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Politics

Florida Legislative Contests Have Attracted $200 Million

October 7, 2012 - 6:00pm

More than $150 million has been spent already on the legislatives races in Florida this year, with a month left until the votes are tallied.

Another $50 million-plus was currently available for additional TV, print and Internet ads as October began, according to numbers released Monday by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

The majority of the money has come through the political parties and electioneering groups that include super-PACs, which have collectively raised $168 million and spent $126 million before October began.

Meanwhile, House candidates have raised $17.4 million -- $10.1 million has been spent -- and Senate candidates have collectively pulled in $24.4 million, of which $16.5 million has been spent.

The fiscal totals do not include the presidential contests, congressional races or the Florida Supreme Court retention battle.

By comparison, more than $136 million was spent by candidates, political parties, and electioneering groups as Election Day arrived in 2010 on the legislative contests, as well as the gubernatorial, Cabinet and judicial branch contests.

Marian Johnson, Chamber senior vice president of political strategy, said there a number of reasons for the jump in spending, from media outlets raising advertising rates to redistricting and efforts by both parties to be more competitive.

Democrats put candidates in seats and Republicans put candidates in seats that they shouldnt have put them in, Johnson said while at the Chambers Future of Florida Forum on Monday at Disneys Yacht & Beach Club in Orlando.

I think in 14 youll see more competition in the House seats, because there are 23 House seats where registration is almost equal.

I think the House did a marvelous job in redistricting.

The majority of the money spent this year on legislative contests went out during the primaries when future Senate presidencies were at stake and Senate leaders were using engineering groups to aid members in their respective camps. Now there are only three Senate races that are considered competitive and 14 such contests in the House.

The Senate races are:

District 34 between Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, and Sen. Maria Sachs, R-Weston.
District 8 between Rep. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, and Frank Bruno, a Democrat from Ponce Inlet.

Senate President-designate Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, has informed the Chamber that the District 25 contest -- Joseph Abruzzo, a Democrat from Royal Palm Beach, against Melanie Peterson, a Republican from Delray Beach -- should now be considered in play, with the Democrats shifting resources to Abruzzo.

The focus has shifted slightly away from the District 14 contest between Republican William McBride and Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, with odds appearing to favor Soto.

Regardless of how those contests end up, the GOP isnt in peril of losing its hold on either chamber.

With presidential polls teetering back and forth in Florida, now trending for Republican nominee Mitt Romney, Johnson said it will matter most who is ahead at the start of early voting and when absentee ballots first go out.

Fifty-three percent of the vote was already cast when Election Day came at the primary and in the last general election, Johnson said.

Election Day has almost become the day you count votes, not the day you go to vote anymore, because people have already voted when Election Day gets here.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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