least in Florida.
“That’s a function of them being the majority in the Legislature,” Geller said. “Until we have meaningful reapportionment, they are likely to raise more money than we are. If we were in charge, we would raise more, but their party is in charge.”