The frontrunners in the race for two Florida House seats created by the resignation of former Florida Senator John E. Thrasher held a fundraising event at the Fountain of Youth Thursday night; even though each of them have funds available in their campaign accounts.
The last day for Florida House and Senate candidates to accept campaign contributions is midnight on Thursday, April 2nd. The Election is on Tuesday, April 7th.
The Republican candidates, Cyndi Stevenson and Paul Renner, greeted about seventy-five invited guests; many of whom either have been or are currently elected officials — either in St Johns, Flagler, or Putnam Counties.
Others included the usual interests represented by the St Johns County Builders Council, Board of Realtors, Chamber of Commerce, Flagler College, and a sprinkling of individuals whose names can often be found prominently on campaign finance contribution reports.
Senate Republican candidate, Travis Hutson, who has a Democrat opponent, David Cox, was not represented at the function. The latest financial reports indicate that Cox has only received two donations totaling $350. At the same time, Hutson had raised $386,905 in cash donations.
Renner has raised $238,848 compared to his opponent, Democrat Adam Morley, who received only $3,689 — all in small amounts from individuals.
Stevenson has raised the least of the three Republicans, reporting $138,119. But, her opponent is not a Democrat and has not taken any money from political parties or political action committees. Judy Stevens of Ponte Vedra Beach, a retired travel consultant, has financed her entire campaign, reportedly $4,600, using her own money, some of which came from the sale of First Coast Travel in Jacksonville Beach, her former business.
Judy Stevens said she had been involved in Republican politics most of her life; in fact, she is currently a St Johns County registered Republican, and has been since 1980. Stevens is running for election without party affiliation. When asked, she told Historic City News that she wanted to come into office on what she sees as her own strengths — without owing money or political favors to any financial donors to her campaign, or the party leaders in Tallahassee, whether Republican or Democrat.
Even though most legislative campaigns are well financed, Stevens said that she doesn’t understand why her opponent has taken so much money. Stevens believes she should be able to advertise her campaign for much less, since, according to the 2010 census, the voting age population for Florida House District 17 is only 120,029. The reapportioned district is smaller than St Johns County; primarily Ponte Vedra Beach and Julington Creek south to St Augustine Beach and West King Street (SR-214).
How is Stevens building the necessary name recognition? She says she’s doing it the “old fashioned” way, she’s walking door to door in the voter’s neighborhoods. “Talking face to face with your constituents is a vital part of the process,” Stevens said. “How can you cast your vote in Tallahassee if you don’t listen to what the voters back home are saying that they want?”
Stevens admitted that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish the same level of personal interaction that she has achieved if she were running in a larger district that might span several counties. Asked if she plans to hold a fundraiser before the April 2nd deadline, she replied, simply, “No.”