Things seem to be heading the wrong direction for Donna Shalala.
Not only has the frontrunner in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 27th congressional district watched her lead shrink this summer, but the former Health and Human Services secretary also seen her closest competitor nearly triple her fundraising over the last month.
Newly filed pre-election campaign finance reports show that, during the five weeks between July 1 an Aug. 8, Shalala raised $134,983.53.
But state Rep. David Richardson pulled in $364,712.65 over the same period.
Richardson’s July haul suddenly gives him more money to spend over the final two weeks before election day. Though Shalala reported $723,319.44 in cash-on hand (compared to Richardson’s $566,476.64), more than $300,000 of that amount was earmarked for the general election.
A breakdown of the fundraising totals shows that Shalala, as of Aug. 8, had about $420,000 left to spend on the primary. Richardson had about $500,000. Matt Haggman, who raised $67,806.71 in July, had $280,000 to spend since close to a quarter-million of his money is reserved for the general election.
Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Michael Hepburn lag far behind in the money race.
Dollars aren’t the same as votes. But internal polls released by Richardson and Haggman last month suggest that the two candidates are gaining on the former University of Miami president. And if you compare Shalala’s end-of-primary fundraising totals to the $1.17 million she touted raising during her first three weeks as an official candidate (neglecting in a press release to mention that she loaned herself $500,000), it looks like her campaign is losing momentum.
As Richardson celebrated his fundraising numbers Friday, he was also campaigning in Miami with Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Pocan sees a competitive primary in a seat that favors Democrats as an opportunity to expand the power of liberal Democrats in Congress.
Richardson says his campaign is intensely focused on the ground game with a week and a half remaining in the primary, now that they've spent money on mailers and television ads to build up his name ID. His campaign estimates that about half of undecided voters are going his way, with the other half split between Shalala and Matt Haggman, Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Michael Hepburn
"I don’t believe in going to the doors too early," Richardson said. "I think its much more impactful to be at the door after they’ve seen the mail, TV messaging."
And Richardson said he isn't afraid to bring up Shalala's name and experience when talking with voters, adding that most already know who she is and he can use her well-known career as the former Secretary of Health and Human Services and tenure as the University of Miami president as a jumping off point to discuss their differences.
Pocan said he isn't worried that a Richardson victory in the primary would give Republicans more of a chance to win in November, arguing that the issues Richardson advocates for like Medicare for all are the issues that interest independent voters.
"I'm from Wisconsin. Honestly, if this was the decision to pick the next football coach, (Shalala) would be great, she made a great pick with Barry Alvarez at the University of Wisconsin," Pocan said. "But if it's to be the next member of Congress, it's got to be David."
This article has been updated to correct information regarding the candidates' primary election money. A previous version of this article lumped general election money in with primary election money.