Last Thursday night at the Citrus Restaurant in downtown Orlando, Republican House candidates John Couriel, Byron Donalds, Wayne Harris, Alex Miller, Bobby Payne, and Frank White came together for a major fundraiser organized by fellow House candidate Randy Fine. According to sources who attended the event, the financial haul for all candidates was over $100,000. One candidate alone collected $16,000, according to one person with knowledge of the amounts raised. And while fellow candidates Jayer Williamson and Bob Rommel couldn’t make it to the event that night due to forums they had to attend in the district, they, too were able to collect big contributions.
That’s because a number of prominent Tallahassee lobbying firms were represented, including Ballard Partners, The Rubin Group, Rutledge-Ecenia, Capitol City Consulting and several others. According to those in attendance, Florida Realtors also sent representatives to contribute.
“The event was a lot of fun,” said one attendee who declined to be identified. “Even before they have been elected, it seems like these candidates all had a clear sense of camaraderie, which is important for a group that could potentially serve together for eight years.”
About 50 people in all attended the event.
One hundred and thirty miles to the southwest, and much further than that from his home near Jacksonville, State Representative Paul Renner walked Sarasota neighborhoods last week on behalf of House District 72 candidate Alex Miller. Yes, the very same Alex Miller listed on the aforementioned fundraiser in Orlando (sources say Randy Fine also walked on behalf of Miller, who faces the woefully underfunded John Hill for the Republican nomination).
Despite the summertime heat and humidity, Renner was observed hoofing it from door-to-door wearing blue jeans and dress shoes, working up a sweat on Miller’s behalf. As if that weren’t enough to keep him busy, he also rescued a dog found along I-95 a week earlier. According to a story in the Palm Coast Observer, after taking the dog to the vet and trying to determine the dog’s owner, no one came forward. The dog, now named “Jackson,” is officially a member of the Renner family.
Both Fine and Renner are doing everything they can to aid their future colleagues, almost certainly in the hopes that they won’t forget when it comes time to choose a House Speaker for the legislative session beginning in 2022. But at this early stage, it’s clear there is quite a bit of overlap in the prospective Members they are targeting.
A third potential speaker’s race candidate, Jamie Grant, has already secured his seat in the Florida House, drawing no opposition in District 64 before the qualifying deadline came and went. Without having to campaign, Grant has enjoyed a free hand this election cycle, but aside from raising money, it is unclear what he is personally doing to help his fellow Republican candidates.
Grant has not yet responded to a request for comment on this story.