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Holland-Hutson Money Race Still Lopsided; Manfre Doubles Take, Closing Fleming Gap

| October 8, 2012

Travis Hutson, the GOP contender for the Florida House District 26 seat, built a wall of cash between him and his opponent, Democrat Milissa Holland. (© FlaglerLive)

Last Updated: Oct. 9, 1 p.m.

With less than a month before Election Day, new campaign-finance reports show Republican legislative candidates often dominating the money game against their Democratic opponents. In few places is that more true than in the race for the 26th House District, the newly drawn district that includes all of Flagler County, where Republican candidate Travis Hutson is maintaining a 12-to-1 advantage over Democrat Milissa Holland.

The last two weeks of September saw Hutson add almost as much money to his treasure chest–$13,000–as Holland raised in the entire election cycle ($15,502). Hutson so far has raised $185,490, and spent $111,640, leaving him with $73,850 for the last weeks of the campaign. Holland spent $10,606, leaving her with just under $5,000.

Milissa Holland. (© FlaglerLive)

In some races, the state Republican Party poured tens of thousands of dollars of cash into House candidates’ campaigns during a two-week period in September — even into races that have drawn relatively little attention. In other instances, GOP candidates simply scooped up more contributions than their Democratic counterparts.

The Republican Party of Florida gave Hutson a $5,000 check on Aug. 27, but has given him in-kind support valued at $17,378 in September alone, In all, the party gave Hutson $28,878 (cash and in-kind). The Florida Democratic Party has not provided any support to Holland, according to her filings. She got a $100 check from the St. Johns Democratic Club, among her 75 contributors.

There was only one other surprise in the latest financial disclosures as they relate to Flagler County races: in the race for Flagler County Sheriff. Democrat Jim Manfre almost doubled his contributions in September, hauling in an additional $10,000, for a total of $19,184, and almost closing the gap with Republican incumbent Don Fleming, who’s raised just under $24,000. But $4,000 of Manfre’s haul was another loan to himself.

Among Manfre’s contributors: Ray Stevens, the Republican candidate who lost to Fleming in the primary. Stevens contributed $200 to Manfre’s campaign. The contribution is significant beyond its monetary value. During the primary, Stevens repeatedly attacked another Republican primary opponent, John Pollinger, for having once been a Democrat, and for now running as a Republican. Stevens’s former campaign manager and one of his chief supporters, Anne-Marie Shaffer, sued Pollinger to try to get him off the ballot, saying she was doing so for the sake of “party purity.” On Tuesday morning, Stevens made his endorsement of Manfre official through a news release by the Manfre Campaign.

On Tuesday morning, the Supervisor of Elections Office updated a few additional numbers, showing County Judge candidate Craig Atack increasing This total contributions to $33,661, a nearly $4,000 increase since the last reporting period, but with heavy spending in the last two weeks of September, too–including $3,230 on advertising.

And in the District 2 race for County Commission, Independent Abby Romaine took in $3,240 in the last two weeks of September, all of it from donors, raising her total past $10,000. While Romaine’s total is still below that of Frank Meeker, the Republican contender for the seat, Meeker had spent about $6,500 during the primary election, when he faced an opponent. Looking at only the general election, Romaine has somewhat out-raised Meeker. The two candidates have roughly the same amount of money left for the remaining four weeks.

The remaining Flagler County races have seen little significant change in contributions. (See the updated chart below.)

Across Florida, The biggest fund-raiser among House candidates between Sept. 15 and Sept. 28 was Rep. Scott Plakon, a Longwood Republican who faces a tough challenge in District 30 from Maitland Democrat Karen Castor Dentel.

Plakon collected $71,910 during the two-week period, with $49,000 of that total coming in a check from the state GOP, according to the reports filed before a Friday deadline. Dentel, by comparison, raised $26,828 during the period, with none of that amount coming from the Florida Democratic Party. Both candidates received in-kind support, such as polling, from their parties.

Similarly, in nearby District 49, Orlando Republican Marco Pena collected $47,564 during the period, with $25,000 coming from the state GOP. Democrat Joe Saunders raised $10,090, though he appeared to hold a slight overall financial edge as of Sept. 28 because of earlier contributions and expenditures.

State law allows candidates to receive up to $50,000 from the parties, and the GOP has spread cash to numerous candidates. During the most-recent period, for example, it sent $49,000 each to Rep. Larry Ahern, R-St. Petersburg, and Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa. Neither faces well-funded opponents, and the races have not drawn much statewide buzz.

But not all of the Republican candidates’ financial advantage stems from party contributions. With the GOP in total control of the Legislature and state government, many Republican candidates have been able to tap corporations and other donors who have interests in Tallahassee.

For instance, House District 7 candidate Halsey Beshears, a Monticello Republican, collected $32,700 in contributions between Sept. 15 and Sept. 28, far outdistancing Bristol Democrat Robert Hill, who raised $7,760. Among the industries that contributed to Beshears during the period: ophthalmologists, citrus growers, pari-mutuel facilities, nursing homes, HMOs and banks.

Plakon was followed in House fund-raising during the period by Harrison, with $61,825; Ahern, with $61,225; Pena; Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Rockledge, with $40,675; and Beshears.

Among Senate candidates, the top fund-raiser during the period was former Rep. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, with $46,330. Bean was followed by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, with $39,366; Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, with $38,176; Sen. David Simmons, with $34,522; and Bean’s opponent, Jacksonville Beach Democrat Nancy Soderberg, with $32,589.

Contributions to candidates are only part of the picture of financing legislative races. The parties can run advertisements to try to sway voters, as can outside groups that, at least in some instances, are linked to legislative leaders.

But the candidate contribution reports offer insight about where money is flowing — and where it isn’t.

Among the candidates who raised little during the two-week period was Frostproof Democrat Eileen Game, who had been given little chance to win the House District 42 race until Sept. 24, when Rep. Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee, dropped out because he was linked to a prostitution investigation in Orange County.

Game raised only $1,235 during two weeks, including $715 between the time Horner dropped out and the end of the period. Celebration Republican Mike LaRosa replaced Horner on Oct. 1 as the GOP’s candidate, though Horner’s name will remain on the ballot.

As another example, Orlando Republican Will McBride reported raising $1,800 for his race against Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, in Senate District 14. Soto raised $16,575. Nevertheless, McBride loaned his campaign $205,000 earlier this year, which has allowed him to outspend Soto so far.

–FlaglerLive and the News Service of Florida

Campaign Finance: Flagler County's Races as of Oct. 5, 2012

Total Monetary Contributions
Total Monetary Expenses
On Hand
Flagler County Sheriff
Don Fleming (I, R)
Jim Manfre (D)
Supervisor of Elections
Trey Corbett (R)
Kimberle Weeks (I, D)
Flagler County Judge
Craig Atack
Melissa Moore-Stens
County Commission, District 2
Frank Meeker (R)
Abby Romaine (Independent)
County Commission, District 5
George Hanns (I, D)
Herb Whitaker (R)
Florida House, District 24
Milissa Holland (D)
Travis Hutson (R)
U.S. Congress, District 6*
Ron DeSantis
Heather Beaven
Sources: Flagler County Supervisor of Elections, Florida Division of Elections, Federal Elections Commission.
(*) As of July 25.
Note: Tallies include monetary, not in-kind, contributions and expenditures.
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27 Responses for “Holland-Hutson Money Race Still Lopsided; Manfre Doubles Take, Closing Fleming Gap”

  1. pamala zill says:


  2. Jack Howell says:

    Once again I would strongly urge the voters of Flagler County to do their homework before going to the polls. Know the issues and know the candidates! Don’t become the rationale ignorant voter. Take a hard look at who is funding the candidates. For example, the majority of funding for Frank Meeker is from the builders, developers and realtors! Interesting. We have a candidate (Meeker) who essentially has made his pact with these folks. On the other hand, Abby Romaine provides a fresh and sensible approach to county government should she be elected. Elections should not be about “Party” at this level of governance. Trey Corbet is another example of questionable capability to become the Supervisor of Elections. He can’t keep his funds out of the red. Look at the County judge race. Craig Attack is a very personable hard working candidate. His biggest strength is his family name recognition not his legal experience. Melissa Moore-Stens is not only “Board Certified” but, she is far more experienced on both sides of the table. Her record as a trial lawyer speaks volumes on her experience. So, do we want a name or experience for the 6 year term of judge. Just some thoughts that can be easily fact checked should you question me.

  3. DWFerg says:

    Sometimes money buys elections — other times the better candidate wins regardless of advertising, consultants, advisors, strategists etc. My opinion is that money corrupts election process but until we find another purer, better system , we are stuck with this unfortunate dimension. As a former candidate for office in another northeast Florida election, politics is about who supports you, how well you get your message out, and ulyimately how many people show up to vote–In recent elections in palm Coast, anemic tirnout has awarded incumbents when perhaps there are better candidates and leaders within the community who refuse to campaign, beg for contributions and pander for votes— In the national scene, we all have experienced how inexperience and incompetence can trump other variables with branding , messaging and field work ! Perhaps this will be the case for our local elections

  4. Lonewolf says:

    Go Milissa !! It’s VOTES that count

  5. The Truth says:

    There is way too much money in politics. If this money was donated to more beneficial causes our world would be a much better place.

  6. Umm says:

    Perhaps instead of using that money to “win” an elected position that they’re going to abuse anyway, they should use that money for more productive things, like helping to stimulate our city/county’s ever failing economy….Because we all know that they’re not insourcing the production of those obnoxious campaign signs or the management of their websites!!

    • BW says:

      Actually some of your statements are incorrect. For example, all of the printing for the Trey Corbett campaign has been done locally and two great local printers. Local companies have been working with some local campaigns for their online initiatives including websites and social networking.

    • deana carmen says:

      Umm…it may not seem so on the surface, but in most cases our candidates are stimulating Flagler’s economy. They have used the services of lumbers yards, printers, caterers, restaurants, DJ’s and even grocery stores. I would like to see them add a Sign Bond that is paid to the County for a Sign Permit. Then if they do not remove all their signs, the County gets to keep that money. It would be a win win situation, our roadways would be clear of signs or the candidate does not get their money back.

  7. DoubleGator says:

    Damn great photo FlaglerLive! It’s a picture that conveys the whole story. Nice guys in the truck have so graceously driven down to Flagler County for the day. Surprised they weren’t throwing some suckers to us Flagler residents. If we don’t have someone truly repressenting Flagler County in Tallahassee whose fault will it be? The Republican establishment in Tallahassee picked the candidate and are sure putting their money behind their choice. To be decided is whether the monied power brokers can buy the office. They sure were effective to scare any Flagler republican away from running.

  8. Jeff says:

    Travis Hutson just turned 28 years old… He is a “business man” who works for his family’s company and has a reported net worth of about $6.6 million on his financial disclosure forms… virtually all of which is from various trusts from his family. He cites his high school award as one of his big achievements on his website. His family is a huge developer and not surprisingly his stated positions are pro-development.
    He says on his website that: “As someone who owns his own small business, I know firsthand how to create jobs, manage a budget, and grow the economy.” He actually works for Hutson Companies which says it has been around since 1973 and is run by his father, David Hutson. From their website: “David personally directs the operations of The Hutson Companies.”
    It is hard to see that he will bring a lot to the table in Tallahassee.

    • Magnolia says:

      @Jeff: First we have a debate of the Commissioners in which one candidate tells the other he is too old to run. Now we have you stating Mr. Hutson is too young.

      Just what is the right age, please? Could this possibly be the reason we have NO JOBS in Flagler County?

      • Jeff says:

        I don’t necessarily think age is a determining factor… it’s more that when you put the whole picture together that you see someone that does not appear to have accomplished anything outside of being born into the right family. On top of that, he’s lived in Jacksonville until he decided to run for this office when he moved to a mansion in Elkton owned by a corporation owned by his family. I’m sorry, but that just isn’t an impressive resume and not someone I believe will have the people’s best interest in mind in Tallahassee.

  9. tulip says:

    I am voting for Milissa and Abigail. The one thing that REALLY bothers me about both their signs is, that Holland’s can hardly be seen amongst all the other blue and white combo signs, and Abigail has a great color that no one else has BUT her signs are small! Get big ones!

    Signs are meant to be quickly seen over everyone else’s in about a 3 to 4 second period as a car drives by. A bunch of signs all in the same color pattern makes no one stand out. Yellow and black color used to be scarce, now many are using it, so those names don’t stand out either.

    Hutson is a rich, privileged young man whose only knowledge of Flagler County is where is headquarters are.

  10. DWFerg says:

    It appears Mr. Hutson can retain/ sustain his influence in Tallahassee without being voted the district representative. His youth and inexperience compared with Ms. Holland’s past civic role and commitment to Flagler county exceeds that of Mr. Hutson. While the Republican party office on Pld King’s Rd. is there because of Mr. Hutson, this alone should not be the deciding factor to earn my vote. Electing Democratic candidates are not my forte historically, however, in this case the choice seems obvious. Holland is my choice unless I learn substantial material reason to change my mind. She appears to be a true public servant not an entitled, richly funded political candidate—A registered Republican !

    • Magnolia says:

      DWFerg: Unfortunately for Ms. Holland, she would be going to a Republican legislative body. How much do you think she’ll do other than collect a pay check?

      I’m supporting the young man. I’m not going to vote for a Commissioner who has failed to bring jobs to Flagler County. Why would I want to do that?

    • Magnolia says:

      In the short time the Republican Party office has been open on Old King’s Road, the traffic through there has tripled, the parking lot there is now full.

      Going to miss volunteering there when this election is over. We have been swamped with requests for yard signs, bumper stickers and requests to volunteer.

      Have never seen so many come through that door and say, “What can I do? I want to help”. It has been phenomenal.

      That’s been more than I’ve seen out of Holland the entire time I’ve lived here.

  11. tulip says:

    Milissa knows every inch of Flagler County and it’s issues and has done a lot of hard work for this county. She actually cares about the future.

    What is disappointing to me is that people here have thrown money at the sheriff’s races by the bundle, yet very few people are contributing to Milissa’s campaign. Monetarily, she has a few thousand dollars compared to hundreds of thousands that Hutson has. I would think whether a person is Dem, Rep, or Ind. they would want “one of our own” to have a say in what decisions are made for our county.

    Unfortunately, too many people vote the party instead of using common sense sometimes.. Maybe there are some people that don’t like her. When you’re in politics that’s the way it is, but sometimes people have to think what’s best for the county.

  12. Geezer says:

    “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Let’s keep Ms. Holland.

  13. Lin says:

    Since when did being young or old, or a business person or being wealthy become a sin. You can say that Melissa Holland’s family business is politics since her father was a PC City Council person — I won’t hold that against her but I will vote for Travis Hutson. We need jobs in Flagler County and that didn’t happen under her leadership,

  14. tulip says:

    And what makes you think the rich boy will accomplish that? Most of his backing is from the Jax area, and that’s all he cares about.

    Milissa did a lot for tourist developement which brought money into Flagler, helped to make it a better county, runs the huge Feed Flagler program for the hungry and many many more things that we don”t know about. Hutson says, jobs jobs. They all say that, it means nothing.

  15. DWFerg says:

    Jobs are Mr. Hutson’s business–he can bring jobs to Flagler without being in Tallahassee. Land development, tract housing are the sources of jobs–The major benefit is his campaign cash resources—instead of seeking public office, I say focus on his strength. Building & developing real estate- This would create jobs-BTW how many jobs has Hutson Company created in Flagler County ?- Holland may be a Democrat , but is a tireless, devoted politician / public servant

  16. Erin M says:

    Since when does having more endorsements and money mean that he is a better politician? This ‘man’ has no political experience and he is starting off at almost the top. Milissa has experience and cares about the people. She has my vote. The last thing we need is a boy with a rich daddy who thinks he can get whatever he wants. TEAM HOLLAND!!

  17. Lin says:

    I’m not looking for a “politician” — I’m looking for a representative.

    Successful business-person and youth should nott disqualify Travis from public office. Caring about people is wonderful but capability to help businesses employ our citizens is what I’m looking for. Here we go with the rich-bashing, youth-bashing team.

  18. BW says:

    The “fund size” has been a trick some veteran campaigners in the area think holds more weight than it actually does. The thought process is that if you show a larger sum than your opponent voters simply think that’s the front-runner. A lot of voters have gotten wise to this and are looking behind “the veil”. You can learn a lot when you look into the details. For example, if you look at someone like Kimberle Weeks you see that almost all of her campaign account is from her and only “dab” from close family. What’s also interesting with her is that she has been known to complain that she always needs more money, and here we see her dumping a large sum into her campaign with little effective output. Her website is horrible. Her sign coloring is too aggressive and a turn off. And her marketing slogans are just silly (i.e. “If it’s not broke . . .). Basically she’s showing that she is truly out of touch. Whereas her opponent, Trey, has had a lot of donations from a lengthier list of people. His funds are lighter but he’s done a lot more effective marketing within those financial constraints. He’s showing he can connect with voters in a positive way with less. Will definitely be an interesting outcome with that race.

  19. tulip says:

    @ BW —–you find Week’s sign agressive because of the colors? Her sign stands out amongst all the boring combinations of blue/white/ red blue white etc. because of the totally different colors. I wish MS. Romaine’s signs were larger because the totally different color stands out amongst the others also and that’s what a sign should be about—-noticeability very quickly when driving by it.

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