Keith Perry is starting to go to work as he runs for his third term in the Florida House even as his Democratic challenger is off to a solid start.
First elected to the Florida House back in 2010, Perry has slowly been moving his way up the leadership ladder and, if he wins in November, that trend is expected to continue. After a stint as deputy whip in his first term, Perry now is the vice chairman of the Healthy Families Subcommittee. Perhaps more important to his constituents in Alacuha County, home of the University of Florida, Perry sits on the Education Committee and the Education Appropriations Subcommittee.
But even as he rises up the Republican ranks, Perry hasnt exactly impressed with his fundraising efforts. By the end of February, he had only raised $74,128 and spent $9,455. Most of that amount -- $40,650 -- was raised in February in the mad dash before session started and legislators are barred from fundraising.
This district -- parts of Alachua County and all of Dixie and Gilchrist counties -- is certainly in one of the least expensive media markets in Florida. But Perry will need money for November. Democrats have the edge when it comes to voter registration here, even though many of them are to the right of their party. Its telling that Rick Scott lost out to Alex Sink by 8 percent here back in 2010.
Democratic leaders hoped Aaron Bosshardt would be their candidate against Perry in 2012 but he was upset in the primary by Andrew Morey who won by less than 350 votes. Even with Democrats coming out to vote for Barack Obama and Bill Nelson, Perry won by 13.5 percent.
The latest Democrat looking to run against Perry is attorney Jon Ulman, who has run for a judgeship in the area. Ulman filed to run against Perry in the middle of January and he started out strong. In the first six week of his campaign, Ulman brought in almost $18,775 and kept most of it in the bank, spending less than $860. Ulman is a well-known attorney in the area and, if not a top tier candidate for Democrats, is not a lightweight by any means.
Based on his previous wins and his financial advantage, Perry starts off with the edge here, but this is a race that can certainly be competitive if Ulman continues to do well with fundraising. At the very least, Perry has to ramp up his efforts in the money chase. As of now, Perry should not expect a cakewalk in November.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.