With slightly more than a month to go before the November election, Florida statewide candidates have topped a matching-funds record from the 2010 election.
Bolstered by small-dollar fundraising in the race for governor, $6.08 million has been sent by the state to candidates this year, according to figures provided Tuesday by the Florida Division of Elections.
A little more than $400,000 was sent out on Friday to five candidates in the Nov. 6 general election.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum’s latest check from the state was for $246,965, and former Congressman Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor, received a check for $140,037.
In 2010, the state doled out $6.065 million to 10 candidates in the controversial matching-funds program, which voters approved in 1998 with the intention of diminishing the importance of special-interest money.
Some lawmakers continue to push for repealing the program. But the Legislature has not put the issue back before voters since a 2010 effort failed when it only gained 52.5 percent of the vote, short of the required 60 percent for adoption.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, called the program a “gross waste of taxpayer money” in 2017, when he called for the state Constitution Revision Commission to propose a measure to remove public financing from the Constitution.
Even before this year’s Aug. 28 primary, candidates seeking the taxpayer money shot past the 2014 matching-funds total of $4.3 million.
The program matches individual contributions of $250 or less to the campaign accounts of candidates for statewide offices. Candidates do not have to take part in the program.
With the latest check, DeSantis has received $1.37 million from the state.
Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, has landed $1.1 million from the program.
In all, nine statewide candidates this year decided to dip into the fund, though four of those candidates --- including gubernatorial candidates Gwen Graham and Adam Putnam --- lost their primaries.
The two remaining candidates in the race for agriculture commissioner, Republican Matt Caldwell and Democrat Nikki Fried, have not tapped the program. Caldwell, who won his primary with 34.6 percent of the vote, decried the use of the matching-funds program as “campaign welfare.”
In the race for attorney general, Democrat Sean Shaw got a check for $12,152 on Friday and has received $251,578 from the program. Republican Ashley Moody received $1,580 in matching funds on Friday and has received $384,026 from the state.
In the race for state chief financial officer, incumbent Republican Jimmy Patronis received a check for $840 on Friday. Patronis has received $310,600 through the program. Democratic CFO candidate Jeremy Ring has not taken part in the program.