Two leading Republican Florida lawmakers hold an outsized influence over which party legislative candidates will get the fundraising advantage in next month's primary election, a testament to the power of incumbency despite a new redistricting law designed to weaken that clout.
Rep. Will Weatherford, of Wesley Chapel, and Sen. Don Gaetz, of Niceville, both chosen by Republicans to preside over the House and Senate for the next two years, have used their promotion to the Legislature's most powerful posts to raise at least $7.4 million dollars in campaign cash this election cycle, according to a Times/Herald analysis of campaign finance data released Friday. They are steering most of those dollars to a handful of races up for grabs in the Aug. 14 primary.
Some of the money is going directly into campaign accounts, as Weatherford has done with the $2.5 million he raised through the Republican Party of Florida and then delivered in checks or in-kind services to dozens of incumbents facing primaries or general election fights.
Some is going into political committees, which then send it through a maze of shadowy electioneering organizations to pay for attack ads and mailers.