Money is flowing into South Florida as a leading Republican Florida House member is gearing up to face a major Democratic opponent.
Erik Fresen is running for a fourth and final term in the Florida House. While hes only 37, Fresen is already a veteran of the House. First elected back in 2008, Fresen, representing District 116 and based in Miami, also served as a legislative aide. He has proven to be a major player on budget issues, sitting on the Appropriations Committee but also chairing the Education Appropriations Subcommittee. He also sits on the Select Committee on Gaming.
Despite big wins in 2008 and 2010 over Democrats, Fresen has clearly not been helped by redistricting in early 2012. He had a major scare in that election cycle. With 51 percent of the vote, he beat out Democrat Ross Hancock by only 1,400 votes. Granted, Hancock had Barack Obamas coattails, but he only spent $8,230. Fresen, on the other hand, spent $265,800.
At the very least, Fresen will face a much better financed Democrat come November in Daisy Baez. A decorated Army vet, Baez has ties to the health care community and has been an active Democrat in Miami-Dade and attending the party convention in Charlotte in 2012.
Baez has been busy raising cash since she got in the race back in July. By the end of December, she had brought in almost $73,150 and spent almost $25,800. Shes also used more than $3,600 in in-kind donations. Still, more than $50,000 of Baezs money was raised between July and September and her fundraising has slowed considerably since then. Despite that, shes clearly shown she can bring in money and will be better poised than Hancock was to go after Fresen.
The Republican knows he is in a fight and had a very strong end of the year in regard to fundraising, bringing in around $105,000 in November and December. Through January, Fresen has raised almost $167,000, used almost $4,250 through in-kind donations and spent around $72,500.
Fresen does have a Republican opponent in Amory Bodin. Last time out, Fresen ran over Bodin in the Republican primary with 72 percent. Bodin spent almost $32,000 in 2012 but doesnt appear to be as serious in regard to fundraising this time. He continues to file waivers wih the state.
The district goes slightly Republican but Democrats are making progress in Miami-Dade and a victory here is not out of the realm of possibility. While he starts out as the favorite, Fresen clearly has a fight on his hands and this will be a race to watch in November.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News.