Where things stand in Florida’s governor’s race after the dog days of June

Time for a few snapshot generalizations about Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial governor’s race, based on the money raised by the candidates’ political committees in June.

1. Democrats are struggling mightily to raise serious money in their first competitive gubernatoral primary in many years. Some of this probably is related to uncertainty about John Morgan’s potential candidacy (a nice excuse for donors to stay on the sidelines), and some of it due to a sense that the race has yet to realy form. But in the month of June, Republican Adam Putnam’s Florida Grown committee raised nearly $1.3 million in unlimited “soft dollar” donations — nearly four times what the leading Democratic candidates raised combined. 

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham raised nearly $137,000; Orlando businessman and political newcomer Chris King raised about $146,000 for his Rise and Lead Committee, including $63,000 from companies he leads; and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum  received one $10,000 donation in June after raising nothing for the committee in May. 

Let’s stipulate that June is a tough time to raise campaign money in Florida, especially 70 weeks before election day. Also, state campaign finance reports — the “hard dollar” donations of up to $3,000 for statewide candidates — won’t be out until next week. But the ability to raise soft money is crucial for a campaign that may ultimately cost $100 million. The Democrats are off to a very tepid start.

2. Graham is the frontrunner, but King arguably has replaced Gillum as her most credible challenger. Maybe the headline on this column jinxed Gillum. Or more likely an active FBI probe into his city hall dried up fundraising. But Tallahassee’s mayor barely looks viable today, raising $10,000 over two months for his Forward Florida committee. Hard to see how changing finance directors will make much difference.

King is relying heavily on his own money so far, but he also is a political unknown staying competitive financially against the daughter of a Democratic icon, Bob Graham, who is also backed enthusiastically by Emily’s List with its national fundraising network. That’s an accomplishment.

3. Don’t forget Philip Levine. The multi-millionaire Miami Beach mayor is officially still just mulling whether to run, but he has raised $1.7 million in June, including $300 from his own deep pockets. He already had put $2 million of his own money into the race. For a big money race without any big money Democrat emerging so far, Levine could fill the void.