A quick run-down of the Florida political landscape 13 months before the 2024 General Election…
Trulieve nears $40 million in recreational marijuana ballot bet
Trulieve, a medical cannabis company, has increased its contribution to a ballot initiative for marijuana legalization by $500,000, making its total donations $39.55 million. This initiative, led by the political committee Smart & Safe Florida, has received nearly all of its funding from Trulieve, except for $124.58. As of September 30, the committee has spent $39.545 million, as reported on the state Division of Elections website. The proposed “Adult Personal Use of Marijuana” constitutional amendment aims to allow individuals aged 21 and older to use marijuana products for non-medical purposes. While Smart & Safe Florida has gathered enough petition signatures for the November 2024 ballot, it awaits Florida Supreme Court approval for the proposed wording, with a hearing scheduled for November 8. Florida previously approved a constitutional amendment in 2016 that allowed medical marijuana use.
Abortion rights ballot initiative raises $4 million
The Floridians Protecting Freedom political committee, advocating for a constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights in Florida, reported raising $4.192 million in cash and receiving $554,000 in in-kind contributions from July 1 through Sept. 30, as per a recent finance report. This brings their total fundraising to $8.91 million in cash and almost $826,000 in in-kind contributions by Sept. 30. Notably, $1.832 million of this came from Planned Parenthood organizations. The committee has spent $8.792 million so far. The proposed amendment aims to prevent laws restricting abortion before viability or when deemed necessary for the patient’s health by their healthcare provider. To make it onto the November 2024 ballot, Floridians Protecting Freedom must submit a minimum of 891,523 valid petition signatures by Feb. 1 and secure approval from the Florida Supreme Court for the ballot language. As of now, the Division of Elections website records 402,082 valid signatures for the abortion measure.
Competition heats up for Florida House candidates
Rep. Michele Rayner, a Democrat from St. Petersburg, faces a Republican challenger, Amaro Lionheart, in her bid for a third term in Florida’s House District 62, covering Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Rayner, first elected in 2020, reported $25,600 in campaign funds as of September 30.
In another race, the competition to replace term-limited Rep. Patricia Williams in Broward County’s House District 98 is growing, with Oakland Park Democrat Fitzgerald Budhoo entering the 2024 race alongside fellow Democrats Steven Meza and Shelton Pooler.
Florida GOP dominates Democrats in fundraising
The Republican Party of Florida raised $2.745 million from July 1 through Sept. 30, more than three times the amount raised by the Florida Democratic Party, according to newly filed finance reports. The disparity is even larger when compared across the full year, with Republicans raising about $10.4 million more than Democrats. Among big contributions to the GOP during the quarter were $375,000 from Florida Chamber of Commerce-related PACs; $150,000 from the Publix supermarket chain; and $100,000 from United States Sugar. The Florida Democratic Party raised $804,000 during the quarter.
Tom Leek dominates Senate District 7
In the race for Senate District 7, Rep. Tom Leek, an Ormond Beach Republican, has emerged as the frontrunner in fundraising, reporting $11,105 raised in the third quarter, giving him a total of nearly $335,000 in campaign contributions. Despite spending approximately $51,000, he started October with over $284,000 in campaign funds, surpassing most candidates statewide. Leek’s nearest competitor, Gerry James, lags far behind in fundraising with just $16,000 reported so far. The candidates aim to succeed term-limited Sen. Travis Hutson in the overwhelmingly Republican district.